Experts suggest that "red flags" may indicate unhealthy relationships

Rose Bak

Warning signs that should give you pause if you're taking your relationship to the next level.
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Have you ever looked back at a past relationship and wondered how you missed all the red flags?

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Not all so-called "red flags" are dealbreakers for a new relationship, but being aware of potential issues early on can help you make an informed decision about whether you can address the red flags or you want to put the brakes on before things get serious.

You may be familiar with the term "red flag" from sports, where the presence of a red flag indicates that there's an issue that necessitates a full stop. But the concept is also useful in the context of personal relationships. Clinical psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh describes them like this:

“In relationships, red flags are signs that the person probably can't have a healthy relationship and proceeding down the road together would be emotionally dangerous.”

Here are some common "red flags" to look for in any new relationship, particularly romantic ones.
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Controlling Behavior

Controlling behavior can be one of the biggest red flags to watch out for in a new relationship. Unbalanced power dynamics are often a precursor for physical, emotional, and/or financial abuse. This often starts off as relatively minor and rapidly progresses to full-on control. This includes things like:

  • Jealousy and/or unfounded accusations of cheating
  • Wanting to limit your interactions with friends and family
  • Wanting to accompany you to and from work
  • Putting trackers on your phone, like the "find my phone" function
  • Asking for your passwords
  • Insisting on joint bank accounts or monitoring all of your spending
  • Criticizing your appearance
  • They act like they're your parent instead of your partner
  • Listening to your phone calls or reading your texts and emails
  • Lashing out at you physically or verbally, then blaming you for "making" them angry
  • Trying to control your use of birth control
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Watch for signs that your new partner has addictions issues. It is very hard to be in a relationship with someone who has an active, unmanaged addiction and while you may believe that your love will save them, a person needs to be ready to face their addiction for themselves and seek professional help before they can truly be in recovery. Signs of addiction may include things like:

  • Drinking every day or inability to socially drink without getting completely drunk
  • Daily or excessive use of marijuana or other drugs
  • Fixation on gambling
  • Binging on food
  • Excessive shopping
  • Behavior changes that are tied to alcohol, drugs, or gambling
  • Issues that flare up right after they come into money, like on payday
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Absence of other relationships

Many families have serious issues, and sometimes being estranged from family is the best choice for someone's mental health. However, a person who has no relationships with anyone else besides you may be unable to sustain a healthy relationship. It also puts all the burden on you to be their "everything", which may impact your own relationships with others. Things to consider:

  • Do they have a relationship with their family? If not, what caused the separation?
  • Do they have friends? Do they see those friends in real life, or are they only Facebook friends?
  • Do they have cordial relationships with coworkers? Do they have lunch or go to happy hour with people from work?
  • Have they maintained contact with any previous partners, or are all of those relationships severed?
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Poor communication skills

We all can improve our communication skills, but it may be a red flag if your partner seems completely unable to communicate with you about anything important. Superficial communication or completely shutting you out can be big red flags. Some things to watch for:

  • Your partner never talks about their past and you don't know anything about their life outside of your relationship.
  • They seem angry or sad and refuse to talk about it or say they're "fine". You often feel like you are "walking on eggshells" and they aren't willing to work on communicating better.
  • They disappear for long periods of time or just leave without saying anything.
  • They have periods where they are off-grid and you don't hear from them for days or weeks.
  • They expect you to psychically know what they're thinking or intuit their wants and needs.
  • Lack of emotional intimacy in your relationship.
  • Immature or childish behavior.

The best time to set healthy relationship boundaries is from the start. Keep your eyes open for warning signs and address them as they come up to make sure this is the right relationship for you. What are your deal-breakers in a relationship? Share in the comments.

#relationship #addiction #communication #family #romance

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR

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