When you’re in a new relationship, you might be tempted to ignore relationship red flags. The honeymoon period is powerful after all! But ignoring red flags in relationships can lead to problems further down the line when it might be much harder to walk away from the situation.
RED FLAGS IN RELATIONSHIPS
1. HE’S INSULTING AND DEMEANING
If a man doesn’t respect you, it’s a huge red flag. It might be that he has issues with his partners, women in particular or people in general. Either way, you want to date a person who knows how to treat others.
And, yes, this counts even if you’re fighting – perhaps especially if you’re fighting! Because it’s those times when you’re frustrated and emotions run high that true colors can really show. So if he stoops to name-calling and saying hurtful things rather than working through your issues productively, you’ve got problems.
One way that crappy partners make others feel bad is by making them feel guilty, and it can be completely irrational! He might have you thinking that you eat too much, spend too much money, don’t spend quality time with him or are bad at taking care of your pets. Your self-esteem will understandably take a hit.
Psst, these are also signs of emotional abuse. More on that here.
If you’re fighting and he treats you poorly, you’ll especially want to run the other way!
2. HE TRIES TO CHANGE YOU
When you’re in a relationship with someone, you should encourage them to grow and help them reach their potential. But there’s a fine line between this type of encouragement and wanting to change someone. If your boyfriend is constantly trying to change you, you’ll feel like you aren’t good enough and wonder why he chose you in the first place. Truth be told, he probably should look for someone who already is all those things that he’s looking for!
On the other hand, it’s a red flag even if you’re the one pushing for change. If you don’t love this guy the way he is, why are you with him? It only makes him feel resentful when you treat him this way. And no one can change unless they want to.
Picking a guy who will be perfect once you change him is a common pitfall. Discover the other relationship types women get into here.
3. HE CALLS YOU CRAZY
Sometimes people do this thing where they egg on another person or behavior poorly but when called out on it, they act like you’re crazy. This is called gaslighting, and it happens more often than it should – in relationships or ever. Sometimes a particular flavor of gaslighting happens when a guy mocks you for being an “emotional” woman. But being a woman doesn’t mean you’re not aware of what’s happening.
Unfortunately, when someone you’re in a relationship with says something like this, you want to believe him. After all, he’s close to you and it could be true. But sometimes it takes a third party to point out that you’re not crazy. This is just a red flag about the guy.
4. HE CHANGES MOODS QUICKLY
We all have mood swings from time to time. Maybe you’re like a bear before your morning cup of coffee. You might not feel like yourself when you’re tired or hungry, or a day can go from good to bad with one call from a demanding client. We’ve all been there.
But if the guy you’re dating or in a relationship with frequently changes moods, it might be time to sound the alarm. This could be indicative of a mental health problem, perhaps one he’s not making the time and effort to deal with. Or he might just be an immature guy who doesn’t know how to or won’t handle his emotions like an adult. Who wants to deal with that?
While not all mood swings are scary, they could be if this guy suddenly becomes angry. If he directs his anger at you, emotional abuse could turn to violence. Around one in four women will be the victim of violence from intimate partners during their lives, so it can happen .
5. HE’S IMMATURE AND UNRELIABLE
When it comes to relationships, a certain amount of maturity is required. You both need to recognize that relationships are hard work that require time, commitment, effort and patience. The fact that relationships can slip away if you don’t prioritize them is an important one!
But if this guy is immature, he likely won’t put in the effort to make you feel good and make your relationship work. You won’t be his priority, and you won’t have a secure relationship. Furthermore, that immaturity may make him unreliable, which means sharing a life and all it entails (a home, kids or pets) is going to be difficult. Hell, it might be a task just to get him to pick you up from the airport!
6. HE’S OBSESSED WITH THE IDEA OF YOU
You meet a guy and seem to hit it off. He’s sweet and funny. He’s obviously into you. Things might finally be happening for you.
But something’s off. He practically worships the ground you walk upon. He’s almost obsessed with you. And the image in his head might not line up with reality. After all, no one’s perfect.
He might come to this hard realization as time goes by. Or you might feel pressured to live up to the idea. Maybe he’s in love with the idea of you (or even just being in love), but is he really in love with you?
A healthy relationship involves the knowledge that neither of you is perfect but accepting one another either way.
7. YOU FIGHT OFTEN – OR BADLY
Fighting often is a sign that you’re not really working through your issues. You might not be communicating well or you may be bringing up old issues into current fights. Perhaps it just devolves into insulting or one of you avoids having tough discussions altogether. None of these things are good for a relationship.
Other bad fighting behavior includes keeping score, which happens when someone tracks things. If a guy says “You did X and Y and Z” he’s keeping score, and it’s also a red flag that you deserve better.
8. HE DOESN’T APOLOGIZE
A person who can’t say he’s sorry isn’t someone you want to be in a relationship with. It might be a pride or ego thing, but learning to apologize – and how to do it right – is something we all need to do as we grow up. Because we’re all wrong sometimes, and that can occasionally hurt the people we love. Apologizing shows that we prioritize those people and our relationships with them over our need to be right and our ego.
If he can’t choose you in small situations that warrant an apology, will he choose you in more serious situations?
9. YOU NEVER FIGHT
Contrary to popular belief, not fighting at all isn’t really better over fighting all the time or arguing unwisely. Chances are, one or both of you are trying to avoid arguing, so you don’t bring up the things you should be talking about. Not only does this show that you don’t trust your significant other to handle issues like an adult, but it’s a breeding ground for resentment. When you bottle things up, those bottles tend to explode in big ways later on.
Not fighting may also be a sign that one of you has checked out of the relationship emotionally. You don’t care, so why bother fighting?
10. HE DEMANDS SEX
Being in a relationship usually comes with an expectation of having sex, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. You might be apart due to work, tired from taking care of your home or sick or have come down with the flu. Although you should work to make sex a priority in your relationship, you both need to understand that sometimes sex doesn’t happen when you want it to (this is the perfect time for a little solo time, however! more on that here).
But if your partner doesn’t understand that and demands or coerces sex from you, this is a red flag you shouldn’t demand. And if he physically forces himself on you, he’s violating your safety, your trust, and the law. While you might sometimes throw your partner a bone in a relationship even though you’re not super excited about having sex, an enthusiastic yes is preferable. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean it’s not sexual assault or rape.
Between 14% and 25% of women have been the victim of sexual assault by an intimate partner , which can lead to injury, depression, and anxiety. It’s your right to say “No.” If he doesn’t respect your word, considering filing a police report. Whether you do that or not, you should definitely leave the relationship.
11. HE USES SEX TO CONTROL YOU
Sex should be pleasurable and a way for you to connect with your partner. It shouldn’t cause undue anxiety or be used against you. But sometimes people use sex to manipulate. They withhold sex as a punishment or only have sex when they want something. It’s pretty alarming behavior and a red flag for most relationships.
12. HE’S SECRETIVE
If you’re in a serious relationship with someone, you might share kids, a home, a vehicle, pets and a bank account. So you should know plenty about this person, and if he’s secretive and seems like he’s hiding something for you, it should definitely give you pause!
Secrecy at the beginning of a relationship might mean that he doesn’t want you to find out something about his past or perhaps he’s seeing someone else (so you never meet his friends or family). Secrecy, when you’re already in a relationship, may mean a new issue has arisen: he’s having an affair, doing drugs or developed a gambling habit.
Of course, he might be hiding something that’s not actually that big of a deal to you (such as a sexual fetish), but if he can’t be open with you, it doesn’t bode well. How can you trust a guy if you’re not sure he’s telling you the whole truth?
13. HE LIES
What’s worse than secrecy? It might just be lying! He might be lying about what he does because he has something to hide. But sometimes people lie for no good reason because of a compulsion to lie.
When you discover his lies, he might break down and tell you the truth, but sometimes liars dig their heels in and weave even more tails. It takes someone who is willing to ignore the truth to make these stories work, however. Don’t be that person. When you recognize this relationship red flag, do something about it.
Is your relationship already over? Find out here.
14. HE’S NOT COMMUNICATIVE
If talking to your man is like talking to a brick wall because you never get any response, then trouble is brewing. Some men are those of few words, but if he never says anything at all, what kind of relationship can you have? A relationship is a two-way street. You need to talk to figure out your day-to-day plans, but you’ve also got to talk about how you feel, your future goals and your sex life.
Related: How to Talk About Sex
He might be looking for a way out of your relationship if he’s finished talking to you.
15. HE’S CONTROLLING
There are a number of reasons why a guy might be controlling. He may be insecure (read more) or feel inadequate about other parts of his life. Your relationship might be the only thing he feels like he can control.
Or he may irrationally think you’re cheating on him – jealousy often goes hand in hand with controlling behavior. He’ll suspect that you’re interested in your male friends or coworkers, and he might check up on you all the time because he thinks you’re lying about where you are and who you’re with. Sometimes this is a reflection of his own behavior as a cheater.
Look for these signs to see if he’s cheating.
Whatever the reason, he’s got work to do on himself, and you should be wary of this red flag.
16. HE COMES BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES
Someone who is insecure and controlling will probably try to come between you and your friends and family. He might paint them as toxic or trying to come between the two of you. Sometimes, our loved ones can try to put the idea of breaking up into your head. Sometimes it might just be that they don’t want to share you, but it’s often because they can see something that you can’t. In this case, a guy’s controlling behavior might be the very thing they’re trying to warn you about.
When everyone in your life has reservations about the guy you’re seeing, it’s probably a sign that you need to step back and reassess the situation.
17. HIS EXES ARE STILL CURRENT
Even if he has children with an ex, his relationship with you shouldn’t suffer because of it. If he’s letting an ex call him all the time, show up at your place or dictate the terms of your relationship, the old flame might not be entirely extinguished. However, it might simply mean that he’s bad at putting an end to drama or, even worse, that he feeds off of it.
18. HE HITS YOU
Physical abuse is often seen as the worst possible thing that someone can do to their romantic partner. While it’s obviously terrible, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that most of the relationship red flags on this list are enough to end a relationship or walk away from one that hasn’t yet started if they keep happening. Learn how to end a relationship here.
But physical abuse is often the straw that break’s the proverbial camel’s back. It’s hard to hide a bruise, and victims often realize that something must change in their relationship. If it’s not him, then it needs to be you.
YOU HAVE RED FLAGS IN RELATIONSHIPS, TOO
Although the relationship red flags we’ve listed up until this point revolve around what a potential partner might be doing, those aren’t all the relationship red flags. Sometimes a red flag is about you and the things you do that either lead you to make unhealthy choices or to sabotage your relationships.
If you’re insecure, controlling, immature or not committed to your relationship, stop. The same goes if you haven’t truly moved on from an ex (Here’s how to move on in 8 steps), you’re just using your partner to get something, or you need this guy to straighten our your life, but you don’t really want or love him. Figure out why you do those things, perhaps when you’re single. When you’re truly happy and stable, you can start dating again.
Another thing to consider is whether your relationship has any future potential. This isn’t the same type of red flag as the others on this list, but it’s worth paying attention to. If you have different life goals such as one of you wanting kids while the other doesn’t, it’s probably going to end in heartbreak eventually. This is the same if your goals are incompatible or if he has no goals at all.
So, it’s usually smarter to end things before you’re too emotionally invested.
Think of red flags in relationships as warnings you need to heed. Sometimes you need to end things right now for your safety and peace of mind, but in other instances, you can work things out with this guy, perhaps with counseling for one or both of you. On the other hand, a few relationship red flags simply let you know that you’re not compatible and should go your separate ways.