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14 Red Flags in a Relationship Not To Ignore

Written by Rossana Snee
Rossana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She aspires to motivate, to inspire, and to awaken your best self!
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A new relationship with someone you like can make you feel like you’re walking on cloud nine. A seemingly match made in heaven, however, can potentially blind you—as well as deafen you—to serious negative behaviors.

These can include untreatable personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder, to name a few. [1][2][3]

Frequently, there are red flags—signs that indicate that something is amiss. These are signs that you would easily see in your friend’s new love interest but be oblivious to in your own. Below is a short video about red flags in dating.

If ignored, red flags in a relationship can turn a romantic relationship into an ugly and painful alliance. And the deeper you get, the more excruciating it will eventually become. Fortunately, the alerts along the way highlight certain behaviors that let you know something is extremely wrong—that you need to get out before you get in too deep.

14 Red Flags to Look Out for in a Relationship

What are the red flags in a relationship? Below, I’ve delineated some red flags in a relationship and how they might appear:

1. Moves Too Fast

I had a client who started dating a co-worker. Within three weeks, he wanted to meet the family and did at a Christmas party. But that’s not all. He wanted to move in. He began talking in earnest about getting married and having children. Three weeks! If that is not a red flag, I don’t know what is.


During the first three weeks, you will see the finest aspects of the person. No one shows you their true self in the early phases of the relationship. After all, they’re trying to woo you. But keep your eyes open because they do show you enough. Consider it an “Amber Alert.”

I strongly suggested to my client that she date her co-worker for at least 1.5 to 2 years to get to know him better.

Caution: if someone is moving too fast, it’s one of the clearest relationship red flags. This is an indication that they are either desperate or that they want to catch you before you discover some deep, dark secret.

2. Puts You on a Pedestal

Here’s another example: “Jane’s” new love interest put her on a pedestal after dating for only a few weeks. In his eyes, she was “perfect.” While it may seem flattering to have someone look at you adoringly all the time, it’s actually a little creepy and off-putting.

Within three months, he proposed. She accepted. It wasn’t long before he learned she was a bad cook and a worse housekeeper. Fights ensued. Their relationship became plagued with endless arguments. Her undeniable beauty had blinded him to her flaws. He’d built her up so much that when he saw her, he felt let down—dismayed.

According to the article, “Why It’s Unhealthy to Put Someone on a Pedestal,” putting someone on a pedestal doesn’t just mean exaggerating their good qualities. It also involves attributing characteristics they don’t even have and being blind to their weaknesses. Instead of seeing a flawed human, you consider your partner perfect, infallible, and superior (to you and everyone else).” [4]


Remember, if you’re put on a pedestal, there’s nowhere to go but down. Your imperfections will surface. At this point, your “admirer” will know you’re not who he thought you were—and of course, you weren’t. No one is.

Beware of someone who puts you on a pedestal. You can’t rest there forever.

3. They Are Rude or Reckless

If you are on a date with your new guy and he starts yelling at the server because some aspect of his order arrived wrong, be on alert. Or, while driving, he jerks his car to get around traffic while yelling out expletives. These behaviors scream out anger issues and are among the top red flags in dating.

A young woman I recently treated told me about her marriage with an abusive man. When I asked her whether or not she’d seen red flags early on, she told me she had but that she didn’t think they were a big deal.

“He was so sweet, otherwise,” she told me. She dismissed them, thinking, “He’s had a rough day at work.” Or, “I should have had dinner served on time.”

Someone’s incessant angry behavior should never be explained away. It only worsens over time. In this case, it ended violently with her nearly losing her life to finally leaving the marriage and getting into a Battered Woman’s Shelter.

Tip: Try and get as much information about your new partner’s past to find dating red flags. If they continuously exhibit anger, it’s one of the red flags in relationships. Seriously consider ending it.


4. They Are Disrespectful

How does your partner treat you? Does he put you down? Does he make major decisions without consulting you? Does he embarrass you in front of others? Does he look at other women/men while in your presence?

Maybe he dismisses what you say as “stupid” or “insignificant” or puts down your work. If you have a partner who doesn’t prioritize you and refuses to spend time with your family, it’s a show of disrespect. No relationship is perfect, but don’t allow yourself to be mistreated, taken for granted, or diminished in any way.

In the article, “9 Signs Your Partner Doesn’t Respect You Enough”,  it’s said that “healthy relationships are all about establishing and respecting one another’s boundaries, and a partner who repeatedly ignores or tramples all over your boundaries—whether it’s in the bedroom or outside it—clearly doesn’t respect you enough.” [5]

5. They Are Too Clingy!

If someone you’re dating is too clingy, that’s another red flag. What is “too clingy?” Someone who constantly wants to be by your side is too clingy. Their life starts and ends with you. Outside of their relationship with you, they have nothing. It’s like they’re glued at the hip. If you want some alone time, they’ll accuse you of not loving them.

I once knew a woman like this. She hung on her partner’s every word. When he would play the guitar, she was at his feet, looking up at him worshipfully.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be adored? But that adoration can turn sour. Eventually, you’ll feel like you’re being smothered.

Personal time is important. If your partner wants to do everything with you and you notice that they have no life outside of you, then that’s a red flag to watch out for.


6. They Are a Master Manipulator

If you feel fear, obligation, or guilt, chances are you’re being manipulated. Manipulators will use myriad ways of manipulating you into getting what they want and leave you feeling powerless, disoriented, and thwarted.

Another way to describe manipulation is any attempt to get another person to act in a certain way or have them feel in a certain way. [6]

Everyone is guilty of manipulation at one point or another. Mostly it’s harmless, like trying to get your partner to choose a restaurant or deciding where to take the next family vacation. But the “master manipulator” is one to be avoided at all costs. One of their most effective tools is the use of fear. They will threaten you or use violence to achieve their goals. Over time, all they need is a menacing tone and intimidating body language to get you to comply with their demands.

Another powerful tool in the manipulator’s tool belt is the silent treatment. If you don’t do what they want, they will simply stop talking to you—act as though you don’t exist. This is one of the most painful types of punishment.

Preying on your insecurities is another favorite tactic. For example, let’s say you feel insecure about how you look. Your manipulator will use that to his advantage by saying something like, “With the way you look, no one but me will ever love you!” These are just some of how manipulators get their way, but there are many other examples.

7. Has a Seesaw Attitude

Watch for someone who has a Seesaw Attitude. It’s a phrase I coined because you feel like you’re a seesaw—up one minute, down the next.


This person can go from loving to hateful on a dime, or vice versa. They can behave in an odious and cruel way, leaving you to feel lost, scared, and trapped, then suddenly, they act loving and charming. Once you let down your guard, they may turn back into a monster. There’s no way to know when and how long it will last.

If you see this red flag waiving, run, hide, and don’t look back!

8. Keeps Secrets/Vague

If the person you’re dating is purposely vague and secretive, beware. If they don’t want to talk about their past, what they do for work, or tell you anything about their family, something is most likely happening behind the scenes.

Some ways you can detect if secrets are being kept from you are as follows:

  • They suddenly become the nicest person in the world. While this may not seem bad, it could be, especially if it deviates from their normal behavior.
  • They are excessively proprietorial of their smartphone. They never share their code, they take it everywhere (even the bathroom), and calls are taken in another room.
  • They overreact when you confront them, making you feel like you’re mad for even asking about it.
  • They don’t share where they’re going or where they’ve been. For instance, “I’m going out!” Where you ask? “Just out!”

A secret, unless it is about a surprise party, should not be ignored. It’s a huge red flag in a relationship and one you don’t want to justify, excuse, or rationalize away.

9. They Gaslight You

If you are with a partner who gaslights you, you have a grave problem on your hands. Narcissists are good at this.

What is gaslighting? Essentially, it’s a type of manipulation. The gaslighter will try and make you doubt yourself and make you feel like you’re crazy. He can do this in several ways. For example, he will trivialize—minimize your feelings or make you feel like they don’t matter. He’ll often accuse you of “overreacting.”


Another gaslighting technique is countering whatever you say. Your partner will question your memory, make up new details, or deny that something happened. Yet another way is by forgetting/denying. You might mention a specific event, to which they might respond, “I don’t remember that.” Or, “you’re crazy. That never happened.”

Gaslighted people start to distrust themselves and question what they remember. Living with this type of individual is like living in a mental hell. Watch out for that red flag and get away as fast as possible.

10. They Isolate You From Your Family and Friends

Anyone who makes constant demands to keep you from your family and friends is a huge cause for concern. It may start little by little. For example, your partner might say, “why don’t you stay home tonight; I’m going to miss you so much! I want my baby near me.” At first, you may feel flattered, but often this turns into a pattern.

If your partner wants to keep you all to themselves, this is a subtle indicator of a domestic situation beginning. The man starts alienating you from the people closest to you. Eventually, you feel like you have no one but him, and that’s exactly how your partner wants it. So, yes, this is another red flag in a relationship to look out for.

Isolation of any kind is not flattering—it’s dangerous.

11. They Are Irresponsible

Irresponsible behavior can take many forms and can be the most difficult to recognize. Constant financial problems or mismanagement of money may be a sign of an irresponsible person, as is the inability to keep a job for very long.

When someone expects others to support him or her financially or “rescue” them when they have difficulty in life, that’s a clear red flag. Everyone needs help now and then, but a pattern of expecting others to fix their mistakes or take care of them is a problem. In a healthy relationship, both people take responsibility for their own decisions and meet their needs.


12. They Frequent Criticism

We can all be critical of the ideas and behaviors of others at times, but when it’s frequent and done with the intent to hurt or belittle, it’s unhealthy. Critical people make you feel inadequate or unworthy. They repeatedly disrespect you, your thoughts, behaviors, and words.

They may humiliate you in front of others, though some may be concerned with how others view them and criticize in private to appear kind and caring. Anytime someone makes you feel as though you are not good enough, intelligent enough, attractive enough, or that your ideas are stupid or worthless, the warning bells should be going off.

13. They Are Self-Centered

All of us can be self-centered from time to time; it’s a necessary part of self-preservation. Where selfishness becomes a problem is when everything revolves around how it affects one individual, with no consideration for the other person.

Self-centered people think only of themselves, ignoring or discounting the feelings of others. They expect you to meet their needs, both physical and emotional, with no reciprocation on their part. They often make you feel responsible for their happiness and moods. Any time consideration, care, and generosity do not flow both ways, it’s a red flag.

14. They Are Dishonest

Dishonesty has no place in a healthy relationship. Not only is dishonesty inherently wrong, but it disintegrates trust between two people. The lies may be big or small, excessive exaggeration or complete fabrication, often with no discernible reason.

People are dishonest for a number of reasons: they may be trying to exaggerate their importance, get themselves out of trouble, or try to hurt others or cause drama. The reason is irrelevant; the lack of honesty and trust makes a healthy relationship impossible.


What to Do

Don’t be fooled into thinking you can turn a red flag in a relationship into green. These are signs of a dangerous partner. If you see one of the red flags above in your relationship, it’s time to talk to a professional or trusted family member or friend.

In my experience, the above-mentioned red flags and the people who wave them rarely, if ever, change for the better. It’s only a matter of time before the behavior escalates. And then, it’s like throwing a lit match into a vat of gasoline. Heed the warning, and you’ll be fine.


A healthy and fulfilling relationship may be the single most important thing in our lives, but when it becomes unhealthy, it can also do the most damage. A healthy relationship is one of trust, kindness, respect, understanding, and generosity, one that offers support and encouragement.

An unhealthy relationship is one where there is violence, distrust, cruelty, a lack of responsibility, an imbalance of power, blaming, manipulation, or extreme jealousy.

When there is a lack of consideration and respect in a relationship, the results can be devastating both physically and mentally. Be aware of these red flags, heed the warning signs, and get out quickly.


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

14 Red Flags in a Relationship Not To Ignore

Red flags in relationships can be signs that your partner may have an antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

Beware the “seesaw attitude” – when a partner’s emotions can go from loving and praise to hateful and cruel the next.

A master manipulator is usually a red flag; the person sways you to feel a certain way or do certain things.

Isolation is another red flag in a relationship; this could look like your partner pulling you away from loved ones, keeping secrets from you, or prohibiting access to digital devices or anything with a passcode.

Featured photo credit: Andrik Langfield via unsplash.com


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