11 Relationship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore (2023)

The internet has dubbed character traits like bad grammar and not drinking coffee as red flags (you've seen the memes). And I concur — as a perpetually caffeinated journalist living in New York City, the correct use of the word "you're" and an overpriced cup of coffee are basically my turn-ons. And don't even get me started on people who put pineapple on their pizza. Immediate swipe left.

But jokes aside, there are some legit (much more valid) red flags that really shouldn't be ignored. Sure, maintaining any relationship requires compromise or sacrifice, but you should never give up your wants and needs or put your happiness at bay. And when we're newly in love, relationship red flags can be notoriously easy to miss or ignore — although they're usually clear as day after the fact.

So we've tapped the experts in order to help you spot some common relationship red flags, plus advice for how to deal.

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What Are Relationship Red Flags?

If you've played the game "Red Flag or Deal Breaker" with friends, then you know that some "red flags" are totally subjective. Most of the time, they're specific to each individual and their "values, desires, and preferences," according to Jessica January Behr, Psy.D, licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Behr Psychology in New York City. (For example, not being religious may be a deal-breaker to one person and a total non-issue to another person.)

Also, what we consider to be a red flag can evolve over time. "What is a red flag today, might not be one tomorrow, and vice versa," Dr. Behr adds. That said, "some common red flags that people report have to do with communication, values, and judgment," she explains.

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Sometimes we get a warning sign, either by someone's words or actions, that they're not ready for a relationship, or not ready for a relationship with you, explains dating expert and Director of Relationship Science at Hinge Logan Ury. But depending on the person and the behavior, it could take one date or several years for that alarm bell to sound.

And unfortunately, it's totally common for us to miss these red flags when we're blinded by love, says matchmaker Susan Trombetti, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. "People can be emotionally charged and ignore the red flags in the beginning, or find a way to deceive themselves to lessen the impact because sometimes they just don't want to face reality," explains Trombetti. "Other times, they just miss them if their picker is off or they lack boundaries." Sometimes, they only come into focus once the relationship is over. "You can clearly see them in hindsight and lots of people [realize] the warnings were there," she says.

Below are a few universal toxic behaviors in modern dating that relationship experts say should set off alarm bells. While some can be worked through with communication (depending on what they are and how you feel about them), others, like any kind of abuse, should be considered deal-breakers — aka exit the relationship as soon as possible.

11 Relationship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore (1)

1. Love bombing

Ury tells us that one of the biggest relationship red flags she sees these days is "love bombing," which is when your partner becomes very invested early on. A form of manipulation, the love bomber will talk all about your future, shower you with affection and grandiose declarations of love, and get you to fall for them — only to pull away and leave you broken-hearted. Love bombing is most common among narcissists and goes hand-in-hand with other toxic relationship traits including gaslighting and emotional abuse, so consider this one a dealbreaker.

2. An obsession with social media

While media and social platforms have become heavily inundated in our day-to-day lives, Ury advises watching out if someone is a little too into their profile and following. She shares that 74% of Hinge users see this as a red flag since it can allude to the person being insecure or self-absorbed.

4. Lack of communication

We all know that communication is a key pillar in any relationship. If your partner seems absent or like they're not listening to you while you're speaking or doesn't respond to your texts or messages, this is a sign that they are disconnected or distracted, says Dr. Behr. Step one: Have a conversation to see if your different communication styles can be worked through with a little patience and understanding.

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5. Controlling or jealous behavior

Some jealously here and there can be harmless, and it is pretty common in a relationship! But if your partner starts to become possessive or controlling of your plans, what you wear, who you hang out with, or isolates you from your friends and family, this can be a serious sign of emotional abuse down the line, Trombetti says.

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6. Bad relationships with friends or family

Dr. Behr says a lack of familial relationships or talking poorly about friends and family may be cause for concern, especially if these things are important to you. Ury advises first giving them the benefit of the doubt and asking your partner why this is the case before considering it a deal-breaker. "Perhaps their upbringing made it hard for them to be close to their family, but they've worked hard to cultivate a strong 'chosen family' in their group of friends," says Ury.

7. Extreme emotional reactions

If someone displays unmanageable emotions and easily flies off the handle, this is a serious red flag. Responding with uncontrollable rage or the "silent treatment" could point to abusive (physical or emotional) behavior in the future, says Trombetti. On the other hand, she adds, a lack of empathy may mean they're void of emotion and care. In other words: You want someone whose emotions are in control and appropriate for the situation.

9. Alcohol or substance abuse

If you're dating someone who is often unable to handle their alcohol (and not just on one occasion), or they drink and use substances in excess, they could potentially have an addiction. The first step, in this case, is a serious conversation. If your partner has a binge drinking problem and refuses help, consider this a deal-breaker — it's like waiting for a time bomb to go off. On the other hand, if they can recognize the problem and actually gets help, this could deepen your relationship.

What to Do If You Think Your Partner Has a Drinking Problem

(Video) 7 Red Flags In Dating You Should NEVER Ignore

10. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a definitely hot topic in modern dating right now, so you've probably heard of it. Basically, it means they turn the blame on your for something they did or hold you responsible for the way they reacted to a situation. "It's just a way to blow you up and make you think you are crazy," says Trombetti. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation meant to leave you feeling insecure and questioning your sanity, so trust your gut if something feels wrong and leave the relationship.

15 Signs Your Partner Is Gaslighting You, According to a Relationship Expert

11. Downright abusive behavior

While some of the red flags above are considered types of emotional abuse, it bears repeating: if anyone verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually abuses you or puts you in harm's way, get out as soon as possible and receive any necessary help — full stop, Dr. Behr says. "These are the types of red flags that should not be resolved in the context of a relationship. If you are in harm's way, it is not a red flag it is a stop sign."

How to Handle Relationship Red Flags

As mentioned above, if your partner is abusive in any way or puts you in danger, Dr. Behr strongly urges you to end the relationship. That is your sign to get out now.But with some of the less severe red flags, it can be hard to know whether or not you should address it with your partner or just run. Experts suggest a few steps to take to assess whether or not this is something that can be worked through.

Never ignore a red flag.

If you notice something that is wrong or even makes you feel a certain way, all experts agree: do not ignore it. It's your mind's way of flagging the issue. "Signs need to be interpreted," explains Dr. Behr. It's easier said than done, of course. Sometimes we ignore red flags in a relationship because we really want it to work this time, notes Ury. Or perhaps you're so caught up in the relationship that you let them slip by.

Bottom line: "They're an opportunity to pause, assess the situation, and decide if you should continue investing time in this person," Trombetti says.

Check-in with yourself.

Once you've identified an action or behavior as a red flag, it's time to do some inner reflecting. Of course, you shouldn't compromise on your needs, but there's also the possibility you're being too harsh on your partner. "Take a moment and ask yourself, 'Am I being too judgmental, or is this a genuine issue?'" says Ury.

(Video) 7 Red Flags In Dating You Should NEVER Ignore

Talk it out.

If the issue at hand is still worrisome to you, it's time to communicate with your partner. "Let your partner know if their behavior or emotion is unacceptable and unsustainable for you and why," says Dr. Behr, adding that your partner could just be "unaware of how their words or actions affect others" and not ill-intended.

Other times, we misinterpret somebody's words or behaviors based on our own past life experiences. "Asking questions and sharing your own experience can help," says Dr. Behr. "Sharing your own vulnerability and interpretations can help your partner to learn about you and to present themselves in a more accurate way."

Dr. Behr also notes that we all have different love languages and your partner may not be used to showing love in the way you need. The only way to work through the disconnect though is by being upfront and asking for what you need. "Through communicating, you may be able to find new understanding, tolerance, or acceptance of the former red flag that allows the relationship to continue and even grow," says Dr. Behr.

Again, abuse is an automatic deal-breaker and does not require any communication.

Don't settle.

If something "disturbs your peace enough to change your behavior," you may want to consider ending the partnership says Dr. Behr. "If you have communicated, shared your vulnerability, and asked for what you needed and the behavior or feeling has not changed, it may be that you and this individual aren't compatible at this time."

If you're not super invested, Dr. Behr says it may just be better to cut your losses and look elsewhere. She adds that oftentimes a red flag just means that you and the other person are not compatible, and that's totally OK!

How to Better Spot Red Flags for Next Time

Unfortunately, we often notice red flags after the love-spell fog of a new relationship wear off. How many times have you easily spotted a red flag once the relationship was over? (For me, more than I'd like to admit.) If you relate to this, there are a few ways that you can improve your red flag radar.

First things first, Ury suggests making a list of common red flags you've come across in the past, especially if you're someone who tends to overlook them. The next time you spot that same characteristic in a potential partner, Ury says to "run in the opposite direction." The sooner you spot a red flag, the more time you'll save both parties, Ury says. And remember, relationships are a learning experience, so take anything you discover from one, and apply it to the next.

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The bottom line: If you spot a relationship red flag, don't ignore it and hope it goes away on its own. Face it head-on by asking yourself why it bothers you, communicating your concerns to your partner, and either working through it or ending the relationship.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

FAQs

What are red flags in a long term relationship? ›

Red flags in a relationship include excessive jealousy and frequent lying. You should also be wary of a partner who frequently criticizes you or puts you down. Another major red flag is an unwillingness to compromise — relationships shouldn't be one-sided.

How do you know that a guy is playing you? ›

If the guy is playing with you, then he'll never think that you come first with him. He would always spend a night out with his buddies, but when it comes to you, he'll only hang out with you on certain times, when you suspect that his friends might be busy or that he has nothing else on his social calendar.

What are the 5 red flags? ›

5 RED FLAGS in a Relationship
  • Not trusting your gut. Things don't add up, but you're projecting what you want while disregarding the facts.
  • Inconsistency or noncommittal people are a big indicator of their desire to actually be there.
  • Ghosting. ...
  • Boredom. ...
  • Playing house.

When should you end a relationship? ›

Should We Break Up? 9 Signs It's Time To End Your Relationship
  • You talk about the relationship improving in some hypothetical future.
  • You're feeling pressured to change, and it makes you feel less worthy as a result.
  • You feel loved and supported...but only when you're happy.

What are the signs you need to break up? ›

How To Know When To Break Up
  • You're Making All The Sacrifices. ...
  • Your Values Aren't Aligned. ...
  • There's No Trust. ...
  • You're Always Fighting. ...
  • There's A Lack Of Communication. ...
  • Your Needs Aren't Being Met. ...
  • There's No More Effort. ...
  • You're Not Happy Anymore.
10 Jun 2021

How do you tell if someone is using you emotionally? ›

9 signs someone is using you in a relationship
  1. The conversation is always about them. ...
  2. They always let you pick up the check. ...
  3. You always have to come to their rescue. ...
  4. They never say thank you. ...
  5. They're always asking for favors. ...
  6. You start to resent them. ...
  7. Your emotional needs are never considered, let alone met.
1 Nov 2018

How do you know if a man loves you? ›

Signs He Genuinely Loves You
  • He does things for you when you least expect them. ...
  • He is always curious to know more about you. ...
  • If you're happy, he's happy. ...
  • He makes you a part of his life. ...
  • He sees a future with you.
16 Feb 2022

How do you tell if a guy is stringing you along? ›

15 alarming signs he's stringing you along
  1. He doesn't give you what you want. ...
  2. He starts spending less time with you. ...
  3. He makes promises but hardly keeps any. ...
  4. He only shows up when it is time for sex. ...
  5. He becomes more irritable. ...
  6. He has exciting opinions about relationships. ...
  7. He never calls you his partner.
28 Jul 2022

How do you know if a guy is cheating on you? ›

30 clear signs your boyfriend is cheating on you
  • He's always distracted. ...
  • He buys new perfume and clothes. ...
  • He becomes irritated. ...
  • You notice he always have mood swings. ...
  • His routines had changed. ...
  • He suddenly likes doing overtime. ...
  • You don't talk as often. ...
  • He no longer invites you to go out.
22 Mar 2022

What are the top 10 red flags? ›

10 Relationship Red Flags
  • 1- Lack of Communication. ...
  • 2- Disrespecting Boundaries. ...
  • 3- Lack of Trust. ...
  • 4- Difficult to Rely On. ...
  • 5- Controlling Behavior. ...
  • 6- Friends or Family Are Wary. ...
  • 7- Dwelling on Past Relationships. ...
  • 8- They Make You Feel Insecure.
29 Apr 2021

How do you know if your partner isn't right for you? ›

  • 8 Signs Your Relationship Isn't Working (And Whether You Should Break Up or Fix It) ...
  • You're always fighting. ...
  • There's no intimacy. ...
  • Trust has taken a hit. ...
  • Jealousy is getting the better of you. ...
  • You don't spend much time together. ...
  • Your emotional needs aren't being met. ...
  • You're considering cheating (or you already have).
22 Aug 2019

What are early red flags in a relationship? ›

They don't want to hear your stories of past happy memories that don't include them. They don't like when you hang out with your friends. They get very defensive when you bring up past relationships or healthy boundaries. They talk bad about you, your family, or your friends.

What are signs your relationship is over? ›

If you're not sharing what's really on your mind, it might be a sign that you no longer want a deep connection. Similarly, if you've found that the usual fun banter between you is gone—or it's difficult to have engaging conversations—your bond could be getting weaker.

What are the signs to leave a relationship? ›

Here, experts explain some of the signs that indicate it may be time to let go:
  • Your needs aren't being met.
  • You're seeking those needs from others.
  • You're scared to ask for more from your partner.
  • Your friends and family don't support your relationship.
  • You feel obligated to stay with your partner.
27 Aug 2018

What are the signs of relationship going to end? ›

Signs your relationship may be ending or over
  • Communication breakdown. ...
  • Lack of physical intimacy. ...
  • Aggressive or confrontational communication style. ...
  • You or your partner are spending extended periods of time with other people, like family and friends, at the expense of time you might usually spend together.

What is love bombing? ›

Love bombing, however, is another story. It happens when someone overwhelms you with loving words, actions, and behavior as a manipulation technique. “It's often used to win over your trust and affection so that they can meet a goal of theirs,” explains Shirin Peykar, MA, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

What are valid reasons to break up? ›

7 reasons to break up with someone, even if you still have love for them
  • You have cyclical arguments. ...
  • The thought of freedom is exhilarating. ...
  • You don't get to be your full self in the relationship. ...
  • Your points of view are exceedingly different. ...
  • You don't feel like you're part of a team.
29 Mar 2022

What is a good breakup message? ›

I wanted to say that I really enjoy us chatting and I would love to see you again, but for me it would be as friends. Not sure if you would be keen for that? I feel we aren't compatible and this relationship isn't working for me. So I'd like to end all further communication and wish you the best in the future.

How do you find out if someone is cheating? ›

Common signs of infidelity that you might want to look for include:
  1. Improved appearance. ...
  2. Secretive phone or computer use. ...
  3. Periods where your significant other is unreachable. ...
  4. Significantly less, or more, or different sex in your relationship. ...
  5. Your partner is hostile toward you and your relationship. ...
  6. An altered schedule.
10 Dec 2018

Which signs are emotionally detached? ›

Symptoms of emotional detachment

difficulty creating or maintaining personal relationships. a lack of attention, or appearing preoccupied when around others. difficulty being loving or affectionate with a family member. avoiding people, activities, or places because they're associated with past trauma.

How can you tell if someone is emotionally damaged? ›

Some signs of being emotionally broken include low self-esteem, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal tendencies.

What makes a man fall deeply in love with a woman? ›

Physical attraction, sexual compatibility, empathy, and emotional connection are key to making a man fall in love with a woman.

How do you test a guy if he's serious about you? ›

7 Signs To Tell if a Guy Is Serious About You
  1. He Listens to You. If a guy is serious about you, he will really listen and he won't take anything you say for granted. ...
  2. He Makes Future Plans. ...
  3. He Checks Up on You. ...
  4. He Helps You with Any Problem. ...
  5. He Makes You a Priority. ...
  6. He Does Thoughtful Things. ...
  7. He Introduces You to His Friends.

What are the physical signs of love? ›

Physical symptoms

“Butterflies” might sound nice, sure — until they make you feel like you need to throw up. When you see, or even just think of, the person you love, you feel tense and nervous. Your heart begins to race, your palms sweat, and your face flushes. You might feel a little shaky.

What is a backburner relationship? ›

According to the study, a back-burner is “a person to whom one is not presently committed, and with whom one maintains some degree of communication in order to keep or establish the possibility of future romantic and/or sexual involvement”.

What to do when a guy is confused about you? ›

What to do when a guy is confused about his feelings?
  • Openly talk to him. It's a good idea to let the guy know about your feelings. ...
  • Give him time and space. Try not to make him feel like he has to decide right away. ...
  • Reassure him. Let him know that you understand that he isn't ready yet.
23 Jun 2021

How do you know when a guy is emotionally attached? ›

He shows his love for you in many ways

Here are more signs that might help you determine if someone is emotionally attached: He takes the time to text or calls you throughout the day. He makes time for you. He doesn't flirt with other women in front of you.

How do men act after they cheat? ›

Among men, 68% feel guilty after having an affair. Even if they haven't confessed the affair, most cheating husbands will feel guilty and express that guilt in their behavior. You may notice subtle changes in their behavior that make you wonder if your spouse is displaying cheating husband guilt.

How do cheaters act? ›

Cheaters are impulsive, and can't resist taking that risk despite what it might cost them. Cheaters, like bullies, are fueled by power, and drawn to risk. This kind of behavior, however, is a reflection of something deeply rooted inside of them.

Is he cheating or am I paranoid? ›

The suspicion that occurs from a sudden shift in your partner's behavior is not the same as paranoia. If your partner feels distant or there has been a significant change in their actions, this shift can be concerning. People who are cheating will sometimes become defensive or pull away from their partners.

What is Red Flag 🚩? ›

noun. plural red flags. : a warning signal or sign.

What are toxic red flags? ›

Red flags are often used in conversations around toxic or abusive relationships. Toxicity can present itself in any close relationship: friends, colleagues, family members, or partners. Red flags can be signs of narcissism, aggression, victimization, or even abusive behavior.

What is the biggest red flag on a man? ›

Okay, here's the big list of red flags.
  • He's constantly negging you. ...
  • He gives you backhanded compliments. ...
  • He leaves passive aggressive sticky notes around the house instead of talking to you.
  • He doesn't like when you say no to sex. ...
  • He wants to be “officially dating” right away. ...
  • Your friends don't like him.
23 Aug 2021

What are five warning signs of an unhealthy relationship? ›

Recognizing the signs of unhealthy relationships
  • Control. One person makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. ...
  • Dependence. ...
  • Digital monitoring or “clocking”. ...
  • Dishonesty. ...
  • Disrespect. ...
  • Hostility. ...
  • Harassment. ...
  • Intimidation.

How do you know if someone is using you? ›

Signs You're Being Used
  • The person asks you for money, favors, or other items. ...
  • The person imposes on you without consideration for your availability or preferences. ...
  • The person expects you to take care of their needs. ...
  • The person appears disinterested in you after their needs have been met.
9 Nov 2021

How do you tell if he's insecure? ›

Dating an insecure man? The 10 signs and the most common insecurities
  1. He lies to you or exaggerates the truth. ...
  2. He goes out of his way to show his masculinity or gets very defensive. ...
  3. He will often fish for compliments. ...
  4. He tries to flatter you. ...
  5. He becomes jealous easily. ...
  6. He is constantly being critical of you.
17 Oct 2021

What are 2 red flags in a relationship? ›

General Dating Red Flags

Isolation: They only want to be with you, and while that might sound flattering, they also encourage you to cut ties with friends and family. Smothering: They constantly put you or others down, even if they mistakenly believe they're just kidding.

What are the 10 red flags? ›

10 Relationship Red Flags
  • 1- Lack of Communication. ...
  • 2- Disrespecting Boundaries. ...
  • 3- Lack of Trust. ...
  • 4- Difficult to Rely On. ...
  • 5- Controlling Behavior. ...
  • 6- Friends or Family Are Wary. ...
  • 7- Dwelling on Past Relationships. ...
  • 8- They Make You Feel Insecure.
29 Apr 2021

What is Breadcrumbing in dating? ›

But have you heard about breadcrumbing? “In a relationship context, breadcrumbing refers to a person who gives you just enough 'crumbs' of attention or affection to give you hope and keep you on the hook — but not enough to make you feel comfortable or assured the relationship is going well,” explains Dr.

What is Paperclipping in dating? ›

a situation where someone you have dated suddenly sends you a message after a long period of time, then disappears again. "'Paperclipping' is the latest dating trend to be given an official name, following the likes of 'Kondo-ing', 'Masturdating' and 'Fishing'.

What is Kittenfishing? ›

What is kittenfishing? As mentioned, kittenfishing is catfishing's younger sister. Essentially, it involves tweaking small details about your appearance or your life to make you appear 'better' on dating apps, as opposed to claiming to be a different person entirely, as in catfishing.

What does Paperclipping mean? ›

Paperclipping is a new term for an age-old behavior that has allowed people to increase their sense of worth by feeding on superficial, intermittent connection – and the emotional responses of others.

What are signs a relationship is over? ›

There's no emotional connection

If you're not sharing what's on your mind, it might be a sign that you no longer want a deep connection. Similarly, if you've found that the usual fun banter between you is gone, or it's difficult to have engaging conversations, your bond could be getting weaker.

What is future faking in a relationship? ›

"Future faking is when someone uses a detailed vision of the future to facilitate the bonding and connection in a romantic relationship," Greg Kushnick, PsyD, a psychologist based in New York City, told Health. It's generally something that narcissists do, added Dr.

Why do I lose myself in relationships? ›

Within a relationship there's an innate desire to feel loved and accepted, so we often give up parts of ourselves in order to achieve that acceptance, or to maintain harmony. Unless you're conscious of maintaining a seperate sense of self, this tendency will cause you to lose yourself.

What is gaslighting in a relationship? ›

What is gaslighting in a relationship? It's a form of psychological manipulation in which one person makes the other partner doubt his or her perceptions, experiences, memories, or understanding of events that happened.

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