I need to preface this by saying that I am not a relationship expert. However, I am now 31 years old (young!) and I was not lucky enough to meet the man of my dreams in school, or even right out of school. This means I dated around and have dated many men who were not right for me. And, unfortunately for me, I have firsthand experience in the area of unhealthy relationships. Though that might be fortunate because I actually think I needed to experience those relationships to understand what I want and genuinely need in a partner…
Maybe you were lucky and met your match early in your life, but maybe you were like me and needed to figure yourself out first. And figure out what you wanted. And figure out that the people in your early years of dating weren’t winners.
The glasses are heavily rose tinted when you are 16 and your boyfriend has a car, I know.
What I am taking a million years to say here is I have been in unhealthy relationships and at the time there were tons of red flags that the relationship was not meant to be. Some things I recognized as red flags and I just glossed over or ignored or made excuses for them. Some I didn’t realize were red flags at all until I was in a healthy relationship. It really took getting into a healthy relationship for me to truly understand how good things can be if you are with someone who respects, appreciates and trusts you.
I know this type of thing has been written about over and over by everyone and all the magazines and every advice website and all the relationship experts…I know. But it’s always been written about and we always have friends who warn us (I did), but when you are in it it’s really hard to recognize the warning signs and see the red flags for what they are. And once you do, it is very difficult to get out of a relationship that you suspect is not right for you. Again, I know, I’ve been there. Especially if your lives are entwined and you live together or own property together, even if you’re not married and don’t have kids. So I am hoping that maybe someone in an unhealthy relationship will see this and realize that they deserve better.
Here are some big relationship red flags, and many of the ones I ignored over the years, in no particular order (mainly towards men, but only because that’s my experience – I’m sure it works both ways):
1. Having the same argument over and over
Arguing is one thing, but if you and your partner continually fight about the same issue without being able to come to a resolution or even a compromise… It’s not the issue, it’s a fundamental difference between you. In my experience the repeat fight without resolution stemmed from the fact that we were so opposite that our entire personalities conflicted with each other, so we would never be able to understand where the other was coming from. We were fundamentally different in the ways that really mattered. Sure, opposites attract and all that, but you can be opposite in many ways and still share important values and be on the same page.
2. Getting angry about little things
Say, for example, you accidentally drop a plate of food on the floor and the plate shatters and the food spills everywhere. If your significant other freaks out and yells at you, RED FLAG. No one meant for that to happen, it was an accident. It’s not like you purposely threw the plate on the floor, stomped on it, and then did a happy dance around it. If your partner overreacts to the little things like that, it’s going to be a problem. How will they handle something major?
3. Jealousy and/or Controlling Behaviour
There are so many examples of this, but I’m putting them under one umbrella. Basically, does your partner constantly worry that you are going to cheat on them? And do they take that worry out on you? Examples can include:
- Hacking into your email/Facebook/whatever.
- Grilling you when you work late, or are late getting home from something.
- If they make you feel like your entire day needs to be accounted for.
- Acting jealous towards other men you know or talk to.
- When you’re telling a story and you mention another guy, your partner gets fixated on the guy (but who’s the guy? did you talk to him? did he hit on you?) so much that he completely misses the entire point of the story you are trying to tell. This then causes you to censor what you tell him. And if you are ever called on the censoring (ex – “You never told me there was a guy there!”) you will be battered with questions about it.
- They don’t compliment you (because they don’t want you to feel good about yourself because then you may cheat on them, of course), but they may say “Hmm…you look better than usual today. Is something going on at work?” As in, who else are you looking hot for? You must be cheating.
- Trying to control the way that you dress – ie: your skirt’s too short, your top’s too low, your pants are too tight. Not okay.
- They make you feel guilty when you have done absolutely nothing wrong.
4. They don’t appreciate your unique qualities
I have always really liked the colour of my hair and I don’t want to mess with it. An ex of mine tried to convince me for years that I would look hotter if I dyed my hair dark. And my favourite compliment that I hear from other people is that I am funny. An ex of mine did not think I was funny, and would routinely tell me that he just didn’t think I was very funny. That’s cool, I’m sure not everyone does…but you know it’s something that I like hearing and that you are hurting me when you say that, and you know it.
5. They are not supportive of, or don’t value, the other important relationships in your life
The first time your partner meets the people in your life who are important to you, they should be wanting to make a good impression. If instead they get mad about something trivial and cause a big scene in front of everyone…well, that’s a really obvious warning sign that you should not ignore. They may try to excuse that behaviour, too much to drink, your friends are acting “slutty”, whatever it is…but there is no excuse for acting that way.
But there are more subtle signs than that. Even just acting irritated when you want to hang out with your friends. Making you feel guilty for wanting to have a life outside of them. I dated someone who made such a big deal every time I wanted to go out with my friends, including my best friend who is like a sister to me, that it got to the point where I didn’t want it to turn into a huge issue so I just wouldn’t go because it was so much easier not to. I almost lost some of my best friendships because of this.
6. Your friends and family do not like your significant other and do not approve of your relationship
Big red flag. These people know you best, and they can see the issues that you are ignoring. They can tell when you are not being yourself. My friends told me that I was not “me” with an ex, and I didn’t see it, but they were right. I was trying to change myself into someone I thought he would like better.
7. He criticizes you and/or puts you down, whether subconsciously or not, and he compares you to other women and you do not come out favourably. Or he criticizes you and says that he is joking.
Your partner should want to lift you up! Putting you down is controlling behaviour – I believe they put you down because of their own insecurities, because they want you to believe you aren’t worthy of being with someone great and they are scared of losing you. If he puts you down in public or in front of friends, game over. If he points to a random girl on the street and says “You know, I really like a good thigh gap on a woman,” look out. No good can come from a comment like that.
And if he makes a comment that bothers you and then says “Babe, just kidding!” Joking around with someone doesn’t give you the excuse to say whatever hurtful comments you want. And especially if your partner is concentrating on something that they know you are self-conscious about. That is not funny to anyone.
8. He leaves you behind
Okay, this one is kind of silly but I need to mention it. I dated someone who, whenever we arrived somewhere in a car, on a date, to someone’s house, wherever, he would get out of the car as soon as it stopped and start walking without me, leaving me to struggle to catch up. It’s not like I need someone to hold my hand wherever we go, but to me this showed such disrespect. Like he didn’t even have a thought for me. I look back on this and I honestly feel it was a metaphor for our entire relationship. It showed his selfishness.
9. Doesn’t respect your boundaries, or your property
If he doesn’t understand that no means no. Get out.
If he is angry and destroys something of yours (example, throws your WORK LAPTOP during a fight). Unacceptable.
10. They don’t look after their own responsibilities
Job, pets, kids. If they don’t take responsibility for the things they are responsible for, that’s a problem. You do not want this person as a life partner.
11. If their go-to response during an argument is “You’re crazy!”
You are not crazy. If something is bothering you, you need to be able to talk it through. Having someone respond to you like this dismisses your opinion and makes you afraid to speak your mind. Maybe your partner doesn’t agree with you, but they should still be willing to hear what you have to say.
12. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells
And anything you do or say may set them off.
13. Similarly, you can’t speak openly
If you feel like you can’t say what’s on your mind for whatever reason (he will become defensive, make fun of you, judge you, etc.) this is a problem. Communication is so, so important. If you can’t speak your mind it will fester until it becomes a big issue and probably cause resentment.
14. Dismissing the things that are important to you
Your goals, dreams, and aspirations are valid. Your partner should support you in your life wants. You should support each other!
15. If you need to constantly reassure yourself of their good qualities
If you are reading through this list and are agreeing with many of these points, but then you immediately brush it off and say to yourself “But he was so nice when he did this that one time!” Relationships like this are not all bad, otherwise why would you be in them? Of course they have their amazing moments, and the people their good qualities. But the amazing moments and good qualities do not excuse the red flags.
16. Your gut feeling
This is a biggie, and a sign that I ignored over and over and over. If you feel like the relationship is not right for you, it’s not. If you have that little niggle of worry in the pit of your stomach, please don’t ignore it.
There are a ton of others, but this is already quite lengthy. I just want to say, these red flags will not go away and get better with time; they will get worse. If your partner doesn’t trust you from the beginning, you may say to yourself “Well, once we have been together for a while and I prove to him that I am trustworthy, things will change.” No they won’t. They will get worse. The problem is not with you, it is with them.
And the biggest GREEN FLAG for me? Feeling like I have a partner in life. This is the first time where I have felt like I have a genuine partner in my life. Someone who has my back, who looks out for my best interests, and who respects me as well as loves me. I can’t tell you how amazing that feeling is.
If you are experiencing any of these things and need someone to talk to, feel free to email me at happyorhungry [at] gmail [dot] com. I’ve been there and I promise things are better on the other side of those relationships.
Any big red flags that I’ve missed? What are some of your deal breakers?