8 Relationship Red Flags You Might Be MissingNumber 8 will answer for their crimes.
Whomst among us hasn’t been sucked in by every social media video about red flags in a relationship? Whether you’re tuning in to commiserate with anyone who has been wronged in a relationship, to check if you missed glaring signs in your current situationship, or just to keep mental notes for future reference, it’s impossible to look away from these mini tell-alls.
But also…being aware of some common red flags (subtle personality quirks that can snowball into major relationship issues) could save you a lot of trouble. Sometimes, these “proceed with caution” signs pop up a few dates in. Other times, you might not catch them until you’re fully committed and facing full-on heartbreak, says certified sex therapist Casey Tanner, LCPC. And that last scenario is a big reason why we can’t look away from this kind of content, Tanner says.
While some red flags are universal (see: being mean to animals, lashing out, controlling your life), they can also vary person to person. After all, someone who doesn’t love PDA might not actually be allergic to vulnerability—they might just not be as into making out in front of Whole Foods as you.
To prevent (sometimes avoidable) emotional devastation in your current or next relationship, do some internal reflection to determine your values and needs before you decide what your personal red flags are, says therapists Stacey Sherrell, LMFT, and Rachel Facio, LMFT, founders of the Decoding Couples community.
That said, try not to nitpick people’s personalities to the point that it gets in the way of your relationships, Tanner warns. If your new bae isn’t comfy with PDA right away, for example, you might benefit from giving them some grace and seeing how this plays out over a few dates, Tanner suggests.
Because hearing other people’s red flag discovery stories might shed some light on your current or past relationships, we asked seasoned daters and therapists for warning signs they’ve spotted through the years and what they meant. Feel free to drop this in your group chat.
1. Their relationship style doesn’t match yours.
“By the end of my last relationship, it was clear our love languages weren’t meshing. My ex boyfriend would jokingly tell me that he wanted me to be ‘softer,’ and by ‘softer,’ he meant that he wanted me to be more verbally ‘in love.’ His love language is words of affirmation, and I made it very clear that mine is not. I’m not romantically that kind of person, and he wanted me to change my communication style to be a ‘words of affirmation’ person. It fell apart not just because I wasn’t ‘soft’ enough like he wanted, but because, in the end, neither of us were really getting what we needed to make the relationship work.” —Sydney K.*, 27
2. There’s unnecessary drama.
“[One] behavior pattern I’ve been thinking about as I look into my 46,289 years of dating hetero men: Some people create conflicts that were actually avoidable, whether they do that consciously or subconsciously. For example, an avoidable conflict would be not following through with something they said they would do, and being unreliable is a huge red flag that can lead to the demise of a relationship, because it breaks trust.” —Fia Z.*, 39
3. They’re not emotionally available.
“When I first met my college boyfriend, I asked if he was over his past relationship because it ended about two months prior. He said he didn’t really think about things after they’re over, and it struck me as super emotionally detached. I called him out about it at the time but ultimately thought I was being too critical. He turned out to have MAJOR issues with commitment and really vacillated in his ability to actually emotionally connect and kind of dissociate, especially in emotional situations like an argument. However, he was awesome at being supportive when he wasn’t talking about his own issues and showing his emotions. It was something that was pretty clear upfront, but it took really seeing it in depth to confirm that I was right in the beginning.” —Lauren A.*, 29
4. They never (like…never) turn down a good time.
“For me, one red flag is the inability to say no to a social gathering, another beer, etc. He had a huge friend group and always wanted to spend time with them, so he’d double-book everything for the night so that we would prioritize seeing all of his friends and not mine. In hindsight, what I thought was people pleasing ended up being a problem in making decisions, getting to know my friends, and fully committing to the relationship. It also revealed that he cared so much about what other people thought and more about what he felt he ‘should’ do.” —Emma A.*, 32
5. They don’t have other healthy connections.
“Something that strikes me in a relationship is not having great relationships with anyone, including friends and family. He couldn’t take accountability and always insisted that it was their fault and that he was misunderstood. But, boy, was that not true. It was a huge red flag. Even in small things like house chores, he would drop the ball but then blame me because I didn’t ask him to do dishes or take out the trash. A lot of our fights stemmed from his lack of responsibility for anything, and he would say I was too needy or demanding. When I broke up with him, he was blindsided, even though we had fights on a daily basis for a year. Even then, he didn’t recognize that he drove me away.” —Melissa C.*, 31
6. You don’t feel at ease around them.
“Some people just activate your anxiety. I realized later on that I was worried around her. I was actively censoring what I said or did. The relationship just didn’t feel right to me to pursue in the long-run.” —Jake L*., 28
7. They only talk badly about their exes.
“Pay attention to how someone talks about their dating history and their exes. If someone describes all of their exes as ‘toxic,’ ‘the problem,’ or can't say anything kind about the previous people they were with, this can be a red flag! It might not just be a sign of ‘bad luck in relationships.’ Someone who has nothing nice to say about any ex might have trouble taking responsibility for their own actions in a relationship and recognizing their own role in a conflict.” —Stacey Sherrell, LMFT and Rachel Facio, LMFT
8. They don’t have clear intentions.
“When I asked what we were doing four months into dating (seeing each other every weekend, spending the night at each others’ place on weeknights), he answered, ‘I don’t know…having fun?’ I asked if he would consider himself single, and he said he wasn’t sure. (Meanwhile, I did not and had deleted my dating apps). Fast forward one month, he comes up on my friend’s dating apps. He claimed he wasn’t on them so it must have been an old profile. He had ignored me for a week prior to that, claiming to be busy. We ended up ending it that night, and six weeks later, he debuted a new girlfriend on Instagram, which was suspiciously soon. I’m pretty sure she was an ex-girlfriend who reappeared in the picture before we were done. Plot twist: He married her.” —Summer W.*, 30
*Name has been changed
Quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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