Red flag Photo by Carson Masterton Unsplash

‘Red Flags’ in relationships: what are some early warning signs of problems

Facing Challenges · 3 min read

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 5.5% of adults, experienced domestic abuse in the last year. That’s a staggering amount of people. But, when those people entered those relationships, they probably didn’t imagine they would end up being abused. 

Most of us feel confident that we know what makes a good relationship — respect, honesty, good communication and all the rest. Most of us believe those things are in place when we choose to start a relationship, or move in with, or marry someone. We don’t enter a relationship with someone believing that they’re going to hurt us, and yet, last year 2.3 million people got hurt. 

Sometimes, we focus so much on what is good, we forget to watch out for, or worse still turn a blind eye to, what might harm. It doesn’t mean approaching relationships with scepticism and looking for problems, but being aware of red flags that might alert us to problems to come. Abuse isn’t just about bruises, it starts with the attitudes and beliefs that sit beneath. 

Red Flags:

  1. Your partner has only bad things to say about all their exes. Relationships take two and it’s important to take responsibility for your own part in a relationship breakdown. This could suggest your partner isn’t able to admit when they’re wrong or might twist situations to make them look good. Are they able to apologise when they do something wrong? If not, you have a problem. 
  2. They’re rude to strangers, family or friends. Someone might be charming with you, but watching how they interact with others reveals how someone views others and is a key indicator of how they may eventually treat you. 
  3. Your partner puts you down in public or makes fun of you even after you’ve asked them not to. Public humiliation is never a good thing. A loving partner wants to build you up, not put you down in public — or in private for that matter. It’s good to pay attention to how someone speaks about you to their friends. How do they make you feel about yourself? 
  4. They talk about themselves all the time. We want to get to know our partners — but is the conversation all one way? Are they actually interested in who you are? How you feel? Or is everything about them? 
  5. They always want to know where you are and who you’re with. There can be too many questions! There’s a fine line between someone checking in on your day and checking up on you. How do their questions make you feel? Will you be in trouble if the answers are wrong’?
  6. They don’t respect your boundaries and choices. We all make sacrifices for people we love, but when it strays into constantly making decisions we’re not comfortable with, it’s time to think. If someone is repeatedly making you late for work, speaking badly about your friends or family, making you feel uncomfortable sexually or stopping you from doing things you’d like or need to do, you need to consider whether this relationship has a future. 
  7. They are unable to take emotional or behavioural responsibility for themselves. We’re each responsible for our own well being and behaviour. If they make you responsible for their happiness or blame you for their behaviour that is a red flag. If someone makes you feel guilty for not being available whenever they need you, or for not fixing their problems, you need to have a serious conversation. 

Every relationship hits issues at points, but if you are noticing these red flags on a regular basis, don’t dismiss your concerns, take some time to really consider just how healthy your relationship is. 

If you have any concerns, talk with a trusted friend, someone who’ll listen without judging.

For more information and sources of help, contact the national domestic abuse helpline.

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