No relationship is perfect, but some are a living hell. People say that “they should have listened to their gut”. Usually there are red flags at the beginning of the relationship that are ignored. Why do we tend to deny the obvious while dating? Why do we not want to see the warnings?

I believe that sometimes we are optimistic and think things will get better. We may not be the “critical” type, and we don’t really like to see faults in others. Other times, we want what we want, no matter what our instincts tell us. We may be lonely and ready for companionship, or the biological clock may be ticking.

Whatever the reasons are for ignoring the red flags, most people who are in a difficult relationship would advise others to heed the warnings, and run!

Some of the common red flags are:

-A person who is conflictive, always picking a fight or unhappy about something

-The person who is critical of everyone…sooner or later they will be critical of you.

-Someone who always has to be right. Proving their point and coming out on top is of utmost importance to them.

-A partner who wants to control your every move and wants you to ‘report in’ when you’re not together.

-The person who is extremely jealous and insecure, and needs excessive reassurance that you care about them.

-A person with large debt. This may signal someone who lacks discipline and self-control with spending.

-Someone who has strained relationships with family members or friends. This usually signals that they are not great at relationships.

-A person with 3+ failed marriages. Maybe they weren’t always at fault, but odds are that they were part of the problem and may not have learned from their mistakes.

-Someone addicted to prescription medication or other substances such as alcohol or drugs.

-A person who still has photos of their ex all over their Facebook page.

-The guy or gal who can’t seem to hold down a job for long.

-Someone with a vastly different educational background from yours.

-The partner who gets angry easily and explodes.

-The person who makes everything about them.

-He/she seems desperate to get married and settle down.

-The person who seems too good to be true.

-Someone who is very materialistic. They may be shallow and their priorities may be out of line.

-He/she has a hard time communicating. Either they talk all the time and don’t know how to listen, or they clam up and you don’t have a clue what’s on their mind.

Some things that were typically considered Red Flags may no longer be a concern in today’s world:

-The guy who still lives at home. In today’s economy, many young adults have returned home to share expenses and save money for the future.

-Someone from a different culture or ethnic background. Biracial or Bicultural couples are more and more common and many of them are very happy.

-Long-distance relationships. With the internet, Skype and so many other forms of communication, a long-distance relationship can work and the face-to-face time is never taken for granted!

I tell people that come to me for relationship counseling that if something bothers you a little in a relationship now, it will bother you A LOT the longer you are together. Marriage doesn’t automatically make the junk disappear, and love can conquer a lot, but it won’t change a person’s basic character.

So what should you do if you are dating someone who exhibits one or more of the red flags mentioned above? “Run, Forrest, Run!” Not really, but keep your head on your shoulders, keep your eyes wide open, realize that being alone is better than being with your worst nightmare, and be brave! Analyze the relationship, don’t lie to yourself, and have the courage to end it before it goes any further. There ARE more fish in the sea.


Deborah Pinkston, Ph.D.