Relationship Red Flags – 6 Toxic Behaviors to Watch Out For

6 Toxic Behaviors to Watch Out For

“Initially, Jake was sweet, polite, attentive, and fun to be around,” says Alissa. “We had dated close to two years when I noticed some changes in his behavior.” Jake began spending a lot less time with Alissa. His sweet personality turned more aggressive and secretive. Hanging out with friends became more important to him than spending time with her.

“My mom, sister, and friends kept telling me that something didn’t seem right, but I had explanations for all their concerns,” Alissa says. “I justified his behavior as being caused by family problems or his job. I always found some reason for his aggression and anger toward me. And it created a tension and distance between me and all those concerned.

It took me four months to finally realize they were right, and I ended the relationship.”

They say love is blind, and many have seen that saying play out in the relationships of friends. In fact, like the example above, plenty of friendships and relationships with family members have been turned sideways because they saw and pointed out red flags only to be ignored. 

When it comes to your own love life, you may believe you are smart enough not to be blinded, but the truth is, everybody is vulnerable. Here are some common red flags in dating relationships to watch out for:

1. Isolation

If someone wants you to spend all your time with them away from family and friends, you might think this person really loves having you all to themselves. In reality, it may be more about isolating you to more easily control you.

If someone wants to isolate you from your friends and the people you care about, the warning light should go on in your head. In a healthy relationship, people introduce each other to their friends, family, and co-workers. They want to get to know the people in your world, not keep you from them.

2. Selfishness

If your date pushes you to do things you aren’t comfortable doing or that you definitely would not do otherwise, pay attention to the small voice within you that asks, “What the heck am I doing?” When someone is looking out for your best interests, they never ask you to compromise who you are, and they aren’t pushy. Beware of self-serving behavior.

3. Disrespect

Watch how your partner interacts with their family and friends. If they are disrespectful or dismissive of those closest to them, you can bet that they will eventually behave that way toward you.

4. Controlling Tendencies

If you believe they are constantly asking you where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with, or what you’re wearing because they care so much about you – think again! These types of questions imply a lack of trust in your relationship and that you are their property. It is impossible to build a healthy relationship without trust. While people desire to feel a sense of belonging, remember that there is a big difference in feeling loved versus feeling like someone’s possession.   

5. Dishonesty

If your significant other tells you half-truths, little white lies, or straight-up lies to you, beware. It is impossible to build a healthy relationship based on deception.

6. Aggression

Pay attention to how your partner handles stress, anger, and failure. If you find yourself making excuses for holes in walls, physical aggression toward you or others, consistent blaming of others, or constant avoidance of dealing with issues, your radar should go up. How they handle these emotions and events when you are dating is exactly how they will handle them if you decide to make a more lasting commitment. 

People show you who they are with their words and actions or lack thereof. Believe them. In more than 30 years of working with couples, far too many people have told me they naively believed that once their significant other realized what they had done, they would stop the behavior. This is highly unlikely. It takes a lot of effort for someone to change their behavior. You will not succeed in trying to change them. 

Healthy relationships are built on the idea that the person you are dating will be better off after knowing you, regardless of whether the relationship moves forward. If you find yourself not feeling great about who you are, having to defend their behavior, or being in their presence doesn’t feel good most of the time, it isn’t failure to determine you need to end the relationship. It just means you recognize an unhealthy relationship when you see it, and you are smart enough to know when to call it quits.

Picture of Julie Baumgardner

Julie Baumgardner

President and CEO, First Things First

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