3 Types Of Red Flags In Relationships & Which Ones Cannot Be Ignored
Having a new crush can be all-encompassing. The constant feeling of excitement, a hopeful outlook on the future, and all of the lovely day dreams that come along with a new potential partner can throw you onto a state of blissful ignorance.
This may feel great in the moment, but it may cause you to miss some important red flags—that is, signs that the person may not actually be the best partner for you. While you shouldn’t necessarily seek out minor differences between the two of you on the first date, there are some warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.
As one dating expert recently explained to mbg, you can break down red flags into three broad catogories—one of which is most important to prioritize.
The 3 types of red flags
According to psychotherapist Ken Page, LCSW, red flags can fall into one of three: objective, relational, and personal red flags.
Let's break those down:
Objective red flags
Objective red flags are behaviors that are objectively unhealthy for any relationship, Page explains. These include any form of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, as well as things like lying, consistent infidelity, chronically selfish behavior, or narcissistic tendencies, among many others.
Relational red flags
Relational red flags are problematic dynamics between the two parties, rather than a characteristic of either person individually.
"For example, it could be a relationship with someone who tends to be very controlling paired with a partner who tends to be really passive. That could be OK if they're working on it, but it could also continuously trigger both of them," Page explains. "It's not that either of them is a bad person or couldn't be in a good relationship with someone else, but with each other, it could be a red flag."
Personal red flags
Personal red flags are those specific deal-breakers or triggers that are unique to you. These may be behaviors that bother you or make you feel unsafe or angry, but they might not come off as a bad thing to everyone. In other words, someone else may not see it as a red flag, but it certainly is for you, and that's OK.
For example, if you are someone who highly prioritizes quality time with your partner, but the person you're seeing has different preferences around spending time together and isn't able to meet that need for you, that could be a personal red flag. Others may not see it as such, but that's why it's a personal (not objective) red flag.
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Which ones are most important
Let’s be clear: Any red flag is important to keep in mind and is worth having a conversation about. However, objective red flags are the ones that you should be the most mindful of, as these tend to be the most difficult to work through and may be indicative of a truly toxic relationship, Page notes.
Relational and personal red flags, on the other hand, may be more flexible. If you truly love someone or see a potential future with them and you’re both willing to put in the work to tend to these red flags, then it’s worth a shot.
This is not to say that some objective red flags can't be healed or worked through as well—every person and relationship is different—but these objective red flags must be actively addressed head-on for the relationship to survive.
As trauma-informed relationship coach Julie Nguyen previously told mbg, "Toxic dynamics can be mended with conscious time, effort, and self-awareness. But both people need to be willing to change and accept responsibility to move forward."
As psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, M.S., Ph.D., previously told mbg, it's important to be able to distinguish between workable differences and true non-negotiables.
While all red flags are important to note, objective red flags are clear warning signs that something is off in the relationship that cannot be ignored.
If you find yourself taking note of some strong red flags but feel unsure if you should stay, consult a therapist or trusted loved one for support. We also have a toxic relationship quiz to help you further reflect and assess.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.