The Top 12 Early Relationship Red Flags That Are A Sign You Should Get Out Now!

Updated October 26, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Audrey Kelly, LMFT

"As we experience life, our brain begins to develop a sixth sense. Many times, we choose to ignore what we know to be true. Trusting your "gut" when you see red flags is one of the most important things that you can do for your emotional and physical health." – Aaron Horn LMFT

No one goes into a relationship wanting a partner who is mean, manipulative, and controlling. In most cases, the partner seems fine at first. They may be rough around the edges, but their good outweighs the bad. 

Then, their true selves begin to show. They become plain insufferable. You're soon in a relationship with them for a long time, and ending things is just hard. Maybe you have a kid or rely on them for your income or just emotional stability. It can be easy to get complacent even when you're not happy.

While you can't always see the real face of your partner until a long time has passed, there could be subtle red flags early in the relationship that may indicate that they are not relationship material. You should reconsider whether or not you want to devote your life to them. Here are some red flags to look out for.

They Are Still Obsessed With Their Ex

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If you're dating someone who just got out of a long-term relationship, you may be the rebound. Rebound relationships rarely work out, and one possible reason is that your partner is fixated on their ex.

It's all right for your partner to bring them up or still feel a little glum about their previous relationship, but there is a limit. Some possible red flags are if they:

  • Still have pictures of their ex on their phone
  • Look at their social media profiles frequently
  • Always make the ex the topic of the conversations
  • Claim to be friends with the ex and talk to them excessively

If you feel like you're just a substitute, this may be why you end the relationship. It is no fun to be the rebound since the other person is likely to move on quickly without developing deep feelings for you, whether intentionally or because they are not ready, potentially leaving you heartbroken.

They Always Badmouth Their Previous Relationships

Speaking of exes, one red flag is if they're always talking about how horrible their exes are. Don't get us wrong; some people fall into bad relationships, and it's okay to have resentment. However, if every single one of their exes is "crazy," then this may be a red flag that they're the one consistently causing problems, never getting satisfied, or playing the victim. If you decide to end the relationship, they will probably badmouth you as well.

They Always Criticize You

It can be a good thing, to be honest about how you feel, but there is such a thing as being overly critical while not praising. If your partner always scrutinizes how you look, speak, or behave and doesn't ever compliment you, this may be a bad sign. Odds are, they will never be satisfied with you, and perhaps you should end things before they get too difficult or outright mean.

You Have To Justify Their Bad Behavior

Your relationship shouldn't consist of writing apologies for your partner. For example, if your partner is rude to your friends, you shouldn't have to tell them, "Oh, they're rude if they don't know you, but they're nice once you get to know them."

Sometimes, there is a reason for the undesired behavior, but often you are trying to take something inexcusable and use mental gymnastics to excuse it. If you find yourself doing this, it may be a red flag.

Your Family And Friends Don't Like Them

The cliché of the overly critical parent, especially the sexist undertones of the judgemental mother, has made some people brush off any criticisms family members may have your partner. Still, sometimes, they might be onto something. If you generally respect the opinions of your family or friends, it's worth examining how likely it is that they're completely wrong about disliking your significant other.

This isn't to say that you should break up with your partner just because your parent or friend doesn't like your partner. Your parent may be overly critical of your partner. Your friends may be upset that you aren't spending as much time with them. However, you should listen to their words and try to look at them objectively.

They Refuse To Take Responsibility

No one has their life fully together, especially if the two of you are young. If your partner is in a bad situation, such as not having a job, it doesn't mean they are not worthy of having a relationship with you. However, if they are always making every excuse under the sun as to why they haven't had a job yet or won't change another problem they have, they may not be worth dating. You're in a relationship, not babysitting.

They Have A Hard Time Apologizing

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One of the cornerstones of a good relationship is apologizing and compromising. Couples will get into fights or be wrong about things, and apologizing is a great way to hold accountability and help repair the problems you will inevitably face.

However, if your partner won't ever admit they were wrong or apologize for something they blatantly did, then this may be a sign of a bad relationship. Some people have a hard time admitting fault, which can make your relationship's future more complicated. How can the two of you grow if one refuses to admit their flaws?

They Have Something To Hide

Every partner should have the right to privacy. It's okay for your partner to have private conversations with other people. They have friends of their own, and you shouldn't have to read their messages. 

With that said, if they become overly possessive of their phone or never have conversations in front of you, then they may be hiding something. Trust needs to happen for a long relationship to last. Confronting someone with no evidence can hurt a relationship, but if your gut tells you something is wrong, or you have evidence that your partner is lying, consider having an honest conversation with them about your concerns.

They Are Mean To Other People

Everyone has their off days, but don't think you're the exception if your partner is always mean to other people. Watch how your partner treats people in your daily lives. How do they treat the server when the food is running late? How do they treat someone who bumps into them? Note their behavior, as this could signify how they will treat you once the honeymoon period is over.

They Cross Boundaries

Early in a relationship, rules and norms may not be fully established; people come into relationships with different expectations and pasts, so sometimes boundaries may be crossed. This may be okay up to a point. Still, there reaches an unacceptable point, be it an amount of time after making your boundaries clear or blatantly breaking a normal relationship rule.

If you're always setting up clear boundaries, yet your partner tries to cross them or at least push them, then it's a sign of a bad relationship. While your rules and boundaries may change over time, the change shouldn't come because your partner doesn't respect them.

They're Rushing Things

A relationship shouldn't feel like a race. This happens especially during a rebound but can happen in any situation as well. The stages of a relationship don't have a set time for everyone. Some people will take years before they move in together, while others get engaged in less than a year. However, if your partner is pushing you to go to the next stage despite you not being ready, then it may be a red flag.

They're Controlling Who You See

This should be obvious, but many people obey if their partner tells them to stop seeing their friends. A relationship should be built on trust, and you are free to talk to whoever you like. Manipulation and control over who you see or go can quickly veer into the emotional abuse realm. If you are worried about a situation involving abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1.800.799.SAFE.

What To Do If You Experience These Red Flags

We are all flawed people, and your partner will likely have some flaws or traits you don't like. If you experience a few red flags, it may not necessarily be a reason for you to cut ties just yet. They may not be aware of their behavior.

Talking to your partner about their problems is typically the best initial approach. For example, if your partner seems overly jealous, confront them about their behavior. Point out that they have nothing to worry about, and you don't like how they're behaving. Do it in a way that isn't accusatory and clarifies your feelings.

If they're willing to make a change, they will listen and try to improve their behavior. If they get aggressive, then maybe it's time to end the relationship and try to find someone who does want to grow.

Know Your Boundaries

Trust your gut if you think you're in an emotionally (verbal or psychological) abusive relationship. Know when it's time for your partnership to end. Certain circumstances are intolerable. 

For example, psychological and certainly physical abuse is unacceptable. If these sorts of mistreatments are happening in your relationship, you need to leave. If you need help leaving an unsafe situation, the Domestic Violence Hotline is 1.800.799.SAFE (7233). You don't have to be with a significant other for the rest of your life if they're not treating you well. If they have no respect for their partner, you don't have to tolerate that. If they don't give you personal space, that is a sign of disrespect to you and your relationship. For example, if you say the words "I need a break, I feel triggered" during a heated conversation, and they keep talking about it, that's not okay. They are violating your boundaries. It's important to trust your gut when it comes to setting a boundary. 

If you tell your partner how you feel and refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, that's a bad sign. In the throes of a new relationship, it can be easy to put aside obvious red flags. It's okay to know your limits and learn to trust yourself. If a person lacks respect and you're not one of the most important people in their life, then it's okay to draw a boundary with them. 

Being in a relationship means caring about your partner and their feelings, and if you're not getting that care, it's time to break free.

Watch Out For Manipulation

Some people want to manipulate you. Overtly obvious verbal or emotional abuse is wrong. If the time your relationship takes up makes you feel exhausted or insecure, that's likely a bad sign. You could be spending energy trying to fix something that will stay broken. Some people don't give others respect, and that's an issue. 

You need to focus on your mental health, and a person who negatively wields power over you is not healthy. Unfortunately, some people are out to hurt others. You don't have to settle for being treated poorly. "relationship people" prefer to be with someone, even if the dynamic is toxic. Don't stay with someone just because you don't want to be alone. It's not worth the stress and heartache. You can find someone who treats you well and doesn't manipulate your feelings for their gain. If you've told someone multiple times to stop doing the behavior and they don't listen to your boundary, that's a problem. 

Manipulation could range from mild to overtly obvious verbal or emotional abuse. A manipulative person lacks integrity, and they might not even realize what they're doing to you, but their excuses do not justify behavior that makes you feel bad about yourself. You don't have to let your partner boss you around because you're scared to leave the relationship.

Advocate For Yourself

It can be difficult to speak up when you feel unheard. Some people are focused on their voices and forget to listen to others. If you're in a relationship where your partner isn't listening, it's okay to point out that you have things to say. If you advocate for yourself, you will probably feel more empowered. It can contribute to your personal growth. If you find that your partner brushes you off every time, you stand up for yourself, that's a red flag that something isn't right. It's crucial to speak up for yourself. 

Suppose you're afraid to tell the other person how you feel because of their reaction; that could signify that the relationship is not a good fit. You need to trust your partner and know that they care and want to hear your feelings. Everyone has a unique perspective, and they might disagree with some things that you say, but your feelings are real and valid.

A caring partner will be there to listen. You deserve to be with someone who values your emotions. Your growth matters.

Guilt Isn't a Reason to Stay.

Learn How To Spot The Red Flags Early
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Some people make others feel guilty. The kind of person that seems obvious in their attempts to guilt-trip you knows what they're doing. The behavior may be a learned way or a habit. The behavior could stem from their childhood, or they've successfully used it to get what they want in previous relationships and become skilled. 

Trust is a crucial part of relationships. Just because you're afraid of your partner leaving doesn't mean you need to make them feel guilty so that they stay. That will inevitably cause resentment or anger in the connection. It would help if you learned to trust your partner. If you sense a lack of trust from your partner, you need to address that situation. Trusting your significant other is crucial. 

You may be in a relationship where your significant other doesn't seem to let you be yourself. Make sure that you advocate for yourself and consider using positive psychology to help. Positive psychology is a way of looking at oneself in a good light. It can help you figure out how to see yourself in a good way. If you are struggling with self-esteem, relationship issues, or interpersonal problems, consider speaking with a therapist to control your emotions better and get an unbiased perspective on your life.

If there's a life lesson you can take from being in a toxic relationship: it's not your fault. There are significant people in our lives, but it doesn't mean that these individuals will stay forever. It's crucial to know when someone needs to leave your life. You can't have to let someone guilt trip you into staying in a relationship where you're unhappy. This is your life, and you need to trust your intuition. 

An individual who deliberately guilt trips you to stay lacks respect for you as a person. If your partner disregards your feelings or you don't feel comfortable, you can leave the relationship. Your intuitive image of your partner is meaningful. Many people describe romantic relationships as grounding. These are the sort of connections that you deserve. Trust that you know who and what is best for you, and don't let another person tell you otherwise.

Seek Counseling

Suppose you are experiencing negativity in your relationship but think your relationship is worth saving. In that case, you may need the help of a more qualified person to have the best resolution possible. Talking to a relationship counselor, like those at ReGain, can help you address your problems on your own or together and find the best path forward.

Sometimes, even after relationship counseling, it might be best for the two of you to part ways. Being single can seem hard, but it is not a failure, and being in a relationship that isn't working doesn't help anyone.

Counselor Reviews

"Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think differently. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together."

"Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling initially, but I truly believe that it makes a difference in our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to, and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor."

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