Relationships are complicated. We all have a few flaws, faults and quirks - nobody is perfect. So it makes sense that some things need to be ignored, overlooked, or lovingly accepted. However, some signs are actually bright red flags flapping violently in the wind that simply must be acknowledged. Whether that means working together on a compromise or accepting that a person is just all wrong for you, here are some neon warning signs to be on the look out for.
1. They can't stop telling you how perfect you are. AKA love bombing. A classic sign of a narcissist. At first you feel like the most amazing person on the planet, but when you’ve been put on a pedestal there’s only one way to go. It’s hard to live up to such ridiculous expectations. It’s important that your partner sees you as you are - a normal, flawed, breathing human being - not some imaginary projection in their head. We all need to be loved and accepted for who we are, not how someone imagines us to be.
2. They rush a new relationship forward too quickly. They profess their love for you, plan a vacation together, talk about how many kids you’ll have, etc very early in the relationship. They’re either on the rebound, trying to sync up with where they thought they’d be relationally by now, incapable of being alone, or a malignant narcissist. Either way, NOPE, NOPE, NOPE & NOPE!
3. They dislike you friends or family. If someone tries to drive a wedge between you and your family or friends, this could be an early warning sign of controlling behaviour. It can be quite subtle, but important to be mindful of. How does you partner speak about people who are important to you? Do they resent coming along to family get-togethers, or decline to join in at all? Do they take time to get to know your best friends? Sharing your time with friends, family and your partner should be easy. You shouldn’t have to choose or compartmentalise. Anyone who wants you all to themselves is likely someone worth running far, far away from - before they sink their claws in any deeper. While we’re on the subject of family, notice how they treat theirs. If they have a fundamental lack of respect for the people who literally gave them life, imagine how they’ll treat others who get close to them.
4. They describe all their exes as "crazy." Some relationships end so badly that we're still bitter a year or two down the track. It happens. However, if your new partner speaks badly about all their past relationships - especially if they were all ‘crazy’ - it’s probably worth considering whether they are representing their ex’s accurately. Be open to the idea that your potential new partner probably lacks the self-awareness to realise they were, in fact, part of the problem. No-one has that much bad luck. Don’t think you’ll be the exception or the one to fix them. If they lack awareness, they won’t want fixing. Be especially mindful if you hear my way or the highway statements like “Don’t try to change me.” or “If you don’t like it, leave.”
5. They call you names in arguments. There’s a HUGE difference between being playful and being rude. Hurtful words are designed to do exactly that - hurt. Be especially mindful of anyone who seems to flip a switch and transform into an unrecognisable monster when you disagree. When someone’s arguments take the form of name-calling, or personal attacks it’s a pretty clear admission that they don’t have anything valid or worthwhile to say. Name-calling becomes a substitute for rational, fact-based discussion. Name-calling is a sign of disrespect and does not make for a happy relationship. Take note of how you feel and trust those feelings.
6. They make you feel stupid. Undoubtedly one of the biggest red flags is when someone happily gaslights you. Gaslighters twist the truth to make you doubt your sanity, memory, or reality. It’s actually crazy making stuff, and subtly chips away at your self-esteem and self-worth. Often abusers will disguise their hurtful comments as jokes, followed up with dismissive comments when you object “I was only joking”; “It’s all in your head”; or “You’re too sensitive.” Other tactics to look out for include regularly mocking or belittling your ideas, and refusing to take your opinions seriously. Non-verbals such as eye-rolling or sighs fall into the same category. Research shows eye-rolling to be a common predictor of divorce, and why wouldn’t it be? Happy relationships sit on a foundation of mutual respect.
7. They hold you to a double standard. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander as the saying goes. Notice any patterns of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Don’t be manipulated by claims of insecurity or forgetfulness, etc. as justification. Either the rule applies to everyone, or it applies to no-one. Period. Typically some form of punishment is involved - it might be covert (silent treatment) or overt (yelling or name-calling). Secrecy is one area where double standards often apply. They might expect to know everything about your life, but be secretive even about little things in theirs. Beware of sudden attitude changes too. They might spend the entire day being mean to you, then suddenly turn on the charm with zero explanation or apology, only to switch moods back again just as quickly. Lack of consistency and predictability are huge red flags that, if ignored, at best will leave you confused, at worst have you walking on eggshells.
8. They refuse to make your relationship public. Have they avoided ‘putting a label’ on your relationship? Does their social media presence appear as though they’re single or you’re not together? Does their behaviour change around their friends? Are you only allow to meet certain ones? Do they show you affection in public? PDA’s are a personal thing. Some people don't like advertising their personal life all over social media. Others aren’t into sharing their feelings with friends, but that's different from flat-out hiding your relationship, which is about as glaringly red as a flag can get!
9. They have no work ethic. Life can get in the way of personal milestones, but if they don’t quite have their life together, is it because of a big setback or sacrifice in their life? Are they working hard every day to build the kind of life they actually want for themselves? Or are they just completely unmotivated or (worst still) have a sense of entitlement around being looked after? In which case…NEXT. You might find that you have very different values or expectations around money, success or life goals. There are probably some important conversations to be had early on in the relationship. Attitude makes all the difference.
10. They're incapable of apologising. Especially if everything is always somehow your fault and/or if the focus is flipped back on your delivery and away from addressing what they did wrong. Some people have an uncanny ability to make their partner feel responsible and guilty for all their misfortunes. These are not people you want to date. Back away slowly.
Recognising these early warning signs can make the difference between staying in an unhealthy relationship that worsens over time, or ending it and moving on to one that’s healthy. Be brave. You need to date someone's reality not their perceived potential.
"People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be." ~ Don Draper (Mad Men)
Share with someone you think might find this helpful :)
DEBORAH FARRELL (MCounPsych)