When it comes to our significant other we may explain away or even deny uneasy feelings. Keep these relationship red flags in mind when the going is tough.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the excitement of something new, we lose sight of what’s best and healthy for our lives. This can mean overdoing it with an exercise regimen or diet, it can mean missing important details about a new job, and it can most certainly relate to our relationships.
The lure and sparkle of a partnership can blind us to areas of incompatibility or relationship red flags. While personality quirks or bad habits can be overlooked or change over time, there are some red flags that should not be ignored as they might be indicative of more serious—even dangerous—concerns.
Relationships can make us want to explain away or even deny uneasy feelings, but these red flags should never be ignored.
1. Your partner is quick to become angry, yell, or throw things.
Everyone gets angry sometimes, it’s the frequency and severity of your partner’s reactions that should act as a guide for your concerns. Expressing anger, even by yelling, can release tension, frustration and pain—if done in a safe manner; but it should not be used as a method of control in any situation. Using anger to instill fear in another is unacceptable behavior in any relationship.
Pay attention to the direction your partner’s anger is directed. Are you the recipient of a barrage of nasty words? Are you expected to absorb the negativity, even if you had nothing to do with the situation? Are you often blamed for your partner’s horrible mood? Does your body ever register fear when your partner erupts?
If you are answering ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may need to take a step back from the situation to observe your partner’s patterns. Objectively witness. Look for common triggers and consistent reactions. Bring the issue to light through calm, assertive conversations when you’re both in a good mood and see if the issue can be remedied. If you discover it can not, removing yourself from the relationship may be the best thing for your mental and spiritual well-being, as well as your physical safety.
2. Your partner shows signs of secretive behaviors or excessive lying.
Fact: you can not have a healthy relationship without honesty. This is a non-negotiable component of a strong partnership. If your partner seems as if they’re up to no good, they very well might be.
If your partner seems to keep you compartmentalized from certain areas of their life, this might be a red flag for dishonesty. Similarly, if, on a regular basis, your partner refuses to discuss other aspects of their day, keeping details of his or her whereabouts or activities from you, this could be indicative of a greater problem.
If they are unwilling to share even the most benign details of their life with you, how are you to connect on a more intimate level? Not to mention, what exactly are they hiding?
Now, there is a difference between being a private person and being secretive. Perhaps your partner likes to have an hour or two of quiet after work; maybe texts coming or going late at night aren’t appreciated—these might be signs of a person who prioritizes time alone rather than a person who’s living a double life.
3. Your partner shows drastic, sudden changes in behavior and/or mood.
Maybe you found a relationship that worked in all the right ways: the two of you are compatible, have a strong network of friends, have a great sex life, and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Life (and love) is good.
If all of this feel-goodness seems to vaporize over night, you have a red flag on your hands. There are 100 reasons your partner’s persona can shift, even dramatically. Before diving into the bottomless pool of worst-case scenarios, decide if an event has flipped their world upside-down. Did your partner lose a job recently? Is there an illness in the family or a sudden, tragic event that may have spun their insides into a knot of stress? Trauma—in any form—can do crazy things to our sense of well-being, so it’s best to tread lightly while you figure out the source.
If all the not-so-horrific scenarios are ruled out, listen to your gut. Is infidelity a possibility? Are there other warning signs of unfaithfulness accompanying their sudden changes in mood? Again, shifts in mood can mean many things, but they’re undoubtedly a red flag for a bigger problem.
4. Your partner shows signs of extreme, possessive behavior.
There is such thing as taking a healthy interest in your partner’s life. Whether you live together or not, basic “how was your day,” “what did you do today” conversation is perfectly normal and expected.
If your partner’s interest in your day-to-day activities seems a little much, it may be cause for concern. Some of the earliest red flags of an abusive relationship begin with seemingly harmless questions. If your partner’s gentle “how was your day” turns to much more invasive questions like “who were you with” or “what time did you go to the store/what time did you leave the store,” they may be exhibiting overly-possessive behaviors.
If these types of interactions are coupled with an over-commitment to knowing your whereabouts—they check up on you at work, arrive unannounced to wherever you are, call or texts excessively, guilts you into staying home, isolates you from friends or family—you may be putting yourself in a dangerous situation and should reach out to a trusted friend, family member or, if you feel your safety is in jeopardy, the Victim’s Resource Center.
5. Your partner doesn’t say “I’m sorry.”
While this may not seem like as big a deal as the previous red flags, the inability to say “I’m sorry” to a partner can have far-reaching repercussions. If your partner refuses to apologize when he or she has done something wrong, this is a red flag for a perception of inequality in the relationship. This inequality can be interpreted two ways, however; your task will be to uncover the ‘why’ before you can address the issue.
In the first scenario, an inability to say “I’m sorry” can be a way for your partner to project dominance or superiority in the relationship. When faced with a problem, you partner will unload responsibility to any one other than him or herself. They’ll talk around the issue instead of addressing it in a direct manner. They storm off to avoid confrontation only to return later as if nothing happened. These are all red flags; and by accepting this behavior, you send the message that this is acceptable, that you don’t deserve honesty, that you are not equals in the partnership.
In the second scenario, I speak from experience; there are times when an apology has deep, nasty roots of inadequacy. Apologies are an admission of guilt, which is essentially saying, “I’m not perfect.” None of us are perfect, it’s true, but to expose yourself in such a way with the one you love leaves you vulnerable to criticism or rejection. It wasn’t until my partner brought my conspicuously absent apologies to my attention that I even recognized the pattern. After many (many!) conversations and a whole lot of practice, I’ve learned to apologize when I’m in the wrong—even when it hurts like hell.