Couple with red flags surrounding them.

We all know that fantastic feeling when you first meet that special someone and starry eyes lock. Your heart skips a beat, and your breath catches in your chest. Attraction blossoms between you, and you wonder how you ever lived without them. You begin to imagine what your relationship will look like and how long it will last. Will this person turn out to be your forever love?

Relationships require both emotion and logic. When we fall in love, emotion takes the driver’s seat and hits the gas. The dangerous thing here is that love is blind. Unless we get some vision correction for our emotions, we can’t see clearly, and they are liable to run us right off the road and into a ditch. 

The Importance of Watching for Red Flags

When entering a serious relationship, no matter your age or gender, it is critical to look at it from a logical perspective. If the person you are dating is the one you want to entangle your life with for years to come, you need to be darn sure that it’s going to be a healthy relationship

It’s vital to search for red flags and spot them as soon as possible. Red flags present in the early stages of a relationship always get worse as the relationship deepens. Some require significant counseling, either individually or as a couple. Some can lead to life-threatening situations and warn of personality disorders and dangerous issues.

While looking at a relationship with logical glasses may not be fun, it’s essential. Spotting red flags can be a lifesaver and save you serious heartache down the road. 

Determine if any of the following red flags are present in your relationship. If they are, decide which ones you and your partner can work on with a counselor. However, if there are red flags and you determine that the two of you are not a good match, please have the courage to part ways. Choosing between what you know and what you feel can be difficult, but it can make all the difference.  

Remember to trust your gut. If something feels off, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, trust that instinct. Our bodies often recognize that something is wrong long before our brains do. 

boat with red flags

20 Red Flags to Watch Out for When Dating

1. Physical Aggression

Watch out for any signs of physical aggression. If your partner is aggressive toward you, other people, or animals in a physical way, it is a huge warning sign that they may be physically abusive. Slamming doors, throwing things, or hitting walls are all elements of physical abuse. Even if these instances start small, if they are present, consider removing yourself from the relationship before it becomes dangerous to your physical health.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For anonymous help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) and speak with a trained advocate. They are available 24/7. You can also talk to them through a live chat on their website.

2. Verbal Abuse (Even If They’re “Just Teasing”)

Verbal abuse can take many different forms, from shouting and swearing at you to subtle backhanded compliments. Be mindful of the things your partner is saying to you. Even if they claim that they are “just teasing,” you should not ignore signs of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse can lead to mental and emotional abuse and cause psychological damage in the long run. 

3. Anger Issues and Extreme Emotional Reactions

Be wary of a partner who exhibits anger issues and extreme emotional reactions. When they are angry or emotional, take a look at how they respond. Do they lash out? Do they get physical? And notice how you feel when they are in this state. Do you feel afraid when they are angry? Please pay attention to your body’s response to their emotional reactions and trust your gut. If you are scared of them, it may be time to reassess. 

4. They are a Narcissist

It can be tough to determine if someone is a narcissist since they cover it so well. Watch for signs that your partner may be narcissistic. These signs may include: having an overinflated sense of self-importance, needing constant praise and admiration, feeling entitled, and bullying or coercing others to do what they want. Often a narcissist cannot handle criticism or being wrong and will spin reality to make them look better. Narcissism can have a tremendous and damaging impact on relationships. Often it can lead to gaslighting and other forms of emotional and mental abuse without counseling.

5. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of abuse often used by narcissists to make their partner question their sanity and reality. A partner can use this tactic to make themselves look innocent when at fault and to coerce others into getting their way. Notice how you feel when you are around your partner. Do you often feel anxious, confused, and like you don’t trust yourself or your perception of what is happening? These are signs that you may be experiencing gaslighting. If you think this is happening in your relationship, seek resources and counseling immediately.

6. Moving too Fast

Sometimes a partner will want to move things along too quickly in a relationship, and you may feel uncomfortable. Moving too fast can place you into a serious relationship stage before you are ready. It can be a maneuver that keeps you blind to your partner’s flaws and toxic traits until you’re in a spot where it is difficult to leave the relationship if needed. 

7. Love Bombing

Love bombing is a newer term that describes a partner’s attempts to influence you by giving excessive gifts, compliments, and affection. A partner may want to spend excessive time with you, push boundaries, say “I love you” sooner than expected, and mold themselves to be who they think you want. While it is nice to feel showered with attention, be watchful of love bombing tactics as they may be part of a manipulative abuse cycle.

8. Not Respecting Your Boundaries (And Finding Ways to Push Them)

It is essential to set boundaries with your partner early in the relationship. It won’t always be easy but stick to them. If your partner does not respect those boundaries, makes fun of you for having them, or finds ways to push them or get around them, they may not be a good match for you. 

9. Being Controlling and Possessive

Look at how controlling your partner is in your relationship. Do you feel free to be yourself and do what you want to do? Can you chase your dreams, go on trips, and spend time with your friends and family? Does your partner throw tantrums when you aren’t spending every moment together? Do they get jealous? Please take a close look at how much control you hand over to your partner daily, and note the things you give up because they insist you do. 

10. Isolation

Does your partner insist on spending so much time with you that you can’t spend time with other friends and family? Do they demand you spend less time with others or that you limit the places and events that you attend? Be sure your partner isn’t isolating you from your support system and social network. 

11. Inconsistency

Is your partner inconsistent in the things they do, say, and want? Do their actions match their words? Or are they saying and doing things that just don’t add up? Is it difficult to trust them or rely on them because of the inconsistencies in their behavior? Do you feel insecure around them? If you’re feeling confused about the constant inconsistencies, take a closer look at what is causing them. 

12. Badmouthing the Exes

Pay attention to the words your partner uses to describe their exes. Do they acknowledge any failings they had in the relationship? Do they paint their ex as someone who is “crazy” and entirely at fault for their relationship failing? The words they use to describe their former relationships can contain keys to how they will treat you going forward when things are challenging.

13. Lack of Communication

Communication is one of the most critical elements of a relationship. A lack of communication can be fatal to even the best relationships. Does your partner listen to you and actually hear you when you speak? Are they engaged in your conversations? Does your partner openly communicate their past and expectations? No matter how much chemistry between the two of you, your relationship will wilt if you are not communicating.

14. Ghosting

If your partner ghosts you when they don’t want to talk about complex topics or flat out disappears and doesn’t respond to your calls and messages for days, you need to evaluate why this behavior is happening. Are they trying to manipulate you to do something? Are they engaged in other activities (like work) that are their priority instead of you? Remember, if someone wants to be with you and cares about your relationship, they will make an effort and will not just disappear.

15. You Don’t Like Their Circle (And Your Circle Doesn’t Like Them)

When your partner introduces you to their friends and family, pay attention to your reactions to them. When you are in a serious relationship, you adopt the people in their circle by default. Suppose you can’t stand his friends and family. In that case, you should look at why, what influence they have on your partner, and how it could negatively impact your relationship. 

Also, if your friends and family don’t like your partner, ask them why. They aren’t driven by the same emotions you feel and will be able to give you insights that you may not be able to see yourself. 

16. Alcohol and Substance Abuse 

Substance abuse issues can be harmful and dangerous to both parties in a relationship. Repercussions can range from physical, emotional, and verbal abuse to financial hardship and loss of the ability to function. Alcohol and substance abuse is progressive, meaning that it takes more and more of the substance to get the same buzz. What may seem harmless now could progress to something crippling later.

17. Pornography Addiction

It’s one of the most difficult questions to ask your partner, but an essential one: Do they watch porn? Do they slip away to watch it on their computer or phone when you’re sleeping, occupied, or not around? If you ask, they may not tell you the truth, so keep your eyes and ears open. Porn addiction is something you’ll want to know about.

Many say that porn is no big deal and that it’s just something harmless that guys (and gals) watch. Sometimes people claim it helps with their sex drive. However, porn is an addiction, just like drugs and alcohol. The more you watch, the more you need to watch to get the same “high.” Studies have shown watching porn decreases your sex drive and ability to be intimate with your partner. Porn can create resentment, feelings of rejection, and heartbreak in a relationship. It can also lead to sexual abuse in the relationship.

18. Poor Relationships with Others

Ask your partner about their relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers. Observe how they interact with those people. If they have poor relationships, have no close friendships, and are rude to others, especially in service industries, you may need to dig deeper to find out why. A lack of close relationships outside your own can point to several issues that may need to be resolved.

In addition to studying your partner’s relationships with others, consider how often they rely on you as support. Suppose they don’t have close relationships with others. Do you feel pressured because you are their sole support to help them cope with memories, past trauma, and current challenges? 

19. Untreated Mental Health Issues

If your partner claims that they have mental health issues, or you suspect that they do, discuss whether those issues are being addressed by a mental health professional. Specific mental health issues can be a health and safety risk to you if not addressed.

20. They are at a Different Life Stage Than You 

Having different passions, interests, and goals for your life is normal. However, suppose your plan to start a family doesn’t mesh with your partner’s desire to travel the world or focus on their career. In that case, you might need to re-evaluate how good of a match you are for each other. Being in different places in life isn’t a bad thing. Still, it can cause resentment and rifts in your relationship if one of you sacrifices your dreams for the future. 


What are some red flags that you look out for in a relationship? Share them in the comments — they may be helpful to other readers! Additional resources can be found here.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For anonymous help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) and speak with a trained advocate. They are available 24/7. You can also talk to them through a live chat on their website.


Ⓒ 2022, Lainey La Shay.


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