Woman looking sad as she realises all the relationship red flags.

Unveiling the Warning Signs: Recognising and Addressing Relationship Red Flags

Relationship red flags are a warning sign or behaviour that indicates potential issues or problems within a romantic relationship. It shows that something may be wrong or unhealthy in the relationship and requires attention and evaluation. Red flags can manifest in various ways, such as patterns of control, disrespect, dishonesty, or emotional or physical abuse, we will get into this in more detail below.

Relationship red flags are important to notice because they can have significant impacts on our emotional well-being, happiness, and overall quality of life. Ignoring red flags or dismissing them as insignificant can lead to continued dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and potential harm. By recognising and addressing red flags early on, you have the opportunity to address the issues, establish healthier dynamics, and create a foundation for a more fulfilling and mutually supportive relationship.

Woman looking sad as she realises all the relationship red flags.

While it’s important to approach each situation with context and open-mindedness, here are some common red flags to be aware of:

Lack of trust

Trust is a fundamental element in a healthy relationship. If there is consistent dishonesty, secrecy, or a general lack of trust between partners, it can erode the foundation of the relationship.

Trust is what keeps a relationship working, especially in the world we live in, with mobile phones, apps and emails, being secretive is really easy, and trust is all the more important. When you feel like your partner is hiding things from you or not telling you the whole truth, it can really damage the trust between you and your partner.

One thing I will say on this subject is sometimes the lack of trust isn’t because you partner isn’t trustworthy but because your own insecurities are taking over and creating that fear and paranoia, so everything you partner does becomes suspicious.

Whether it is your partner acting suspiciously and secretly or you not trusting your partner because of your insecurities, both are a red flag.

Controlling behaviour

If one partner consistently tries to control or manipulate the other’s actions, decisions, money or friendships, it can be a sign of an unhealthy power dynamic. In a relationship, you want to be able to make your own decisions. Your partner can be there to give their thoughts and opinions but ultimately it is your decision.

When they start controlling everything, it is taking away your sense of freedom and their trust in you. This can feel very disempowering and can leave you feeling trapped and scared.

Controlling behaviour can start in really subtle ways and builds up until you realise you have lots control of your life.

Constant criticism or belittling

Frequent criticism, insults, or demeaning comments can lead to emotional abuse and negatively impact self-esteem.

We want to feel safe in our relationship and that we can be ourselves and talking openly. When one partner criticises the other, it stops them feeling safe. It feels like they can’t be themselves. They start to hide or change who they are and this will undoubtedly affect them, not just in that relationship, but in all areas of their life.

Woman trapped behind bars, which represent how she feels trapped in her relationship with red flags.

Poor communication

Effective communication is essential for resolving conflicts and building a strong connection. If there is a consistent lack of communication, stonewalling, or dismissive behaviour, it can hinder the growth of the relationship.

This is one that comes up a lot. Often one person from the couple is trying to communicate with the other, but the other is not engaging, is not willing to speak about what is going on. They just dismiss that there is a problem. Not being able to properly communicate, especially when your partner is reaching out to you, can cause the one making the effort to feel unheard and want to give up.

Sometimes, this is just a case of the person either not knowing how to communicate or burying their head in the sand because it can be hard to face these feelings, and it is about finding a communication technique that works for them.

Sometimes, it is because the person doesn’t want to take responsibility for their actions and want to see themselves as faultless. It can be a lot harder to get through to this person and again different types of communications or seeing a counsellor or coach can help.


Mutual respect is crucial in any relationship. If there is a pattern of disrespectful behaviour, such as name-calling, disregarding boundaries, or dismissing feelings, it can indicate a problematic dynamic.

Respect in any relationship is vital for it to function properly. When one partner can’t respect another’s feelings, thoughts or boundaries, it can leave that person unheard and feeling unimportant, like what they regard as important to them is a joke. This kind of disrespect can damage a person’s self-esteem, possibly even to the point of them doubting their own feelings.

Contempt and hostility

If there is a pervasive sense of hostility, sarcasm, or disdain between partners, it can lead to a toxic and unhealthy environment.

You want to feel valued and loved by your partner, but when they behave in a hostile way towards you, it leaves you feeling worthless and can negatively affect your self-esteem.

Lack of support

A healthy relationship involves supporting each other’s goals, dreams, and emotional well-being. If one partner consistently undermines or dismisses the other’s aspirations or needs, it can create a significant imbalance.

You want to feel safe enough in a relationship to be open about your goals in life and having your partner’s support is so important in that pursuit, after all a life together means getting to that goal together. When you feel you don’t have your partner’s support it can be really hard to keep working towards that goal, especially if they keep dismissing it.

Intense jealousy or possessiveness

While some jealousy can be normal, excessive or irrational jealousy can lead to controlling behaviour and a lack of trust. When your partner’s behaviour is becoming so possessive that you can’t do anything without it resulting in a fight or them ignoring you, then it is going to cause you to shrink away, to stop doing things to not get them angry.

Woman looking sad on her bed.  Photo by M. on Unsplash
Photo by M. on Unsplash

Emotional or physical abuse

Any form of abuse, whether it’s emotional, physical, or sexual, is a severe red flag and should never be tolerated in a healthy relationship. If you are in this situation, there are many ways to get help. The UK Gov website has some helpful contacts: Domestic abuse: how to get help – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Lack of reciprocity

A relationship should be based on mutual give-and-take, where both partners contribute and make efforts to support each other. If there is a consistent imbalance in efforts, attention, or care, it can lead to resentment and dissatisfaction.

If one person is the one doing all the giving and the other is doing all the taking, then there is a big imbalance that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes one partner needs more from the relationship and their partner needs to be there to provide and support them during that time. At other times, it will be the other way round. What is important for a relationship to work, is that both partners are putting in effort because a relationship requires effort and attention to function effectively and be a happy environment.

It’s important to remember that no relationship is perfect, and occasional disagreements or misunderstandings are normal. However, you want to feel safe and respected in your relationship, and if you consistently observe multiple red flags or feel unhappy, it may be worth seeking support from a trusted friend, family member, or a professional, and working through it together.

We all have behaviours that can be deemed as red flags, but there is a difference between becoming aware of it and working on it to improve that behaviour and ignoring it and thinking you are perfect.

If, however, you are noticing red flags in your relationship and your partner is having none of it or it is really serious, it is time to walk away. If you are stuck and not sure what to do, get in contact with me.

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