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8 Red Flags in a Relationship That Should Not be Overlooked
Relationship Advice

8 Red Flags in a Relationship That Should Not be Overlooked

All relationships have ups and downs, but some may just be a threat to your mental health. Here are the 8 red flags in a relationship that you should be aware of.

Together Team
April 14, 2022

Being in love is one of the most amazing experiences out there. But all those happy chemicals in your body may make you less aware of otherwise problematic behaviors. Red flags in a relationship can signal serious problems in the future, if not addressed properly.

According to a 2018 study, 16 to 50% of women in college and 20 to 30% of men experience dating violence. The researchers found that recognizing the early signs of aggression could enable the victims to ask for help earlier and not get trapped in the cycle of an abusive relationship. 

Identifying red flags in a relationship can help you avoid spending time and energy in a relationship that could harm your physical or mental health. 

In this article, you can find out more about red flags in a relationship: 

  • what they are
  • how to address them, and 
  • what are the next steps in a relationship with a potentially abusive partner.

What is a Red Flag in a Relationship?

A red flag in a relationship is any attitude, behavior, or dynamic that is abusive or problematic for the relationship's health. Red flags in a relationship could make you question your safety with a partner and can put you in uncomfortable situations, repeatedly.  

Red flags in a relationship are early signs of potential dysfunctionality in the future and not a manifestation of the problem itself. You may not be in a physically abusive relationship, but you may have a partner that overreacts. This could potentially count as a red flag for future violence.

Not every request or disagreement should be counted as a red flag in a relationship. Remember that a certain amount of conflict can actually be healthy for a romantic relationship. What we call red flags are often serious or abusive behaviors, like aggressive outbursts or substance addiction. 

What’s between a healthy dose of conflict and a red flag is usually referred to as a yellow flag. It’s not an actual deal-breaker for your relationship, but a still problematic aspect that keeps you from having the relationship that you want.

Relationship Red Flags vs. Yellow Flags

So, what counts as a red flag? Are you really in a dangerous situation with your partner? Is breaking up the only option? 

First, you should determine if what you are dealing with are real red flags for your relationship or yellow flags that should be managed further. Here are some differences between these two types of flags.

Red Flags are connected to your gut feeling

If anything feels wrong with the relationship itself or the rules that your partner is making, do not ignore your gut feeling. Some relationship red flags may be right in front of you. 

Yellow flags are more “administrative” concerns about the relationship. Like not being on the same page about having children or having different ideas about lifestyle and comfort. Yellow flags are obstacles in relationships that are still manageable through communication. However, you feel generally safe with your partner and the relationship overall.

Yellow flags are more common in relationships

Yellow flags could be encountered by couples in various moments of their relationship: financial views differences, not having common friends, or different plans for the future.

Red flags are typically linked to the more basic aspects of a relationship. They often can appear as a lack of honesty, empathy, and trust.

Red Flags are harder to manage

Yellow flags can be more manageable, especially with professional help. The basis of your relationship is usually quite stable. You and your partner can work on different aspects of your relationship like social life, family planning, and financial decisions.

When there are red flags in a relationship, the very basis of the relationship is crooked. The lack of reciprocity and contact between partners makes it hard to work through difficulties. 

8 Red Flags to Look Out For

If you are entering a new too-good-to-be-true relationship or if you’ve started doubting your partner’s intentions, here is a list of red flags in a relationship to pay attention to.

1. Gaslighting

This is a manipulation technique meant to make you doubt your own reality and sanity. You may have found a red flag if your partner is trying to “explain” your feelings back to you or if they insist on being right on something that you know, for sure, that they are incorrect.

2. Guilt-tripping

If your partner is making you feel guilty for small inconveniences, you may have found red flag number 2. Moreover, if they are often offering options to redeem yourself for the guilt (“I’ll forgive you if you do x for me”, “If you let me check your phone we’ll be even”), they may be taking advantage of your will to make things right.

3. Double standards

Some rules apply to you and may not apply to your partner. If they are telling you that you should always answer their texts because communication is important, but they are not doing the same, that’s a red flag. This is a sign that they may want to control you with unfair rules.

4. Poor communication

You may want to discuss various aspects of life with your partner, but you find them defensive or not really listening most of the time. They may be overreacting or minimizing your discomfort in certain situations, but not engaging in genuine communication.

5. Low empathy

Remember that time when you felt sick and took a day off, but they made you do chores because you were too dramatic? That is a red flag. Empathy and mutual understanding are essential for a healthy relationship.

6. A different person in public

If you are dating someone and you’ve seen that they act very differently around others than they do with you, you may have encountered a potentially abusive partner. If they tend to be preoccupied with public opinion and act differently when socializing with others, it may make you rethink your relationship.

7. Trying to control you

If they are making it seem normal to look through your phone without asking or check your bank account periodically, you have another red flag on your list. Controlling behavior could be used by abusers to isolate you from your friends and families.

8. Substance abuse

You may be in a relationship with someone who is regularly using substances like alcohol or drugs to unwind. If their usage starts to be frequent or in rising doses, you can count this as a red flag. Especially if they become defensive or even irritated when you bring up their behavior.

How to Address Relationship Red Flags

Addressing red flags in a relationship is not an easy task because observing the signs in the first place can mean that you are in an abusive relationship. Here are some ways to move forward in addressing these red flags:

  • Talk to your partner, calmly

If you’ve seen some warning signs in your relationship, talking to your partner calmly and sincerely is the best option to work through any problems. That’s recommended when your partner may be making you uncomfortable unintentionally or when you feel like they are open for discussion.

  • Talk to someone you trust

If you are in an abusive relationship, bringing up any kind of criticism directly to your partner may be difficult and in some cases, even dangerous. Find someone you trust that you can open up to get a second opinion and ask for help. This can be a trusted relative, colleague, or friend. 

  • Talk to a professional

If talking to someone you know is difficult, you may want to talk to a professional. This can be via social media, text messages, over the phone, or face-to-face. They can help you with psychological support, and help you decide whether or not you should leave the relationship for good.

Why Do We Ignore Red Flags?

The science behind abusive relationships bonds says that ignoring red flags comes as an effect of personal tendencies and certain manipulation techniques that abusive partners may use. 

They may seduce you in the beginning. Blinded to their flaws and you may believe it, especially if you’ve experienced emotional abuse in the past.

Usually, red flags are linked to a certain cycle of interaction that they use repeatedly. Narcissists generally follow the same abusive cycle, which includes these stages: 

  • Idealization - it’s the honeymoon phase where they make you feel wanted and loved;
  • Devaluation - they suddenly start belittling and humiliating you;
  • Discard - they play the victim and break up with you violently;
  • Hoover - they will want to redeem themselves by re-entering the sweet initial phase and restarting the pattern.

This cycle goes in a loop until the victim decides to break up and leave.

Are Red Flags a Reason to Walk Away From a Relationship?

Depending on the severity of the relationship red flags, it may be the case to end things once and for all with your partner. But radical decisions are not the best way to go. Evaluate your situation in terms of imminent danger and openness to communicate with your partner. 

If they may be gaslighting you, but otherwise pretty open to criticism and communication, breaking up may be the last resort. Looking for a good couples therapist could be a better option for the two of you.

If domestic violence is involved, there are domestic abuse hotlines that you should use to ask for help. You can also talk to authorities in your area for further assistance. In dangerous situations, putting an end to the relationship is often the best option.

Recognizing Red Flags in a Relationship and Moving Forward

Having faith in the relationship with red flags often comes with a great deal of anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty. Things don’t have to stay the same if you are unhappy in a relationship. and professional help could give you a better understanding of the situation that you are in. 

If you and your partner have talked about these relationship red flags, you should work through the differences together. You can start couples therapy or establish new rules to move towards a healthy relationship.

However, if you’re feeling trapped in an abusive relationship, you may feel scared to leave because you feel too weak without your partner. Remember that help is available for you. Finding a good individual or group therapist can help make your healing process easier.

Together Team

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