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Bad Relationships: Red Flags and Warning Signs

Are you blind to the signs of a bad relationship? Don't turn away from warning signs that tell you your relationship spells trouble.

Are you blind to the signs of a bad relationship? Don't turn away from warning signs that tell you your relationship spells trouble.

Some of the signs that you're currently in, or heading into, a bad relationship may not be noticeable at first. They may be subtle. They may show themselves only once in a while. But when you add them all together, they may give you pause to reconsider if this is someone you want to spend your life with.

Being in a long-term relationship is a big emotional commitment. All areas of your life will be affected by the person you choose to live with. It’s vital that you pay attention to common relationship red flags. Your financial future, your safety, your emotional well-being, and your health can be deeply affected by a bad relationship.

Is your partner rude and abusive to other people when he doesn't get his way? That's a sign that he could be bad news for you down the  road.

Is your partner rude and abusive to other people when he doesn't get his way? That's a sign that he could be bad news for you down the road.

Does Your Relationship Ever Make You Feel Like This?

  • You are walking on eggshells around your partner.
  • You feel like the tiniest mistake will cause your partner to erupt with anger.
  • You are belittled and mocked by your partner both in private and in public.

These are signs that you are in an unhealthy relationship. No matter how good things seem to be most of the time, if you are living in fear or feeling intimidated, you are caught up in relationship that isn't good for you.

Does being around your partner make you feel like you are walking on eggshells? That could be a sign of a bad relationship.

Does being around your partner make you feel like you are walking on eggshells? That could be a sign of a bad relationship.

Do Any of These Early Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship Resonate With You?

  1. He talks about his ex-wife or ex-girlfriend a lot. It doesn't matter if it's good or bad, the more he talks about her, the less time he's thinking about a future with you.
  2. He travels a great deal, either for work or personal reasons and never considers asking you to go along. He doesn't stay in touch when he is away on a business trip.
  3. He hasn't expressed an interest in meeting your friends or family members. It's one thing to be nervous about meeting your partner's parents, but it's another thing entirely to persistently avoid meeting the other important people in your partner's life. If he's not serious about being with you, he may be worried that your father, mother, or sister will be able to see his lack of long-term interest from a mile away.
  4. He seems to be able to find time to add other social activities to his so-called busy life that don't include you. If you're feeling left out of his social life now, how will it feel to be left out after you have been in a committed relationship? If something feels fishy, it could be your gut telling you that he's looking at other potential partners. While it's important for each person to have their own circle of friends, it shouldn't be at the expense of the relationship's well-being.
  5. He doesn't seem to remember or care about important heath matters such as your food allergies or other important medical issues. If you have severe nut allergies that could seriously harm you or even kill you, what does it say about him when he doesn't think remembering these things is a big deal?
  6. He treats dating as a financial transaction where costs are always split. When he does pay, he's always sure to remind you about how expensive everything was. Giving and receiving in a relationship should be done because you care about the other person, not because you are keeping score of who paid for what and when.
  7. He never invites you to important events in his life (i.e.; work events, weddings, holiday gatherings, family events, etc).
  8. He doesn't respond when you're visibly upset about something. He just pretends not to notice that you are crying or deeply distressed about something. Ignoring your feelings is not healthy.
  9. He doesn't give you compliments. He never notices when you've done something new such as wearing your hair differently. Healthy relationships are about being fully present with the other person.
  10. He never wants to have his picture taken with you. If he does agree to a picture he always makes an odd or funny face in the picture, not a happy 'I'm glad to be with you' face.
  11. He's doesn't seem to be interested in what you do for a living or what your career goals are. How can someone be supportive of your life goals and dreams if he doesn't take an interest in something that impacts your daily life? If he's not thinking about spending his life with you, he probably doesn't see the point in learning about what makes you tick.
  12. He's not there when you need him: when you're sick, when a friend or family member dies, when you need someone to talk to.
  13. You sometimes feel like you're walking behind him rather than beside him.
  14. He dismisses your feelings or tells you to "just get over it' when you're upset about something.
  15. You never see any signs of your relationship around his house; no photographs, mementos or personal items such as a gift that you gave him or a souvenir from a trip or special date.
  16. He doesn’t want to come to your important social events such as a work holiday party or a friend's wedding. Someone who wants to have a good relationship with you will make an effort to be there for the events that really matter in your personal and professional life
  17. He’s never left you alone in his place. He has always found a way to get you to leave if he has to go to work, rather than letting you have access to his home when he’s not there. This could be a sign that he doesn't trust you or that he's worried you might discover something about him he doesn't want you to know (i.e., that he's cheating on you).
  18. You’ve never met his friends. Why is that? What is it that he doesn't want you to know about his life?
  19. He treats other people badly. He makes a scene in public when he doesn’t get what he wants from customer service staff and restaurant servers.
  20. He complains about everything and seems to notice what's wrong with everyone around him but himself. This is a sign that he could lack self-awareness or the ability to look inward and examine his own personal growth and development. Someone who is always finding fault with other people and never with himself may have difficulty admitting wrong-doing or expressing remorse. Humility, accountability, and forgiveness are good signs you want to look for in a relationship.
  21. He drives aggressively and has come close to being involved in a road rage incident. You have to ask yourself if you feel safe and comfortable being in a vehicle with someone who is driving recklessly and has little regard for how his actions can affect you. If he has been involved in any road rage incidents that he instigated, then watch out. That's a big red flag because it suggests he lacks maturity, patience, and self-restraint.
  22. His work schedule always seems to be a barrier to you seeing him on a regular basis. Relationships take time, effort, commitment, and compromise. If work is always used as an excuse not to be with you, then perhaps he isn't ready to commit his time and attention to building a relationship with you. Many people who are afraid of emotional and/or physical intimacy may use things such as their job or their busy schedule to avoid forming a long-term relationship with someone.
  23. He gambles compulsively or takes money risks that could put your financial future at risk. If you have witnessed him cheat or commit an act of fraud, ask yourself if you want to spend your life covering for someone or worrying about getting caught up in a crime.
  24. He talks about wanting to be in an open relationship. That means he wants to see other people while he's dating you. Not all open relationship are necessarily unhealthy; as long as both partners agree 100% that this is what they want, and they both feel secure enough to let the other person date someone else at the same time, then an open relationship doesn't have to be a bad thing. But if you are feeling coerced or pressured to be in a non-monogamous relationship, then that's not healthy for you at all.
  25. He doesn’t introduce you as his date, girlfriend, partner, or spouse to other people. When asked about why he doesn’t identify you as someone he's in a relationship with, he tries to convince you that he thinks those names (wife, partner, girlfriend, etc) are just labels and not a sign of how he really feels about you.
  26. You feel like he's playing head-games with you. He’s evasive, passive aggressive, or flippant about topics that you believe are important. When you ask him to be more clear and direct about what's going on, he tries to minimize your feelings and dismisses your concerns as you being too needy. When you're in a healthy relationship, your partner listens to your concerns and validates your feelings without making you feel stupid or naïve.

There are many different warning signs that you could be heading into a bad relationship. Even if you are experiencing something that isn't on this list. don't dismiss your feelings. If your instincts are telling you that something isn't right, that's the most important warning sign to heed. You are the expert of your own feelings and one single list of bad relationship signs might not cover everything that you are going through.

The video below explores what an abusive relationship can look like and it also provides resources and information on what to do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship.

Why Do Women Stay in Bad Relationships?

There are many reasons that a woman may decide that staying in a bad relationship, even a toxic and violent one, is better than the risk involved in leaving. Studies have shown that a woman in an abusive relationship is most at risk of being killed or violently assaulted when she attempts to leave. About 25% of all women who are murdered by their spouse had left the relationship.1

Here are some reasons it is difficult for many woman to leave bad relationships:

  • She is financially dependent on her partner. She may not believe that she will have the job skills, resources, or financial capacity to support herself and her children if she leaves.
  • She may be afraid to leave because she's been raised within a religion that condemns marital dissolution. If she's afraid of being alienated from her family and religious community for leaving, it may be very hard for her to get out of a bad relationship.
  • Low-esteem, triggered by months or years of abuse at the hands of a spouse can leave many women feeling unworthy of safety, happiness, and respect.
  • A woman who has been isolated from her friends and family by her emotionally and/or physically abusive partner may feel like she has no one to turn to when she wants to get out of the relationship.

Being in a bad relationship can rob women of the internal emotional strength and courage they need in order to get away from someone who is harmful, even dangerous. Unless you know a woman's full experience—which is impossible unless you are that woman—judging someone for staying in a bad relationship is not helpful. A woman trying to leave an abusive relationship needs empathy, kindness, compassion, and validation.

1. Report: Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006, p. 38

No one should have to live in fear of their partner snapping and violently lashing out. Seek professional help and support if you are having trouble leaving a bad relationship.

No one should have to live in fear of their partner snapping and violently lashing out. Seek professional help and support if you are having trouble leaving a bad relationship.

Image Sources:; Microsoft Office

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Sadie Holloway