By Maria Lebron, April 2021
When you begin dating someone and feel a connection, it’s natural to want things to work out. It’s very important though not to put on rose-colored glasses and rationalize behavior which should raise a red flag. This quote from Maya Angelou is one to keep in mind when dating: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Someone’s words and actions need to be taken at face value as a sign of who they are. This means that you need to look at both the positive and negative signals in order to get a realistic and complete picture of who the person really is.
Red flags usually can’t be explained as quirky behavior or habits and are usually problematic. A red flag is something that shows a lack of interest in you and the relationship and a lack of respect or values. Red flags can be bright red danger zone flags telling you something is a deal breaker or they can be incompatibility flags. Although it can be tempting to overlook or rationalize these red flags, think back to whether there was another relationship where something seemed off and where many red flags were overlooked.
The following are some red flags to look out for and which should not be ignored:
— They talk or act in disrespectful ways:
Blatant disrespect is a bright red flag, especially if this happens very early on. If someone calls you names, mocks you, or berates you in an argument and then excuses that behavior by saying they were angry and didn’t mean it, this is something to be very concerned about. Also be on the lookout for cruelty or disrespect which is masked as ‘jokes’.
— They want to rush into a relationship too quickly:
Stop and ask yourself whether someone really knows you. If someone is pushing you into a relationship too fast it can be a sign they lack emotional maturity or are very insecure. Make sure this isn’t happening because they’re on the rebound, want to practice serial monogamy without knowing you, or want to control the relationship by defining the terms. It may be that they are trying to lock you into a relationship before you get a chance to know them better and discover their flaws. Be careful that someone isn’t just trying to carry out a fantasy of what they want with someone who they don’t know well or are filling a void in their life.
— There’s an imbalance of power:
If there seems to be a constant attempt to assert control over you, that is a bright red flag. Control can also take the form of excessive jealousy.
— They try to drive a wedge between you and your family and friends:
Having friendships and relationships with people besides the person you’re dating is healthy and necessary. Anyone who wants you all to themselves is a bright red flag. Overly exclusive and obsessive relationships can be a precursor for abusive relationships.
— They are very jealous:
You shouldn’t need to give up your freedom to make someone feel secure. If you’re made to feel that you need to account for every minute of your day, it’s a major sign of obsessive jealousy and insecurity issues.
Also be very careful that they are not projecting their own habits or temptations onto you. Sometimes people who accuse people of cheating without proof are projecting their own infidelity or untrustworthiness onto others.
— They make you feel guilty:
Some people have learned to manipulate or guilt the other person to make them do something they want. A manipulator can use fear, threats, or a menacing tone to get what they want. A manipulator will also prey on your insecurities to make you feel guilty or get you to doubt yourself. Finally, the silent treatment is another tactic used to punish you in an attempt to get you to give in to them.
— They don’t respect your boundaries:
This can happen in a very blatant way or in more subtle ways. Look for signs that someone doesn’t respect the boundaries you put in place regarding contact, space, and sex. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they don’t respect you.
Also be on the lookout when your date shares too much personal information too soon. This can indicate they don’t have proper boundaries in place.
— They never apologize:
Sometimes apologies are not about who’s right or wrong but more about acknowledging the impact something had on the other person. Also be wary about fake apologies or remorse.
— They want to change you or you want to change them:
There may be areas of growth for both people in terms of being in a relationship, but you usually can’t change who you are unless you want to and unless that change is true to your personality.
— They’re rude to people:
If someone is rude to others, even if they are kind and attentive towards you, it may indicate they will eventually be rude to you. Obviously be very careful of someone who constantly makes reference to rage or violence when faced with frustration or anger.
— They are unwilling to compromise:
You don’t have to agree on everything, but when you don’t, there is no middle ground because they stand their ground and refuse to consider your point of view.
— Your family and/or friends dislike them:
Not every single person you know needs to like someone you’re dating, but if you find that most or all of your family and friends hold negative views, it may be something you need to evaluate.
— They speak very badly about their exes:
Although some exes might have been toxic, look out for constant bashing or a pattern that everyone that they broke up with is a problem.
— Their attitude towards others can vary widely:
Look for a pattern where they quickly oscillate between praising people who give them what they want or make them feel good or important, and then berate or are cruel to those same people when they don’t do what they want.
— There’s a history of infidelity:
This is something to be concerned about because it can be a pattern and a characterological trait. Also look for a pattern where their relationships have overlapped which could mean that they have difficulties leaving a relationship without having a new partner. Be careful of someone whose idea of infidelity or relationship boundaries is very different from you. Emotional betrayal can be just as devastating as sexual betrayal.
— They have problems communicating:
Communication is an important component of a successful relationship. Look for what happens when there is a communication breakdown — do they withdraw, give you the silent treatment, become aggressive, get defensive, make threats, etc. Also look for how they act when they’re upset or angry. Do you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells so as not to upset them?
The following red flags aren’t necessarily deal breakers but they are things to be aware of and consider before beginning a relationship with someone. Perhaps there are one or two things that a couple can compromise on or change, but if there are any that continue to be problematic, it may be a sign that someone is not the right partner for you.
— They don’t initiate dates:
If you are the one who consistently makes plans or initiates contact, it may suggest that it’s a one-sided relationship. Both people need to show an investment in the relationship. Spontaneity can be fun and exciting, but if it’s a pattern be careful you’re not with someone who views consistency as boring.
Also look out for a pattern where someone breaks dates without any plan to reschedule.
Finally, be aware that in this age, messages and FaceTime can create a false sense of intimacy and shouldn’t be a replacement for spending time with you and getting to know you over time.
— After dating for months, they don’t want to label the relationship:
In addition to this possibly meaning an inability to commit, it can mean they wish to continue dating others and don’t take their relationship with you seriously.
— They are keeping secrets:
There is no requirement to share every thought but if someone is unwilling to share something major with you, it can cause problems and possibly interfere with intimacy.
Different people have different comfort levels regarding opening up and some people may just need more time. This is perfectly understandable but be aware of someone who constantly avoids certain topics over time.
— Things don’t add up:
Listen to that gut feeling that tells you that something isn’t adding up or doesn’t feel right. You may be able to test and confirm your feelings, or time will show you someone isn’t being truthful.
— Their friends are awful:
The old adage that we are the company we keep is usually true and we can usually gauge something about who someone is by what type of people they consider friends.
— Inappropriate social behavior:
If someone seems very immature or is oblivious to major social norms early on, it will probably get worse as they become more comfortable with you.
— There is always a crisis:
Some people like to stir up drama and controversy, especially when they think things are boring or they’re not happy with their lives. Also, some people who are always anxious can create an atmosphere where they make everyone around them feel their anxiety. Be careful that you are not dragged into the drama and that you don’t end up stressed or drained as a result.
— Your core values don’t align:
Opposites do attract but if you and your date consistently have different views or core values, it may mean you won’t be able to share interests or parts of your life with each other.
— They haven’t posted about you on their social media accounts:
If your date is not on social media or doesn’t post personal things, this isn’t an issue, but if they are someone who lives on social media and has posted about their exes, then it may mean that you aren’t seen as a long term option.
— Feelings are expressed very differently:
If there is a big difference in how you express your feelings about each other it may be an indication that you want something from your date that they are not able to provide.
— They need constant reassurance:
We all experience times where we feel insecure but if someone needs constant reassurance or validation from you, you may find that exhausting and in time discover that no amount of reassurance from you is enough.
— They put you on a pedestal:
It may be very seductive at first to be viewed so adoringly but if someone sees nothing but perfection in you, it may be an indication that they don’t really want to get to know you, but rather are projecting someone they have in their mind. Also, if someone sees you as a perfect person, it can be problematic when you act in a way that shatters their perception of you.
— Their sex drive is very different than yours:
More important than the amount of sex a couple has, it matters more that they have a similar libido so that the mismatched sexual drive doesn’t cause hurt feelings or resentment.
— You have a problem with their work ethic or life goals:
It may be the case that someone is in a bad work situation or encountering road blocks in their life, but look at how they are dealing with those situations. Look to see that they are trying to work through or overcome this situation in a way that moves their life forward.
— Their financial goals vary widely from yours:
Some couples can compromise if they have very different views on finances, but if a couple have totally different values or can’t find a common ground, it may be problematic when you begin to plan a future together.