In every relationship there comes a point to decide if you’ll go beyond casual to committed or end it and move on. In other words, fish or cut bait. Perhaps you’ve been there more times than you can count, thinking you’re starting a great relationship, only to discover they weren’t the right one. Rather than beat yourself up that you should have seen it coming, learn to read the red flags of an unhealthy relationship.
Disrespect – He may think she respects him, but there was that snarky remark about his job. She thinks he’s totally into her, but he’s out on the deck whispering on his phone, “What a basket case!” She thinks teasing him about his hair is funny, but he’s overly self-conscious about it thinning out on top. If this person means enough to you to spend time with, don’t make fun of them or allow them to tease you about something that is hurtful to you.
Being Vague– Knowing where you stand in the relationship. Are you exclusive? Are they? Conversations about the status of the relationship shouldn’t be uncomfortable. If they are, it’s your clue that one of you is not in the same place as the other. Hiding or denying the relationship to others is also a big warning sign. If there is a pattern of being involved with others who are afraid to commit to a relationship, check yourself – are you behaving the same way?
Snooping – Feeling the need to snoop in their phone, stalk their Facebook page or showing up unannounced at their place is not romantic. It’s controlling. People in healthy relationships respect others’ space and privacy.
Secrecy – On the flip side, keeping everything a secret is a red flag too. People in strong relationships offer information to their significant other. “I always meet friends for a pick-up game on Wednesdays” shows openness and honesty.
A word of caution – just because you know where they are on Wednesday doesn’t mean you are supposed to be there. Showing up without an invitation is desperate. Wait until you are invited to come by, or respect it as personal time. If you are constantly being called or receiving texts, it doesn’t mean they just can’t be without you. It means they CAN’T be without you and things could escalate to more dangerous behavior.
Temper – Everyone gets angry, and expressing anger in a healthy way is perfectly acceptable. However, if angry outbursts are frightening or violent, don’t wait for things to get better. If you hear “I’ll never do that again,” or “I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t have done what you did,” don’t wait for it to happen again. Exit the relationship.
Inflexibility – A healthy relationship is one of continuous give and take. Things are not headed in the right direction if one of you is always calling the shots, has to be right in every discussion, or refuses to budge on apologizing or trying to understand another point of view.
Not every red flag means an end to the relationship. However, recognizing them as warning signs protects you from pain further down the road. You can make an informed decision, rather than feel something isn’t right and just hope things will change. You can’t change the other person’s behavior. You can only change you. Check yourself: if you find yourself demonstrating any of the above behaviors, take the steps to change them. You can work with a relationship therapist or coach to learn new behaviors or address triggers. Improving your own self-confidence also helps you protect yourself from unhealthy relationships.
If you agree as a couple that there are issues you’d like to address for the good of the relationship, then don’t give up. If your partner is willing to work with a therapist or coach, it can become a rewarding experience both individually and for you as a couple.