Could your relationship "picker" use an upgrade?
Back in my twenties, I had a friend who used to say, “red flags are roses.” What she meant was that in the eyes of a new crush, it’s easy to overlook red flags. So easy, in fact, that you might even mistake those red flags as more redeeming qualities.
This is often what happens when we make excuses for a new partner early on in the relationship. We interpret their behavior in a much too charitable way when we probably should have run away.
Once I owned up to the fact that I have this tendency to see red flags as roses, I began to think more clearly about the qualities I need to avoid. I find it much easier to draw up boundaries before I get too invested. The same might be true for you.
Note: Many of these red flags can apply to all people, whether or not they’re a man. I say men because this is from my personal experience as a woman dating men, but that’s not to say it means “all men” or “only men.”
1. They blame their exes for their past relationship woes.
Have you ever dated a man whose exes are all terrible, according to him? All crazy. All bitchy. Worse yet, does he blame his exes for the failed relationships?
This is a red flag.
I’ve seen it displayed in many different ways, but a common trait is when a guy claims that all of his past lovers took advantage of him. In his words, he’s too nice, too trusting, too giving, or simply too much of a good thing.
Why it’s a problem: A man who blames his exes for the problems in his past relationships isn’t being honest with himself or you. He likely isn’t learning much from his failed relationships either, and if he’s particularly jaded about his former relationships, this could spell heartbreak for you.
When people blame their exes instead of taking responsibility for their role in a failed relationship, they also have a tendency to punish new partners for their experiences with a former flame. They excuse their own bad behavior in your relationship on the basis that they’ve been hurt before.
2. They chronically complain.
I’ve yet to meet a man who was a chronic complainer who didn’t also have a pile of trainwreck relationships under his belt. There are a lot of different types of complainers but the chronic ones constantly have something to say about somebody or something doing them wrong.
You know how it goes. Life isn’t fair. This person stepped on their toes. Somebody else offended them. The list goes on and on.
Why it’s a problem: Chronic complaining often points to an inability to take personal responsibility in at least one big area of life. A man who chronically complains typically isn’t interested in self-improvement or honest reflection.
Listening to chronic complaints is exhausting, and it’s even worse to be the only person willing to problem solve their issues in a relationship.
Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living, but from what I’ve seen, plenty of men are pretty happy leading that kind of life. It’s their partners who pay the price.
3. They have never really lived on their own.
There are some forms of life experience that you simply can’t “make up for.” A man who has always lived with parents, roommates, or partners often hasn’t had enough experience to do life with you. Not as equals, anyway.
It’s been a tired trope for a really long time. Men who don’t know how to boil water or do laundry. Men who don’t know how to manage a household because somebody else has always been there to do it. While some of that is to be expected in one's youth, this is an issue that does not age well.
Why it’s a problem: There are bound to be a lot of growing pains with this one. It’s not a woman’s job to teach a man how to function in the real world. As much as our culture might joke about bachelor pads needing “a woman’s touch” or men not knowing how to be responsible on their own, it’s not cute in real life.
Women already carry the weight of emotional labor everywhere they go. Work, home, dating--no space is safe for us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough on my plate as a working single mom. I’m not willing to teach a new partner how to become a fully functioning member of society. That’s how we get men who merely coast through life.
4. They have rarely been single.
You know the type. This guy never stays single for long. As soon as one relationship ends he’s halfway into another, never even pausing to take a stab at a single life.
Men who constantly have a partner might seem highly desirable. It might even appear to speak well for their relationship skills because they have a lot of experience, right?
Yet it's also a big red flag for codependency.
Why it’s a problem: There’s a lot of growing up that happens when we’re single. Folks who hop from one relationship to another may be actively sidestepping their own growth.
Some men appear so confident when they are in a relationship, but your connection is bound to suffer when it turns out that they get their confidence from other people. You can’t possibly give them what they’re looking for if they can't handle being alone.
5. They don’t like to hear the word no.
To be fair, nobody really likes to hear the word no. Not in most scenarios. In dating, we women often give men way too much consideration when they don't take no very well.
Practically every time you exercise your right to say no, he tries to get you to change your mind. It might be really subtle. In some cases, it could even seem playful and completely benign.
Before you know it, the guy you adore is constantly encroaching upon your boundaries, but you're the one who feels guilty. Unfortunately, most guys don’t get better at taking no as a relationship goes on. Early issues with being told no are more likely to grow.
Why it’s a problem: Whether or not a partner can respect you enough to accept your no matters. Healthy relationships are built upon trust, which means a partner respects your boundaries. One expert goes so far as to say that you might be able to avoid an abusive relationship by watching their first reaction to you telling them no.
Sure, some men might be obviously abusive by belittling, mocking, or rejecting your autonomy, and others might be more discreet in their manipulation. At the heart of the issue, however, is a big stinking red flag.
6. They expect more from you than they expect from themselves.
You might call this one entitlement, but it’s not always so obvious. Some men routine take in more than they give, and then deflect the issue when their partner attempts to talk about it.
Some women are surprised to find themselves in a relationship where all they seem to do is give, while all their partner does is take. But if they look more closely at the beginning of the relationship, those red flags were usually there all along.
Why it’s a problem: This red flag points to the way he may end up treating you. They want you to carry the relationship. They want you to do the work.
For them, relationships are all about feeling good all of the time, which means that they aren’t willing to work hard with you. It also means they’ve got an unhealthy view of love, which is bound to play out poorly down the road.
7. They talk about other women as “crazy” or “hysterical.”
How men talk about women says a lot about them. Because we live in a patriarchal society, a lot of guys who think they are all for egalitarian relationships still carry some deep-seated misogyny. I’ve learned the hard way that men who have no problem referring to women with negative terms like crazy or hysterical are often much more sexist than they care to admit.
Hidden misogyny is easy to miss because it’s such an ingrained mentality in our culture. Complaining about women being crazy is a common way that men attempt to shut us down.
Why it’s a problem: It’s not a woman’s job to educate her man or help make him a better member of society. It’s more emotional labor that women don’t need.
Not only that, their hidden misogyny is bound to crop up later in the relationship. If you say or do something he doesn’t like, it will become easier for him to write you off as crazy or hysterical later on and then treat you as such.
8. They’re not particularly kind.
This is a tough one because we also live in a world that’s not great at teaching boys or men how to be kind. Which means the truly kind men are hard to find.
Plenty of men are “nice.” They’re not going out of their way to offend anyone. But they’re also not going out of their way to help anybody out either.
Why it’s a problem: This is a red flag for me because I don’t believe that a man can truly support equality until he has also learned how to be kind and compassionate without worrying about his “manliness.”
A guy who has drunk the kool-aid of the patriarchy is often going to have a problem with the type of kindness that gets him nothing in return, but that’s the kindness that matters most.
9. They reveal ulterior motives for helping others.
Perhaps you’re dating a man who seems to be kind and compassionate... only to discover that it’s mostly just an act to get what he wants.
Some men are very careful about the image they portray, and it’s important to them that the world sees them in a certain light. They might like being seen as a more emotional or sweet guy just because they find it gives them “points” with women.
Why it’s a problem: The biggest problem with this one is that you can’t trust a guy who only does the right thing when there's something in it for them.
To a certain extent, I don’t really care what anyone does on their best days. I want to know what they do on their worst days. A man might find it easy to be kind when he wants something, but then he acts like a jerk as soon as he knows there’s nothing in it for him.
Call me crazy... but I’d prefer to avoid such shenanigans altogether.
10. They won’t give or take an apology.
I’ve run into dudes who wear this characteristic on their chests like some sort of superheroic shield. When they say they don’t accept apologies from anyone, what they usually mean is that they don’t take crap from anyone. That they have high standards for anyone within their inner circle.
When they say they refuse to apologize, they often mean that they’re not hypocrites. As if they always mean what they say and say what they mean. They supposedly hold themselves to high standards too.
Why it’s a problem: Unfortunately, to err is human indeed. So, when a guy reveals this sort of philosophy, I can’t help but notice an inability to set realistic expectations for themselves or others.
The “no apologies” mentality may also point to an inability to handle conflict in a healthy way. One of the hardest things in the world is to admit that we were wrong. Authentic apologies require plenty of vulnerability.
Often, these guys reveal themselves to be unable to take criticism, and unable to peaceably disagree with others. In the long run, their refusal of apologies is little more than a front to avoid personal development.
At first glance, red flags might look like roses, but they're little more than heartache in the end.
Some women think that all men are the same, that there are no good men left, or that they are unlucky in love. But if you've been falling for "the wrong guy" over and over again, you might just need to get better about seeing red flags early on.
The truth is that red flags aren't roses, but red flags also aren't invisible. If you can catch them early on, you might save yourself (and him) some serious heartbreak.