Relationships can be complicated things and involve a lot of time invested in getting to know each other, before committing more seriously through living together or getting married. However, during this phase, many people may struggle to realise when quirky habits are actually reflective of a more serious underlying issue.
To help you determine whether your new relationship is a good fit, here are 15 red flags in a relationship that you should never ignore, and some that should be non-negotiable reasons to leave the relationship.
1. They Speak in Absolutes
Be wary of anyone speaking in absolutes – by this I mean anyone says you “never” do something, or “always” do something else. This approach to arguing is too extreme – by failing to recognise that people are capable of adapting and changing, you will find yourself always working to explain or justify your actions to someone like this or defend yourself against accusations of wrongdoing. In the end, relationships are this are just not worth it.
2. They have No Friends of Their Own
If you start dating someone and realise that they have no social connections or friendships of their own, you should be concerned. If your partner has no social life outside of your relationship, this may be indicative that they are unable (or unwilling) to maintain close ties to other people, or have antisocial tendencies. While it is important to spend quality time with your partner, it is equally important to maintain your own friendships, hobbies and interests. Without their own friendships to invest in, a partner like this is likely to become overly involved in your relationships (or you), and might lead to you feeling overwhelmed. Encourage them to forge their own friendships outside of the relationship, and if they cannot, or refuse to do so, question why you should want to maintain a connection to them when seemingly no one else does.
3. They don’t respect your feelings or your boundaries
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. These are SO important, no matter what anyone tells you. Boundaries are the parameters that you set for yourself in terms of what you are willing to partake in or allow from the outside world, and it is vitally important that you and your partner have a healthy understanding of each other’s. When a boundary of yours has been respected (or violated) this is reflected in the way that you feel – while occasional mistakes or misunderstandings are common when a relationship is new, it is important that you communicate your boundaries, and your feelings about them, to your partner in order to ensure that they are observed and respected. Already told your partner, and they keep crossing the line? Run in the opposite direction.
4. They isolate you from family and friends
Friends and family form the cornerstone of our support network. They are the bread and butter of human connection, and most of us would be lost without them. If a boyfriend or girlfriend attempts to isolate you from the people who love and care for you, be very wary of their intentions, and what that could result in. One of the key indicators of abusive relationships is the tactic of the abuser to isolate the victim from their support network. That isn’t to say that your partner is an abuser in the making, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, and reaffirming your commitment to maintain relationships that are important to you, regardless of what your spouse says.
5. Their morals and values don’t align with yours
It’s one thing if they value smooth peanut butter, and you prefer crunchy (a genuine and impassioned debate I have had with boyfriends in the past). HOWEVER; what if you want kids and they don’t? If they want to get married and buy a house with a white picket fence in suburbia, and you want to live a bohemian-style traveller life? If your values are wildly different or even contradictory to each other, it is a no-brainer, and is probably not a relationship that will stand the test of time.
6. They are sketchy about their relationship history
Have you ever dated someone who says that all his or her exes were crazy? Or someone who isn’t willing to talk about their past at all? While some people are naturally more private about their dating history (this might be a boundary you need to respect!), if your new beau refuses to answer absolutely any questions about their past, it’s something to take note of. If they insist that none of the past breakups were their fault; that it was their former flames who were crazy, be warned: the only thing that all of those former relationships had in common was your partner.
7. They are excessively jealous
Jealousy is part of the human condition, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. The ambition should not be to eradicate jealousy completely (because it is both impossible and unrealistic). Instead, the goal should be for each person to take responsibility for their feelings, and to keep a rational head about it. So long as you are both acting with integrity and honesty, there is no reason for your boyfriend or girlfriend to feel the need to track your phone or check in on you repeatedly when you are out with friends. Excessive jealousy is a red flag that you should be aware of, and can be a pre-indicator of worse things to come.
8. They call you names in arguments
A sign of someone who fights childishly and unfairly, if your spouse calls you cruel names when you argue, it can be indicative of someone who fights to cause pain, rather than fighting to reach resolution. Disagreements are inevitable in relationships, but someone who takes cheap shots by calling you names designed to hurt? They aren’t looking to reach middle ground with you – they’re looking to cause maximum damage.
9. They lie
This goes without saying. If you know that someone is a regular liar, how are you ever going to believe what he or she says?
10. They refuse to accept responsibility for their actions or behaviours
Regardless of what anyone else does, we are responsible for our own actions. How we speak and act around and towards other people is always within our power, and is always a choice. If your partner tries to blame their actions on you (perhaps they get aggressive when arguing, or disappear for several days after a fight) run in the opposite direction. It’s hard enough to be responsible for your own feelings and actions, let alone being held responsible for someone else’s.
11. Their style of socialising is very different to yours
If you love to stay out all night in bars and clubs, and your partner likes to be in bed by 9pm every day, chances are you are going to clash. Alternatively, if they love to go on pub-crawls with mates and you prefer to catch up with friends during a power walk or gym workout, this may be a source of tension in your relationship. It’s perfectly fine to have different preferences for the way in which you socialise, so long as you can also compromise and meet each other in the middle from time to time, or take turns with the style in which you go about it.
12. You feel like you’re going crazy
If you have ever felt like you’re going crazy in a relationship, it could be a sign of gaslighting. In the 1944 psychological thriller Gaslight, female protagonist Paula, played by Ingrid Bergman, is slowly manipulated by her husband into thinking she is going insane. If you are told that certain events have or have not happened, in contrast to your own memory of events, it may be worth considering the possibility of gaslighting. If you realise that you HAVE been gaslighted? Get. Out. Now.
13. They speak for other people
When I was growing up, there was a saying about opinions: “everyone has one, but that doesn’t always mean it should be shared or heard”. If your family or friends have an opinion about your relationship, actions or words, it is important that they speak for themselves. Should your partner continue to tell you what other people think about you or your behaviour (especially if it is with negative connotations), take it with a hefty pinch of salt; context is everything, and unless you know the context in which something was said, what your partner tells you may be blatantly untrue.
14. Something just feels wrong
Things feeling “off” somehow is enough of a reason to question a relationship. If you have no existing trauma or intimacy issues from your past, if you find yourself in a relationship that just doesn’t seem like a good fit, there is nothing wrong with walking away, no hard feelings.
15. They show physical aggression or volatility
This is a non-negotiable. If anyone that you are in a relationship with puts you in physical danger, or makes you feel like your safety is under question, it is important that you seek help immediately. No relationship is worth being hurt over, and regardless of how the aggression or violence may be “justified” by your partner (accusations of flirting, cheating, lying etc.) there is no excuse for violence, at all, ever.
It seems like a pretty negative list, but it’s important to remember that dating is fun! It can be exciting to meet new people and consider all of the possibilities that may arise out of a new relationship. However, it’s vital that we don’t get carried away in the passion of new relationships, and remember the things that are most important to us. When meeting someone new, don’t focus on whether they like you or not, instead; ask yourself whether you like them and whether or not they are a good fit in your life.