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Relationship Red Flags

When you are in a relationship, it may be easy to become blind to its issues. On the other hand, those who view it from the outside may recognize it from several miles away. It may be pretty easy for you to realize when your friend’s spouse is not being respectful toward him or her in any way.

You might also voice your viewpoint on dating issues on Twitter. Nevertheless, it may be challenging to identify warning signs in your relationship if you are looking for them.

Disclaimer: If you feel like you may be in an abusive situation, it’s best to contact someone close to you for support. If you don’t have anyone available, try the Domestic Violence Support hotline.

relationship red flags
Relationship red flags

My experience with red flags…

I was in more than a few bad relationships… And I have to say, they can truly change who we are as people. That’s why it’s best to avoid getting into one! But you know this… This is why you’re reading the article.
Here is my best tip though… Trust yourself! Everyone told me this. And I didn’t listen. If your gut is telling you that something is off about the person you’re dating, listen to that. Your instinct is probably right.

What is a dating red flag?

In a romantic partnership, having significant issues that make you want to take a break is the equivalent of a red flag. These issues are symptomatic of a more systemic problem.

A relationship’s warning signs may indicate a communication failure or an impending difficulty in the partnership. Some of these issues include avoiding uncomfortable talks or even withholding affection from the other person.

You might be able to recognize red flags by looking out for unfavorable cues or indications. You must pay attention to every suggestion, no matter how small. If you fail to identify red flags promptly, you might jeopardize yourself.

What are general and major dating red flags?

There are several warning signals to look out for in a relationship, but there are also some general indicators you need to keep an eye out for.

When a couple is still in the courtship phase, warning signs can range from being quite visible to reasonably subtle. Before you go too far along in your relationship, you need to take action if you see that an issue has occurred more than once.

Expert advice: Relationships play a critical role in our well-being. In fact, studies by Mercedes Gómez-López, Carmen Viejo, and Rosario Ortega-Ruiz suggest that early childhood lifestyle and upbringing can create significant ambiguity in relationships. Continuing to ask questions and learn about our partners is a great way to offset these potential triggers.

The following are some general warning signs that you should keep an eye out for in a relationship:

  • They cause you to reconsider the value you have for yourself.
  • They will not pay attention to what you have to say or consider any of your recommendations.
  • They are uninterested in the goals you have set.
  • They do not appreciate your decision not to go physical at an earlier relationship stage.
  • They center the connection entirely around themselves and their needs.
  • They do not attempt to become acquainted with your close friends or members of your family.
  • Your immediate circle of friends does not accept your significant other.
  • They will not introduce you to any of their other acquaintances.
  • They take time to react to your calls or texts.
  • They dislike it when you do not spend time with them since it makes them feel neglected.
  • They keep making threats about ending the relationship with you.
  • They never take the initiative in dating.
  • They make you feel ignorant about the things you find enjoyable.
  • They dislike it when you bring up the subject of the future.

Red flags when dating divorced men

It is not inappropriate to date a man who has been previously married. Nevertheless, it would be best to watch out for any warning indications.

It may be that your partner is bringing baggage from a former relationship into the current one. If dating someone previously married, it is crucial to be aware of the potential red flags.

When dating a man who has been previously married, there are a few warning signs that you should look out for.

  • They never stop talking about their former partner.

When dating a divorced man, you should first pay attention to whether or not he continually talks negatively about his ex-wife or ex-husband.

This might indicate that they are unprepared to embark on a new romantic endeavor. It’s possible that their past relationship left them feeling hurt and angry. They could require some time to recover from the effects of all of those sensations.

  • They won’t accept responsibility for what happened.

The persistent refusal of your spouse to accept responsibility for the failure of their prior relationship is another warning sign you should keep in mind. They may blame you if they cannot acknowledge their mistake or move on from the past.

  • They are always of the highest importance/priority in their life.

Do they tend to criticize you frequently? These emotions and ideas might have a detrimental effect on your connection with the other person.

  • They do not put their faith in you.

Unsurprisingly, they are still enduring the pain caused by their past relationship. It is easy to understand why. If, on the other hand, their worry of being injured prevents them from trusting you, this might provide a significant challenge for your relationship.

relationship red flags
Relationship red flags

Red flags when dating a widower

If you are dating a widower, you are responsible for being there for them during their time of loss and suffering. However, people could exhibit warning indications or red flags even amid suffering.

When dating a widower, there are a few warning signals that you should look out for, including the following:

  • They refuse to move on from the mistakes of the past.

A widow is experiencing a great deal of anguish inside of her. It is understandable. On the other hand, it is a significant red flag if they show little interest in moving on with their lives and getting over the loss.

  • They can’t stop thinking about what happened in the past.

It is not wrong to keep your past near you; nevertheless, it is a warning flag if that is all someone does with their life. If everything you do causes them to dwell on the past, you are probably not the person they require in their lives.

  • They seldom leave the house.

If you have a hard time convincing your partner to go out with you, there is a good possibility that the person is trying to hide something from you.

They may require some additional time. If they are always concerned about being seen with you, this is a warning indication that should not be ignored.

Expert advice: Emotional abuse is fairly common in relationships. In fact, a surprising study (Günnur Karakurt, Ph.D. and Kristin E. Silver, B. A.) suggests that emotional abuse is more common in men than women. Most men find this information surprising.

Red flags when dating a narcissist

Narcissism is one of the most toxic and destructive traits that may be present in a romantic partnership.

One or more forms of narcissism are latent inside each one of us. On the other hand, warning signs will scream at you if you are dating an actual narcissist.

The following warning signs can identify narcissism:

  • They consistently have a sense of superiority.

It can appear like they are content with you being there. But this is only true for as long as you continue to reassure them of your love and affection for them.

However, if you fail to do so, they may begin experiencing difficulties. You may have the impression that something is going to change, but there is a possibility that this may never occur.

  • They are the center of everything that happens.

It is never just about one person in a relationship; for it to succeed, two people must be involved. On the other hand, if their narrative only focuses on themselves, it’s probably time for you to make a U-turn.

  • They keep secrets.

Narcissists typically keep profound secrets inside. They suffer from intense feelings of insecurity as well as jealousy.

As a result, individuals typically make up fantastic imaginations and keep secrets to conceal the truth. However, because of this, they are not real and do not deserve you.

Tip: Equality, respect, communication, trust, responsibility, support, boundaries, and honesty are some aspects of a healthy relationship. For more, refer to this resource from the University of Alabama.

red flag

General big red flags in men

The following are some of the red flags that you should watch out for in men:

  • They attempt to exert influence over you.

If your partner is consistently trying to exert authority over you, this should immediately raise red flag number one. They will attempt to make judgments for you and control all of your moves in an effort to exert power over you.

In most cases, people base their choices on what it is that they desire. Being in a relationship like this is extremely detrimental to one’s health.

  • They have a hard time putting their faith in others.

In every kind of connection, trust is absolutely necessary. It is a major red flag when your boyfriend does not trust you, which indicates your relationship is precarious.

Their misgivings should not prevent them from putting their faith in you. Trust must be present in a relationship for it to be considered balanced.

  • They bring up a depressed mood in you.

You should feel encouraged and supported by a spouse. Your spouse continually pulls you down instead of boosting you up when you’re having a bad day. In such cases, the relationship might not be the best fit for you.

  • They treat you poorly in one way or another.

Abuse is one of the most significant warning signs in a romantic partnership. It may be mental, it could be physical, or it could be emotional.

It is less difficult to become a victim of physical abuse. However, it may be difficult to recognize when it comes to emotional or mental abuse.

However, the effects of this are equally as harmful as those of physical abuse.

You should end whatever situation in your life makes you feel as though you are being mistreated as soon as possible.

  • They have no ability to reign in their rage.

If your spouse has anger management problems, you might not feel comfortable in the relationship. You can have the impression that any argument could result in events that are impossible to control.

Problems with anger on a consistent basis can cause resentment to build up in a relationship.

  • They never stop acting jealous.

It is natural to have some level of envy if your partner spends significant time with other people. However, you should not let envy prevent you from perceiving the truth. Jealousy will only serve to blind you.

Your spouse may be more concerned with his or her own feelings of jealousy. It indicates that they place a higher priority on their own desires than the satisfaction of your needs.

red flag

General big red flags in women

You could also uncover ladies who are displaying warning signs. The following are some of the more frequent ones:

  • She has recently ended a romantic engagement.

Being with you when she is “on the rebound” is one of the worst warning signs a woman can offer you about her intentions.

She will continue to be entangled in the connection she had before. Your relationship is likely to be strained because she has a lot of unsolved issues from the past.

  • She is uninterested in the way you live your life.

If she is not interested in your way of life, then it is safe to say that you are incompatible with her. Just know that she is not the right person for you.

It is inaccurate to say that she would not make a nice companion for another person. Simply put, she is not healthy for you in any way.

  • She lacks the maturity required.

It’s possible that your spouse is not emotionally mature enough to handle the relationship if she enjoys playing games, which is something to consider if she does. Your spouse should speak their mind if they or want your relationship to grow.

  • Your loved ones have a negative opinion of her.

There is always a justifiable explanation for why the people closest to you dislike her. People who genuinely care about you won’t try to destroy your partnership.

If they do not like her, this should be a major warning sign. This indicates that they can see things that you are unable to see.

  • She does not regard you with respect.

You are not in a healthy relationship if the lady you are dating constantly looks down on you or treats you with contempt.

This kind of disrespectful behavior is not tolerated in any way. If she consistently makes you feel bad, then the issue at hand is most likely due to her.

  • She makes an effort to alter you.

If she truly loves you, she will not strive to alter you and will accept you in your current state. Get away from her if she is persistently attempting to shape you into the person she imagines you should be.

  • Never once has she admitted that she was in the wrong.

This should raise a red flag if your girl can never admit she was wrong. If she constantly attempts to lay the blame on you or someone else, you need to realize that she is not ready for a meaningful relationship. This is because she is not mature enough for one.

Expert advice: According to this study, jealousy isn’t always a bad thing. There are two types of jealousy (reactive and suspicious). It’s important to know what type of jealousy your partner is exuding over you. This will help to properly assess what’s happening and why.

Red flags when dating for older people (50s, 60s, 70s)

If you know who you are and what you want from a romantic partner, you can have a successful relationship. This is true even if you are well over your 50s.

However, you should be aware that even in your 50s, you may start to observe warning signs of potential problems.

The following is a list of the most typical warning signs:

  • They only send texts and never make phone calls.

Texting is convenient but lacks the personal touch of face-to-face contact, which you deserve more of in your life.

Someone who always messages you but never calls you isn’t sending you the correct message for whatever reason they may have, whether it is laziness or a fear of being rejected.

  • They are unable to break out of their previous routines.

It’s not always the case that a person’s physical age matches their emotional maturity, and some adults are still beholden to the poor patterns they established in their younger years.

It’s possible that somebody will tell you they need you, but you are not that person’s mother, nurse, or cleaner.

  • They completely disappear for days.

You get to know someone and end up running into them on several occasions. You are beginning to feel at ease and harbor the desire for it to become exclusive.

After then, you won’t see them for a few weeks or months. If they do get back together, there is no way to explain it. Your time is valuable. Don’t squander it on someone unreliable.

Tip: The 7 C’s of Relationships can help establish healthy relationships: Conflict resolution, check-in, consent, courage, compassion, celebration, and communication.

Red flag

Early signs of red flags in a relationship (after dating for a little bit)

When you are still in the courtship phase of your relationship, here are some warning signs that you should keep an eye out for:

  • They never stop lavishing an inordinate amount of love on you.

Be aware that this should serve as a major warning sign if the other person constantly showers you with excessive shows of attention and affection. This practice is referred to as “love bombing.”

The objective of love bombing is to make you feel loved so that you would be more open to them and the things they want from you.

They manipulate their victim into divulging private information about themselves so that they may subsequently utilize this information against them.

  • They do not take into account the personal boundaries you set for yourself.

Physical, sexual, and mental limits can vary greatly from person to person.

When starting a new relationship with someone, it is essential to investigate these limits in a way that is both healthy and respectful of the feelings of all parties involved.

In the first stages of a relationship, it is a huge warning sign if one partner starts pressuring the other.

  • They aim to be your number one concern at all times.

You should ensure that you are not spending excessive time with someone you are just getting to know in the beginning stages.

It is not an indication that they like you if they ask you to hang out with them more than a couple of times each week; instead, this is an early warning sign.

Another early warning sign is if they want you to hang out with them instead of your pals rather than with them.

Expert advice: A study from the University of North Florida suggests that some levels of jealousy can have positive effects on a relationship. The study suggests that commitment and misunderstanding of commitment could be the source for jealousy. For example, your partner may want more commitment from you. For some, this is a positive thing.


Are red flags preventative to having healthy relationships?

No. Most people need to have discussions with each other about the issues they see. It could turn red flags into yellow flags (potential issues but maybe not that big of a problem).

What are common relationship red flags?
  • Someone being emotionally distant.
  • Signs of emotional abuse in prior relationships.
  • Unwillingness to respond or get intimate.
  • Controlling behavior.
  • Someone with anger management issues.
  • Previous substance abuse.
  • Signs of prior abusive behavior.
  • Wants a significant amount of personal space.

Notice red flags early by going on dates and taking things slow. Any romantic relationship has issues. Although, go with your gut feeling. If you think something is a serious red flag, go with that instinct. Understand your own deal breakers and follow them.


  1. The Top 12 Early Relationship Red Flags & Signs You Should Get Out Now!
  2. 15 Early Relationship Red Flags
  3. 19 Red Flags in Women You Should Look Out For
  4. Red flag warning: What to look out for in your relationships
  5. 34 Dating Red Flags You Need to Know (before it’s too late)
  6. 20 Red Flags to Watch Out for in Your Relationship
  7. 17 Relationship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore, According to Therapists
  8. Therapists, Psychologists, And Other Mental Health Experts Are Sharing “Red Flags” To Look For In The First Six Months Of A Relationship
  9. 13 Red Flags in Relationships
  10. 4 Red Flags In A Relationship—And How To Spot Them

Fact checked:
Board reviewed by Marianne Tomlinson, LCSW (Couples and Family Therapy). Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Learn more.

About the author

Ryan Sanderson (LCSW) Ryan is a game and relationship enthusiast who enjoys all things quizzes, games, fun, love, relationships, and family. He's a licensed social worker and helps families, couples, and children in need. He's spoken about love and relationships on Salon.com, Forbes, and Mirror, to name a few.

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