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18 relationship red flags you should never ignore, according to experts

When you're smitten, these warning signs can be easy to miss.

When you're in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, it's easy to ignore some of your partner's negative traits.

However, you shouldn't let yourself get so swept up in butterflies that you ignore serious red flags in your budding relationship.

As Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don’t Do, tells TODAY.com, red flags are crucial warning signs that someone isn’t ready to participate in a healthy relationship.

“Red flags should indicate that the person might not be able to participate in a mature relationship, and a conversation about your concerns might not solve the issue,” she says, noting that these signals are usually more about someone’s character, personality, or stage in life and that people can’t necessarily change those things.

Little signs of trouble early on in a relationship can easily snowball into bigger issues. If you sense that your partner isn't being completely truthful, put the brakes on progressing the relationship until you can sit down for a deeper conversation.

Talking to a therapist or someone else you trust is also a good way to work out your feelings, examine the relationship objectively, and figure out whether you want to stay in the relationship.

In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should be able to have an honest conversation about your concerns, Luis Cornejo, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship expert at Clara for Daters, tells TODAY.com.

“It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about these concerns and to consider your own feelings and needs in the relationship,” he says.

With the help of licensed therapists and relationship experts, we compiled a list of the 18 most common relationship red flags to look out for, plus how you can identify and deal with them.

What 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 your 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 tells TODAY.com.

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 adds.

How to identify relationship red flags

Although most red flags can be easy to spot, Klesman says 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 says.

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 says. “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 says. “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 says that getting outside help from a third party 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 important to not be with yourself in your own head about this,” Schiff says. 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.”

Relationship red flags to look out for

Things feel superficial

Many of us have been in a friendship or romantic relationship that just seems to plateau at the surface level. This could be a red flag that it may be time to move or have a talk with the person. “If the relationship lacks depth and seems to focus more on physical intimacy or superficial interactions, it could be a sign of a rebound,” says Cornejo. “These relationships often lack the emotional depth and genuine bonding that characterize more serious, committed relationships.”

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 says 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 says. If you notice your partner gaslighting you, address them and seek help.

Love bombing

What’s this expression, you ask? Morin describes love bombing as when someone moves too fast, showering you with expensive gifts and trying to overwhelm you with positive sentiments. In these cases, per Morin, they have an agenda. “They may be trying to move in quickly because they don’t have a place to live. Or they may be trying to get you to fall in love fast so you’ll forgive them when they’re unkind later,” she says.

People-pleasing

A partner bending over backwards to keep you happy in all aspects of your life may seem like a good thing, but it’s actually not that great?a trait after all. In fact, people-pleasing or sycophantic tendencies can very well be a relationship red flag. “If someone is afraid to speak up for themselves, or they can’t say so no to other people, they might not be showing you the true version of themselves either,” says Morin. “They may say they like things they don’t simply because they’re trying to make you happy. Or they may be pretending to agree with you,” she continues, adding that ultimately, you might not get to know the real version of them if they’re a people-pleaser.

Workaholism

“While it’s often easy to see a substance use disorder or an addiction to gambling, an addiction to work might be seen as a positive thing at first. The person may look like they’re a hard worker when in reality, they struggle to step away from work because doing so gives them incredible anxiety,” explains Morin of this common modern-day phenomena. In this red flag scenario, the person may try to mask their symptoms behind their success, but their addiction to work will make it impossible to have a healthy relationship over the long-term, comments Morin.

Constantly discussing and/or comparing you to an ex

When this pesky relationship red flag seems to hover over a blossoming romance, be wary. “If your partner often talks about their ex, whether positively or negatively, it suggests they haven’t fully moved on,” says Cornejo. “Their emotions regarding the past relationship are still strong and present, indicating that the new relationship may be a way to cope with these unresolved feelings.”

Along those lines, Cornejo shares that if your partner frequently compares you to their ex or if you feel like you’re in a competition with the ex, it’s also a significant red flag. “This behavior indicates that they are still processing their past relationship and using the current one as a benchmark or distraction,” he says.?

Avoidance of serious emotional connection

As Cornejo points out, someone who avoids deep emotional connections or discussions about feelings may be presenting a capital R red flag to you. “This avoidance often stems from a fear of repeating past mistakes or a reluctance to open up and be vulnerable again so soon after a painful breakup,” he says.

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 says. "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 says. 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 says 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 says "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 says.

History of infidelity

If a person has a history of cheating on someone else or on you, Schiff says 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," Schiff adds.

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 says 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 says. 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 says 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 adds 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 says.

The relationship moves too fast

Sometimes, this may be mistaken for something positive, but Klesman says 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 warns 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 end 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.

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