Relationship Red Flags That Need Immediate Attention According To Couples Therapists
Being in a relationship can be a beautiful and empowering thing. But not all relationships make our lives better.
Truth be told, some relationships damage our well-being and impair our mental health. Some relationships can be toxic or even violent—it's important to keep an eye out for red flags.
But what are red flags? Simply put, they are warning signs that a person cannot have a healthy relationship. They can indicate unhealthy and even manipulative behavior. Excessive jealousy is something to look out for. Frequent lying is another. It's important to remember that red flags can be insidious... and that they can grow bigger over time.
The question is: What do you look out for?
Couples therapists told us what to look out for after Redditor Gnerdy asked the online community:
"Couples therapists, without breaking confidentiality, what are some relationships that instantly set off red flags, and do you try and get them to work out?"
"These are typically young women..."
"When one person is entirely dependent on the other, especially at a relatively young age. I mean financially and emotionally."
"These are typically young women (sometimes young men as well) who do not work, do not have children, stay home all day and have no friends or hobbies outside of hanging out with their spouse. Very unhealthy, and a huge red flag. Always ends in a painful and messy breakup."
"Generally, we try to get them to find a friend, join a community, get a job or volunteer - something to provide them with self worth and personal fulfillment outside of their spouse."
The idea of joining a relationship without anything of your own to fall back on is legitimately terrifying.
"One person says..."
"One partner says they’re seeking your services to help them determine if they want to stay together; the other partner says they’re seeking your services to make it so they stay together."
"Then it’s about highlighting the points and allowing the person who is on the fence decide what they want, since the other person knows."
That's so depressing, just waiting for someone to decide if they want you. Sadly, it's common.
"This comes in many forms, from gaslighting to just simple denial of another's opinion. Most of the time one or both parties are simply trying to be heard on an emotional level with an event or topic that was brought up, but the other party takes this as a personal attack on their ideals."
Do not tell someone how they feel or what they think. It won't end well.
"I saw a couple..."
"I saw a couple that was doing "retaliatory" cheating (and telling each other about it). When they got through their anger, they decided to call a truce and made peace. With their level of emotional maturity, I doubt it lasted. I don't know if I helped them or prolonged their suffering. It was their decision to come to counseling, so I think it was the help they wanted."
"Other clients realize what they really want is "divorce counselling". What's the best way to behave civilly and minimize damage to the kids while we go our separate ways?"
I think it would be great if divorce counseling were normalized. It would save a lot of people a lot of pain.
"People who approach therapy..."
"People who approach therapy with the idea that they must convince the therapist that they’re right and their partner is wrong. Almost like they’re complaining to a parent or boss to have them sort out the problems."
Pointing out all the things your partner did wrong and demanding that the therapist tell you how to fix it isn't a winning strategy for any relationship.
"Contempt. When I experience true contempt from one in the relationship I know it is usually over. Look towards a peaceful ending at that point if possible."
Ah, contempt! One of the four horsement predictors of divorce!
"When people come in..."
"One of the biggest red flags I see when working with a new couple is when they've totally forgotten the good. Part of relationship therapy is reconnecting a couple with what they like about each other, what initially attracted them to each other, and what the positives are between them."
"When people come in and they've been so unhappy for so long that they actually can't remember what it was like to be in love, or to even like each other, they're just about hopeless."
"You don't have to be happy for therapy to work--but if you can't even reminisce about the good times, then the good times are probably over."
This makes sense. Why did you get together? What did you like about each other? What do you love about each other?
It's important to keep that in mind.
"It erodes trust..."
"Couples in a tit for tat arrangement. For example: I cheated so you can have one night to cheat with whomever. Or I violated your trust and did drugs, you can go out and do whatever for one night. It erodes trust and compounds the hurt."
Yeah... nothing about that behavior is even remotely healthy. People should just leave at that point.
"I most commonly see..."
"Control to an excessive amount. I most commonly see partners having to send pictures holding up a certain number of fingers or proving that it's a live picture. This is abuse."
This is utterly heartbreaking. Hopefully these patients recognized the signs and bailed.
"Overbearing parents and in laws. I understand there's a ton of cultural nuance here, and I work with couples who have arranged marriages, as well as the south Asian community. However, when a spouse is more allied with their parents and calls them on speakerphone for fights, or often speaks ill of their partner to their parents, I usually see these couples stay very unhappily married for years."
Overbearing parents can absolutely threaten a relationship. It's important to remember that your relationship is separate from your parents — and that your partner deserves your love and allegiance.
Knowing how to identify red flags in a relationship is extremely important. In order to address them, you must learn what they look like and why they are so dangerous.
While this list isn't exhaustive, it's definitely a start. It is possible to identify red flags and put an end to toxic relationships before the damage is done.
Have some thoughts of your own? Tell us more in the comments below.
The reason why some single people are unable to find love can be loosely attributed to either one of the following.
Person A might be difficult or overbearing and can potentially scare off certain people.
Or, Person B might be really picky and refuses to make compromises once they start a new relationship.
For the latter individual, it can be an idiosyncratic thing about the other person that can be enough to be a turn-off.
Curious to hear what some of these examples could be, Redditor DrDecane asked:
"What's the smallest thing that made someone unattractive for you?"
These Redditors found it challenging trying to make awkward romantic situations work.
The Silent Partner
"I once went on a date with a man who literally only spoke when responding to a question, answered as briefly and evasively as possible, and offered no reciprocating questions or remarks."
"At the end of a 45 minute struggle when we parted ways, while I was still trying to figure out why a person with such crippling social anxiety would subject himself to an interaction so far outside his ability to handle, he asked if we could see each other again sometime."
"They were a bad cook. They didn’t use SEASONINGS! It’s not an allergy thing either. They made good money too it’s not a poverty thing. Literally they liked plain chicken breast no seasonings and dry as bone. He made me a 'taco' that consisted of only unseasoned hamburger in a plain ( not even warm) taco shell 🌮. No salsa , no cheese, no cilantro.. greasy meat in a room temp shell."
"I’m not cooking 3 meals a day for 2 people for the rest of my life and I sure as sh*t ain’t eating his satanic creations."
"I dated a girl that had a catch phrase. I think she uses Reddit and the catch phrase is very distinct so on the off chance she sees this I won’t say it. It didn’t make a lot of sense, think if someone were to say 'If you’re there, then you’ve made it!'”
"Except she would say it in response to all sorts of random situations where it wasn’t at all appropriate. Whenever someone complimented her or me, if you talked about plans you had. Just randomly tossing it out on conversations."
"It became a turn off so quickly because I just could not wrap my head around why she said it so often. I got sick of hearing it from her. Legitimately one of the biggest reasons we broke up."
Some dates are just unkisseable.
"White stuff in the mouth corners."
"Went to dinner, they started chewing kinda loud with their mouth open. I have misophonia, so it's probably even worse for me when someone does that. Immediate no."
The Sloppy Friend
"My husband’s best friend can’t eat without getting food all over his face and making gross noises while chewing. He also is a SUPER loud drunk. And walks out of the bathroom and back to the conversation while still simultaneously zipping/buttoning his jeans and buckling his belt."
"Really sweet, funny guy and a wonderful friend to both of us. But I cannot even imagine dating him. It would probably end in murder."
"Jesus, I dated a guy who ate like a bird...there was food EVERYWHERE by the time the meal was done. Flinging it around somehow without me actually seeing him do it. A sneaky flinger. Picture a parakeet beak deep in a food tray filled with seeds. Just chucking the seeds. Dig, eat, fling, nope, don't like that one bite, fling over the shoulder..."
"Dude cringed when I brought out a beach towel and put it on my new couch before we started eating dinner. As I was spreading the towel, I looked him dead in the eyes and declared, 'if you damage my new, $2,500 couch, you are dead.'"
Unsolicited texts and photos aren't always the way into one's heart.
Not The Way To Start The Morning
"He sent me selfies every morning with his good morning text."
"Yesssssss. So awkward. Like, am I supposed to send one back? Every day?"
"We hadn’t even met in person yet."
It took a vacation for these Redditors to realize they were not with the kind of people they'd want to ever share a life with.
Realization During A Vacation
"On a trip to the islands. HE WAS STEALING BATHROOM TOWELS and putting all the sugar and tea packets into his bag. He was telling me to hurry and stock up as well😐 I asked him if he really planned to steal 'thousands of a** towels..' he stopped packing. This was an eye opener to me. I was turned off and we are no longer together.😎"
Demeaning The Workers
"They went from an 11/10 to a 0/10 because they decided to berate and belittle the people who were helping us with our luggage as we got on and started our boat cruise. The rest of the trip was awkward af"
At the risk of sounding shallow, years ago I briefly dated a tennis player whose winsome personality won my heart.
However, I noticed something really peculiar about him. Every time we were out walking, I noticed he had the tendency of leaning into me whenever I was on his left side while walking in tandem.
When I casually asked him about his frequent need for getting awkwardly close, he explained that his gait was affected by a condition that left him with one leg shorter than the other.
After we completed that day's rendezvous together, I subsequently ghosted him.
Okay, I fully admit my shallowness in that situation.
I'm not proud of it.
Sometimes adulting is incredibly hard, especially when we're going through a trying time or are struggling with our health or mental health.
These pieces of advice may seem simple on the surface, but especially during the hard times, they could create a meaningful change for someone.
Redditor TheSensibleTurtle asked:
"What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?"
"It came from Reddit, funnily enough."
"'Set limits for what you’re prepared to give, because people who take don’t have limits for how much they’re prepared to take.'"
"I’ve definitely applied it to my life. Unfortunately, there are several people I know who have yet to apply it to theirs."
"Never lend money you can't afford to ever see again. Also, loan money with the expectation that you're never going to see it again."
"The single most important decision you will make in life is your partner."
Know What You Want
"If it's not a clear yes, then it's a no."
"Nothing is permanent. Jobs, relationships, good times, and bad times."
"Something I say to myself when making big decisions."
"In relationships: It's not you and your significant other against each other. It's both of you against the problem."
Time After Time
"A very rich friend of mine told me that he can buy or access almost anything at this stage of his life, except time. Make the most of every moment."
Drink Your Water
"I had a friend's mom down my childhood street that insisted this was the curative agent for all that ailed you. And most of the time, she was not wrong."
"Indigestion? Water. Constipated? One tall glass of water every hour at least. Headache? Water."
"Her kid got the flu and his mom was like, 'I'm not taking him to the doctor. What are they gonna do? Tell him to drink water and eat food? I'm not paying 20 bucks and waiting an hour to hear that."
Gossip Goes Both Ways
"People who gossip about others to you, gossip about you to others."
Communication Is Key
"You have the right to tell someone how they make you feel."
"Never attempt to fix a plumbing problem when the hardware store is closed."
"It was from my dad. I am pretty sure that he learned it the hard way!"
You Are Worth More
"Your job doesn't define you."
"Don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm."
"If you can just barely afford a house then you can’t afford it really. Something for new homeowners to bear in mind."
"Have some friends that bought a very expensive house. They used every bit of what they were able to be loaned. They now work just to be able to live in the house. Tried to tell them that if the majority of their income goes to the mortgage, then they can't afford the house."
“'Just do the things that make you happy and don’t do the things that don’t make you happy.'"
"From an ex-boyfriend who said this to me years ago. It’s so simple but kind of blew my anxious little self’s mind."
Don't Listen to Them
"'Don’t take criticisms from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.'"
"I suffer from insecurities and have had people make some horrendous comments to me in my life. Someone once told me the above quote and it made something click in my head. From then on, things have been a h**l of a lot better."
While some of these tips appear resoundingly simple, they could be a real life-changer if put into practice.
It's understandable why so many people are afraid of the dark.
There is no clear sight ahead, no telling who might be around, not to mention being even more attuned to every sound you hear in your periphery.
There's simply no telling what may happen to you when you're out alone in the dark.
Unfortunately, nothing can stop the same things from happening to you in broad daylight.
Indeed, the most terrifying things many people ever experienced happened when the sun was shining high.
"What's the scariest thing that has ever happened to you during broad daylight?"
Never Trust Strangers
"When I was around 8, a man approached me in a busy park and asked if I wanted to come see his pet dog."
"He was pointing to a wooded area to the side of the park."
"I now know that in that woods is an abandoned rail line."
"Luckily I had enough common sense to say no and run to an adult."
"I shudder to think what could have happened now."- foxfaced95
You Meet All Kinds Of People At A Bus Stop
"I once was at a bus station in the morning, waiting for the bus that would take me to University."
"I was looking straight ahead when I felt a huge pain in my ear."
"I turned around and realized a guy had just punched me on the ear."
"I looked at him and the look in his eyes was terrifying."
"He was like on drugs or something."
"Never met the guy."
"I screamed 'what the f*ck?'"
"And then something unrealistic happened: a bus pulled over (not mine) and the driver who must have witnessed the scene hopped off, told the guy 'you don’t hit girls!' and jumped on him to fight."
"I was shocked."
"The bus I was supposed to take arrived and I ran inside."- elratoncitohermoso
The World We Live In
"For context, I live in Lebanon."
"The scariest day of my life was August 4, 2020."
"Let me explain."
"So it was about 6:00 PM, and I was walking to the living room to watch TV."
"(I was about 13 at the time) Then, the ground started shaking."
"I thought it was in my head. because I always get randomly dizzy. "
"So I held onto the wall, and the wall was asking to."
"I then screamed to alert mother and sister (my father was at work) and then all hell broke loose."
"I hear a loud explosion sound that rang in my ears, and a carpet hit me in the face."
"I look outside and see a huge purple cloud of smoke."
"Turns out I had just witnessed one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions to have been recorded."
"Killed over 200 people, 7,000 injured, and 300,000 left homeless."- jshayya184
It Happens More Often Than We Realize
'I once witnessed a police shootout directly across the street from me."
"I remember my girlfriend at the time not having the good sense to duck out of the way so I had to grab her and drag her to the ground then into a doorway to stay out of the line of fire."- Factsaretheonlytruth
What A Tragedy
Was out for a walk with my family when a drive-by happened a few doors down."
"No one in the house was hurt, but an old man was jogging on the sidewalk and was killed by the shooting."
"Wrong place, wrong time."- EdithWhartonsFarts
Nightmares Come To Life
"When I was probably around 7 or 8 I had an overwhelming fear of being kidnapped to the point where I’d duck down in the backseat of the car so that anyone passing us wouldn’t see me."
"Yeah I know."
"So one day my brother and I rode with my mom to the bank to deposit some checks or whatever else she had to do."
"I was scared sh*tless of somebody opening up the car door and grabbing me."
"This older dude pulls up next to us, gets out of his car, and proceeds to walk over to cup his hands on the window to look into the car."
'I about sh*t my pants."- rkcorinth
So Many Questions
"I was out back at work smoking a cigarette and this spray-painted van rolled up right next to me asking if we were gonna use some paint cans left over from the remodel."
"When he rolled down his window I saw that he too was completely covered in spray paint."
"I told him I didn’t know if he could take them and I started walking away and the dude in the van followed right next to me with his door open talking to me and I freaked and f*cking ran."- devilshibata
Why You NEVER Play on Train Tracks
"So when I was 12, me and my friends thought it would be epic to climb up the side of a stopped train and go to the top."
"Once we got up there we gazed amongst the clouds, starred onto the city scapes, it felt so high up."
"Our hearts raced as we jumped over the 4 foot gaps in between train carts, we were high on life."
"My friends were in front of me jumping between carts, and suddenly as I was mid-air, the train jolted forward causing me to miss my jump and come crashing down tumbling in-between the train carts."
"I don't remember much about the fall, all I remember was that I smashed my head against something and then woke up moments later confused and in so much pain."
"So there I was, massive headache, confused as hell, under a slow but moving train, the under belly of the train just scraping against my back."
"I start to crawl my way out of the first space of the two carts but I realize I don't have time so I lay there contemplating whether I can crawl in-between the wheels of the length of the cart."
"I cant, it's too narrow, so I wait for the 2nd space in-between the next two carts for what felt like a life time."
"My heart was racing so fast, I was feeling light headed, I was in shock."
"As it approaches I start crawling, at this point the train is picking up speed so either I go now or I stay and pray to god nothing catches onto me and rips me to shreds."
"The opening approaches and I crawl over the rails. As I stumble over the rails I see the massive train wheel inches away from my legs."
"I made it out just barely."
"So close that the wheel caught my shoe and tore it up."
"But it wasn't over."
"After getting out from under the train, I take a deep breath of relief and stare up to the sky thinking 'holy f*ck I almost died'."
"Then I hear a loud horn, flip over and looked to my right."
"There was another oncoming train."
"There was another set of tracks."
"I realized I couldn't get up in time because of how fast that train was approaching, so I had no choice but to lay in the middle of the two trains and hope to god nothing bad happened."
"Scariest 5 minutes of my life."- mvfsullivan
"Someone tried to pull me into his car in Broad daylight in Southampton."- TheToyGirl
ALWAYS Tell Your Parents. ALWAYS.
"Got harassed by a grown man when I was 13."
"My local Wal-Mart used to have a McDonald's and my mom let me borrow her debit card to go and get a snack."
"I ordered and paid, this man, probably 40s, came up to the counter, smiled at me."
"I sort of ignored him."
"I had my mom's debit card in my hand and my hand resting on the counter."
"Her debit card had her photo on the back of it."
"He reached over and rotated my wrist and said, 'you look a lot younger in real life than in your photo'."
"I didn't know what to do so I stared at him and he chuckled at me, all the time holding me by the wrist."
"He grinned at me and said, 'what, do don't want to talk? You just want to eat? You like burgers?"
"Again, I was so scared I couldn't move, couldn't react."
"He was holding me by the wrist."
"So I just stared at him. He kept smirking and chuckling at me. "
"Then his friend came over and joined him, asked what he was doing. "
"Guy 1 says, 'trying to have a conversation with my young friend here but she doesn't seem very interested'."
"Guy 2 looked at me, looked at his friend holding me by the wrist...and he laughed. Said I obviously had good taste to ignore his friend."
"The whole time this is happening we're standing at the counter of this McDonalds and no one even noticed."
"Not one person saw a scared pre-teen girl being literally clutched by a grown man, kept in place by two."
"Finally my order was placed on the counter and I took the bag."
"The first man still hadn't let me go. "
"I told him, 'my mom is waiting, I have to go now'."
"And he tightened his grip."
"I was looking around, trying to find a way to be helped."
"I had lost my voice."
"I couldn't speak."
"I was so scared."
"And then I saw my mom through the crowd and called out for her."
"Guy 1 let go of me at once and he and his friend walked off."
"I ran to my mom."
"I didn't tell her what happened."
"I never have."
"I don't know why."- carmelacorleone
Always stay alert, no matter where you are, or the time of day.
Do you have any similar experiences? Let us know in the comments below.
While people try their best to be pleasant, sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own worlds that we don't realize some of our behaviors or actions aren't appreciated by everyone.
Things like talking on the phone in a public place or listening to music without headphones have become so normal that people don't always realize others may be irritated by this behavior.
There any many things that some people consider normal that others think are rude.
Curious to know what some of those things are, Redditor dentistani asked:
"What is something people find normal, but you find horribly rude?"
What Happened To Private Conversations?
"Face timing in public. Not everyone wants to be a part of your personal life or conversation."
"Talking on speaker phone in public. The number of people I see holding their phone out in front of their face while they yell into it is annoying."
Don't Answer The Question
"When someone talks to you or asks you a question, then when I respond with a meaningful answer, the other person just talks about something else to someone else or just doesn't respond."
"My MIL does this. Whenever we visit, she'll ask me a question about work/my side of the family/a hobby I have/whatever as a platitude, and a lot of times before I'm even done answering, she'll be like, "Oh, hey, [my nephew], tell them about your baseball game last weekend.""
May We Meet Again
"Depending on culture, people will propose to meet up again but they do not really mean it. Where I am from, if you tell someone you want to meet up again you actually mean it. I learned it the hard way when I took people for their word and tried to arrange a meet up but they'd ignore me."
"They say they do this to be polite but I consider it more rude. Just say ''goodbye''"
I'm Not Here
"People just showing up for a ‘surprise visit’, like I love my family and friends but sometimes I just don’t want to hang out and a bit of forewarning would be nice"
"I've had to set boundaries with my mother as she was doing the "We're coming down and going to stay with you thing." Like could you ask?! Besides she's exhausting and never stops talking and needing attention."
"If someone shows up unannounced at my door I just don’t answer. F*ck em"
Text Me Back!
"Expecting me to be within reach at all times. Just because I have a phone does't mean I hate you because I leave it in the other room sometimes, or go on a walk without it. I'm not dead if I take a couple of hours to get back to you."
"There’s a special place in hell for people who keep messaging you trying to get your attention simply because they want it and not because they have anything important to say."
Can't Hear Myself Think
"Kids watching videos or playing games with volume on. Sorry I was trying to enjoy my own thoughts."
"Listening to anything on your phone without headphones/earbuds while around other people. Don't care if it's radio, music, social media. Worse if other people are trying to have a conversation."
Personal Space, Please
"When clients stand directly behind me, looking over my shoulder at my computer screen while I'm at work. 1) Back up, I don't want you standing close to me. 2) I did not invite you to look at my screen, and it is intrusive and it is uncomfortable to have you watch me work."
Far Too Personal
"Asking married or older people why they don’t have kids."
"Having your phone out while socializing. I’ve stopped hanging out with people who can’t put their phone away while having a conversation, it’s so rude."
"There was a guy I was seeing for a couple months and when I would message him he would take HOURS to respond most of the time. But then when we would be out together at dinner he would be messaging on his phone right in front of me, replying to his mates group chat. Really showed his priorities."
Someone's Not Listening
"Talking over somebody whilst they’re already talking."
"Everybody does it and it’s so ignorant! It’s as if they’re saying “yeah I’m not interested in what you’ve got to say, Me, me, me and me…etc…”"
"My husband does this! Sometimes I just stop talking. If I’m irritated, I’ll say, “Sorry, did my talking get in the way of your interrupting?”"
Going, Going, Gone
"Ghosting has become pretty normal and I hate it"
"I'll never understand why this has been normalized"
"What confuses me even more is why people get so defensive when you say that it's a cruel thing to do to someone."
Ask Me First
"Filming people without their permission, especially if they are dancing or singing. Just because people are looking silly doesn’t mean you get to make them your joke."
"pushing someones face into a cake on their special day, that is terribly rude. Not funny or cool."
"Dangerous too - fancy cakes with multiple layers can be held together by wooden skewers. People have literally lost eyeballs that way."
"Just this past summer, I attended a wedding where the bride gently put a bite of cake on a fork after they had cut it together then fed it to her husband... Even cupping her hand underneath so no crumbs or icing could fall on his suit. And instead of doing the same to her, the groom full on chased his bride down to smash cake in her face super hard and throw it all over her while she was being dead serious trying to run away saying "no. please don't!" . And while everyone laughed like hyenas and cheered him on like it was just fine. One big joke."
"She looked so heartbroken after with cake all over her hair (which looked beautiful), her face (with perfect make up) and her dress (which was a unique style of dress that she had sewn a piece of one her father's shirts on since he had passed. So her dress was obviously something that she put a lot of thought and care into). He then proceeded to chastise her after she was upset in front of us, threw back his champagne in one gulp and then went back to the bar then dance floor."
"She spent the next 45 mins trying to fix herself. F*ck that guy forever. She's a distant cousin and although we aren't super close, I have ALWAYS known her to be a perfectly sweet, kind and loveable person so I couldn't believe she was with this jerk! I hope it's gotten better but.. My hopes aren't high for her. I wish I had felt comfortable enough to approach her and tell her she deserved better. I should have anyway."
Mind Your Own Business!
"When someone you don't know very well asks you personal questions."
"Add to that, someone asks you personal questions you don't know too well and feigns that are suddenly really concerned/ supportive of your struggles. Like I didn't want to be vulnerable in the first place with you and now I feel like I have to be appreciative for your fake a*s empathy."
I 100% agree with that last one!
Do you have anything you'd like to add? Let us know in the comments below.