How to Recognize Deal Breakers and Red Flags in a Relationship

Updated on July 1, 2019
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok shares his insight about relationships that he learned from his studies of social behavior and from personal experience.

It's important to be conscious of our partner's good qualities. However, it's equally important to know when we’re involved with the wrong person.

We need to be "emotionally available" to all aspects of the relationship so that we are conscious of deal breakers and red flags that could eventually become emotionally toxic. Otherwise, we may waste time with someone who doesn't fit the image of the person with whom we actually want to spend our life.


I wasn’t aware that there is a two-sided viewpoint of being "emotionally available" until one day when my therapist explained this to me:

  1. When you are emotionally available and fully aware of the good things about your relationship, you may find yourself desiring your partner more than ever. Being conscious of your partner's good qualities will help with appreciating them better.
  2. If you are not focused on what you want in life, you may find yourself wasting time with inappropriate partners. That might be due to a lack of emotional availability.

As you can see, there are two sides to the concept of Emotional Availability.

The first point is important because once we recognize we are with someone special, then we'll know for sure that they are the right one for a long-term relationship. We'll appreciate our partner, and we won't look for faults.

The second point above means that it's just as important to know when to let go if someone is not right for us. Besides, relationships such as that will most likely end eventually.

Emotional Unavailability Can Hinder Communication

When you are unavailable emotionally, this can cause you to let time go by without moving forward with a decision. You might end up staying in a bad relationship with one who has a personality flaw that you consider to be a deal breaker.

Those who are emotionally unavailable may miss essential considerations that would help them decide to stay in a good relationship or to leave a bad one.

They may find themselves lacking the desire to communicate and discuss the issues. Feelings may be held within and never shared. The result is that things drag on until something significant happens that either ends the relationship or forces the parties to finally sit down and talk.

Which one of these things happens is all a matter of how good both partners are with their ability to communicate. Being emotionally unavailable can hinder any attempt to share thoughts and feelings.

Quick question:

Are you in a relationship you're not sure about but letting time just drift by?

See results

When one is available on an emotional level, they are aware of both good and bad qualities of the relationship. More importantly, they are willing to talk and discuss those issues that may stand in the way of moving forward.

The two-sided concept that I introduced at the start of this article explains how “moving forward” can mean either continuing or ending a relationship.

As I mentioned earlier, a lack of emotion can cause one to stay in a bad relationship or one with the wrong partner. I know many friends who never dealt with the issues and ended up getting married to someone with whom they were unhappy. Each one of them ended up getting divorced in later years.

Exercising complete emotional availability involves being attentive to what is going on.

Pay Attention to Your Partner's Positive Traits

Many people often ignore the good things about their mate. They forget the wonderful things that happen in their relationship, and they tend to remember the bad experiences more readily:

  • Every relationship will have painful periods from time to time.
  • Everyone has different views of the world and events.
  • We each have different habits and beliefs.

These differences can cause insecurity, that can confuse our thinking when dealing with relationships.

Bad feelings have a stronger effect on decision making. We may even become judgmental based on bad memories.

Quick question:

Do you tend to remember the bad things and rarely focus on wonderful things your partner does?

See results

Focus on Communication and Trust

For the sake of building a better relationship with love and respect, we need to have communication and trust. We need to share all our feelings, both the good and the bad. When feeling bad about our mate, we need to try to remember the wonderful things about them.

If we only remember the negative issues, we'll have resistance to acceptance. If we genuinely are emotionally available, we will keep both sides of the equation in our conscious mind.

Discussing all our thoughts and feelings is essential to have a clear understanding of one another. That will also help with realizing if the relationship is a workable one for both partners.

On the other hand, if we stay with someone who is not right for us rather than moving on, then we are not allowing ourselves to be available when the right one does come along. I made this mistake a few times.

There are many reasons why we may stay with someone who is not right for us. Maybe for sex—perhaps for companionship—possibly even for purposes related to unresolved issues we had in childhood.

Quick question:

Do you trust your partner enough to be willing to talk about difficult issues?

See results

Be Attentive to the Relationship

Staying with someone who is not a positive influence in our lives may harm our emotional health. Why be in a relationship with such a person?

Try to be emotionally available in every respect. If we don't stop and think, then we are just letting time pass without leading to anything positive. We need to consider our own needs and desires, but we also need to be attentive to the needs and desires of our mate.

This concept of attentiveness also refers to “being available.” It gives us the ability to understand why we may be choosing to spend years of our life with the wrong person. With that, we will come to terms with the reason for our decision. Then we can accept it and love our partner for it, or let him or her free.

How to Know When You're With a Wonderful Person

As you can see, “being available” also means having the courage to move on with our lives and letting someone go if it’s a bad relationship.

Notice that I referred to this as a "bad" relationship. That is in contrast to simply being with the "wrong person," as I mentioned above.

We may be able to live a happy life with the wrong person as long as it's not a toxic situation and as long as we recognize why we are choosing to hold on.

With some of my friends who are in this kind of situation, I see that they are forgetting they are involved with a good person and that they are in a good relationship. They end up focusing on the negatives and complaining about their partner. They are fooling themselves and missing out on enjoying life with a wonderful person.

When we recognize the reality of what we have, we will appreciate it and be able to experience a better life with an outlook that is more in line with our dreams and our desires.

We may already be with our soul mate and not realize it. Emotional availability will help us understand how we truly feel about our partner. Just remember to pay attention and recognize his or her good qualities.

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.

© 2009 Glenn Stok

What are your thoughts about this?

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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      LaTrice - You did the right thing breaking up with him. It sure sounds like he didn’t have the ability to be there for you, especially in your time of need.

      I have a saying: Two people in a relationship should consider themselves as team players. He definitely was not on your team. Sorry for the loss of your Mom.

    • Miss Liberty31 profile image


      19 months ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Reading this article has given me encouragement and inspiration on how to move on from my failed relationship with my ex-boyfriend. I realized that I was wasting time staying with a person who wasn't emotionally available, and missed out on amazing opportunities to find someone better than him. It was his loss, not mine.

      I chose to stay by giving my ex-boyfriend the benefit of a doubt. Despite addressing the issues between us, such as not going out on dates on a regular basis, not showing any support after my mom's tragic death, the lack of communication (he wouldn't call or text me for over one month. According to his excuses, he was "busy"), and ignoring my needs, he swept everything under the rug. His attitude infuriated me. I was supposed to be his girlfriend, someone who was a priority instead of an option. I'm disgusted with myself for allowing his disrespectful behavior to happen.

      I don't regret ending the relationship because it wasn't meant to be. I refuse to be involved with a person who's selfish and not available. I'm not obligated to lower standards for any man. For now, I'm going to mourn the loss of my mom and enjoy being a single woman.

      Thank you for sharing this incredible article, Glenn.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      [Updated Nov 2016] I added a quick poll question at the end of each section of this article, for readers to compare their answers.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      9 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Thank you kyttykatty for your comments. You are very "in tune" with this concept.

    • kyttykatty profile image


      9 years ago from Dallas, TX

      This is very true and although this knowledge is inside my mind, the hopes that maybe things will change keeps me where I am even if it's bad or if I know better. Being available is definitely necessary and one cannot be so unless we let them go.


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