There are certain red flags that can show up early on in a relationship that, when ignored, end up being a relationship’s downfall.
For people who are prone to falling in love hard and fast, it’s good to be aware of what these red flags are so that you don’t waste time with people that aren’t meant for you. Without knowing what to look for, you could be wasting months (or years) of your dating life with the wrong partner.
Having gone through many lacklustre relationships and knowingly spent years of my life in ill-fitting pairings, this is a list that I wish I had been able to read when I was a teenager.
So if you want to save yourself time, heartbreak, and energy, and have a helpful checklist to refer to that will help you find your significant other that much faster, read on. Who knows? You might even see some of your own behaviours in this list.
Here are twenty red flags to watch out for in your intimate relationships.
1. How They Talk About Their Exes
If the only thing they have to say about their exes is negative, then they either aren’t finished emotionally processing their baggage, or they are a resentful and bitter person who engages in trash talking former flames.
Either way, watch out.
2. They Don’t Seem To Be Proud Of You
Whether they hesitate to introduce you to their friends, they hide you from their family, or they are reluctant to have any proof of you on their social media feed, these types of behaviours all speak to a lack of pride in being with you. Or maybe they are ashamed of their friends or family, another possible red flag.
Every relationship that I’ve ever been in where I was head over heels over my partner I couldn’t stop talking about my partner. They were the greatest thing to happen to me in recent memory and I wanted to show them off to everyone.
Sure your partner might be a little bit slow to warm up, but if it feels like they’re a little ashamed of you then that might be a red flag.
3. They Keep Score
One of the fastest and most efficient ways to grow resentful of your partner is to keep score in your relationship.
If you live with the mindset of “Well I took out the garbage/did the dishes/initiated sex last time, so it’s their turn today” then you are doomed to suffocate the life out of your partnership.
Don’t do this, and don’t tolerate your partner doing it to you.
When both of you are coming from the place of “I do things for you because I love you and I want you to feel appreciated” then your relationship will flourish.
4. They Use Sex As A Tool
Sexual intimacy is a mutually beneficial act that makes both parties feel loved.
If they ever use sex (either as a reward, or withholding it as a punishment) as a tool to get what they want then you can be sure this is a massive red flag. This behaviour is manipulation pure and simple.
“If you make dinner we can have sex tonight…” RED FLAG!
If they use it as a bargaining chip under the assumption that it doesn’t benefit them just as much as it benefits you, then maybe you need to have a conversation about what would make it more fulfilling for them. Or you know, just end the relationship.
5. They Don’t Put Effort In To The Relationship
While you don’t want to be keeping track of relationship reciprocity per se (see #3), it doesn’t feel good to be in a one-sided relationship.
If one person isn’t as invested in the relationship as the other, then it is a lose-lose situation. Save yourselves time and have the courage to find someone who will make you a priority in their life.
6. They Can’t Apologize
In any relationship, it’s inevitable that you are both going to mess up and need to apologize.
If your partner is unable to apologize for any wrongdoings then you might need to re-evaluate your relationship.
An inability to apologize hints at a too tender ego, and you can read more about apologizing properly here.
7. Their Core Values Are Different Than Yours
While differences in your partner might attract you in the short-term, it’s your similarities that will keep your relationship thriving after several years.
If your core values and interests around things like self-development, money, and whether or not to have children are completely out of sync with your partner’s, then that is something that you need to be giving focused attention early on in a relationship.
8. They Don’t Fight Fair
Does your partner bring up past events that happened months ago as ammunition during your arguments? Red flag!
This one ties into the score keeping mindset of #3 and is a toxic relationship habit.
Either deal with things as they come up for both of you, or watch out. The longer you stay with them the more ammunition they will have collected to use against you in future blow-ups.
9. They Fight Violently
Men and women could both do this. If they raise a hand to you or throw things at you, this needs to be discussed immediately.
As Dr. Phil has said, “We teach people how to treat us.” If it happens once and you don’t intervene in a major way or leave the relationship, you are giving them permission to do it again.
Same thing if they are quick to anger and lash out, even if not at you. Say, if they find someone has double-parked and blocked their car, so they slash the offender’s tire or key-scratch the finish… definitely indicates a dark side that can get worse over time.
10. They Try To Change You
Pushing someone to grow in ways that benefit them is one of the best things that comes from relationships, but if it feels like they treat you like more of a project than a partner, then this is a huge red flag.
If they don’t largely accept you for who you are, then they weren’t meant for you. End of story.
11. They Don’t Take Feedback Well
Whether it’s their sexual technique or the way that they scramble your eggs in the morning, it’s a red flag if your partner digs their heels in when you try to give them feedback.
Someone who wants the best for you and your happiness will always have an open ear when it comes to the topic of how they can love you better.
12. Listen To Their Language
If early on in your relationship your partner talks exclusively in “I/Me/My” statements without throwing in the occasional “We/Us” statements, then this might allude to the fact that they don’t see you in their future (or that they have intimacy issues).
13. They Try To Guilt You Into Spending All Of Your Time With Them
If your partner has self-esteem and boundary issues, they will find it very difficult to give you any space in the relationship.
It isn’t healthy in an intimate relationship for the two people to become one. You always want some independence, autonomy, and space between you to. And if your partner is unwilling to give you that, this is a bright red flag.
14. They Want To Micromanage Your Life
Helping someone evolve is one thing, but if your partner is trying to control every aspect of your life it erodes your self-esteem and autonomy. You need to be trusted to make your own decisions, whether they agree with them or not.
15. They Tell You That They Aren’t A Certain Way All The Time
If you’ve heard them say “I’m not a jealous/dramatic/judgmental/angry person by nature…” more than a handful of times, there’s a fairly good chance that they are exactly what they keep trying to convince you that they are not.
16. They Flake On You Repeatedly
If your partner flakes on you repeatedly in your relationship (especially early on) this is a huge red flag.
Imagine if one of your idols invited you to dinner. No matter how busy you were you would make time in your life for someone so important. If your partner isn’t prioritizing you in the same way then they might just not be that into you, or they are just so highly unreliable that you will spend your life in exasperation and frustration with them.
17. Your Close Friends And Family Members Don’t Like Them
Your friends and family members probably know you better than anyone in the world (even more than you know yourself).
If the majority of those closest to you don’t get along with your significant other, this is a huge red flag. Your personality overlaps with your loved ones, and if your partner doesn’t get along with them, then that signals that there are parts of them that don’t get along with parts of you.
18. They Have A Bad Relationship With Their Family
Everyone has some sort of issues with family members… but how have they dealt with those issues as an adult? If they haven’t been able to make up with their closest relatives, how you can trust them to make up with you when you have a big blow-up fight?
19. They Treat Service Staff Rudely
I am a firm believer in the idea that how you do anything is how you do everything.
If they talk down to service staff (cab drivers, restaurant servers, etc.) then that speaks to their character. If they can treat strangers like that then it won’t be long before they are treating you, or your family and friends, in the same way.
20. It’s Never Been Smooth
Every couple that I interviewed in the research for my book on how to be the best partner possible said the exact same thing… “It was easy.” From the early stages of their relationship there were no episodes of infidelity, or on-again-off-again rocky starts… it was just smooth sailing from the beginning.
If you and your partner are butting heads in a huge way within the first few months of a relationship, take that as a warning sign and move on.
Are You With The Right Person For You?
While none of these are necessarily absolute rules, if you see a few of these strongly in your partner then you might need to re-evaluate how compatible you are going to be long-term.
And really, if you find yourself scanning this article with a keen eye, there’s a reason for that. Maybe you were drawn to reading this article because something feels off in your current relationship. Either lean in to communicating your concerns with your partner and earn your way out of your relationship, or break it off if you know that it isn’t meeting your relationship needs.
Nobody is perfect, but there is someone out there for you (multiple people in fact) that will make you your absolute favourite version of yourself.
Don’t settle with someone that feels good enough. As the country song goes “I don’t want a man I can live with, I want a man I can’t live without.”
So find someone that makes your heart sing. Find a partner that makes your heart burst with pride and love more days than not. Find that person and then fight like hell to keep each other happy.
The world needs more people like you. And someone that makes you feel that much more loved will only multiply your awesomeness.
They’re worth waiting for. And you deserve them.