So whether you’re getting back into dating or happen to already be in a committed partnership, it’s time to stop avoiding the evidence that doesn’t support your case for staying together. Because if you’re looking to have a relationship that’s long-lasting (or even just healthy), it’s important to address significant problems upfront. Note: This is not about dismissing someone who isn’t perfect. None of us are—not even Lizzo. It’s more about noticing if a connection has the fuel to go the distance.
“We all have faults and things that we need to work on and grow,” says relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW. “But you should be on the alert for some of these red flags, because they’re unlikely to change without much self-awareness and commitment.”
So what kind of red flags in a relationship should you put on your radar? Below, relationship experts share their insights.
8 red flags in a relationship that should make you pump the breaks
1. There’s a lack of conflict resolution between you
Look, even the strongest couples argue, that comes with the territory of partnering up. What’s important for relationship sustainability is being able to argue well. On the flip side, if you never argue and dust your problems under the table, that’s also no good. The key is to address problems in a clean, fair way, and make sure they don’t keep resurfacing.
“If your partner the has a disposition that demands they must win or must be right, you will find it hard to come to conflict resolution,” says relationship expert Susan Winter. “A red flag such as this will plague you throughout the length of your relationship.”
2. Your partner is overly or underly connected to their family
Obviously everyone comes from a different reference point when it comes to family, but you do want to keep an eye on whether their familial attachment level is grossly out of sync with yours (and yes, a little creepy).
“It’s not great to be dating someone who is joined at the hip with their parents and siblings,” says Hartstein. “It may be hard for them to make a solid connection with a new partner if that’s the case. However, it’s also not great to date someone who is estranged from their family of origin. A healthy balance is a good thing.”
3. Or they’re trying to alienate you from your family
Big red flag, huge. “At first they might be fine, but then they flip a switch and make you feel guilty for spending time with your family, or come up with reasons they don’t like them,” says professional matchmaker and relationship expert Susan Trombetti. “They claim you aren’t being loyal to them if you spend time with family or friends.”
Similary, be wary if your friends and family don’t like your S.O. They might be seeing things you’re not, she says.
4. Critical and demeaning language and attitude is a component of your relationship
Seems obvious, but just needs to be said: You deserve someone who doesn’t put you down and make you feel lesser-than. “If your partner speaks to you in a critical tone or demeans you, that’s a red flag that can’t be ignored,” says Winter. “This streak of cruelty and self-absorption will create a toxic environment for you and result in an unhealthy partnership.”
5. They’re talking to others on social media or won’t take their dating profile down
Sure, there’s the occasional case where they forgot to deactivate because they’re too damn busy being in love with you. But this is, bare minimum, at least worth a conversation, because it’s super sketch.
“You might need to get rid of this person fast because you can’t trust them,” says Trombetti. “Trust is a very important thing in a relationship.
6. Your partner has trouble getting along with co-workers and/or bosses
Like the point about family, this is less about having one toxic colleague that brings them down. Everyone has their version of like, annoying Amanda from accounting, who very liberally uses phrases like, “TGIF, right?” This is once again about habitual behavior. “If it’s a pattern that your partner has trouble getting along with people at work, they are likely to end up with an unreliable career, which is not great when trying to build a life together,” says Hartstein.
7. Over the top jealousy and insecurity
The green-eyed monster can get the best of anyone on occasion. But extreme possessiveness of this kind can foster a toxic, and sometimes even dangerous, dynamic. As a result: “You will have no choice but to get out of this relationship because it’s not healthy,” Trombetti says. “This person has problems, and they need to fix them before engaging in a relationship.”
8. Your partner has an unwilling or unable attitude
Look at language here, because it’s really important. How many things do they say they “can’t” do when it’s really just coded for, “I don’t want to.” “If they are unwilling to work with you, unwilling to listen to you, and unwilling to work on the relationship, you will be in a cycle of unhappiness,” says Winter. “Alternatively, if they are unable to work in tandem with you, you have the same outcome.”
Should you break up because of red flags in a relationship?
Well, ultimately that’s up to you. Everyone has their barometer for what they will or won’t accept. And because of nuance in situations—again, examining why someone is estranged from their family might paint a red flag in a relationship a different color—these signs may not denote a bad match. It’s more about whether someone is taking accountability for this.
“If your partner knows some of these things about themselves and is working on them, then it’s a whole different story,” says Hartstein. “The more self-aware your partner is, the better the relationship is likely to be.”
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