20 Red Flags To Watch Out For In Relationships


Jordan Gray says that you can save a lot of time, energy, and heartache by watching out for these common pitfalls.


There are certain red flags that can show up early on in a relationship that, when ignored, end up being a relationship’s downfall.

For people who are prone to falling in love hard and fast, it’s good to be aware of what these red flags are so that you don’t waste time with people that aren’t meant for you. Without knowing what to look for, you could be wasting months (or years) of your dating life with the wrong partner.

Having gone through many lacklustre relationships and knowingly spent years of my life in ill-fitting pairings, this is a list that I wish I had been able to read when I was a teenager.

So if you want to save yourself time, heartbreak, and energy, and have a helpful checklist to refer to that will help you find your significant other that much faster, read on. Who knows? You might even see some of your own behaviours in this list.

Here are twenty red flags to watch out for in your intimate relationships.

1. How They Talk About Their Exes

If the only thing they have to say about their exes is negative, then they either aren’t finished emotionally processing their baggage, or they are a resentful and bitter person who engages in trash talking former flames.

Either way, watch out.

2. They Don’t Seem To Be Proud Of You

Whether they hesitate to introduce you to their friends, they hide you from their family, or they are reluctant to have any proof of you on their social media feed, these types of behaviours all speak to a lack of pride in being with you. Or maybe they are ashamed of their friends or family, another possible red flag.

Every relationship that I’ve ever been in where I was head over heels over my partner I couldn’t stop talking about my partner. They were the greatest thing to happen to me in recent memory and I wanted to show them off to everyone.

Sure your partner might be a little bit slow to warm up, but if it feels like they’re a little ashamed of you then that might be a red flag.

3. They Keep Score

One of the fastest and most efficient ways to grow resentful of your partner is to keep score in your relationship.

If you live with the mindset of “Well I took out the garbage/did the dishes/initiated sex last time, so it’s their turn today” then you are doomed to suffocate the life out of your partnership.

Don’t do this, and don’t tolerate your partner doing it to you.

When both of you are coming from the place of “I do things for you because I love you and I want you to feel appreciated” then your relationship will flourish.

4. They Use Sex As A Tool

Sexual intimacy is a mutually beneficial act that makes both parties feel loved.

If they ever use sex (either as a reward, or withholding it as a punishment) as a tool to get what they want then you can be sure this is a massive red flag. This behaviour is manipulation pure and simple.

“If you make dinner we can have sex tonight…” RED FLAG!

If they use it as a bargaining chip under the assumption that it doesn’t benefit them just as much as it benefits you, then maybe you need to have a conversation about what would make it more fulfilling for them. Or you know, just end the relationship.

5. They Don’t Put Effort In To The Relationship

While you don’t want to be keeping track of relationship reciprocity per se (see #3), it doesn’t feel good to be in a one-sided relationship.

If one person isn’t as invested in the relationship as the other, then it is a lose-lose situation. Save yourselves time and have the courage to find someone who will make you a priority in their life.

6. They Can’t Apologize

In any relationship, it’s inevitable that you are both going to mess up and need to apologize.

If your partner is unable to apologize for any wrongdoings then you might need to re-evaluate your relationship.

7. Their Core Values Are Different Than Yours

While differences in your partner might attract you in the short-term, it’s your similarities that will keep your relationship thriving after several years.

If your core values and interests around things like self-development, money, and whether or not to have children are completely out of sync with your partner’s, then that is something that you need to be giving focused attention early on in a relationship.

8. They Don’t Fight Fair

Does your partner bring up past events that happened months ago as ammunition during your arguments? Red flag!

This one ties into the score keeping mindset of #3 and is a toxic relationship habit.

Either deal with things as they come up for both of you, or watch out. The longer you stay with them the more ammunition they will have collected to use against you in future blow-ups.

9. They Fight Violently

Men and women could both do this. If they raise a hand to you or throw things at you, this needs to be discussed immediately.

Same thing if they are quick to anger and lash out, even if not at you. Say, if they find someone has double-parked and blocked their car, so they slash the offender’s tire or key-scratch the finish… definitely indicates a dark side that can get worse over time.

10. They Try To Change You

Pushing someone to grow in ways that benefit them is one of the best things that comes from relationships, but if it feels like they treat you like more of a project than a partner, then this is a huge red flag.

If they don’t largely accept you for who you are, then they weren’t meant for you. End of story.

11. They Don’t Take Feedback Well

Whether it’s their sexual technique or the way that they scramble your eggs in the morning, it’s a red flag if your partner digs their heels in when you try to give them feedback.

Someone who wants the best for you and your happiness will always have an open ear when it comes to the topic of how they can love you better.

12. Listen To Their Language

If early on in your relationship your partner talks exclusively in “I/Me/My” statements without throwing in the occasional “We/Us” statements, then this might allude to the fact that they don’t see you in their future (or that they have intimacy issues).

13. They Try To Guilt You Into Spending All Of Your Time With Them

If your partner has self-esteem and boundary issues, they will find it very difficult to give you any space in the relationship.

It isn’t healthy in an intimate relationship for the two people to become one. You always want some independence, autonomy, and space between you to. And if your partner is unwilling to give you that, this is a bright red flag.

14. They Want To Micromanage Your Life

Helping someone evolve is one thing, but if your partner is trying to control every aspect of your life it erodes your self-esteem and autonomy. You need to be trusted to make your own decisions, whether they agree with them or not.

15. They Tell You That They Aren’t A Certain Way All The Time

If you’ve heard them say “I’m not a jealous/dramatic/judgemental/angry person by nature…” more than a handful of times, there’s a fairly good chance that they are exactly what they keep trying to convince you that they are not.

16. They Flake On You Repeatedly

If your partner flakes on you repeatedly in your relationship (especially early on) this is a huge red flag.

Imagine if one of your idols invited you to dinner. No matter how busy you were you would make time in your life for someone so important. If your partner isn’t prioritizing you in the same way then they might just not be that into you, or they are just so highly unreliable that you will spend your life in exasperation and frustration with them.

17. Your Close Friends And Family Members Don’t Like Them

Your friends and family members probably know you better than anyone in the world (even more than you know yourself).

If the majority of those closest to you don’t get along with your significant other, this is a huge red flag. Your personality overlaps with your loved ones, and if your partner doesn’t get along with them, then that signals that there are parts of them that don’t get along with parts of you.

18. They Have A Bad Relationship With Their Family

Everyone has some sort of issues with family members… but how have they dealt with those issues as an adult? If they haven’t been able to make up with their closest relatives, how you can trust them to make up with you when you have a big blow-up fight?

19. They Treat Service Staff Rudely

I am a firm believer in the idea that how you do anything is how you do everything.

If they talk down to service staff (cab drivers, restaurant servers, etc.) then that speaks to their character. If they can treat strangers like that then it won’t be long before they are treating you, or your family and friends, in the same way.

20. It’s Never Been Smooth

Every couple that I interviewed in the research for my book on how to be the best partner possible said the exact same thing… “It was easy.”  From the early stages of their relationship there were no episodes of infidelity, or on-again-off-again rocky starts… it was just smooth sailing from the beginning.

If you and your partner are butting heads in a huge way within the first few months of a relationship, take that as a warning sign and move on.

Are You With The Right Person For You?

While none of these are necessarily absolute rules, if you see a few of these strongly in your partner then you might need to re-evaluate how compatible you are going to be long-term.

And really, if you find yourself scanning this article with a keen eye, there’s a reason for that. Maybe you were drawn to reading this article because something feels off in your current relationship. Either lean in to communicating your concerns with your partner and earn your way out of your relationship, or break it off if you know that it isn’t meeting your relationship needs.

Nobody is perfect, but there is someone out there for you (multiple people in fact) that will make you your absolute favourite version of yourself.

Don’t settle with someone that feels good enough. As the country song goes “I don’t want a man I can live with, I want a man I can’t live without.”

So find someone that makes your heart sing. Find a partner that makes your heart burst with pride and love more days than not. Find that person and then fight like hell to keep each other happy.

The world needs more people like you. And someone that makes you feel that much more loved will only multiply your awesomeness.

They’re worth waiting for. And you deserve them.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also love reading:

7 Things All Women Need In A Relationship

10 Questions To Ask To Go Deep In Your Relationship

Half A Dozen Hacks For A Thriving Sex Life

The One Thing To Remember When You’re Dealing With Any Person, Ever

Jordan Gray is the relationship coach for entrepreneursThis post originally appeared at JordanGrayConsulting.com

Photo courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

*this post has been slightly modified to remove a quote that didn’t accurately reflect the author’s or editors’ intent.


About Jordan Gray

Sex and relationship coach Jordan Gray helps people remove their emotional blocks and maintain thriving intimate relationships. When he's not coaching clients or writing new books, Jordan loves to pretend he's good at surfing, immerse himself in new cultures, and savour slow-motion hang outs with his closest companions. You can see more of his writing at JordanGrayConsulting.com


  1. I want to speak up about #18. My family was always small, and very messed up. I spent a good portion of my formative teenage years being moved back and forth between home and foster care. Anytime my mother couldn’t “handle” me, she would simply kick me out again. As a result, I also spent the beginnings of my adulthood in counseling. Despite the toxicity level of my relationship with her, I still contined to try, still lived (at age 39) with constantly being made to feel guilty for things I did when I was 12, 13, 14. I finally chose to walk away. I don’t just have bad relationships with that side of my family, I now have no relationship with that side of my family, and I’ve never been happier. Having a bad relationship with your family does not make you a bad potential relationship partner. You cannot choose who you were born to, or how you grow up. You can break free, however.

  2. I like this, but am agreeing about the family bit. Some of us can’t choose the fact that there are people in our family that have huge issues and are impossible to reach out to without receiving yet another wound to our psyche and heart. We’ve had to choose happiness over toxicity and it’s kinda lame to have another person decide that makes you a bad person, or a person with issues because we can’t seem to connect with the very sick people in our lives.

  3. Schaffer says:

    One quick question about all this, because I keep running into relationships with quite a few of these: I just kind of wondered what the solution is. Do these people need to go off and find people as dysfunctional as they are, do they need to fix their issues even though they are also generally characterized as believing their behaviors are just fine, or do they all need to be segregated to an island where they fight to the death?

  4. John Villafania says:

    this article really helped me big time!! thank you! there are some that got me hit but most of what this article contains are the ones that I see from my ex-gf.

  5. Let me just make a logical comment for 20. “It’s never been smooth” is not equivalent with “it’s always been easy” in logical terms. And now the other comment, I believe it’s unrealistic to set up people’s expectation so high as to expect the right realationships to be easy. Relationships are not easy, just like happiness is not easy. In both cases, it’s work, it’s work with oneself, to learn mindfulness, to pay attention, to be present. And it’s not always easy.

    • Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel says:

      Some relationships are smooth sailing from the get-go. Others, in fact most, take hard work. My best buddy just got engaged to a great girl, and for a long time it was touch-and-go, to a point where I started telling him that he’s gotta break up with her. Now that they’ve worked things through, I’m glad he didn’t and I feel guilty for having said that. Obviously both people need to be happy and fulfilled for a relationships, but at the end of the day the only rule is that there are no rules.

      I wish you all love and success in finding love and raising happy families.

  6. #13 They try to guilt you into spending all your time with them…

    Very big red flag…! It was like walking into a sticky glue trap and you can’t get it off…! I was so young then…but looking back at his needy, clingy behavior makes me cringe…I wanted to walk away, but he always made me feel so guilty and wrong…

  7. Jordan:
    I read your article and have to say, I agree with most of what you wrote here.
    But i do have something to say about #2.

    In this day and age of the internet, I find it is more important than ever to screen people you are dating or just meeting for the first time. There have been many times where I asked a Woman for contact info and she wanted to just link up with Facebook. I have refused to do so, asking for a telephone number instead. My reluctance comes from the fact that, I am just getting to know a person. Giving them a facebook profile and sharing personal info like that is very…..intrusive and unsafe.
    Plus, I don’t like the aspect of someone I don’t know making decisions about who I am based on A Facebook profile that can’t represent all parts of ones personality. Anything can be misinterpreteed out of context. There are just certain things one doesn’t share online.
    But I notice this has become a trend more and more.

    If I don’t introduce someone to friends or family right away, it could be because I am making sure they are really into dating me, and not being a one time thing. And it also might mean, that I am a little ashamed of the behaviour of family and friends. That they could embarass me as well.

    This works both ways.
    Anyways, I thought they were all good points.

  8. I just wish to make one comment about number 1 before I continue reading. I talk trash about my exes. Not because I am not fully formed emotionally, but because my exes were actually jerks and assholes. One was simply not fully formed himself and was completely unable to deal with being in a relationship, and the other was a narcissistic jerk. Both ended up physically abusing me, and that was the reason I left them…my ideals about them as people weren’t actually formed until I found a GOOD man and realized what it feels like to be in a GOOD relationship with someone who is mature enough to handle one. Yes, my exes had some wonderful qualities that I did love about them, but I realized after the fact that much of it was a lie to keep me around for their own personal/financial reasons.

    Anyway, that is but one point out of 20 you made, and I’m certain when I read the rest I’ll see all the flags I saw in both of those relationships but couldn’t seem to get out of for lack of having some will at the time. I just wanted to point out that ragging on exes doesn’t always necessarily mean something bad…sometimes people actually have quite horrible exes.

  9. Jordan, that’s wonderful that you apparently came from a nice, relatively normal family (something you didn’t have a say in, mind you), but both of the comments below are loaded with assumptions and demonstrate a lack of awareness that some people aren’t so fortunate:

    “Or maybe they are ashamed of their friends or family, another possible red flag.”
    “If they haven’t been able to make up with their closest relatives, how you can trust them to make up with you when you have a big blow-up fight?”

    I personally take quite a while before I will introduce a partner to my family because yes, I am ashamed of most of my family members. My family is TOTALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL and many of them are not pleasant to be around. It’s taken me most of my adult life to try and heal from my family dysfunction and it’s honestly a miracle that I’m as stable and evolved as I am, given my upbringing. Also, it’s not as simple as “making up” — some damage is irreparable (abuse, trauma, neglect, etc). For you to recklessly insinuate that anyone who has had that sort of experience is somehow lacking because they can’t “make up” with certain family members is pretty ridiculous and undermines a lot of pretty amazing people who have had unfortunate circumstances in their lives, that were beyond their control.

    • +1

      Agree wholeheartedly. It’s a delicate subject but sometimes if a person digs a little deeper, they find really amazing people in those who’ve come out the other side. We’ve seen the wacko side of life and really know how to appreciate the better quality of life we’ve created for ourselves.

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