RELATIONSHIPS
02/22/2018 12:01 EST

12 Relationship Red Flags You've Been Overlooking All This Time

Start paying attention.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images

When you really want a romantic relationship to work, it’s easy to ignore your partner’s less-than-redeeming qualities.

You may find yourself justifying his or her bad behavior or totally overlooking signs that this person may not make a loving, supportive long-term partner. 

We asked relationship experts to share some of the less obvious red flags that people in relationships should pay more attention to. Not everything listed below is an automatic dealbreaker, but at the very least, these things are worth considering and discussing with your partner or therapist. 

1. Your partner badmouths their exes ― all of them. 

“If your partner talks badly about all of their exes, this is a red flag that they haven’t done any introspection about what their behavior contributed to the deterioration of these previous relationships. No relationship ends only because of one person’s behavior, and if your partner acts victimized by their exes, one day they will likely play the victim card in their relationship with you.” ― Samantha Rodman, psychologist and dating coach

2. Your partner gaslights you, causing you to doubt yourself and your perception of reality. 

Gaslighting is when your partner knows that your intuition is correct, but tries to muddy the waters by causing you to second-guess yourself ― like suggesting that you are overreacting or completely off-base. A master gaslighter facilitates this process in nuanced and subtle ways so it is not obvious what is happening. For example: You hear a woman’s voice in the background when your husband calls you from his business trip, but when you question him, he convinces you it was your imagination or that it was the TV, even though you could have sworn the voice called your husband by name. 

Gaslighting is damaging because not only is a partner lying, but they are messing with your reality, which adds an extra layer of betrayal and jeopardizes your mental health. Learn to trust your gut; if you feel strongly that something is amiss, you are probably right!” ― Kimberly Resnick Anderson, sex therapist and associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine

3. Your partner refuses to make an effort to spend time with your family and friends. 

“A less noticeable but meaningful concern is when your significant other welcomes you into their friendship and family circles, but refuses to attend events and social functions in your social, family and professional life. Ideally, it should flow both ways — with invitations to join your significant other’s life milestones and occasions and also with demonstrations of interest and enthusiasm about your friendships, family and life events. If you notice that you are always making excuses for why your partner is never free to join you in social settings, this may be cause for an honest conversation.” ― Elisabeth LaMotte, therapist and founder of the DC Counseling & Psychotherapy Center

4. Your partner is rude or mean to strangers. 

“Pay attention to the small things: how they interact with the server at the restaurant, the Lyft driver, or the stranger at Trader Joe’s. Harsh treatment of strangers can say a lot about how they view others. Note that bad behavior toward strangers typically evolves into how they’ll eventually treat you. ― Ryan Howes, clinical psychologist 

5. Your partner has trouble apologizing.

“I’ve often heard people say, ‘She doesn’t like to apologize, but I know that she’s sorry.’ Or, ‘He doesn’t apologize much, but he makes up for it by being nice after we fight.’ Being able to apologize is a sign of maturity. It says, ‘I’m willing to be accountable. I can admit my mistakes.’ The red flag here is that over time, your relationship will suffer if the only person owning up to misdeeds is you.” ― Winifred M. Reilly, marriage and family therapist and author of It Takes One to Tango 

6. Your partner is weirdly possessive or secretive about their cell phone.

“If you are in a relationship with someone who is always on a cell phone or glued to a screen, this is an obvious relationship red flag. But another more subtle cause for concern is a partner who is overly possessive of their phone. For example, if your battery dies and you want to borrow their phone to make a call, but they won’t hand you the phone without first looking at the screen, it’s quite likely they have something to hide.” ― Elisabeth LaMotte

7. Your partner’s time and money are often unaccounted for.  

“The key here is ‘unaccounted for.’ When time and money goes missing, that’s generally a sign that something is off base. It may not signal anything nefarious, but it does signal a disconnect in the relationship. You don’t need to know everything all the time, but your committed partner should never wonder whether or not you’ve been in an accident, or why your shared account is lower than expected.” ― Zach Brittle, therapist and founder of the online couples therapy series forBetter 

8. Your partner stops going out of their way to do nice things for you — or never did them in the first place. 

“We all know that in the beginning of a relationship, we put our best foot forward and are attentive to our partner’s needs. As time progresses, we sometimes lose the motivation to go out of our way to do little things to please our partner. Positive regard is when you are happy to make your partner happy, when it is your pleasure to make your partner’s life a bit easier. Constant positive regard increases relationship satisfaction and reinforces good will. 

One example: I treated a woman who developed painful blisters on her skin if she peeled her own oranges. When I first met her, she was dating a man who, if she asked him to peel her an orange, would either do it in an angry manner or refuse to do it at all. She eventually broke up with him and stopped treatment. Seven months later, she called me and told me she was engaged to someone new. She told me that she reluctantly asked him to peel her an orange, assuming he would get annoyed. He said, ‘It would be my pleasure to peel you an orange, and I hope to peel you an orange every day for the rest of your life.’ She knew wanted to marry him in that moment. ― Kimberly Resnick Anderson 

9. Your partner doesn’t respect your boundaries. 

“Does your partner respect your time, your physical boundaries, and the important people in your life? Does this relationship cause you to miss work, diss friends and family, or feel uncomfortable where sexuality is involved? Many chalk up boundary violations to passion early in relationships, but repeated overstepping may show a pattern of disrespect. Decide early on where your boundaries are and what you’re comfortable compromising, and stick to it. Repeated violations are a bad sign.” ― Ryan Howes

10. Your partner makes fun of you in front of other people, even after you asked him or her not to. 

“Public teasing is not a good sign in a relationship, particularly if you have already told your partner that you feel upset when they make fun of you in front of others. A loving partner doesn’t try to humiliate you in front of people, or at all, for that matter. While your partner may insist that they were ‘just kidding’ and call you ‘oversensitive,’ the fact remains that if you ask your partner to be more kind or tactful in public and they resist, this is a red flag that indicates that you may never feel fully emotionally safe within the relationship.” ― Samantha Rodman

11. Your partner is in a bad mood more often than not. 

“We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed now and again. And after a long hard day, we might not be our sparkly best. For many of us, being hungry can look a lot like being angry until we get some fuel in our tank. When irritability is the default, if your partner is rude or unkind or disrespectful, don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s not a big deal.” ― Winifred Reilly

12. Your partner constantly talks about themselves and rarely shows interest in your life. 

“At the beginning of a relationship, we can feel so enamored with the other that we want to soak in their stories and play the part of the good listener. Maybe you don’t really want to talk about yourself anyway, so their filling the airtime is welcomed. But as you feel more safe and willing to disclose, you realize that your partner doesn’t really care about your stories and either shows disinterest or turns the conversation back to themselves. This red flag is partially about their self-centeredness and partially about your teaching them that only their stories are important. Are your thoughts and opinions valued? Do you feel heard and understood? If not, maybe it’s time to keep looking.” ― Ryan Howes

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