Today we will talk about red flags in a relationship and how to spot these.
Before we look at these red flags, I want to mention that any relationship can become toxic even with two emotionally healthy and beautiful people.
This can happen for many reasons but mainly because:
We get sucked in because they create high emotional intensity, and it’s often fast and feels magical.
Like we are a perfect fit.
Sentences like “I have never loved anything like this before” and talk about marriage, kids, and moving in together often happen quickly.
Emotions make us forget and miss warning signs, so you must slow down no matter how good it feels and understand you can’t make good decisions in this state of mind.
You are in a chemical obsession, and your logic is offline.
You also project your stories and fantasies onto this person, and we have no idea who this person is or how being in a long-term relationship will be like with them.
Don’t buy into the emotional intensity.
Love is slow, consistent, and stable.
What comes quickly goes quick, and like a drug, when you go high fast, it will also come down hard fast.
If you tend to be drawn to high intensity, it could be because you are anxious, attached, or co-dependent and the quick commitments and intensity make you feel safe that this person will not abandon you.
The irony is that these relationships are more unstable and less likely to last.
If you are going to spend your life together, then what is the rush?
We tend to put forward our best sides initially, so you don’t know someone after dating a few months.
Emotions are good at telling us what we need right now, but they are not good at telling us what is good for us long term.
If it’s very intense and moves very fast, then it’s a big red flag.
A typical red flag is controlling behavior.
They will make you feel bad about your needs and things you want, such as seeing friends and family.
In a healthy relationship, your partner will support what is good for you. For example, they might express they need more time with you that is perfectly healthy; however, they will not try to make you feel bad or guilty about the choices you make.
In a healthy relationship, the conversation would sound like this
Him: I miss having more time with you. Before you started playing basketball, we had a day together each weekend, and now we never spend time together on the weekend, and I miss that because I value you and us a lot.
Her: I can understand that, and I hear you want us to have more quality time together because you value time with me, and I appreciate that.
I want time with you too, and I don’t want to give up basketball.
What other days can we make time for each other?
Him: Wednesday, we both have off. Why don’t we make that our day together, and I will plan a dance lesson this coming Wednesday? I know you like that.
Her: let’s do it.
In this conversation, they both express their needs and boundaries clearly without blaming each other or make the other feel guilty.
They focus on their own needs and share their affection for each other.
They acknowledge each other’s needs and are willing to meet each other and find something that works for both.
In a toxic dynamic, this is how it could sound like
Him: You never have time for me anymore and only care about yourself. If you don’t quit playing basketball and make time for me, I will find myself a woman that will.
Her: Wow, what is this all about. I make time for us, but I also want a social life outside us, and time with my team makes me happy.
Him: it’s all about you and what makes you happy. Okay, I will do what makes me happy.
Firstly, he uses the word never, which is an extreme word to use.
He says, “she only cares about herself” this is blame and shame.
He then uses threats to punish to get what he wants by saying he will find another woman.
She is attacked and so gets a stress response where she can only fight back, defend herself using justification, retrieve or try to please all bad outcomes.
They typically use guilt, shame, belittling & punishment to try to control you and get you to give up your needs and accommodate theirs.
They don’t express their needs in a vulnerable and kind way but instead try to make you feel bad about who you are and what you want.
They might try to isolate you from family and friends to gain more control.
This is a huge red flag so run now if you are experiencing this.
Another big red flag in dating is when your partner does not respect your boundaries.
None of us are perfect, and we will step on each other toes; however, a healthy dating partner will apologize and make changes going forward to respect your boundaries.
A healthy partner will also encourage you to express your boundaries.
A toxic partner will most often not apologize and acknowledge your boundary but instead attack or shame you for having that boundary instead.
Even if they apologize, their actions don’t change, so the apology is only to suck you back in.
A toxic partner will continue to violate your boundary.
They will most often make you feel bad about having that boundary using guilt, shame, punishment such a withdrawal of affection, acting upset, or belittling.
If words and actions do not match, then again, a big red flag.
This is one of the early warning signs, and so a great way to test a partner is to set some boundaries early on things such as how much time to spend together or other things that come up and make you feel stress.
Notice their response. Do they acknowledge your experience, apologize and change behavior, then it’s a great sign.
Or, do they not acknowledge your experience and make you feel wrong about your boundary?
Or, they make you feel bad about it and that you have to break your boundary to please them.
And do they continue to violate your boundary?
If they do, then it’s a huge red flag.
Mutuality means both people care, respect, and accommodate each other’s needs and boundaries.
Accommodate does not mean having to give your partner everything they need.
It means caring about your partner’s boundaries and needs and make an effort to meet them.
A big red flag is a complete lack of mutuality, and one partner is a giver when the other is a taker.
This is the typical dynamic in a toxic relationship.
It’s common for the caretaker to accommodate the toxic partner’s needs at the expense of their own needs and boundaries.
This will lead to resentment, low self-worth, and your needs will not be met, and both emotional and physical harm can happen when your boundaries are violated.
Does your partner show an interest in your needs?
Does your partner try to accommodate your needs?
When they can’t do it, they acknowledge and show care for your needs?
Do they respect your boundaries and show regret when overstepping them?
If you can answer yes to these questions, you are on to a winner, but if the responses are no then, it’s a BIG red flag.
If your partner mainly seems to care about their own needs and doesn’t care or accommodate your needs when you express them clearly, then it’s a toxic dynamic with a lack of mutuality.
Your partner is not your child, and a defining feature of adult relationships is mutuality.
Entitlement is a classic sign of narcissism and socio/psychopath, and entitled people think they deserve special treatment.
Lack of mutuality will always be present in relationships with these toxic and abusive dating partners.
One of the most defining red flags of toxic dating partners is emotional instability.
People that can’t regulate their emotions are dangerous and unstable, meaning they can harm you, and the relationship will be unstable and lack safety.
When people have extreme and unstable emotions, they lose empathy as the emotions overwhelm them.
As a result, they are more likely to be erratic, make sudden decisions, go from intense love to feel numb or rage, and be violent.
Borderline personality disorder is categorized by emotional extremes and instability.
The narcissist is also emotionally unstable and can go from showing great admiration and affection to rage in a second if they feel their fragile ego is threatened.
If you see extreme swings from sudden love to coldness or rage.
High drama and back and forth of hot and cold, so intense closeness and then cold distance or conflict are huge red flags.
Because toxic dating partners tend to be unstable and toxic, they have many short relationships and always blame others.
Hence, all red flags are people who tell you about many short relationships and often with little to no break in-between and mostly talk bad about their ex-partners.
Ask them about their past relationships and watch for
1. Length of relationships
Fewer and longer relationships show more emotional stability and are what you want, while short is a red flag.
2. Why and how they ended
Many dramatic and sudden endings are a big red flag.
3. How long break they had in-between relationships
Healthy people take time to heal before dating again, while toxic dating partners tend to have a replacement ready and date someone else immediately because they can’t be alone (borderline personality disorder), they need the ego validation (narcissist), or relationships are transactional (socio/psychopath).
If they never have break’s in-between dating someone new, then it’s a warning sign.
4. How they describe their ex-partners
If they are the victim and had so many horrible ex-partners and can’t see their part in these dynamics, then this is a red flag.
We talked a lot about red flags shown through actions, but you can also use your emotions to decide if someone is toxic for you.
Toxic people tend to make you feel bad about who you are and feel anxious about losing them.
If you find yourself feel worse about who you are, must hide your needs and boundaries, or fear losing them more than usual, then it’s a red flag.
In the early stages of dating, the toxic dating partners are very charming, so you will likely not feel anxious but fantastic, but once they have hooked you in, they will start to make you feel anxious and insecure.
Look at how they treat service staff.
The narcissist is often not pleasant to service staff because they feel entitled to special treatment and lack empathy for others.
Later, when they have hooked you in, you will be treated this way, so if you see your date treat service staff poorly in the early stages, then run it’s a red flag.
That’s enough for today.
If you are in the middle of this confusing and painful place, check out the comprehensive course I did on how to heal and flourish after dating a borderline, narcissist, or socio/psychopath.
Never forget. You are worthy of love, safety, kindness & mutuality.