Quiet But Deadly Red Flags In Your Relationship You Need To Be Aware Of

You know the big issues to look out for in relationships — lying, cheating, and abuse — but there are other, subtler red flags that are just as deadly for your long-term potential. If you notice these things happening with your partner, beware. Chances are, you won’t be together for too much longer (or probably shouldn’t be).

1. They constantly go through your phone.

When your partner perpetually snoops through your messages or call history, that’s a problem. This behavior screams trust issues and a lack of respect for personal boundaries. A healthy relationship is built on trust; without it, you’re just two people spying on each other. If you feel like you’re under surveillance rather than in a partnership, it’s time to have a serious conversation. Privacy is a right, not a privilege, even in intimate relationships.

2. They dismiss your interests.

It’s one thing not to share every hobby or interest; it’s another to outright dismiss or belittle what you love. This subtle but deadly red flag undermines your individuality and can chip away at your self-esteem. Relationships should celebrate differences, not suppress them. If your partner can’t muster up even a modicum of enthusiasm for your passions, or worse, ridicules them, it’s a sign of disrespect. You deserve someone who supports and cherishes your quirks, not someone who quashes them.

3. They make a lot of passive-aggressive comments.

Those snide remarks masked as jokes aren’t just harmless banter; they’re a form of veiled criticism. This behavior is toxic because it’s indirect and manipulative, leaving you unsure whether to laugh it off or be offended. Over time, this can erode your confidence and create a pervasive sense of unease. A partner who truly respects you will communicate issues openly and respectfully, not through barbed comments.

4. They isolate you from your circle.

When your partner starts pulling you away from friends and family, alarm bells should ring. This isn’t about them cherishing alone time with you; it’s a control tactic designed to isolate you. By cutting you off from your support network, they’re making you more dependent on them, which is a classic move in the manipulator’s playbook. Independence and outside relationships are vital for your well-being; any attempt to sever these ties should be seen as a serious red flag.

5. They’re overly dependent on you.

There’s a fine line between leaning on each other and over-dependence. If your partner relies on you for their happiness, decision-making, and emotional support to the point where it feels suffocating, it’s a problem. This kind of clinginess can strain the relationship and place an unfair burden on you. A healthy partnership involves two individuals who complement each other, not one person losing themselves to fulfill the other’s needs.

6. They never apologize for anything.

An inability (or unwillingness) to apologize doesn’t just highlight a stubborn streak; it points to a deep-seated arrogance and lack of accountability. In a relationship, mistakes are inevitable, but growth and harmony stem from acknowledging and learning from these slip-ups. If your partner can’t own up to their mistakes and instead finds ways to twist the narrative in their favor, it’s a sign of immaturity and disrespect.

7. They gaslight you.

This manipulative tactic involves twisting facts, denying events, or outright lying to make you question your reality and sanity. It’s a form of emotional abuse that can leave you feeling disoriented and doubting your perceptions. If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your memory or feelings because of your partner’s comments or reactions, it’s a massive red flag. Trust and respect are non-negotiable in a healthy relationship, and gaslighting undermines both.

8. They never want to talk about the tough stuff.

Dodging serious talks about the future, finances, or feelings isn’t just about avoiding discomfort; it’s a sign of emotional unavailability and a lack of commitment. Relationships require open and honest communication to thrive. If your partner consistently shies away from these discussions, it’s a red flag indicating they might not be as invested in the relationship’s longevity as you are. A partner who’s truly committed will face these conversations head-on, even if they’re challenging.

9. They lack empathy.

Empathy is the glue that holds relationships together. If your partner seems indifferent to your feelings or struggles to understand your perspective, it’s a worrying sign. This lack of emotional attunement can leave you feeling lonely and unsupported, even when you’re physically together. True connection stems from mutual understanding and compassion. Without it, you’re just sharing space, not a life.

10. Their communication is extremely inconsistent.

Hot-and-cold communication—where they’re all in one minute and gone the next—is a rollercoaster no one should have to ride. This inconsistency can be maddening, leaving you unsure of where you stand from one day to the next. It’s not about playing hard to get; it’s a game of emotional manipulation designed to keep you off-balance and more attached. Steady, reliable communication is key to a healthy relationship.

11. They disrespect your boundaries.

Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, which includes honoring each other’s boundaries. If your partner frequently oversteps or ignores your clearly stated limits, it’s a sign of disrespect and a desire to control. Whether it’s pushing for things you’re uncomfortable with or dismissing your needs, such behavior should not be tolerated. Boundaries are essential for personal well-being and the relationship’s health.

12. They withhold affection as a form of punishment.

Love and affection are not bargaining chips. If your partner withdraws affection—be it physical touch, kind words, or emotional support—as a form of punishment or manipulation, it’s a serious red flag. This behavior is emotionally abusive and designed to “train” you to behave in ways that please them, at the expense of your own needs and happiness.

13. They rarely want to share things about their life.

Transparency is the foundation of trust in a relationship. If your partner is secretive about their past, their daily life, or their friendships, it raises questions about what they’re hiding and why. While some level of privacy is normal, outright secrecy, especially about significant aspects of their life, can indicate deeper issues at play.

14. They make you feel guilty for needing space. 

Everyone needs some time to themselves now and then. If your partner guilts you for wanting time alone or with others, it’s not a sign of their love or need for you; it’s a red flag for possessiveness and co-dependency. A secure partner will understand and respect your need for independence and personal space.

15. They take way more than they give.

Young couple arguing at home needs couples therapy

A relationship is a two-way street. If you find yourself constantly giving—be it time, energy, or resources—and getting little to nothing in return, it’s a sign of a one-sided relationship. This imbalance can drain you emotionally and even financially, leaving you feeling unappreciated and taken advantage of. Healthy relationships are about balance and reciprocity.

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Sinead Cafferty is a writer who has authored four collections of poetry: "Dust Settling" (2012); "The Space Between" (2014); "Under, Under, Over" (2016); and "What You Can't Have" (2020). She's currently working on her first novel, a dystopian romance set in the 22nd Century, that's due out in 2024.

Sinead has an MFA in creative writing from NYU and has had residencies with the Vermont Studio Center and the National Center for Writing.