We all want to have healthy relationships, whether they are with family, friends, or romantic partners. Sometimes those connections can go wrong, and there are some relationship red flags and deal breakers that you should look out for and avoid.
A healthy relationship is all about mutual respect. Both parties have to put in effort, be caring, and respect the other person’s boundaries.
Especially in the early stages of a relationship we can be starry eyed and a little blind to the faults in our partner. You don’t want to pick apart every little thing about someone, but you don’t want to ignore the early warning signs of a bad relationship.
It’s better to get out of a toxic relationship early then to get in so deep that it’s hard to leave.
We also just don’t want to get hurt. If you look out for these relationship warning signs you can avoid drama and heartbreak.
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Top Relationship Red Flags and Deal Breakers
1. You Don’t Have the Same Values
The most important part of any relationship is having similar values, standards, and morals.
It doesn’t matter how wealthy, motivated, or attractive a person is. If you don’t share common values and ethics your relationship is eventually going to fall apart.
This doesn’t mean you have to have the same hobbies, religion, or political beliefs, but you should share some common beliefs about the kind of person you want to be and what kind of behavior is ok and not ok.
You should care about the same issues and have similar goals in terms of how you want to grow together just as human beings.
If you care deeply about social issues and they couldn’t care less, that’s a warning sign that your relationship isn’t going to be a happy one because they don’t care about other people like you do.
2. They Take More Than They Give
You may find some people just suck the energy out of you without giving anything in return.
They’re always asking for favors or calling you to vent about things in their life, but they’re never available when you need a favor or someone to talk to.
They don’t ask how you are, they don’t show a real interest in your life.
When they know you’re going through something hard they disappear and only show up when you’re ‘fun’ again.
You want people in your life who are going to show up for you when you need them, even if it’s only as a someone to listen when you’re struggling.
The effort you put into a relationship should be reciprocated.
If you’re always making them a priority and accommodating their schedule, but they don’t do the same it’s ok to put distance between you and them.
3. Extreme Emotional Highs and Lows
If you feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster whenever you’re with someone who’s mood fluctuates on a dime, this is a major relationship red flag and you need to be careful.
Having someone in your life who is constantly shifts between being happy and being angry is emotionally exhausting and in the case of a romantic partner, potentially dangerous.
If your partner lashes out over small things that don’t matter, or they explode in rage, you really need to distance yourself from them.
It’s not healthy for either of you and can lead to trauma and harm.
If you feel like someone is experiencing low moods because of depression, offer to help them find a professional to talk to.
4. They Don’t Respect Boundaries
Establishing boundaries in a relationship is really important to your mental health.
Whether its boundaries with a roommate, emotional boundaries, or intimate boundaries, communicate what is comfortable for you and what isn’t.
If someone is very needy and it affects your mental health, which can happen often in family relationships, put up boundaries.
Tell them that having them constantly unload their baggage on you is affecting your health and encourage them to speak to a professional.
If that isn’t an option come up with a strategy to minimize their opportunity to vent to you. Put a limit on how much time you spend on the phone with them. Ask them to talk about positive things in their life. Tell them “I don’t want to talk about this” when they start a rant and hang up or walk away if they don’t respect your needs.
In a romantic relationship be clear on what treatment you won’t accept. When you start dating someone make it clear early on what you won’t put up with.
If you’re in an established relationship and there are things that are bothering you sit down with them and have a calm discussion about what’s bothering you and how you would like to resolve it.
If someone repeatedly violates your boundaries cut them loose. Your health and happiness is more important that theirs.
5. They Isolate You From Others
This is probably the number one red flag to look out for, especially in romantic relationships.
If someone doesn’t want you to hang out with your friends or even your family, oh baby run the other way.
This is a tool abusers use to keep you from being able to get help.
They may find ways to sabotage your relationships, or get angry when you want to hang out with friends and say “you never spend any time with me,” forcing you to choose between people you care about.
In a healthy relationship both parties can spend time with other people without their partner getting upset or jealous.
If someone you’re dating gets upset when you spend time with other people this is a early warning sign of a toxic relationship.
6. Underhanded Insults
An important relationship warning sign to look for is if someone puts you down often.
It may be overt or it can be sly and subtle.
When someone criticizes you often and always looks for fault in you they don’t value you as a person.
When you react they may say things like, “you’re being too sensitive, lighten up” or “I didn’t mean it that way, get over it.”
They may try to deflect blame onto you and make it look like you are at fault for being unhappy.
You may even find that you end up apologizing when they are clearly in the wrong.
We all deserve to have supportive people in our lives. People who will encourage us and lift us up. If a relationship just makes you feel less than, let it go or but boundaries between you and that person.
7. Lack of Trust
People who don’t have any faith in you don’t belong in your life.
Maybe they don’t trust you to succeed in your endeavors, or they always assume you’re going to mess things up and fail.
The romantic partner who accuses you of cheating without cause are usually cheating themselves. They feel guilt and project it onto you in an attempt to absolve themselves.
Of course you have to be able to trust them too.
I had a high school friend who lied constantly and I knew it from the start. I did have a lot of good times with her but I never really believed anything she said and eventually she ended up stealing money from my mom.
If I had trusted my instincts sooner and ended that friendship I could have avoided a lot of drama.
Trust goes both ways. If you don’t truly trust someone or they don’t trust you, you need to either have a serious talk and both commit to repairing the relationship or part ways.
8. Power Imbalance
Look out for power imbalances in your relationships.
This occurs when one person in the relationship has something to leverage or hold over the other person.
Dating your boss creates a power imbalance because if something goes wrong in the relationship they can have you fired.
A professor dating a student creates red flags because they are in a position of authority, having power over grades and the students academic success. The student could also accuse the professor of sexual harassment, even in a consensual relationship, if they wanted revenge.
A extreme wealth imbalance could force the poorer person to stay in the relationship because they can’t afford to leave.
Large age gaps can be problematic if the younger person is so inexperienced they don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like and can be manipulated into staying in a toxic relationship.
Both people in a relationship should have equal power and neither should feel they can’t leave because they would be retaliated against in some way.
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9. Different Long Term Goals
You should have similar goals and aspirations in both your friendships and romantic relationships.
If you are very career driven but your friends just want to hang out at bars and don’t have any goals, you’ll probably find that eventually they start to resent you for moving forward.
You closest circle of friends should have their own goals that they are working on and be encouraging you in your dreams too.
The same goes with your partner. You should both have similar goals whether it’s about where you want to eventually live, if you both want marriage and kids, your financial goals, etc.
There is the saying, you’re as good as the company you keep. Make your most important relationships be with people who are going to propel you forward, not hold you back.
10. They’re Clingy
It’s good to spend time with a friend or partner, but it’s not healthy to spend all your time with one person.
Clingy people tend to suffer from low self-esteem and fear of being abandoned, and need constant reassurance that you like or love them.
They want you to spend all your time with them, and get jealous if you spend too much time with someone else. Or they get insecure and accuse you of not loving them enough.
You could be pressured to move faster in a relationship than you are comfortable with.
Of course we may have sympathy for them and love them, but clingy people can suck the energy out of you and be exhausting to be around.
If you’ve got a clingy person in your life reassure them that you do care about them, but that some space is healthy for both of you. Get on the same page about how quickly you’re comfortable with the relationship progressing.
Communicate with them, make your expectations clear and set boundaries.
11. They’re Distant
On the other hand, being too distant is a relationship red flag as well.
You want a healthy amount of space, but too much space whether it be physical or emotional is bad too.
If someone has suddenly become distant it may not be related to you. They may be having a difficult time in another area of their life so all their emotional focus is on that. If you know that this is the case let them know you are there to support them and give them space to process their feelings.
However if there doesn’t appear to be another reason for your friend or partner’s distance they may not be as devoted to the relationship as you are.
I know many woman have experienced men suddenly being cold with them. This is usually because they’ve lost interest in the relationship but are too cowardly to break it off.
Ask for the reason behind their behavior, and if they don’t change then it’s time to stop wasting your time.
12. They Shoot Down Your Dreams
Remember the episode of The Office when Pam learns of an opportunity to go to New York for an art program, and Roy immediately shoots down her idea down and completely kills her excitement?
Look out for those people, the ones who tell you it’s impossible, selfish, or not the ‘right time.’
Those people want to keep you small because they are afraid to expand beyond their own comfort zone. This creates an emotionally unhealthy relationship.
When they see you are willing the change they feel fear because they don’t want to be left behind, but they also don’t want to move forward with you.
In a healthy relationship your family member, friend, or partner will be happy for you when you have new opportunities in your life. They want you to grow and succeed.
They’ll encourage you and help you in whatever way they can.
If someone is always telling you “I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” “it’s not the right time,” or “I don’t think you’ll make it,” you need to cut them loose.
They are not willing to grow with you and they’ll be nothing but a chain around your ankle holding you back from your dreams.
13. It was Always Their Ex’s Fault
A warning sign in romantic relationships is if every bad thing in their past relationships was always their ex’s fault.
There are always crazy people and sometimes you don’t know it until later into a relationship, but when every single ex is a ‘crazy bitch’ and your partner was always the perfect one, that is a big red flag.
If someone has only had unhealthy tumultuous relationships that’s a sign of what your relationship will eventually turn into.
That person may be stuck in a toxic cycle where they always sabotage their relationships without being aware of it on a conscious level.
Make sure the person you’re pursuing a relationship with has done the inner work to break old cycles.
This could be a friend who envies your success instead of being happy for you, or a family member who gets upset that you want to strive for things they don’t want (or are too afraid to pursue themselves).
Of course it can also come from a partner who is deeply insecure in themselves, or is projecting their own behaviors onto you.
Someone who is a big flirt might assume you would also flirt with other people and lose it when you’re just being friendly.
Or if they feel like they aren’t worthy of love they will assume you’ll eventually leave them and lash out anytime you talk to someone else.
Until someone does the inner work to deal with their issues, it may not be the best idea to continue a relationship with someone who has jealousy issues.
That concludes some of the top relationship warning signs you should look out for.
It’s important to establish what you will and won’t tolerate in every type of relationship, and even more important to not give someone a pass when that red flag goes up.
If your intuition starts flashing the danger sign listen to it (learn how to recognize your intuition). There are almost always warning signs in unhealthy relationships, we just usually don’t want to see them.
Your well-being comes first, so honor yourself by cultivating good relationships and weeding out the bad. Remember that there are people out there who will value and respect you, you don’t have to settle for someone who doesn’t.
- How to Heal From a Toxic Relationship
- 16 Qualities of a Healthy Relationship
- How to Set Boundaries With Toxic People
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