Any new relationship is full of challenges. You’re getting to know someone, and there’s no telling when something might happen to burst the bubble of your new romance.
In general, it’s fun learning all there is to know about someone who used to be a stranger. But sometimes, there will be signs that you shouldn’t take things further.
Everyone has their own quirks and opinions, and someone who’s a bit different isn’t a reason to run for the hills. But it’s a major red flag if you find yourself compromising on yourself or feeling uncomfortable.
Business Insider asked eight relationship experts, many who specialise in helping people who have been in abusive relationships, about what they think are the major red flags.
Here’s what they said:
1. You justify their bad behaviour.
“If you find yourself justifying away what he does or says, even though these feel wrong in your gut, then that’s a surefire red flag.
“The mind is the most skilled Photoshopper – it can rationalise anything and paint any picture of anyone, depending on our initial perspective. There is a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘confirmation bias,’ where we are inclined to discard all evidence that does not align with our views and only keep those that do. And with a potentially toxic person, they have worked to create a false positive impression to worm their way into your heart.
“So even if they do something bad or say something that’s off, you may think, ‘He’s only this way because he went through X.’ This is when ticking boxes of ‘Is he rude to the waiter?’ ‘Is he nice to his family members?’ doesn’t work. He could be all that – the sleekest toxic people are.
“But underlying it, if he says things like, ‘So they will treat us better the next time,’ or he has a mean mouth towards some people, and if you find yourself justifying his transactional mindset or meanness, then it’s time to pause and step back. Our brains work overtime to convince us of someone who’s not good for us, even when our guts know it.”
– Perpetua Neo, a psychologist and expert in toxic relationships who created the Detox Your Heart program
2. They don’t talk through issues.
“I’d say the one major red flag in a person’s behaviour that may indicate that the relationship won’t work is the unwillingness to talk through issues, big or small.
“All couples have disagreements. That’s perfectly normal and healthy. But it’s how you handle those disagreements that can really make or break things. Does your partner walk away? Shut down? Place all the blame on you? Throw a tantrum? These are all red flags.
“In a good relationship, a couple can and will talk through issues, listening to the other person’s point of view and expressing his or her own. No one needs to win or lose. It’s about expressing how something makes you feel and being heard. Communication is key.”
– Erika Ettin, a dating coach who founded the dating site A Little Nudge
3. They’re constantly testing your boundaries.
“Run from anyone who attempts to cross a boundary that you have set.”
• “You have said you do not want to go further sexually and they insist.”
• “You say you are not available on Sunday, but they push you to see them.”
• “You are not ready to have them meet your family members or friends, but they push you.”
• “They push you to date exclusively before you are ready.”
• “They want to move in or get married or set up a bank account before you want.”
• “They try to change the way you wear your hair or your clothes or anything else about you that feels like ‘you,’ and it makes you uncomfortable.”
– Lisa Aronson Fontes, a psychologist who wrote the book “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship“
4. They have a massive sense of entitlement.
“When we see that somebody feels entitled to us doing more for them than what is equal in a relationship, that’s a huge red flag that they are someone who uses people. Are they comfortable with using us? Because it just shows a real clear lack of care.
“I think [it shows] when we ask somebody for help because we’re tired, or we’re overwhelmed, or our plate is too full, and that person says, ‘Yeah, I’ll get to that,’ and never does. Or the person says, ‘Well, I can’t right now,’ when they’re not really that busy.
“I see this a lot in marriages and dating relationships, where there’s always one person who’s feeding the needs of the other person. One person is giving and giving and giving, and the other person gives one back. There’s an imbalance. And the other selfish person is typically fine with their needs being met.
“If you use somebody, you don’t really care about them, or their well-being, or their overall happiness in life. It’s a habitual pattern. It’s almost like life is there to meet their needs and people are just commodities to get that done.”
– Shannon Thomas, a therapist who wrote the book “Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse“
5. Something in your gut feels wrong.
“Since red flags happen along the way road of abuse, victims see different behaviours as time and abuse goes on.
“The first thing to look for is your own intuition and listening to your gut – if you have the feeling something is wrong, things aren’t adding up, then trust that. Past relationship history is key to understanding their behaviours, as is the way they talk about past partners. If everyone in their past was ‘crazy,’ that is a huge red flag.
“Actions speak louder than words. If the date says one thing and does another, look deep into yourself and tell yourself it will only get worse and walk away. If you are dating someone who tries to rush a relationship without giving you time to get to know them properly, slow it down yourself and take control. If they are not patient with this request, you get out.
“Never be rushed, even if it feels good. A soulmate will be kind and patient, while abusers rush to confuse victims and to control. If you prove hard to control quickly, an abuser will back off, and you will save yourself heartache.”
– Tracy Malone, a relationship expert on YouTube
6. Everything is about them.
“One major red flag in relationships is when everyday life, events, conversations, and basic interactions are frequently about that person – where there’s constant manipulation and abuse of power over you.
“For instance, you could confront the person you’re dating about something they did or said that hurt you. Rather than listening to your concern and apologising, they will manipulate and flip the conversation, telling you all the things you’ve done to hurt and upset them.
“This scenario shows signs of narcissism, and things only get worse the more time you spend together. They don’t care about you and your concerns; they only care about themselves. Narcissists are void of empathy. They don’t believe they are wrong about anything, and they will constantly feel victimised, accusing you of attacking them when you’re just expressing your feelings in a situation.
“Over time, you may will feel alone, constantly guilty, and you’ll even doubt your own self-confidence and self-worth. This is definitely a reason to distance yourself from the person you’re dating. Narcissistic abuse is emotionally and psychologically damaging to their partners and most everyone they interact with.”
– Catenya McHenry, a journalist who wrote the book “Married to a Narcissist“
7. They are overly critical about their previous partners.
“I find that people are very predictable. Whatever they have done in previous relationships they are likely to do again.
“This means that if you listen carefully to how your new lover describes his or her important previous relationships and how he or she speaks about their exes, you can learn a lot about how this person is likely to treat you.
“When people describe all of their exes as terrible people and put all the blame on them for the relationship’s failure, this is a red flag for me. It practically shouts: ‘I cannot take any responsibility for whatever went wrong. I have not learned anything from these relationships. It is totally up to you to make our relationship work.’
“It is also likely to mean that they are unable to see people in an integrated and realistic way. When they started dating these other people, they probably saw them as highly desirable and all good. Now that these relationships are over, these same people are all bad. Either they have a knack for picking the absolutely worst people with whom to be in a relationship, or they are seeing all of these people in a very distorted way.
“If they could not see anyone before you realistically or make any of these relationships work, they are unlikely to be able to do it with you.”
– Elinor Greenberg, a psychologist who wrote the book “Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety“
8. They constantly deny, criticise, or dismiss you.
“You may be in a relationship with an emotional manipulator if you see an emotional double standard in the relationship, experience your feelings being denied, criticised, or dismissed, find yourself ‘giving in’ to keep the peace, and see your self-esteem diminishing.
“You may get a feeling that there is something not right – e.g., secrets, unexplained behaviours, unexpected reactions, or are increasingly criticised, blamed, put down, or discounted (often done jokingly at first), and feel confused by ‘explanations’ given about hurtful behaviours.”
– Margalis Fjelstad, a therapist who wrote the book “Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get On with Life“
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