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How to deal with red flags in a relationship

June 21, 2023
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Human connection and relationships are a part of our life. They contribute to our mental health and well-being by giving us a feeling of belonging, love and compassion. But not all relationships are good for us. Some relationships might be toxic and affect our mental health in a negative way. Red flags in a relationship are warning signs that you can recognize that indicate the relationship is toxic. 

Red flags might not be easy to recognize easily. These red flags tend to grow more problematic over time. These red flags may exist in a romantic relationship or even any other close relationship like with friends, colleagues or family members. It is necessary to become aware of these red flags early on so you can avoid getting involved in a toxic relationship. 

Identifying the red flags

We’ve been told to be cautious and avoid a relationship or a person who exhibits red flags. But how do we understand what these signs are that we need to look out for? Let’s discuss some of the most common red flags in any relationship. These signs can help you proceed with caution or even cut things off if necessary. 

  1. Overly controlling behaviour:

This person might try to control your decisions, where you go, what you believe in, how you dress and who you meet. In a healthy relationship, there are boundaries, compromise and understanding around any differences. No one person should control the other person’s actions. They might try to tell you that they know better, or they are just concerned about you and control what you do and who you are. 

  1. Frequent Lying:

Constantly catching the other person lying is a common red flag. Your partner might be constantly trying to deceive you or hide things from you. These might include small lies like lying about where they are or big lies about their financial situation. Being lied to over and over again can destroy the foundation of the relationship. 

  1. Love-bombing in a relationship

If someone is moving too quickly in a new relationship, that might be a red flag. A fast-paced relationship isn’t necessarily bad. But if they say things like “I can’t live without you” or want to move in after three dates, this is a red flag. You might want to be cautious about where this might be coming from and slow things down a bit if necessary. 

  1. Violent displays:

If someone displays violence towards you, other people in their circle, strangers or even animals, this is a serious red flag. This is a sign that they do not express their emotions in a healthy way. It could also show their lack of empathy for other people. If you or someone you know have been a victim of any form of domestic abuse, you can reach out to National Commission for Women Helpline at +91 7827170170 for assistance. 

  1. Substance abuse:

If your partner drinks alcohol or consumes other drugs on a regular basis, this might be a serious red flag. They might be dependent or develop an addiction. It could indicate they have self-destructive habits. If addiction is present, the relationship might turn toxic very quickly. However, remember that substance abuse is an illness, and your loved one might need help. You can browse our list of treatment centres across India here

  1. Excessive jealousy and trust issues:

If your partner is jealous of your social life outside of the relationship, this might be a red flag. A jealous partner might constantly call or text you to keep checking what you are doing. If you see yourself constantly changing yourself or doing things to soothe your jealousy, this is a major red flag. Research shows that when a partner is possessive early on in a relationship, it is a sign that they’re likely to have an unhealthy communication style. 

  1. Putting you down:

If they often crack jokes at your expense, this might be a red flag. Making jokes that constantly point out your flaws in a way to gain power in the relationship. There might be couples who roast each other in a consensual fun way, where those jokes don’t make you feel bad about yourself. It is important to communicate when something hurts your feelings. 

  1. They have no friends:

If your partner struggles to maintain relationships of any kind, this may be a sign that you might have problems too. Try and understand why they had difficulty building connections. There is a chance that you might experience the same in your relationship with them. This might be a sign that they might be dependent on you for all of their needs

These red flags are very common in relationships, but we often only see them in hindsight when things have already gone bad. One reason why people often miss these red flags is because we don’t trust our own judgement. We might notice something wrong but still proceed by trying to rationalize what happened. You might tell yourself you’re overthinking or only focusing on the negatives. It is important that you trust your intuition. If ignored, these unhealthy behaviours tend to escalate as the relationship progresses. 

Addressing these Red Flags

In a relationship, it can be tempting to only look at the positive side of your partner. However, overlooking these red flags can lead to an unhealthy and abusive relationship. If you do accept these red flags early on, then you can discuss them with your partner and try to create a healthy balance. Give yourself time to know about your partner before making any commitments in the relationship, like moving in together or marrying them. 

  1. Have an open conversation:

If you notice any of these red flags in your partner, even if it’s only the first time, it is important to open up and talk to your partner about it. It can be difficult to bring up these unpleasant things, but in the long run, you are creating a healthy communication style along with establishing your boundaries. While talking to them, make sure you also give them a chance to talk and listen actively. Try and share how you’re feeling and avoid blaming them, as this might make them defensive. 

  1. Identify any patterns and raise concerns

If you notice behaviours that show toxic patterns, it is important to bring them up. Let your partner know how you feel. Have a calm discussion with them and let them know that you won’t tolerate this behaviour like dishonesty. You can tell them how you are concerned about your relationship, and it may not survive if they continue to engage in such toxic behaviour. 

  1. Setting boundaries

Make it clear what is and isn’t okay. It is okay to make some compromises from both sides in a relationship, but there are some things which are non-negotiable for you. These could include being exclusive with each other, not being lied to etc. If they often disrespect your boundaries, this is a major red flag. In this keeps happening, it is best to leave the relationship. 

  1. Seeking Professional Help

A professional can give you both perspectives on the problem. It can be very difficult to manage these red flags on your own, especially if your partner isn’t ready to address these things. A relationship counsellor can help mediate these conversations so you both understand where the other person is coming from and find a healthy balance. 

  1. Ending the relationship

If nothing changes after you’ve talked about it, it’s time to move on. While it helps to express your feelings and set healthy boundaries, this might not work in every relationship. If the toxic behaviour still continues and they don’t seem to make a change or stick to the change, then you should leave. If there is any kind of abuse in the relationship, you should leave immediately when it is safe

Even in a relationship, it is important to prioritize your own well-being. Practice self-reflection and engage in self-care activities. Build a support network so you can seek advice from trusted friends or family. You can also choose to join support groups or take one-on-one therapy sessions. If you do walk away from a relationship, reflect on the experience. Try to set healthy relationship standards for the future. 
It is important to identify and address red flags in a relationship early on. If you are experiencing any kind of relationship problems, you can also reach out to a mental health professional. You can browse our list of mental health professionals here.


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Kearney, M. L., & O’Brien, K. F. a. R. (2021). Is It Love or Is It Control? Assessing Warning Signs of Dating Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(11–12), 5446–5470. 

MacCallum, J., Beltman, S., Coffey, A., & Cooper, T. (2017). Taking care of youth mentoring relationships: red flags, repair, and respectful resolution. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning. 

Martínez-León, N. C., Peña, J. M., Salazar, H. J., García, A. A., & Sierra, J. C. (2017). A systematic review of romantic jealousy in relationships. Terapia Psicológica, 35(2), 203–212.