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3 Relationship Red Flags To Watch For This Holiday Season, From A Therapist

Sarah Regan
December 19, 2022
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by Kkgas / Stocksy
December 19, 2022
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It's the most wonderful time of the year—but that doesn't mean relationship red flags won't pop up. In fact, this time of year may show you a side of your partner you've yet to see, as families gather and holiday stress piles up.

We asked a relationship therapist for common relationship red flags that crop up around the holidays. Here's what to watch out for:


Attempts to isolate you.

According to licensed therapist and relationship expert De-Andrea Blaylock-Solar, LCSW-S, CST, one of the biggest red flags to watch out for is a partner who is unwilling to attend family or friend gatherings with you. Even worse, she notes, is if your partner tries to isolate you from these events and keep you away from your loved ones.

"If your partner is really not wanting to entertain your family events but, further, take you away from your family events and isolate you, that's a huge red flag," she tells mbg.

Why? Isolation is often a subtle form of control seen in abusive relationships, she explains. "Often when people are trying to keep you away from those close to you, they want to be your only emotional support and outlet, and that's emotional abuse and a huge red flag."


Toxic family dynamics.

Another glaring red flag that you may notice during the holidays is toxic family dynamics within your partner's family. This may be especially noticeable if this is the first holiday you're meeting their extended family.

"What is their relationship with their biological family or even their chosen family? Do they have close relationships with other people? Because if they don't, that's a huge red flag, too—and could be indicative of patterns of behavior you may not want to associate with," Blaylock-Solar explains.

Of course, some people have valid reasons for not being close to their family, which you may be aware of. But Blaylock-Solar notes you'll want to keep an eye out for things like explosive anger, codependent dynamics, and general poor communication. Much of the way people behave in relationships, such as their attachment style and how they handle conflict, are affected by family dynamics, and you'll likely find you can put a lot of pieces together when you get a sense of the environment they grew up in and how they interact with the people supposedly closest to them.

(Check out our full guide to signs of a toxic family for more red flags to look for.)


Substance abuse.

And lastly, Blaylock-Solar says, pay attention to your partner's substance use around the holidays. Nothing wrong with enjoying some good wine with good company, but as she notes, it's about the way they're using substances, and namely, whether they're using them to cope or deal with the stress of the season.

If you're noticing an increase in the use of substances around the holidays, it's something Blaylock-Solar advises keeping an eye on. This time of year can bring up a lot of stress, and if they're using substances to cope now, it could be a behavior that repeats itself in stressful future scenarios as well.

The takeaway.

The bottom line is, the holidays can bring up a lot of stuff—family dynamics, toxic relationship patterns, and more. Everyone is going to handle this season differently, and some more gracefully than others. It's ultimately up to you to decide what it is you're willing to work with (or not work with), and if your partner is engaging in any of these behaviors, you'll definitely want to keep an eye on those red flags.

Sarah Regan author page.
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.