In This Post
- We identify what red flags are
- We explore the reasons you should look out for red flags
- Methods and techniques for spotting red flags early on
- 5 examples of common red flags in men that you should avoid
What Are Red Flags?
Noticing red flags in men is a very quick, sometimes instinctual decision. It might even happen without you even noticing. Or, it might be more obvious. When hearing about your friend’s new boyfriend, you might think “How is she not seeing this red flag?”.
The thing about ‘red flags’ is that they’re not as universal as you think. What you might consider a warning sign or seriously bad behaviour might be seen as completely tolerable by someone else.
Identifying flaws in other people, especially when you don’t know them that well, is to be done very carefully. It’s easy to make lots of negative value judgements against a person when you don’t have any of their positives to compare it to. The whole ‘red flag’ game is a touchy subject. It can easily turn into unnecessary judgement. So, while you’re on the lookout for them, consider looking out for green flags too – click here to learn more.
Why Should I Look For Red Flags?
When it comes to dating and relationships, especially with men, it’s important to be mindful of any potential signs of danger, but also general behaviour that you know you don’t want in a partner. Whether that’s lifestyle-related, concerns over your safety, or incompatibility of values. Red flags are ‘flags’ in that they’re warning signs that alert you to a future problem. Kind of like the ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’ saying.
Identifying red flags early will help you avoid getting too involved with someone that you may not later want in your life. It can prevent you from wasting your own time, as well as theirs! Making informed decisions when choosing a partner, or even a friend, means you are less likely to have to go through the trouble of terminating the relationship later on when the barriers to leaving are higher. By helping you leave unsuitable relationships, it can simultaneously speed up your chances of meeting quality partners because you’re not stuck in unfulfilling ones.
How Do I Spot Red Flags?
So, you know you need to keep an eye out for red flags. But how do you do this? It’s very easy to get tunnel vision when we first meet someone, and it’s easy to overlook things we previously would have identified as red flags when we are enamoured by someone.
Those honeymoon feelings and rose-tinted glasses that we all get at the start of a relationship make it hard to see anything but their positive qualities. While it might be hard to avoid falling into this idealised romantic perspective, it is possible to maintain a level of objective judgement.
As we recommended in the ‘green flags’ post, clarifying the behaviours, characteristics and traits of your ideal romantic partner before getting out into the dating world can be helpful. Writing a list of your own personal red flags, deal breakers, things you’re not willing to tolerate, etc., will all give you an objective frame of reference to look back to when your emotions and mind are a little less clear.
What Are Some Examples of Red Flags?
Paradoxical, as we’ve just discussed how everyone will have their own slightly different version of what a red flag is, but in general there are some main behaviours and characteristics that most people would agree constitute a red flag. In general, they are red flags because they are likely to indicate the chance of future behaviour that is at odds with good communication, trust, and your safety.
Of course, a little disclaimer – these are all written from a woman’s perspective regarding romantic relationships with men. Feel free to apply these to dating women too, your friends, and even colleagues! Red flags can be found in anyone!
1. Lack of Respect
Respect is a fundamental element of any healthy relationship. It is almost guaranteed that issues like poor communication, lack of attention, etc., can all be reduced down to whether or not there is mutual respect in the relationship. If you do not respect your partner, you might easily slip into negative judgements, perhaps belittling them, or setting them up to fail. If your partner does not respect you, you might find that they constantly disregard your opinions, thoughts, and choices.
When a male partner doesn’t respect you, they might often refuse to acknowledge or give due credit to your ideas, decisions and feelings. This can take shape through things like constantly making jokes about things you might be insecure about, using insulting language, dismissing your attempts at communication, or initiating of conversation. They might ignore your needs and feelings, regardless of how well you communicate them.
More importantly, they might regularly shut down your attempts at voicing your concerns over the stability of the relationship, or criticisms of their behaviour and actions. If they do not respect you, they will not care to listen to your concerns, let alone act on them.
Do They Respect You When You’re Not There?
How someone speaks about you, especially when you’re not around, is also a good indicator of how they feel about you. They don’t have to tirelessly defend you or refuse to acknowledge any criticism about you. But the tone, language, and content of what they say are incredibly important.
Your partner might be kind to you in person, but if they’re talking excessively about you behind your back in an insulting way, or sharing information you would rather keep private, it’s likely that they might not respect you as much as you previously thought.
A lack of respect is not acceptable in a healthy relationship and it can be an early indicator of potential issues down the road. There are lots of occasions in relationships where you need to communicate, compromise, and be considerate of your partner’s feelings, and if someone doesn’t respect you, it is highly unlikely they will be interested in treating you fairly.
2. Controlling Behaviour
Another red flag to watch out for is controlling behaviour. Men can sometimes exhibit controlling behaviour out of insecurity, rather than having concerns over your behaviour or choices. Controlling tendencies, whether that be dictating your actions, monitoring your whereabouts, or trying to isolate you from friends and family is a clear sign of a problem that will only worsen.
On the off chance that they’re self-aware and actively working through their control issues, it still might be worth considering holding off on committing to someone like this. If they’re truly meaningful to you, you can wait until they are in a better place mentally.
Controlling behaviour can be a tricky red flag to spot because we often jump to the extremes – the idea of your partner physically not letting you leave the house, or physically taking your car keys, credit card, or phone. However, a very serious (but sometimes ignored) element of controlling behaviour comes through in the small, insignificant, sometimes jokingly made comments.
When people, especially men, are insecure, they will try to control your behaviour perhaps by limiting your interaction with other men, or access to settings where you may be approached by men, be offered better opportunities, or have your social network expanded. They may subconsciously, or consciously, know that they cannot physically restrain you, so instead they might make you feel that you shouldn’t go, in a way that makes you feel as if it was your decision.
Examples of Potentially Controlling Behaviour
- “Why do you want to go clubbing? That’s only for single people?”
- “You shouldn’t do that. I’m not going to let you do that because it’s unsafe.”
- “Why do you hang out with that friend? They’re no good for you.”
- “Why are you wearing that? Who are you trying to get attention from?”
- “If you cared about me, you’d spend more time with me and cancel that event this weekend.”
Whether they are aware of it or not, these attempts to manipulate your behaviour are an example of controlling behaviour that is problematic, as it reduces your independence, happiness, and safety. Of course, there are times when in healthy relationships a partner makes a suggested behaviour change out of genuine consideration and respect for the other.
We’re not saying you can never ask your partner to change their plans and actions, but it is crucial that it is done out of genuine care, and not manipulation that gives the other person a sense of control over the other.
Trust is the basis of any relationship, and this mutual agreement to commit to the truth between two people is easily ruined by dishonesty. Dishonesty is a red flag because it erodes trust, and if there is reduced trust in a relationship, it is very hard to build it again.
Having open, honest communication is essential, and the discovery of someone being dishonest can be heart-breaking. Actively lying, or avoiding divulging information to manipulate someone’s understanding of the truth, is the quickest way to remove someone’s trust and degrade the quality of a relationship.
If you find out that someone has been dishonest, it’s useful to find out why they were dishonest with you. Often people lie, or tell white lies, to protect their feelings, but sometimes it is done out of self-interest and to the detriment of the other person. Whether you think the odd white lie or complete transparency is your preferred style of communication is up to you, but a sensible approach is to be wary of deceit and dishonesty, especially at the start of getting to know someone.
If someone is dishonest about small things, there is a chance that they feel relatively comfortable with it, which could suggest their comfort in telling bigger lies or being dishonest about larger things. Be considerate of dishonesty that isn’t directed towards you too. Chances are if they’re a dishonest person with their friends, family, or work, they’re likely to be dishonest with you too.
4. Disregard for Boundaries
Whether someone respects you or not is likely to determine if they respect your boundaries. Sometimes, men will respect you, but they might struggle to actively acknowledge and act in accordance with your boundaries. Their intention is important, but unfortunately, it does not override their actual actions.
You would not believe the amount of disappointment that could be avoided if people made relationship decisions based on how they are treated, rather than how they feel towards the other person. Loving someone does not matter as much as how they treat you. It’s tough advice, but you are responsible for your happiness in a relationship – if you’re unhappy and your boundaries are being violated, you must leave.
People in healthy relationships will have shared respect for each other’s boundaries. You might not even need to explicitly communicate certain boundaries, but when you do set them, they act accordingly. Whether your boundaries are physical, emotional, financial or personal, if they are ignored it should be considered a red flag.
Make Your Boundaries Clear
It’s important here to make sure that your boundaries are clear – it’s no good getting upset that a boundary has been crossed if you haven’t communicated it. Similar to ensuring your needs are expectations are met, you need to communicate your boundaries because people (especially men) are not mind readers.
It is unfair to expect them to know all your preferences and expectations without first communicating them. Communicating your boundaries clearly and early is essential for determining whether someone is worth your time, and also to see whether they have any boundary-related red flags.
The repeated crossing of boundaries is a clear sign of a lack of respect. If you’ve consistently reminded someone that you have needs, how you’d like them to be met, etc., and they still choose to ignore you, it is time to move on.
It’s likely in these circumstances that they will throw situational excuses at you, but use your best judgement to consider whether these are relevant or not. Repeated crossing of boundaries is disrespectful, lazy, and a very clear red flag – men who do this are best to be avoided.
5. Aggressive or Violent Behaviour
It’s almost a stereotype to suggest that aggressive or violent behaviour is a red flag in men. It seems so obvious, but it still occurs more than it should. Violence and aggression are not acceptable in any form: verbal, emotional or physical, from anyone.
Aggression and violence aren’t always linked with physical assaults. If your partner is aggressive and violent and takes this out on physical items, yours or not, you should consider this a red flag. There is no excuse for physical outbursts of violence, even if you are not physically harmed. It can be psychologically traumatising and you should not put yourself in a position where men who act like this can be around you.
Nobody deserves to be in an abusive relationship and no level of violence is ever excusable. If they are not actively working towards managing the underlying causes of their aggression, you should seriously consider terminating any further interaction. Do not contextualise their behaviour or make excuses for them – there is no excuse for threats to your safety.
Red Flags Are Serious
Identifying someone’s red flags can often be a funny, light-hearted thing that you do at the start of a relationship, but it has serious importance. Knowing what you consider to be a red flag and identifying these before you get into a relationship is essential for your safety.
Trust your instincts and pay attention to warning signs early on to avoid progressing in a relationship that may not be healthy for you or your partner. Seeking support from trusted friends or professionals, setting boundaries, and ensuring your physical and emotional safety are all ways that you can avoid or deal with red flags if you come across them.
Regardless of what you have experienced, what you have done, or what your partner says, you deserve to be in a healthy, happy and safe relationship. If you’ve overlooked red flags before, you might have a habit of it, so take some time to reflect on your relationship with men and people, in general, to see if you are at risk of doing this again.
Relationships are complex, so if you’ve previously overlooked red flags, don’t beat yourself up, but do take accountability for yourself going forward. We cannot be held responsible for how others treat us, but we can limit their access to us, and avoid putting ourselves in situations where someone’s red flags turn into serious consequences.
If you need help and are concerned about yourself or someone else, from a male partner or anyone, there are some links below to some resources. Unfortunately, many people, men and women, will experience domestic abuse, so remain diligent for your own safety and the safety of others.
To Put it Minimally
- Red flags in men are warning signs of problematic behaviour that could escalate and potentially threaten your happiness, health, and safety
- You should come to terms with any red flags in men and avoid them, regardless of how far into a relationship you may be
- Red flags are serious and shouldn’t be ignored
- The examples of red flags such as: lack of respect, controlling behaviour, dishonesty, disregard for boundaries, and aggressive or violent behaviour are only examples. There are many other things that could be red flags, so you need to use your best judgement