Relationship red flags and how to spot them

When you’re in love with someone, the last thing you want to do is look for negative qualities or pay too much attention to the issues that you may have with them. But the more we refuse to look at our relationships with a realistic, objective lens, the more vulnerable we are to an unhealthy relationship.

Spotting relationship red flags is crucial for ensuring that you’re in a relationship that supports, sustains and boosts you, and gives you the chance to distance yourself from people who don’t have good intentions. 

Spotting Relationship Red Flags

There are a lot of different relationship red flags to look out for, and even the notion of red flags can vary from person to person. But if we’re talking about general relationship red flags that no one seeking a healthy, loving relationship would want, there’s a pretty clear pattern to watch out for. 

Something all relationship red flags have in common is the fact that they’re all centered on negative and toxic behaviours. These are behaviours or traits that create an unbalanced dynamic between you and your partner and have a negative effect on your sense of self

Whilst these red flags are definitely not good news, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re signs you should stay away from someone. At the end of the day, we’re all imperfect human beings who make mistakes.

Having red flags in your relationship doesn’t mean it’s game over, because facing issues head-on provides the opportunity to work on them and get create a reciprocal, supportive relationship. However, having said that, if you both aren’t willing to work together to combat any red flags, things could turn into, or remain, an unhealthy relationship. 

1. You Aren’t Yourself Around Them

If you feel as though you can’t be your authentic, whole self around your partner, that’s a sign that something is up. Whether it’s borne out of fear of judgement or doing something wrong, no one wants to feel as if they’re walking on eggshells around their partner. In the same sense, if you’re making yourself smaller so they don’t feel threatened, then it’s not a sustainable dynamic or healthy relationship.  

2. You Don’t See Your Loved Ones Much

Spending all your time with one person isn’t healthy – we all need to see family and friends as well as our partners. People in a healthy relationship will have their support network made up of their partner, family and friends who they get different kinds of emotional support from, and spend time with.

When a couple spends all their time together, it can create a codependent dynamic, and especially when you’re spending time together because your partner doesn’t want you to have your own life, it can be dangerous. This is a sign of controlling behaviour because your partner doesn’t want anyone else influencing you or the way you see your relationship.

In a healthy relationship, your partner will not only not feel threatened by you having other important people in your life, but will actively encourage it. It should be important to you both that you’re your own people outside of your relationship.

3. You Don’t Resolve Issues Or Conflicts

Another of the more subtle relationship red flags to look out for is if you don’t ever fully resolve your conflicts. Having arguments and disagreements is completely normal in any relationship, but how you go about dealing with those hurdles is what can define whether your relationship is healthy or not.

If your partner refuses to talk about any issues between the two of you, or only wants to discuss things on their terms, it creates a negative atmosphere, and can lead to a lot of resentment in the relationship.

4. Your Voice Isn’t Heard In The Relationship

This sounds like a bit of a petty one, but if your partner calls all the shots in your relationship, then it could be a bigger issue waiting to happen. We all know that relationships are about give and take, and that includes decision-making. And unless you’re both freakishly in sync and always want the same things, there has to be compromise in your relationship, but on both sides. 

5. You Don’t Have Boundaries With Your Partner

A lack of boundaries is always a red flag in a relationship, because whether your partner is crossing your boundaries or you aren’t setting them yourself, either way you’ll feel uncomfortable and that your needs are not being met. And that’s because they aren’t – if your partner refuses to respect your boundaries, then they are behaving in a toxic way.

We all deserve to feel valued and safe in a relationship, and if your partner is convincing you to do anything you don’t want to do, you won’t feel that way. This creates an unhealthy dynamic whereby your needs come second to your partner, and that will only erode your self-esteem and happiness.

6. You Feel That You Can’t Be Honest With Them

Another telltale relationship red flag is not being able to be truthful with your partner. Whether you’re scared of hurting their feelings or can’t tell them how you feel because of how they will react, the fact that you can’t talk to them honestly is a clear sign that you don’t feel comfortable with them. 

7. You Explain Away Their Bad Behaviour

If your partner is rude or aggressive towards you or other people, when you find yourself explaining away their behaviour it’s a sign to stop and reflect. If their behaviour goes against your morals but you still feel the need to defend them, it’s useful to ask yourself why. Think about it in terms of whether you saw a stranger doing that – would you think it’s acceptable? Love really is blind, and can warp our perception of everything, including our partners. 

How To Deal With Relationship Red Flags

Whether you’ve been together for a few months or 6 years, it’s going to be hard to acknowledge the fact that your relationship has red flags. But once you’ve spotted them, it’s important to take action for your own safety, be it physical, mental or emotional. 

No one wants to be in an unhealthy relationship, but the reality is that it’s easier than you think to slip into one. Even when you’re both well-meaning, good people, red flags can start to crop up if you don’t prioritise both of your needs and communicate regularly. 

Talk To Them About Your Feelings

If possible, the best way to move forward is to communicate with your partner. Tell them how you feel and the red flags you see in your relationship or their behaviour. If they’re committed to your relationship and want to make things better, then you’ll be able to work on your relationship to move away from damaging behaviours and patterns.

If It’s Too Much, End The Relationship

But if the red flags are too severe or you’ve realised that the relationship is harming you more than it’s benefiting you, it may be time to end things. When it comes down to it, you need to choose what’s best for you, even if it does mean splitting up. 

For more support on getting out of an unhealthy relationship, reach out to organisations like Women’s Aid or The Mental Health Foundation.