Red Flags to Watch Out for in Relationships

Written by Sexual Health Peer Health Educators (PHEs)

New relationships are fun and exciting, but often when we are in the honeymoon phase we are willing to overlook certain unsavoury behaviours. The more educated we are, the easier it may be to avoid these situations, but some red flags might be harder to spot than others. Whether your relationship is new or long-term, it is generally a good idea to keep an eye out for certain patterns in your partner’s behaviour, which may indicate your relationship may becoming unhealthy.

Some common red flags to keep an eye out for:

Your partner talks badly about all of their exes. When people put all the blame on their ex for the relationship’s failure, this may indicate that they cannot take any responsibility for what went wrong and they have not learnt from their past mistakes.

You partner never wants to talk through issues. The unwillingness to talk through any big or small issues can really make or break things. Does your partner shut down? Place all of the blame onto you? Get angry? These are all red flags. Communication in a relationship is key.

They have difficulty apologizing. Their unwillingness to apologize or own up to their mistakes demonstrates an unwillingness to learn from the past and a lack of respect for your feelings. It can take a toll on the relationship for one partner to have to do the apologizing every time. 

They “innocently” cross boundaries. Sometimes in new relationships discussions about boundaries haven’t been established. Take note if once you’ve made a comment about your personal or physical boundaries and your partner still tries to cross them, this is a red flag – especially if they don’t see the problem. You should also be wary if your partner purposely embarrasses or puts you down. Relationships are a two way street built on empathy and respect!

They make “suggestions” as to how to improve your life. While at first this may seem like your partner is being helpful, giving unsolicited advice may be a sign of controlling behaviour. They are your partner, not your life coach. Suggestions may also be in the form of discouraging you from seeing your friends or families. Or they may target your appearance. Everyone has flaws, but if your partner starts to tell you how you can look better, that definitely crosses a line. Suggestions can also quickly evolve to pressure. Whether it be pressuring you to use alcohol or other drugs, skip class or engage in sexual acts you are not comfortable with, these are all signs to look out for.

If you are worried that your relationship has some red flags, please reach out to trusted friends and family and talk to them. Talking about it is the first step. If you feel safe, addressing the issues and voicing your concerns to your partner can help you determine if these problems are resolvable. Every relationship is different, but if you have lingering concerns, it is important to reach out to a professional healthcare provider.

If you are experiencing any form of sexual violence there are resources to support you.  For good information on how to give and get help, connect with our Sexual Violence Prevention and Response resource.