15 Relationship red flags to watch out for: A case study
Plenty of us have dated or been in relationships where there were red (and amber) flags everywhere but we still persisted and stayed in those relationships.
To our detriment.
In this post, I detail 15 red flags that came up for me in some of the more serious relationships I’ve had. Some of them aren’t as harmless if they occur on their own. But when combined with others can give rise to a miserable experience.
Read on to find out what those 15 are.
1. Commenting negatively about your looks and attire
This is awful and can really mess with your head and your self-esteem, especially if you already have low self-esteem to begin with.
I can’t believe I actually believed whatever the dude said. He’ d say things like “Your hair is so messy, why don’t you straighten it.” (It’s just wavy, and no I’ll never straighten it). “Why are you always wearing black? You don’t have other colours in your wardrobe?” or “Why don’t you ever wear skirts or dresses?”.
Worst of all, he did this at the beginning couple of months during the relationship. I actually felt so awful about my hair and clothes, I tried to change how I looked.
Instead of enduring though, I should have just kicked him to the curb. When confronted guess what he said – “Oh I was just saying, I didn’t really mean it”. GASLIGHTING 101.
When you allow them to start off a relationship saying such horrible things about you, and you don’t put your foot them and call them out on it, it will only get worse.
And it will eat into you slowly and chip away at your confidence that you will have none left.
2. Telling you how good a man he is and that he knows how to make a woman happy.
If a man needs to tell you how great he is, he probably isn’t anywhere close. If he really is good and knows how to treat you right, it will come out loud and clear – in his actions.
Also this was the same dude who did all that in point 1 above. I highly doubt a good man will speak like that to a new girlfriend.
3. Comparing you to his exes. Or Talking too much about his exes.
Exes can be a very touchy topic for many people. I’m someone who does want to know what relationships/girls you went for in the past, how things were and how they ended.
If we weren’t friends from before, that is literally the only data point I have about you, and it gives me insight on what sort of person you are, how you view relationships and if you’ve changed for the better.
Now, if a guy is constantly talking about and bringing up his exes whenever he feels like, even when you didn’t ask, and especially when you didn’t ask – huge red flag.
He is still thinking about them for whatever reason, and I won’t be surprised if these exes are still in his life and that he still harbours feelings for them.
A bigger red flag? And one where you should have no qualms dumping him when this happens – comparing you to his ex.
Minus extra points if these comparisons aren’t in your favour. This dude talked so much about his exes I actually told him to stop – after 6 months (I know).
And again, he acted like he was doing nothing wrong, genuinely seemed surprised and passed it off as “Oh I didn’t mean anything serious when I said that, I was just telling you information” – but whatever for? Nobody asked!
4. Keeping your relationship a secret from your friends and family
If you are doing this, or if your partner is doing this – you both have to stop now and ask yourselves what exactly is it about your relationship that you are hiding from your nearest and dearest?
I have a good friend who has been seeing a guy for 12 years, but neither of their families know and only a handful of close friends know. They go to great lengths not to be seen in public and never post photos online too.
I can’t imagine all that tiptoeing around, hiding and stealthy dating is healthy for anyone.
I was like that in my first relationship and deep down, it was actually because I was embarrassed of him, and I actually wasn’t in love with him.
If you are constantly hiding your partner away from people, ask yourself why. You either fight for your love or you let them go.
5. No boundaries or poor boundaries with other women
If your guy is someone who has a couple of female friends, whom he hangs out with and talks to occasionally, that’s absolutely fine.
I’m not at all for people limiting social interactions. And if there’s genuinely nothing going on and you are threatened by his female friends, you need to ask yourself why.
But. If a dude is constantly chatting up his exes, entertaining his exes, – eg, bringing them on a tour of the country, living together with a bff of his ex, talking to women about personal, intimate stuff into the wee hours of the night, going to midnight movies together with a woman – stuff that should be reserved for you, but he’s doing it with other women and sees no problem with it?
HUGE red flag.
These things need to be discussed early on in the relationship so that both of you are aware of each other’s boundaries, and to lessen misunderstandings.
Yes our self-esteem and security issues are ours to work on, but your partner needs to also be understanding and protect your psyche – not add fuel to fire and bring up trust issues in your relationship.
This also goes towards respect. Is he respecting your boundaries? (Assuming they aren’t over the top) Or is he acting like he’s a single dude? If so, let him go.
6. Overly sexual and touchy early on the relationship
Especially when you’ve expressed discomfort about it. I dated someone like this and I wasn’t too surprised to find out he was slightly addicted to pornography.
If, after expressing your discomfort around sex/physical intimacy, or you’ve outlined your boundaries and he STILL thinks that just because he’s a date/boyfriend, he’s licensed to touch you in intimate places, whenever he wants…
Worse, if he puts/forces you into tempting, compromising positions which make sexual consent grey – ie, going to a hotel to “rest”/spend one night – this is a guy who has no respect for your boundaries at all or your body and will do whatever he feels like just cause he’s horny.
7. Poor or weird communication patterns
A guy I dated had some of the most bizarre communication ever. I had no idea if it was because we both had different native languages and weren’t fluent in each other’s languages (another reason why I don’t recommend dating someone whose language you don’t speak).
But he literally couldn’t really express himself about important things. He would tell me 50 different versions of an event if we discussed it 50 different times.
It was to the point where I just didn’t know which version was right, or was he lying or simply forgot something previously.
He would also never be able to answer questions in first person. He’d always go off on a tangent and talk about what the objective view was, what other people generally felt or thought, but never what he felt or thought.
He just could never put his own feelings into words. We could talk about theories all night long (and honestly that was the best bit of the relationship) but we could never properly discuss our emotions or difficult issues in the relationship.
It was all so weird and one of the most bizarre communication patterns I’ve ever experienced in any relationship in my life.
8. Passive aggressive speech and behaviour
Ah. This is the one where both or one of you would rather maintain that status quo in the relationship but never come right out and tell each other how you feel.
For instance, instead of telling me he didn’t like it that I was late, he would act like Mr Nice Guy and smile and say it was all okay. But later on, take it out on me in terms of roundabout insults and sly jabs.
Passive aggressiveness is dishonesty, plain and simple. And is a huge barrier towards healthy communication.
9. Borderline addicted to porn. Or to some sort of vice. Or to work.
I’m personally not a fan of porn for many reasons. I understand that we all have seen it at some point in our lives but I don’t feel it’s necessary at all in a relationship.
And I feel that the more porn you’ve watched, the less satisfied you are with your partner’s body and your sexual relationship.
This dude had been watching porn since he was 9, and using his phone or computer was such a pain, as he would have all these hardcore videos in folders or internet bookmarks that I’d accidentally come across.
It was literally part of his life. Same goes with guys who are addicted to something – be it videogames, alcohol and even work.
Yes, work. Lots of people use work as a sort of escape so they don’t have to deal with the problems in their lives.
If all these things, vices, whatever you call them, are getting in the way of his lifestyle and it is affecting your relationship, you need to ask yourself if you could handle all that.
I personally can’t handle any of that and would be out the door if I found out he was addicted to anything.
10. Sticky as hell. People who don’t have their own lives.
I’m flattered that you like me that much, but I personally can never again be with a guy who doesn’t have his own life.
I mean you had a life before you met me so what happened to that?
Someone I was seeing literally stopped hanging out with friends and everything when we started dating (and had the gall to blame it on me), when I was dying for him to just get on and do his own things. He had to have dinner with me everyday (even when I said I wasn’t up to it) and every single weekend had to be spent with him.
Whenever I went out with my girlfriends, he’d be texting me all throughout. If I hung out with my gfs longer than expected, he’d be waiting for me at our hangout place, so that he could accompany me home or he would chastise me for “not ending my hangout on time” and then made a huge fuss over how girls liked to ‘talk a lot of crap when they are together’.
It’s a huge self-esteem/independence/insecurity red flag for me whenever I see people who feel like they need to spend 24/7 with their partners. It also reeks of control.
It also shows co-dependency tendencies and gives you absolutely no space to get to know yourself, develop your own identity and indulge in other social relationships and hobbies.
It’s unhealthy and toxic – not only for you but the relationship too, and it’s not attractive.
11. Overly dramatic
One dude I was with. Wow, I couldn’t even have a difficult conversation or anything with him because I feared the drama he’d cause in public.
I wanted to break up with him once and it ended with him kneeling, wailing and begging in a very public place. It felt like emotional manipulation to me.
If he is someone who cannot have an adult-like conversation about things without resorting to dramatics or emotional manipulation, then you gotta ask yourself if it is a relationship you want to be a part of.
12. Stubborn-ness and a lack of open-mindedness
I think this is one personality trait that I consider to be a dealbreaker in a relationship – besides bossiness, arrogance, materialism, selfishness and laziness.
This guy was so stubborn about many things, even right down to hygiene. He hadn’t been to the dentist in decades and just refused to. And his teeth weren’t in good shape.
He also never liked to listen to my opinion and somehow always felt like his way of living or thinking was better than mine.
It didn’t help that he was 8 years older than me and constantly felt the need to rub that in by saying “you will know when you grow up and reach my age” (I was in my 20s).
It never felt like he wanted to change for the better or grow, whilst I was constantly working on myself. Not a surprise that we ended up growing apart.
13. Was older than 30 but was broke all the time
Money is certainly not everything in the relationship, but it becomes difficult to sustain when you literally have to think twice whenever you are out.
For this particular dude, he had to borrow money from me quite a bit and it didn’t make me feel good. Now, if you are one of those ladies who doesn’t mind financially supporting your man, more power to you. But I am not like that.
And I felt bad whenever he paid for our dinners (almost daily) and tried to eat as cheaply as possible whenever we went out. I found it exhausting.
I’m not expecting to be wined and dined. But I also didn’t want to date feeling like everything we did was a burden on his bank account.
What was even weirder was that he had been holding down decent jobs for at least a decade but always managed to get his money swindled by someone.
Or he’d make hasty, impulsive decisions and invest hard-earned money into get-rich-quick schemes or careers and then wonder why he had almost no money left.
Financial saavy-ness is now on my list of dealbreakers when dating someone.
14. Was obsessed with acting like “the good guy”
There’s something about someone who feels a need to behave in a way that is ‘good’ or ‘right’ almost all the time.
It makes me wonder – are you doing it because you really want to or are you doing it because you feel it makes you look good to others?
There’s a strong hint of inauthenticity with the second one. And it always made me wonder if he was treating me well because he really liked me or he wanted to look good to people who knew us.
If you want to do good deeds, do them because you genuinely want to, do them because you love someone and want the best for them. But don’t do something because you think it’s gonna give you a good image.
15. Doesn’t listen/disregards what I say
Dude also couldn’t respect my words whenever I said I wanted a day or two off to study (I was a stressed-out college kid then). He’d constantly badger me for lunch or dinner together or just constantly texted me. I’m pretty independent and need alot of personal space and his actions just turned me off him really fast. If the dude you are seeing literally has no life, his world revolves around you only and he can’t seem to respect your need for personal space, then you need to re-evaluate your relationship.
Your thoughts? Experienced any of the above before?
With 10 years of experience as a Researcher (MSc) in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mental Health, Consumer and Organisational Behaviour; I help action-oriented, time-strapped people and solopreneurs crush their inner critics, navigate toxic workplaces and relationships and build their self-esteem so that you can have the freedom, happiness and confidence you desire. I spend the rest of my time daydreaming and downing cups of tea/coffee – my life’s vice.