Red flags in a relationship are easy to miss—but essential to identify if you want a healthy and lasting relationship. How do you spot them? and more importantly, how do you handle them?
Red flags in a relationship can appear early or after a while and escalate to major problems such as domestic abuse. Navigating a relationship’s ups and downs may be a hard and perhaps messy affair. We all progress through the phases of love in our own unique way. Many of us go through a honeymoon period that makes us wonder if things are going as planned.
Some problems are easy to identify as obvious landmarks that must be avoided. Other times, little red flags appear long before we recognize them as actual, concrete problems. Red flags are concerning because they may lead to greater issues like domestic abuse, according to experts.
What Are Red Flags in a Relationship?
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, tens of millions of individuals are abused in Nigeria each year, while more than 12 million people are abused in the United States. These accidents might happen unexpectedly and without notice. However, there are often red signals that suggest something is wrong long before it gets physical or dangerous.
It is critical to be aware of concerns as they occur in order to spot red flags. Red flags do not appear by themselves. Instead, a slew of red flags raise their ugly heads at the same moment. It is critical to pay attention to this cycle of conduct.
There’s going to be a pattern. Typically, there’s not going to be an isolated incident. There will be multiple things that come up.
On the surface, some red flags, such as physical abuse, may be visible. But there are other quiet warning signs, such as lavishly gifting you with presents after only meeting you or constantly messaging you. These infiltrate gradually and change over time.
One further subtle example that might potentially lead to further problems is if someone tells you that you look gorgeous in a dress. Then, maybe it starts to grow into that individual telling you, I don’t like that clothing on you. Then you can end up with someone telling you what you can and cannot wear.
Understanding what healthy relationships look like will help you recognize possible red flags in a relationship.
What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?
All healthy relationships function on some level with core values that include:
- Mutual respect.
- Communication without fear of retaliation.
- Honesty and accountability.
- Trust and support.
- Fair negotiation.
Fair negotiation is especially important. When difficult situations arise, or differences occur between you and your partner, how do you handle them? Are you able to listen to each other’s needs and express how you’re feeling without attacking the other person? Are you willing to make healthy compromises without sacrificing your personal values? Or do you find yourselves arguing when life gets difficult and your needs aren’t taken seriously?
Spotting Red Flags in Dating Early
Knowing what warning signs to look for early on in a relationship is important. As red flags show up more and more over time, you’ll start noticing patterns of behavior.
“There tends to be a cycle of abuse,” says Experts. “In the first phase, tension builds and a person may feel like they are ‘walking on eggshells.’ At the second phase, the abuse occurs. In the third phase, the abuser may apologize and all may seem well — until the cycle repeats.”
Abuse comes in many different forms. Here are some red flags to pay attention to.
1. They try to influence you through apparent affection or love bombing
If they lavish you with attention, flattery, and presents early in the relationship, this might be a sign of problems. On the surface, everything appears to be wonderful – who doesn’t like a lot of love and gifts? But everything has a cost.
“Love bombing occurs when someone moves too rapidly,” explains Salerno. “They are always wanting to be around you. They’re sending you extravagant presents that are out of proportion to the circumstance. Perhaps you’ve barely gone on a handful of dates with them, and they’re pressing you to move in with or marry them.”
These actions may be warning flags because the relationship is developing so rapidly that neither person has had the opportunity to genuinely get to know the other. They’re bombarding you with information in an attempt to establish power and control over you and your relationship. Love bombing tends to fuel a relationship, but when it ends, it might leave the partnership unstable.
2. They talk about their exes with disrespect
The way a person talks about their ex-partners might reveal a lot about them. True, many of us may have been burnt by them. However, if everything appears one-sided, or if they’re continuously calling their ex-partners “crazy,” it might be a hint that not everything ended well.
“Perhaps they’re always inquiring about former companions and how they compare,” Salerno speculates. “Or they’ll blame the other person for earlier relationship failures. If they are always criticizing or blaming their ex, you may see a trend where the individual is not taking responsibility for their actions.”
3. Their anger makes you feel unsafe
Physical abuse is not necessarily the beginning of domestic violence. If your spouse acts furious in a way that makes you feel threatened, this is a major red sign. Anger is a problem when it occurs unexpectedly and frequently, or when they threaten you with violence.
“People may become outraged in a loving, supporting, and healthy relationship, but they will not take it out on you. “They’re not going to physically assault you or threaten to injure you,” emphasizes Salerno. “I would pay close attention if you find yourself becoming afraid of someone and their rage.”
4. They push your physical boundaries
This might be an apparent red signal, but it can also be a silent red flag. If your spouse forces you to do something you know are uncomfortable or undesired, they are stretching your physical boundaries. However, this may also occur on a lesser scale. Perhaps you’re not in the mood to snuggle, don’t enjoy being tickled, or simply want some privacy. This crosses the personal line if they refuse to listen to how you’re feeling.
“Everyone’s approach to defining and establishing limits is unique. “That may be something that someone doesn’t notice straight away,” Salerno observes. “Someone respects you in a good relationship. If you say, ‘I don’t like it,’ ‘I’m uncomfortable,’ or ‘I’m not feeling well,’ someone who loves and respects you will understand the bounndaries you are setting.
5. They isolate you
One important warning indicator, particularly for victims of domestic abuse, is that your spouse may want to isolate you from the outside world. Perhaps they are scared to meet your friends or family, or they are envious of your time with them. Perhaps they need so much of your time and energy that it is difficult to visit your friends and family, and they become irritated when you do.
In a relationship when someone is attempting to impose power and control over another person, the best method to do so is to isolate and control that other so that they are unable to contact with others. The smaller your world is, the larger impact the abuser has on your world.”
6. They gaslight you
This type of emotional abuse occurs when your spouse makes you doubt what you said or did in an attempt to shift blame or guilt. The idea is to make you feel accountable for what is going on, even if it isn’t your fault. In reaction to you articulating your thoughts about something that offended you, your spouse may remark you spoiled an evening or an occasion.
“Gaslighting is an attempt to erase someone’s reality,” Salerno explains. “It’s another instance of someone attempting to impose rules on you, which might be another way to collect abuse power and control over you.”
7. They have a hard time respecting your personal space
Is your partner overly attached? Do they anticipate or demand that you spend a specific amount of time with them each week, even if it contradicts your career, interests, and other plans? If you’re feeling stretched to satisfy your partner’s requirements and they’re not respecting your need for quiet and personal space, this might be a warning sign.
“If you say, ‘I’m not comfortable with this,’ and they ignore you, that’s a symptom of an unhealthy relationship,” Salerno adds. “At first, someone may be charmed by how much time their spouse wants to spend with them. However, if someone is attempting to isolate you and gain control over your itinerary, it might be a red flag.”
8. They need constant reassurance
This is a challenging red flag. If your spouse has unresolved trauma or baggage from previous relationships, they may require special assistance. This isn’t always a red sign if they seek counseling, convey their demands without interfering with yours, and respect your limits. You should not be expected to save your partner in every crisis.
This comes up a lot with love bombing.
Social media red flags
Red flags aren’t limited to in-person encounters. They can happen with long-distance relationships and across social media accounts, too. In many ways, our social media accounts are extensions of ourselves.
“As social media grows, there are more opportunities for people to experience digital abuse,” says Salerno.
Here are some social media red flags to be aware of.
1. They text you all day, every day, and expect an immediate response
Communication is essential in every relationship, but if it feels forced or is interfering with other aspects of your life, address this red flag.
Someone who is continuously texting you has a strong desire to communicate with you. “With it often comes power and control questions such, ‘Where are you?'” ‘Who are you with?’ and ‘When are you going to be home?'”
Set reasonable boundaries and expectations to prevent sliding too deep into this trap. Discuss your texting expectations with your spouse early on to ensure you’re on the same page.
2. They are monitoring your social media profiles.
Is your lover always checking in on you and what you’re up to? Are they insisting on knowing where you are (even if it makes you uncomfortable)? This may appear to be overprotective behavior. Regardless matter whether it stems from a lack of self-esteem or anything else, any disdain for your personal privacy is an unhealthy way of asserting authority.
“They’re not enabling you to have privacy if they demand your passwords or continually want you to show them your phone so they can read your texts and social media postings,” adds Salerno.
3. They coerce you into engaging in non-consensual sexual activity.
Checking in with your spouse and obtaining consent are critical components of every relationship. Take a step back and establish your ground if your spouse is requesting images, videos, or other stuff from you that you are uncomfortable providing. You should never feel compelled to engage in any activity with which you are not comfortable.
They suggest that you delete your social media accounts.
“This is another method for isolation,” Salerno explains. “If your social media accounts are a key form of contact and someone is requesting you to delete all social media accounts, it may be a method to control you. People don’t know where you are or if you’re safe if your accounts are removed.”
4. They take your private matters to third parties or even the public
It is OK for your spouse to crowdsource certain info about your relationship on the internet, that’s not okay.
To resolve a disagreement with your partner, for example, it’s OK to publish a poll on your social network newsfeed about the best spot to purchase a specific sort of food. However, it is not acceptable to create a post or poll that disrespects you or makes bad comments about either party.
If they make your private disputes or worries public in order to shame, demean, or manipulate you, that’s a red sign.”
When Red Flags Become Domestic Abuse
Domestic violence is a continuous pattern of behavior in which someone attempts to obtain power and control over another individual. “When you notice a pattern of warning signals for abusive relationships, that’s when you should be concerned.”
Domestic abuse can also include nonphysical signs like:
- Preventing you from getting and/or keeping a job.
- Giving you an allowance or taking your paycheck away.
- Forcing you to account for every penny you spend.
- Putting you down, criticizing you, or calling you names in public.
- Refusing to use birth control or preventing you from using birth control/protection.
- Sabotaging your birth control efforts (by poking holes in condoms, for example).
“It could be name-calling, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, or something else,” says Salerno. “If you find yourself doing things that don’t feel right for you, but you’re doing them because you are trying to prevent your partner from becoming agitated and angry, you should take note of that.”
When You Should Seek Help
If you notice any of these habits in your relationship, please know that there is help available. It is critical for your own safety that you thoroughly arrange your escape plan. “You are the only one who knows when it is safe for you to go.”
It’s also vital to recognize when friends or family members may be in this scenario.
If you know someone who is a victim of domestic abuse, the most important thing you can do is listen and show them you care. “You don’t want to point the finger at them. You want to be there for them and tell them they’re not to blame for what’s going on.”
Here are recommendations;
- Call the nearest or effective Domestic Violence Hotline if available.
- Tell a loved one to call the police if you don’t make contact by a certain time.
- Develop a code word with children or family to prompt them to call 911.
- Keep important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, etc.) in a safe place in case you need to leave quickly.
- If you think someone is monitoring your technology, try using a different device that the other person doesn’t have access to.
- Create new accounts with non-identifying usernames and/or change your usernames and passwords using an alternate device.
Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“There is hope and help for people in abusive relationships,” experts encourage. You can live a happy and healthy life, free of abuse or any form of violence.