Is That Flag Trying To Tell You Something?

Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

Whether you’re in an established relationship or just developing a romance with someone, it’s a valuable exercise to take a step back and look at things objectively. Are there red flags in your relationship? If so, they are truly worth paying attention to and understanding. After all, literal red flags are used to indicate trouble coming, and metaphorical red flags in a relationship indicate the same thing. Spotting trouble ahead of time gives you the chance to avoid it.

In an article on Healthline, Crystal Raypole says “Your relationship should contribute to a sense of fulfillment, happiness, and connection. If you tend to feel more anxious, distressed, or unhappy around your partner, your relationship may be struggling.” What are the possible actions or behaviors that might lead to stress or anxiety? Raypole offers a list to get you thinking, although there may also be other ways your partner pushes your buttons.

One of you tries to control or change the other. “If they do something that really bothers you and you can’t accept it,” says Raypole, “the relationship may not have long-term potential.”

Your partner doesn’t respect your boundaries. “If you set a boundary and they push against it or pressure you to change it, that’s a serious red flag.”

You don’t spend much time together. Life can get in the way of you spending as much time as you’d like with each other. But that should leave you with a longing for a better situation. If you’re left “feeling distant with each other or relieved when you aren’t together,” that’s a sign there’s trouble ahead.

The relationship feels unequal. This applies not to just finances or other practical matters. Walpole says, “relationship equality can also relate to intangible things, such as affection, communication, and relationship expectations.”

They say negative or hurtful things about you or others. As I’ve said in a previous blog post, “Words — when used in an abusive manner — can and do hurt, demean, batter, abuse and even break a person. In psychological circles, the term is verbal abuse, and it’s all too common in a variety of relationships.” If your partner is verbally abusive, it’s more than a red flag — it’s a signal to get help or get out.

You don’t feel heard in the relationship. Communication is tough, no doubt. “But if you do talk through an issue and they seem receptive but don’t make any changes or seem to have completely forgotten what you talked about by the next day, that’s also a warning sign,” says Raypole.

You’re afraid of expressing disagreement. Let’s face it: if you walk around on eggshells, that red flag should be getting your attention loud and clear.  

You don’t feel happy or comfortable around your partner. This probably doesn’t apply to developing relationships. After all, why would you continue to nurture a relationship that makes you miserable. But if you’re feeling this way after a long-term relationship, it might just mean you’ve grown apart. Time to fix it or face reality.

Disagreements or discussions don’t go anywhere. “Maintaining a relationship is an ongoing process, so you might not work everything out right away” says Raypole. “But you usually feel good about your conversations afterward. You usually see some progress.” If not — notice the red flag waving in the breeze.

Read the full discussion of red flags in relationships, and the longer article on healthy relationships, here.