19 Common Red Flags in Relationships

Look out for these signs that your new romance is headed for trouble.

Published December 2, 2022

Relationships often begin with so much promise. You meet someone who makes you laugh. They're easy on the eyes. You feel connected and warm. Maybe you even notice a few butterflies fluttering in your belly when they call, text, or visit.

But then you go on a few dates and learn more about them. You start to pick up on their quirks, get a better sense of their personality, and --oh no!-- begin to notice some issues that might cause trouble down the line. While this moment may seem disappointing, it's probably a good thing. You may have just saved yourself from weeks, months, or even years of frustration or hurt.

Warning signs can be hard to spot, especially if you don't want to notice them. If you're wondering what to look out for in the early stages of your next relationship, explore the list below to discover some of the most common red flags that can help you call it quits before it's too late.

Common Red Flags in Relationships

At the start of a new relationship you might feel like you're wearing rose-colored glasses. When everything is tinted in this lovey-dovey hue, all of the flags you notice in your partner just look like flags, instead of warning signs.

Maybe you already have a list of relationship deal breakers based on your past experiences. But there may be other issues, personality quirks, or problems you should look out for.

1. They Have No Boundaries

Boundaries are important. They help you protect yourself, set expectations in relationships, and let others know how to treat you with respect.

Without boundaries, relationship dynamics can be complicated and unclear. This lack of clarity can occur only in your romantic relationship but also in the relationships your partner has with friends and family. If you find yourself on a date with someone who has no clear boundaries or limitations, it can be a sign that there may be rough times ahead.

Having no boundaries can look like:

  • They constantly do things they don't want to.
  • They don't stand up for themselves (or others).
  • They exhibit people-pleasing behavior.
  • They internalize their feelings.

2. They Don't Respect Your Boundaries

Your boundaries are just as important as anyone else's. You are allowed to have rules and set limitations in your relationship for whatever reason you choose. And, you don't have to explain, justify, or change your boundaries to accommodate anyone. You might want to re-read that sentence and let it sink in.

If your partner disrespects your boundaries, they are disrespecting you. It shows that they don't have the care or capacity to treat you the way you've asked to be treated, which can lead to trouble in the future.

Some ways a person can disrespect your boundaries include:

  • They ask you to change your boundary to accommodate their needs.
  • They constantly bring up subjects you've already said you don't want to discuss.
  • You feel like they are pushing you to the edge of your boundary or testing your limits.
  • They say you're "harsh," "cold," or some other term with negative connotations for establishing boundaries.

3. They Love Bomb You

Love bombing is a term that you've probably seen used in the media, but may not have a full understanding of. Love bombing describes when someone showers their partner with overwhelming affection at the very start of a relationship. This behavior is used to gain their trust, confidence, and love in the early stages of a developing relationship.

Being pampered and cared for might sound like a dream. However, love bombing is often used as a form of manipulation for people with narcissistic personalities. Love bombing can be used to lure you into a romantic relationship before the love bomber reveals their true self, making it difficult for you to realize that you're being mistreated and even harder for you to leave the relationship.

Some examples of being love bombed by a partner include:

  • They always have a gift (big or small) to give you when you meet up.
  • They plan extravagant dates every time you go out.
  • They plan luxurious weekend getaways or vacations to dazzle you.
  • They send you long text messages or write love notes confessing their unwavering affection.

Don't worry. If a partner buys you flowers on the first date, sends you a few sweet text messages, or buys you coffee early in your relationship, it's probably not love-bombing behavior. They might just be thoughtful. It's when the behavior becomes excessive and continues over an extended period of time that the red flag should pop up.

4. They Don't Respond to Conflict Appropriately

The way a person responds to conflict can tell you a lot about them. Although everyone navigates through challenging situations differently, there are helpful and unhelpful reactions. Since some disagreements are bound to happen in a relationship, the way your partner manages conflict is extremely important.

Some inappropriate ways a person might respond to conflict include:

  • They change the subject.
  • They don't take responsibility for their actions.
  • They give you an ultimatum.
  • They give you the silent treatment or attempt to "punish" you.
  • They start to yell.
  • They turn off their phone or ignore your calls.

In addition, the way your partner reacts to arguments, debates, and disagreements can also give you a better idea of how they communicate with others and express their emotions. If you find yourself in a heated discussion with a date, and you notice that they can't respect your feelings or respond appropriately, it might be a sign that they don't handle conflict well.

5. They Can't Admit They're Wrong

Picture this: you and your new flame are talking about movies you like. Both of you recall different actors starring in the leading role of a particular film. You pull out your phone, search for the answer online, and discover that you are right. You show the proof to your partner and they can't say the words, "I was wrong."

This is a lighthearted example that might not have serious consequences, but it could spell trouble down the line. If a partner isn't able to admit they're wrong, it can lead to constant conflict that can go unresolved and put a strain on your relationship.

6. They Don't Apologize

Everyone makes mistakes. We say something in the heat of the moment that we don't mean or we hurt someone's feelings with our actions. It happens. But what's more important is how we react after we make a mistake.

Being able to apologize is critical in a relationship. This includes saying that you are sorry, addressing the specific events that you are sorry for, and making a promise (and plan) to do better in the future. Apologies show that a person is able to take responsibility for their actions. In addition, they demonstrate that a person is able to accept that they were in the wrong and that they care about how their actions affected you.

If you get into a disagreement with your partner at the outset of your relationship, and they can't apologize, the relationship might not be for you.

7. They Avoid Subjects and Are Secretive

We're all for having boundaries. However, there's a big difference between setting limitations and being secretive.

It's natural to ask someone questions about themselves and their past as you're getting to know them. You might ask your date about their previous relationships, what they do for a living, what their goals are for the future, and a variety of other topics. If they continuously dodge your questions, avoid certain subjects, or give you vague answers, it might be a sign that they have something to hide.

8. They Prioritize Their Needs Over Yours

Your needs are valid. Your partner should not make you feel needy or sensitive for wanting affection, voicing your opinions, or standing up for yourself -especially if they do these things for themselves and expect you to compromise your needs.

Some examples of a person prioritizing their needs over yours include:

  • They constantly cancel dates last minute because something came up for them.
  • They cross your boundaries to meet their own needs.
  • They put you in uncomfortable situations to gain status, pleasure, etc.
  • They show up late to hangouts because of changes to their schedule.

9. They Lie to You

Nobody likes being lied to. Nobody. It doesn't matter if the lie is big or small, or if the person swears that they had good intentions. Lies can be hurtful and they violate your trust, which is especially important to develop at the start of your relationship.

If you've been on a few dates with a new partner and you catch them in a lie, you should feel free to nip that behavior in the bud by addressing your concerns. If the lying behavior continues, it can negatively impact your ability to trust your partner moving forward.

10. They Disrespect Your Friends or Family

For many people, friends and family members are an essential part of a support system. When you introduce your partner to the important people in your life, you probably cross your fingers and hope for the best. However, it doesn't always go as planned.

Your partner doesn't have to be your inner circle's new MVP. However, they do need to respect the people in your life that you care about. If a partner makes rude comments, talks badly about your loved ones, or shows any other display of disrespect, it might be a sign that it's not a good match.

In addition, if you notice that your friends and family seem to dislike your partner, it might be a good idea to have a conversation with them to understand why. They may be feeling disrespected or picking up on red flags that you haven't yet noticed.

11. They Don't Take "No" for an Answer

No is a complete sentence. Those two letters pack a punch and are a valid response to any request.

If your new flame asks you to do something that you don't want to do, you can and should say no. If your response makes them angry, hostile, or leads them to try and coerce you into a "yes," alarms should be sounding off in your head.

12. They Hide Your Relationship From Others

Some people like to keep their relationships somewhat private, and that's okay. You don't have to plaster your cuddled-up pictures on social media if you don't want to. However, if you get the feeling that your partner is trying to hide your relationship from others, it might be a cause for concern.

A partner might try and hide your relationship by:

  • Asking you to not tell your friends or family about your relationship status.
  • Constantly taking you on dates out of town.
  • Not allowing kissing, hand holding, or other forms of public displays of affection around others.
  • Asking you not to post photos on social media.

You don't ever have to prove to others that you're in a relationship. However, if you want people to know, you should be able to tell them. After all, it's your relationship, too, not just your partners.

13. They Dismiss Your Interests or Goals

You and your partner probably (and hopefully) have some shared interests. However, not all aspects might perfectly align because not everyone likes the same things. The way your partner responds to your personal interests and goals is just as important as the way they treat you. After all, your hobbies and ambitions are an extension of you.

Your partner doesn't necessarily have to participate in your interests in order for your relationship to be healthy. However, you should feel comfortable talking about them and confident that your partner is listening to what you have to say.

If your new flame belittles your goals or criticizes your interests in any way, look up, because a red flag is waving in the distance. They don't have to love all of the things that you're into. However, they should respect them.

14. They're Not Over Their Ex

It is brutal to fall for someone whose attention, mind, and heart are still dedicated to someone else. It's not your fault, and it might not even be their fault, but it's likely to lead to difficulties and even heartbreak.

It's not always easy to know if someone is still hung up on their ex. However, some signs might include:

  • They constantly bring them up in conversation.
  • They continue to message them but keep it a secret from you.
  • They still have pictures of them on display in their home.
  • They seem to romanticize their past relationship.

15. They Unload Their Baggage on You

At the start of a relationship, many couples talk about each other's pasts, which can often include challenges. However, there's a line between sharing and oversharing.

If your partner discloses heavy subjects or trauma at the start of a relationship and is looking to you for answers, support, and guidance, it's a red flag. It is not your job to heal or "fix" anyone. You are not your partner's mother or therapist.

In addition, you're not responsible for unpacking all of their baggage. That's a journey of self-improvement that they are going to have to navigate on their own. Any relationship that requires you to supply additional emotional labor might be unfair and unhealthy.

16. They Don't Reciprocate Your Effort

Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt like you were trying your hardest and the other person wasn't meeting you halfway? When it happens, it can be both hurtful and exhausting.

If you feel like your partner isn't willing or able to reciprocate the effort you put into the relationship, it might be a sign that it's not a good match. Your partner may try to reassure you with words that they care and are dedicated. However, if those words don't evolve into actions, then the relationship won't be able to give you the support you deserve.

17. They're Emotionally Unavailable

Not everyone is looking for the exact same thing in a relationship. However, one of the core foundations of a partnership is connection. This requires you and your partner to bond, develop trust, and be vulnerable with one another. This can be hard to do if a person is emotionally unavailable.

A person with a fear of intimacy might not feel comfortable experiencing their own feelings, let alone sharing them with another person. This can also make it hard for them to be responsive and caring toward other people's emotions. In the end, you might develop feelings for someone who can't give you the compassion you're looking for.

18. They Try to Control You

You should always feel like you're in the driver's seat of your own life. Your partner should in no way try and exert control over you or your choices. However, there are subtle ways that this behavior can come about. Some examples of controlling behavior include:

  • They ask (or tell) you to change outfits before going out.
  • They keep track of the things they have done for you and hold it over your head.
  • They use their love as a type of currency and imply that you owe them for it.
  • They voice negative opinions about your current job, social group, etc.

19. They Show Abusive Behavior

This should go without saying, but it's entirely too important to not include. If a potential partner shows any kind of abusive behavior, it is a very serious red flag. At the very, very least, you should feel confident that your relationship and partner are safe spaces.

Abusive behavior can come in many different forms. A partner can show signs of physical abuse if they hit, push, or touch your body in any way that is aggressive, harmful, or that you're uncomfortable with. It can also come in the form of verbal or emotional abuse, where a partner may constantly say things to put you down, gaslight you, or threaten you to gain control in a relationship. Coercion, the act of constantly pressuring someone to change their mind, is also a form of abusive behavior that should not be tolerated.

Take Action When You See Red Flags in a Relationship

At the end of the day, if something feels off about your current relationship, it might be a good idea to take a step back and reflect. Those gut feelings you're having may be trying to tell you something. If you notice a red flag, address it immediately with your partner. If they don't respond appropriately, or their behavior doesn't change after the conversation, it might not be the relationship you're looking for. Do whatever you need to do to protect yourself, your heart, and your overall well-being.

19 Common Red Flags in Relationships