Relationship Red Flags

Don’t Be Blind to These Red Flags

Similarities to a Caregiver
“I think one thing people don’t often readily recognize is that they may be in a relationship with someone who is very similar to a primary caregiver that they had the most difficulty with as a child,” Dr. Sherbak explains. According to Dr. Sherbak, familiarity with the toxic behaviors can sometimes cause those actions to be accepted as normal when experienced in another important relationship. Ask yourself if your partner reminds you of one of your parents. If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Power Imbalance

Another indicator of a toxic relationship is when one partner demands to have more power than the other.  “One of the unhealthiest types of relationships is when the person in power controls most all areas of their partner’s life. Examples include telling the other person who they can and cannot have as friends, where they can and cannot go, how much money they are allowed to spend, what job they are allowed to have, and which family members are allowed to be in their lives,” Dr. Sherbak says.

Threatening to Walk Out

Threats of leaving when things don’t go his or her way suggest that a relationship is weak. That implies there may be something missing to begin with, Dr. Sherbak says. Another thing to keep in mind, suggests Dr. Sherbak, is that some people may not have the capacity to love someone in the way the person needs to feel loved. “It may not be that they don’t care for you, but they’re caring for you as much as they can, and that may not be enough.”

Emotional Instability

Emotionally stable relationships create a sense of safety and security in both partners. “Emotional stability means that your feelings are your own, and you have the confidence to both have and express those feelings freely with your partner,” explains Dr. Sherbak.  Instability occurs when you allow someone else to be in control of your emotions – if they are nice, you feel good, if not, you feel bad.  This could be a strong indicator of a toxic relationship.

Being Critical

“It’s like that old saying ‘misery loves company,’” Dr. Sherbak says. People who feel badly about themselves put others down, she explains. “Harsh criticism, outbursts, degrading talk, and humiliation are really just ways to minimize the other person to make them insecure so they won’t leave the relationship. It helps the critic feel better about themselves.”


It’s easy to brush aside a “little white lie,” but Sherbak warns that those can be equally as bad as their counterparts. “Lying is probably right at the top of the list. If you don’t have trust with a partner, that’s a dangerous relationship on a lot of different levels,” she says. Lying, Sherbak warns, creates toxicity, no matter how big or small.

Negative Influences

If you can identify ways your partner negatively influences you, or vice versa, there are a few things to consider. One, your relationship isn’t as healthy as it should be – you should be making each other better. But also, Dr. Sherbak notes that it could have more to do with the influenced than the influencer. “It suggests that the person being influenced may not be in control of themselves. If a partner isn’t forcing their negative behaviors on you, you may be taking on the behaviors because you don’t have your own identity or you want to be loved by them so desperately that you are unwilling to stand up for your own beliefs or values.”

Dismissive of Dreams

“Something I’ve frequently seen in my practice is a partner who tries to dismiss and put down the other person’s dreams or goals,” says Dr. Sherbak. Laughing off or criticizing goals as if they’re not important signals an unhealthy union. “If your partner isn’t being a loving, supportive person in your life, it’s a telltale sign that person isn’t healthy for you.” Bottom line: a partner who disrespects your goals, needs, interests, and private space isn’t the right person for you.