17 Relationship Red Flags Every Grown Woman Should Look Out For

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His Seth Rogen impression makes you laugh, and your stomach flips when he texts. But, some things have made you raise an eyebrow like the way he gets super withdrawn when you ask about his ex or the way he's evasive about things in his life. While you can brush off these behaviors from time to time, the frequency with which they’re happening is making you wonder, “Are these relationship red flags?” Spoiler alert: yes. Read on for our full list of some red flags that should make you at least consider if it's time to run for the hills.

Meet the Expert

Irina Firstein, LCSW, is a New York City-based therapist specializing in couples, marriage and individual counseling. Firstein has practiced for over 25 years and has been featured in outlets such as Cosmopolitan, CNN and Forbes.

What Exactly Is a Relationship Red Flag?

According to Psychology Today, red flags in a relationship are intuitive indicators telling us that something is not right. Though they can be hard to identify when we first start dating, as we grow older and discover ourselves more, we get better at spotting them. Oftentimes, red flags foreshadow something that may become an issue as the relationship progresses, so it's important to get to know yourself and figure out what your boundaries are.

17 Relationship Red Flags to Watch Out For

relationship red flags: illustration of man and woman in bed, turned away from each other and unhappy
Irina Cheremisinova/Getty Images

1. They Stop Having Sex with You

If you two have been having sex and then suddenly you’re not, something is probably up. An unexpected change in sexual behavior might mean something or someone is throwing your partner off, Firstein says. Other touching, like hand-holding, matters too. But when it comes to physical intimacy, a noticeable change in your sex life is the biggest indicator of a problem. Before you go hacking into phones and checking credit card statements, however, directly confront your partner about whether or not something is up, says Jenna Birch, a dating coach, journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love. If they’re not upfront about their whereabouts or the story doesn’t add up...major red flag.

2. They Talk Smack About Their Exes

Relationships are hard, there’s no getting around that. But someone who has nothing but negative things to say about everyone they’ve ever been with indicates they don’t hold themselves accountable for their part in those dud relationships, which is, you guessed it, a major red flag. Another major eyebrow-raiser? If they immediately start ex-bashing on your very first date. Keep in mind if they can do it to someone else they can do it to you.

3. They Have Constant “Work Emergencies”

Canceling a date at the last minute isn’t great, but we can let it slide for a work emergency. But more than one catastrophe at the office? That’s a bit suspect. “Some people hide behind work issues when there is ambivalence about a new relationship,” says relationship therapist Irina Firstein. Sound familiar? Ask point-blank if the issue at work is legit or if they’re trying to avoid you. Not liking their response? Might be time to reconsider things.

4. If You’re Four Dates in and They’re Throwing the “L” Word at You

Being in love is a wonderful thing, and if you and your partner are both there early, then kudos to you. But if you’re a few dates in and they’re moving at warp speed while you’re still finding your footing, something is up. Sorry to say it, but as Firstein says, you “might be a rebound.” And if they pressure you into saying it back, yeah, it’s time to exit the relationship.

5. They Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations

It’s natural for relationships to hit a lull. But the only way to get to a better place is to have those uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s a good ole temperature check or something more touchy like opening the relationship, you can’t expect to forge a bond with someone who deflects serious conversations. People who refuse to communicate about the state of their relationships typically don’t want to have or stay in real relationships.

relationship red flags dismissive
Malte Mueller/Getty Images

6. They Try to Change You

Anyone who pressures you into anything—whether it’s small, like cutting your hair or wearing shorter skirts, or big, like spending less time with your friends and family—is controlling you. Your partner should be dating you because they like you, not a version of you they’re trying to create.

7. They’re Selfish

You go to their work dinners and trek out to see their family for holidays—you even meal prep and clean up the mess for them. Do they do the same for you? “Relationships are a two-way street,” Firstein says, and your effort should be reciprocated. If they have a grandiose sense of importance, sense of entitlement and lack empathy, they might even be a narcissist.

8. They’re Dismissive and Don’t Take You Seriously

You got into a fight with your best friend and it’s been really bugging you. But when you brought it up to your partner, they rolled their eyes and muttered a quick “that sucks” before they returned to scrolling on the ‘Gram. Isn’t this the person you’re supposed to be able to lean on? Hmm. Occasional indifference can be excused because perhaps they didn't understand the gravity of the situation, but constant and purposeful phubbing? Unacceptable.

9. They Make You Feel Bad About Yourself

A partner who makes you feel unintelligent, unattractive or small, and who takes more shots at your self-esteem than they do at trying to make you smile, is not one you want to see more of. “A partner who speaks to you like this is projecting their own insecurities and should seek therapy,” Firstein says.

10. They Go from Zero to 60 in an Argument

Everyone fights, and everyone has a moment when they get too upset and feel awful about it later. But if your partner has a tendency to go absolutely bananas every time you disagree—we’re talking yelling, name-calling, stomping around, punching walls—this indicates your situation is super toxic.

relationship red flags look through texts
Malte Mueller/Getty Images

11. They Look Through Your Texts

And your Instagram DMs, your email and your call log. “They have major trust issues,” Firstein says, and it’s time to have a talk. Though a little bit of jealousy can be healthy in a relationship, says Dr. Leela Magavi, M.D., of Community Psychiatry, if “it results in impulsive comments and actions related to distrust such as, ‘I know why you didn’t text me back right away. I’m sure you’re texting that other guy instead,’ or ‘Your Snapchat score keeps increasing. I know you are sending nudes to your coworker,’” it’s time to exit.

12. They’re Rude to Their Parents

Hey, maybe their parents are difficult people, but partners who are nasty to Mom and Dad usually carry that attitude into their relationships too. If they can’t respect the people who gave them life, how are they going to be toward you?

13. You Haven’t Met Anyone Important to Them

You’ve asked to meet their family members, friends or even coworkers and nothing has happened. Are they stashing you? (Aka keeping you a secret.) Maybe. But this is not a good sign.

14. Nothing Is Ever Their Fault

Someone who can’t take responsibility for things that are truly their fault—like being an hour late for a date—is straight-up selfish.

15. They’re Gaslighting You

If they’re constantly forcing you to second guess your version of events, making you feel like you’re too sensitive or making you feel like you can’t get anything right, we’re afraid to say your partner may be gaslighting you. Though it may take you a while to realize what exactly is going on—emotional abuse can be complicated, after all—a general feeling of hopelessness should be indication enough that it's time to go.

relationship red flags kids. come first
Malte Mueller/Getty Images

16. Their Kids Always Come First

Maybe you’re dating someone who already has kids. According to Susan Trombetti, a matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, it’s natural—and right—that their children’s needs come first. However, things get sticky when the kids get to call the shots, she tells PureWow. The romantic relationship is between you and your partner, and they shouldn’t allow their children to dictate it.

17. Ghosting with No Explanation

Though this red flag pretty much does the work of removing the person from your life, sometimes ghosters double back. If they have a valid reason—traveling because of a family emergency, for example—then by all means reconsider. But if they were in the wind with no valid explanation, send them back to oblivion. “[Ghosting] often starts the spiral of narratives of negative self-talk, insecurities, and replaying interactions to try to guess ‘what went wrong,’ or ‘wasn’t enough,’” says Hilary Weinstein, LCSW, of HLW Therapy and you don't need to be around someone who causes that kind of disruption to your inner peace.

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From 2019-2020 Ariel Scotti held the role of Editor at PureWow covering trends, wellness and more.
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