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Couples therapists share 6 relationship red flags you shouldn't ignore

Nov 3, 2021, 01:15 IST
If you can't communicate openly with your partner, then your relationship may suffer. PixelsEffect/ Getty Images
  • Red flags in a relationship include excessive jealousy and frequent lying.
  • You should also be wary of a partner that frequently criticizes you or puts you down.
  • Another major red flag is an unwillingness to compromise - relationships shouldn't be one-sided.

We're always told to steer clear of people who exhibit red flags in relationships, but exactly what red flags should we be looking out for?

When dating someone new, the romance and excitement of the "honeymoon phase" can blind you, and you may not be aware of the warning signs. Red flags like constant put-downs can signal a kind of emotional abuse, which is relatively common.

According to a CDC survey, about 47.1% of women and 46.5% of men have experienced some form of psychological aggression in a relationship.


It can help to know what red flags to look out for so that you can proceed with caution or cut things off if necessary.

1. Frequent lying

If you're constantly catching your partner being dishonest, then it isn't a good sign.

"We are all guilty of telling white lies, however, if you notice that your partner is consistently deceiving or getting caught in lies, it is a red flag," says Samara Quintero, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Choosing Therapy.


These can be small lies like being dishonest about where they're going - or big lies like not telling you how much debt they have.

If you're being lied to over and over again, this can make it difficult to build a solid foundation in the relationship or destroy one that you've already built, which can lead to a shaky future, says Quintero.

2. Constant put-downs

If your partner frequently criticizes you or puts you down, even if it's in a subtle or passive-aggressive way, this can affect your self-esteem.


"This is a form of emotional abuse that can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity in the partnership," says Quintero.

She says some common examples might sound like:

  1. "You're lucky I'm still with you because you'll never do better than me."
  2. "You sound so ridiculous when you try to be funny."

A 2013 study found that emotional abuse is just as harmful as physical abuse, both contributing to depression and low self-esteem -- so this red flag should certainly be taken seriously.


"Addressing this behavior with your partner is imperative, and if they refuse to take responsibility or express a willingness to change, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship," says Quintero.

3. Unwillingness to compromise

If your partner isn't willing to compromise, even when it comes to the little things, you should proceed with caution.

"If you're in a relationship with someone who seems to make everything one-sided, you may end up over-compromising and wind up feeling resentful, hurt, misunderstood, and unsatisfied," says Emily Simonian, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Head of Learning at Thriveworks.


In healthy relationships, it's crucial that you consider each other's needs and desires, and that compromise isn't a one way street.

4. A tendency to run away from difficult discussions

If your partner lacks the emotional or behavioral skills needed to cope with problems and runs away from them instead, this can have a negative effect on your relationship.

Some examples of this are if your partner will walk away from arguments without hearing you out, or ignore you for days at a time when things get rough.


People who have trouble tolerating difficult emotions tend to lash out or flee when the going gets tough, Simonian says. Even healthy relationships will go through rough patches, so you want to be sure that your partner will communicate effectively with you instead of running away when things get hard.

5. Controlling behavior and excessive jealousy

If your partner is very jealous, this may lead to controlling behavior.

For example, Simonian says they might feel jealous when you have a social life outside of your relationship. A jealous partner may also suffocate you with excessive calls or texts and try to control what you do going forward.


"Attempts to control usually start off subtly, but eventually increase in intensity and can often leave you feeling as though nothing you do is 'good enough.' If you notice yourself feeling smothered or consistently altering your behavior in order to appease their jealousy, it could be a sign of bigger issues to come," says Simonian.

A 2010 meta-analysis found that as jealousy in a relationship increases, the relationship quality decreases, showing that jealousy has a negative effect on romantic relationships. Additionally, a 2014 study found that in relationships where a partner acted too possessive in the early stages, they were more likely to have an unhealthy communication style later in the relationship.

6. Lack of healthy open communication

If your partner turns to passive-aggressiveness, blaming, or expressing emotions in an aggressive way, Quintero says this is ineffective communication.


Communication is one of the foundations of a relationship, so if you both can't communicate openly and healthily, you're going to run into problems.

"A healthy relationship provides a safe place for both partners to speak openly on their emotions without fear of judgment or criticism," says Quintero.

A 2017 study found that communication early in a relationship may play a role in future relationship satisfaction, and that satisfaction with communication in the beginning of a relationship may result in more amicable partnership later on.


Insider's takeaway

When you notice red flags early in a relationship, it's important to take note of them.

Whether it's running into lies, experiencing possessiveness, or being put down, you should take it seriously and consider how they might impact your relationship not just in the near future but also down the line.

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