In relationships and in dating, it can be hard for us to determine sometimes what is code red or code amber behaviour, meaning behaviour that should have gotten our attention early on and avoided completely.
Being unaware of them can lead you down various paths in a relationship which can be hard to go back on. Red flag behaviour messes with your mind, leaves you doubting yourself, chips away at your self-esteem until you no longer recognise yourself.
I always advocate for awareness and discernment in relationships, and to never be afraid to leave someone once red flag behaviour(s) keeps repeating itself, especially after you’ve communicated your concerns to them.
We need to start advocating for better relationships for ourselves and for others by having the courage to leave behind people who display qualities that can endanger your well-being and state of mind.
Always be careful and observant about who we are getting ourselves involved in. I’m not saying be paranoid and vigilant and fearful, but guard your heart and protect your energy and emotions. Great relationships are amazing but being in a relationship with the wrong person can really destroy your life and damage your psyche.
It can be hard to recover from. So here’s a list of a couple of behaviours I’ve observed through my own relationships and that of my clients/friends.
Love bombing; mistaking intensity for intimacy
You barely know him and this dude is texting you all day and all night, bombarding you with compliments, telling you he loves you, sending you expensive gifts, refusing to take no for an answer, wanting to see you everyday. Everything feels very intense very quickly and can be easily mistaken for intimacy and love.
Some people know that by being so intense early on will lull you into a false sense of intimacy very fast – it’s pretty manipulative behaviour.
Are you able to accurately sus out if your date is right for you?
You are just getting to know each other and he is already planning your first getaway, talking about your kids and their names, planning wedding destinations. Just too much too fast and if you aren’t careful or paying attention, can get caught up in a cycle that you may regret agreeing to down the road. And sometimes when you’ve realised it, it’s already too late.
Addicted to gaming, porn, work, gambling, celebs, social media, cigarettes, sex, drugs, alcohol – just about anything, oh boy you are going to be in for a very unpleasant ride. Addictions show deeper seated issues, poor coping mechanisms, escapism over tackling problems head-on and lack of self-control and willpower.
Worse is if they are aware of it and completely uninterested in doing anything about it or they are in complete denial about their actions and couldn’t care less about how it affects you. These addictions will spill over into other areas of their lives and will definitely affect your relationship, as well as your own mental and emotional well-being.
I was once with someone who was addicted to porn and was in denial the whole way through, even called such behaviour “healthy” and “normal”. It affected our relationship in big ways and how he treated me subsequently. Took me awhile to get out of that toxic dynamic.
The minute someone tries to dictate your time, who you should hang out with, what to wear, eat, how to behave, policing your actions etc – run like hell and don’t look back.
Controlling behaviour never lets up, it just gets worse. Their MO is to use all sorts of methods to ensure you never leave. This includes insults, vulgarities, belittling language and even straight up physical/emotional/mental abuse. Others come in the form of “I know what is best for you” types of treatment that can be more subtle and harder to detect.
Either way, such treatment chips away at your self-esteem and you have nothing left and you will never leave.
I’ve personally noticed that men with aggression and anger management issues tend to have/had a chaotic family environment, where hostile, nasty, bullying behaviour was tolerated and regularly expressed in the family. There will also be a pattern of not being able to express one’s emotions healthily.
If he isn’t keen to work through his anger or even acknowledge it, stay away. Anger can very easily spill into abusive, controlling behaviour or an emotionally volatile relationship environment which can create (or exacerbate) alot of emotional issues for you.
Not over their ex
People who aren’t over their exes shouldn’t even be in relationships – period. And you shouldn’t get yourself involved with someone who is still pining for their ex either.
Such behaviour reeks of disrespect in my opinion. When you are not over someone totally, you don’t have 100% of the emotional capacity to be with anybody. You won’t be able to focus on getting to know your new date.
When someone keeps talking about your ex or tells you straight up that they are not over them, back off. You can be friends but not anything more. Also, don’t get entwined with people who have their minds (and hearts) on someone else, you deserve better.
Unhealed childhood trauma or other types of trauma and emotional baggage
Some of us have not had the best luck in life – we may have had things done to us in childhood or when we were older that leaves deep scars. The deep wounds need to be healed and addressed first and sometimes these do take time.
Unhealed trauma can result in various mental and emotional consequences and can affect their life outcomes and any subsequent relationships they have. I used to work with a lady who survived the 9/11 attacks and clearly hadn’t healed from her PTSD and trauma. She ended up being a bully in the workplace, terrorising younger women, gaslighting them and would always put up her fists in “defense” against someone disagreeing with her. I’m not kidding. She was fired eventually.
Trauma is hard to deal with in a relationship, so if the person is unwilling to work through it (with or without your help), the relationship usually doesn’t survive. You will end up deeply affected by their behaviour too.
He says something incredibly hurtful and you get hurt but he then turns around and says stuff like “Why are you even bothered? I was just joking”. Or passing off abusive, controlling, double-meaning speech, passive-aggressive behaviours as a joke or as “love” or that they know what is best for you. Such people are manipulative and will mess with your head, leaving you with serious self-esteem issues and self-doubt.
Inappropriate boundaries with others
Many affairs and cheating begin with people not respecting their partners and overstepping their boundaries with members of the opposite sex. I’ve seen so many workplace affairs begin with people spending way too much time with their colleagues, more time than is appropriate.
If you’ve expressed your boundaries and your partner shoots them down, or agrees and still disrespects them or then gaslights you – don’t walk, run from them. Their integrity is in question. In a partnership, there needs to be communication and explicit agreement about each other’s boundaries. Respecting that builds trust and intimacy.
Defensible – they have a reason for everything and never apologise
People who rationalise and intellectualize everything in a relationship are just not going to provide the emotional support and rapport that you need to build intimacy. You will feel as if you are talking to a wall. Also, people who always seem to find a reason for everything including their bad behaviour can actually lack introspection and self-reflection, not very good ingredients for a relationship.
Blows hot/cold and emotional unavailability
You don’t know where you stand with him and it leaves you feeling unsafe and insecure. Psychological and emotional safety is important if you want to build trust, honesty, respect and intimacy. If he is inconsistent with his affection and feelings and isn’t very forthcoming, you are constantly left to chase after crumbs, wonder about him and do various things to win his affection. Not healthy in the long term.
Repeats behaviour that you’ve told them to stop
Told him you are tired after work and need time alone but he keeps showing up at your office? Told him you are uncomfortable with his behaviour with a female colleague and he dismisses you and carries on? Another guy to run from. Whilst some demands can be unreasonable, if you are reasonably uncomfortable with something and have told him to stop, and he continues? Dude doesn’t care about your feelings and your boundaries; probably thinks it’s not important as well. Not a good sign at all.
Leave you feeling insecure
Commenting on women’s bodies – celebs or otherwise, praising other people and putting you down, criticising your looks and dressing, comparing you to an ex – all these behaviours reeks of disrespect and can do a number on your self-esteem in time. Such people most likely struggle with their ego and insecurities as well and project it onto you.