Emotional Red Flags In A Relationship

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Counselling Psychologist - M.Sc. Clinical Psychology

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Reviewed By:

Counselling Psychologist - Ph.D. Relationship Psychology

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When we think of red flags, we often look over a lot of things that are actually problematic and think about the more obvious ones such as not being faithful or loyal or some form of abuse. Red flags are actually a lot more common than you might think. Having red flags in itself is not an issue, however, lack of self-awareness or willingness to work on those them is what truly makes red flags, a red flag. There are a few other types of flags that you may have come across, here are some in order of increasing intensity: 

  • green flags: these are positive habits and attitudes 
  • yellow flags: warning signs but not that serious 
  • orange flags: more serious than yellow flags but are not deal breakers 
  • Red flags: signs that are serious and should be dealt with as soon as possible  

Here, we will be focusing on a sub-type of red flags, which are emotional red flags.  

What Do Emotional Red Flags Look Like? 

You might be a little confused or overwhelmed with the different types of flags and their meanings. It is hard to keep track of them but understanding them is important in order to recognize them if you ever find yourself troubled because of them. Here are some emotional red flags that you should look into:  

  • Overly Controlling Behaviour- being in a relationship with someone does not give your significant the power other to control your actions or your life. Overly controlling behavior is unhealthy as it may lead to losing one’s sense of self.   
  • Extreme preoccupation- this refers to your partner constantly wanting to know every single detail about your life. Boundaries are necessary and important in every relationship and should be maintained. 
  • Isolation- isolation could be because of a lot of reasons from temporary ones such as work dress to more permanent ones such as it being a coping mechanism. If you get into a fight with your partner and their immediate instinct is to isolate themselves and pretend like the fight never happened instead of looking into the issue and dealing with it, you might want to be more mindful of this. 
  • Lack of acknowledgment and appreciation- if you feel like you’re the one who constantly gives in the relationship without receiving any form of acknowledgment and appreciation then that might ultimately lead to you feeling exhausted and a sense of resentment towards your partner.  
  • Gaslighting- if you confront your partner about a situation that made you feel bad and their response sounds something like ‘that never happened’ or ‘you’re imagining it’, it s called gaslighting. It is when an individual tries to change their sense of reality and create a flawed one that favours them and their actions. 
  • Stonewalling- it is similar to isolation in the sense that your partner refuses to acknowledge the problem let alone work towards solving the issue. Constant lack of acknowledgment can deteriorate your well-being in the long run and can be severely damaging to your relationship.
  • Manipulation- it means to influence someone in a wrongful manner. Gaslighting and guilt-tripping come under manipulation. Manipulation can go as far as the manipulator making the victim feel like they are the ones who are wrong and that the manipulator is the victim. It is important to be mindful of such cases in order to avoid them or rightfully call someone out for manipulating you.  
  • Extreme mood swings- we all deal with some levels of mood swings, it could be due to work stress or hormones, but we are also expected to not lash out at others or make anyone else suffer because of our moods. If your partner goes through extreme mood swings and doesn t know how to control themselves then this is something you should look out for.  
  • Disrespect- a very important aspect of every relationship is the respect that you both have for each other. Love and respect go hand in hand and lack of respect is something that should not be tolerated. Your partner should treat you with the basic respect of a human and further as a partner that you are entitled to.  

When Do Warning Signs Turn Into Red Flags?

Conflicts, arguments, and problems are common in every relationship, but not all of them are red flags or need to be treated as one. There are certain reasons why basic issues eventually turn into red flags and should be taken seriously: 

  • They Refuse To Acknowledge The Problem

 It might start with them not even knowing that the problem exists. You might confront them with your problems and concerns and they might respond with ‘I dont feel that’s the case’ or ‘that s not true’. There won t be anything to work towards if there is a refusal to accept the problem.  

  • Your Partner Dismisses Your Feelings 

If your partner doesn t understand you but at least tries to do so is something that you should acknowledge and appreciate. However, if your partner does not understand you, does not try to, and further pushes your concerns away is something that is simply wrong and should be addressed as soon as possible.  

  • Your Partner Always Tries To Make It About Themselves

You could tell your partner ‘I feel very tired, I slept at 3 am last night’ and they could respond with ‘I slept at 5 am, you got more sleep than me’. Their sharing their concerns is not an issue, but their competing with your concerns and making themselves the focal point of every issue is concerning as you would always feel like your problems dont matter or that their problems matter more. 

  • They Don t Listen To You  

This could be evident through two means. They could either simply not listen to you at all, or they could hear you out and not care about you, your concerns, or anything that you have to say. Both of these are problematic and should be confronted right away. 

5 Things You Can Do To Come Out Of This Situation

Many couples struggle with issues early in their relationship. That is not something you should give up on. Building a good level of understanding and trust takes a lot of time, effort, and patience. Make sure you dont confuse some personal issues or temporary issues with red flags or deal breakers these things with red flags. 

You or your partner could also be emotionally and mentally strained due to stress from work or other aspects of life which might make them seem like they are unavailable for you and dont pay attention to your concerns. Dont beat yourself up if you are in this position and try being in their shoes if your partner is in a similar strained position. Make sure you consider one’s history of behaviours, with you and with others before you if there were any to know if their unavailability or lack of sympathy and empathy is temporary or a behavioral pattern.  

  1. You can try to confront them
  2. Give them some time and be patient 
  3. Let them know how you feel 
  4. Dont put yourself down 
  5. Try to identify the red flags 

It is ultimately upon you to decide whether something is a red flag for you and your relationship or not. If you feel unheard, sad, mistreated and just unhappy in your relationship then you should definitely talk to them about it. If talking does not help and they are unwilling to listen to make efforts then you need to decide whether that relationship is good for you or not. 

Ms. Priyanka Walia
Ms. Priyanka Walia M.A. Counselling Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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Ms. Muskan Maheshwari
Ms. Muskan Maheshwari M.Sc. Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist 02 years of experience

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Mr. Nishant Sharma
Mr. Nishant Sharma M.Phil. Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist 07 years of experience

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Ms. Akshita Bakshi
Ms. Akshita Bakshi Ph.D. Relationship Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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