It seems like everyone and their dog are talking about the concept of red flags, but when it comes to actually navigating red flags while dating or in the early stages of a relationship, many people find themselves unsure of how to proceed or reluctant to address them directly.
Fair enough; It can be challenging to reconcile the initial excitement of a new connection with the potential warning signs that arise. Additionally, fear of confrontation or the desire to give someone the benefit of the doubt can cloud your judgment.
That said, it can be confusing, intimidating, or downright awkward to bring up a concern about someone, especially as you’re still getting to know them.
But the “getting to know them” part is why addressing the red flags is essential, as the ultimate goal is to decide if this person is a good fit for you and not just pretty on paper (or on Insta).
I’ll walk you through how to assess and address red flags so you can feel empowered at any stage in your love life.
Ignoring red flags can lead to many annoyances, complications, and disappointments down the line. It can also potentially compromise your happiness and emotional safety in a relationship.
By acknowledging and addressing red flags early on, you can make more informed decisions about your relationships.
But some people wonder if it’s ever too early to address red flags or when a red flag is “serious” enough to address.
I hate to say it, but there’s no correct answer to this question, so the best answer for both is to trust your intuition.
If you’ve ever felt turned off, annoyed, bothered, or concerned by your date’s action or behavior, then whatever they did or said is clearly a red flag for you. So you can think to yourself:
And if those questions make you all the more curious and/or concerned, that’s when you’ll know that it’s necessary enough to address.
If it’s “not serious enough,” like a bit of awkwardness, odd storytelling, or a stain on their shirt, you’ll likely relax and perhaps give that person the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, if they are completely rude to a waiter, make an offensive joke, or get overly defensive, you may sense that those are clear indications of red flags to you and thus shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.
Frankly, any behavior demonstrating a lack of respect, empathy, or compatibility is a warning sign that likely won’t just “go away.”
Any behavior that elicits unease, discomfort, or concern for you is reasonable for you to address, no matter “how small” it may seem to someone else. But how exactly do you handle them?
My best advice is to bring it up directly with your partner or date in a kind yet assertive manner. Depending on the situation, it may be best to ask an open-ended question to get more information about why this person acted in that way, e.g., “What was your reasoning behind that?”
Otherwise, if you understand the reasoning (i.e., the reasoning behind an offensive joke is to be funny), but you simply did not like the behavior, it might be best to simply and clearly express your boundaries around that behavior, e.g., “I don’t appreciate that because…”
Either way, it’s important and helpful (for both parties) to ensure that the other person gets an opportunity to respond. It’ll allow them to either apologize, explain the situation (if you asked), or both, opening the chance of understanding and growth.
On the other hand, if the person deflects, mocks you, invalidates you or otherwise dismisses your concerns, you can take that response as an answer in itself – that this person is not willing to change their behavior and is likely not a good fit for your values and expectations.
These types of conversations might be complex and uncomfortable, but they’re crucial for ensuring that you and your partner or date are building a foundation for an aligned compatible relationship.
As mentioned earlier, everyone has varying things they may consider “red flags,” depending on their values and expectations.
But since we’ve been speaking in more vague terms, I thought it might be helpful to list some common red flags that people often encounter in relationships – especially those I would certainly recommend addressing head-on.
This list is not exhaustive, but it can provide a starting point for navigating red flags and identifying potential warning signs:
We all have work we can do when it comes to being completely honest with ourselves and others. Still, habitual lying, deceit, or inconsistent stories about one’s past, present activities, or future plans can erode trust and indicate deeper, underlying issues.
If your partner struggles expressing their thoughts or emotions, this can lead to misunderstandings and many unresolved conflicts.
Disrespectful or demeaning behavior can include insults, belittlement, or disregard for your boundaries, and even “minor offenses” shouldn’t be overlooked. (And, of course, any verbal, emotional, or physical abuse should never be tolerated.)
A little jealousy is natural, especially when there’s no established commitment yet (as in, before you’ve “DTR’d”). But constant monitoring, controlling behavior, or unfounded accusations may be early signs of an abusive dynamic, someone who has a lot to hide, or both.
Dismissing or invalidating your emotions with phrases like “it’s not that bad” or “just get over it” demonstrates a failure to show true empathy or support during challenging times – yikes.
Look – everyone has their struggles. And I can say for a fact that I started my relationship with my now husband with some serious mental health concerns. But I still very much include this as a red flag because it’s something that indeed shouldn’t be swept under the rug, as it can significantly impact the well-being of both individuals in the relationship.
Someone having mental health issues doesn’t have to be an outright dealbreaker, but they should be able to acknowledge their problems and desire to manage them for the sake of both them and the relationship.
This naturally leads to the next common red flag: lacking accountability or responsibility.
A pattern of refusing to take responsibility for their actions, their health, their mistakes, etc.; shifting blame onto others; or consistently making excuses are all problematic habits to look for when dating.
Remember, each relationship is unique, and red flags may manifest differently in different contexts. But if you remember to trust your instincts while prioritizing your emotional and physical well-being, you get better at assessing potential red flags in a relationship.
Some people find it difficult to fully trust themselves when navigating red flags, often due to staying in disappointing or toxic relationships for “too long” in the past, thus feeling they aren’t equipped to notice red flags.
That said, it isn’t always so easy to simply “trust your instincts.” It takes even more courage, self-reflection, and self-awareness in these scenarios.
Of course, getting outside support is always helpful. You can seek help from a mental health professional regarding your mental and emotional blocks.
Otherwise, if you feel self-aware and healed from the past but need clarity and direction for navigating modern dating and relationships in the future, you can seek tailored guidance, skills, action steps, and accountability from a relationship and dating coach.
I hope this article helped you understand the significance of navigating red flags, especially in the early stages of a relationship.
Key takeaway: If you’re ever trying to convince yourself that it “isn’t that big of a deal,” it probably is, and you have every right to address it.
All the love,