12 Relationship Red Flags: Meaning, Examples, Signs and What to Do

12 Relationship Red Flags: Meaning, Examples, Signs and What to Do

The term "red flag" seems to be everywhere these days.

Just like stop signs and red lights on the road, red flags are a sign to pump the brakes and assess the situation at hand. They can pop up in any kind of relationship, whether it's relatively new, strictly casual or something more long-term. The tricky part: When you're swept up in love or lust, red flags can be easy to miss — or even ignore.

While there are some common red flags (think: jealousy, clinginess and mismatched relationship goals), others may vary from person to person. For instance, a diehard San Francisco Warriors fan may find someone's love for the Los Angeles Lakers to be a red flag, and vice versa.

But at what point is a red flag a dealbreaker? A dealbreaker is something that will immediately cause the relationship to end (for example, one partner wants to have children and the other doesn't), whereas red flags can sometimes — key word: sometimes — be resolved through communication.

The longer you let a red flag go on without discussing it with your partner, the more attached the other person might become. Even more important, the harder it might be to address your concerns to them in the future.

We turned to licensed therapists and relationship experts to break down the 12 most common relationship red flags to look out for, plus how you can identify and deal with them.

What exactly is a relationship red flag?

Jennifer Klesman, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Chicago, defines a red flag as a behavior trait or value that shows you future incompatibility with a person. This can be anything from someone having a history of infidelity to conflicting lifestyles and beyond.

"The things that were a problem in the beginning end up being a reason for why things end," Klesman told TODAY.

Similarly, Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist, said a red flag is a sign that the person you are involved with can't have a healthy relationship with you. If you were to pursue this relationship, it could be potentially psychologically, emotionally and physically dangerous.

"A red flag is basically a reason to either stop the relationship altogether or kind of back away a little bit because it's ... a clue or a hint of like an underlying issue," Schiff added.

How to identify relationship red flags — and why you shouldn't ignore them

Although most red flags can be easy to spot, Klesman said people don’t always address them when they first appear — or even at all.

“And as soon as you catch feelings, it’s really hard to turn away from a red flag, even though you’re like ‘I knew all along,'" Klesman said.

But if red flags aren't addressed, Schiff said they can become even more problematic since they don't go away on their own.

"It's an opportunity for you to assess the situation and see if it's a dealbreaker or if it's something that can be worked through," Schiff said. "Either way, you have a choice to make."

What to do when you notice a red flag

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

"Communication is a big part of it," Schiff said. "You know, talking it out and I think in some cases, and I've had some referrals come in this way, they're seeking professional help."

Schiff said that getting outside help from a third party, which could be professional or non-professional, is also important. In terms of social support, Schiff recommends connecting with friends and family to get their thoughts on your current situation.

"I know everyone will be a little bit biased and have their own agendas, but I think it's just important to not be with yourself in your own head about this," Schiff said. Since they likely know you and your partner well, they'll be able to help you determine if you should "leave a relationship" or "figure it out."

12 relationship red flags to look out for

Inconsistent behavior

Klesman often hears from people that their partner will text them a lot and then go silent for a few days. "That's inconsistent," Klesman said. "If someone is interested in you and invested, they're going to show consistent behavior." The same goes for emotions, whether it's "being very hot and cold or being very available or not available."

Verbal or physical abuse

Any form of violence or dangerous behavior is an immediate red flag for Schiff. "They can't channel their emotions properly in a healthy way," Schiff said. Disagreements are inevitable in any relationship, but if things escalate to any form of abuse — verbal, physical, emotional —it's important to remove yourself.

Mismatched relationship goals

Klesman said many people believe their partner will change their goals in the future — but that's not always the case. In her opinion, people show you who they are — and what they want — pretty early on. If they say they want something casual at the very start, Klesman said "they usually mean that."

Excessive jealousy

Trust is at the heart of any healthy relationship. So, if your partner showcases extreme jealousy, it might be a sign that they don't trust you. Aside from that, jealousy can also stem from your partner's own insecurities, which might make you feel bad about yourself as well. "If you don't trust them, I think you have to decide if that's something that you can manage," Schiff said.

History of infidelity

If a person has a history of cheating on someone else or on you, Schiff said you may spend most of your time in the relationship worrying that it'll happen to you (possibly, again). Infidelity can also take a toll of your mental health and self-confidence, causing you think you're not good enough for your partner.

Different life goals

It’s important to find someone that shares similar goals to yours, especially if you're pursuing a long-term relationship. While, in many ways, it's a good thing if your partner challenges you, having conflicting life goals might leave you unhappy in the long-run. Watch out for "misaligned goals like marriage or where you want to live or whether you want to have children or you know, financial conversations," Schiff added.

Substance abuse

If you have partner who regularly uses substances in excess, then they may have an addiction.

But while substance abuse can be a red flag, Schiff said there are always situations where you can work through substance abuse issues. “If your partner is willing to self-correct or get themselves into treatment, then I think it’s a case-by-case basis,” Schiff said. It’s up to you to decide if it’s “something you should stick around for or if it’s something that wouldn’t be healthy for you to be there for.”

Doesn’t make an effort to get to know your friends or family

Klesman said their distance from your loved ones might be an indicator that they don't value their own family or friends — both in the present moment and in the future. Not to mention Klesman added that people who don't have any friends can become very clingy and dependent people. "That can be a red flag, unless that's something you're looking for in a relationship," she said.

The relationship moves too fast

Sometimes, this may be mistaken for something positive, but Klesman said you should question it if the other person is accelerating the relationship. It's possible that they don't have bad intentions, but it could also be a manipulation tactic, aka love bombing.

Schiff warned that these situations tend to turn abusive and toxic. "They're using that quickness and intensity to get you on board, gain your trust and then you know, those things just don't add very well."

Controlling behavior

A controlling partner doesn't trust you or the decisions you make. Be aware if your partner starts to limit your social interactions, setting restrictions on who you're allowed to see and when. Keeping you away from your friends and loved ones can be a safety concern and form of manipulation.

Being secretive

Honesty and trust are the hallmarks of any healthy relationship. That said, if your partner keeps secrets from you or often beats around the bush, it may be a sign that they don't trust you enough to share what's really going on. While some lies might not come off as too big of a deal, Schiff said you should be wary if you feel like your partner frequently lies to you.

Gaslighting

Healthy conflict is one thing, twisting the truth is another. Gaslighting can be used by your partner to make you feel bad about yourself and hinder self-esteem. "If they’re doing things that make you feel insecure, that’s usually a red flag," Klesman said. If you notice your partner gaslighting you, address them and seek help.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com