When in a relationship, it is easy to overlook your partner’s questionable behavior and define it as quirky, unimportant, or just a part of who they are. Unfortunately, simply overlooking or ignoring your partner’s concerning behavior won’t solve any problems. Ignoring red flags will only lead to bigger problems later down the road. But what is a red flag?

Put most simply, a red flag is a signal that your partner isn’t suitable for you or compatible with you. While most people may believe that they wouldn’t end up in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, abuse isn’t always that obvious from the start. Knowing what to look for during your relationship can help you avoid accepting toxic, manipulative, or abusive behavior. On top of being generally bad, being in an unhealthy relationship can also greatly impact your mental health. Not feeling safe to talk to or interact with the person that is supposed to care about you the most can destroy your mental health and lead to you neglecting to take care of yourself.

Here are seven red flags to look out for in a relationship:

1. Controlling Behavior

When your partner is controlling, they will expect you to get permission from them for everything. This includes who you see, what you wear, where you go, what you eat, or even what your body looks like (i.e. expecting you to lose/gain weight just because they want you to). While you might feel it normal to let your partner know what you’re doing day to day, if they begin expecting you to get their permission to do things, that is controlling, and something that you should take a serious step back from and reevaluate if what they are doing is healthy.

2. Difference in Goals

This is a simple red flag that too many people will overlook because they think their relationship is otherwise great. While a relationship can otherwise be great and healthy, if you and your partner have different life goals, then you are simply not compatible with your partner. Thinking that you can change your partner’s mind about these things is unrealistic and unhealthy. It’s not likely that your partner will change their life goals to be in line with yours if they already have goals that are incompatible with yours and expecting them to change anyway is unfair to them, because you are only thinking about what you want and vice versa. It doesn’t matter how much you care about them, if your life goals are incompatible, then your relationship isn’t meant to be.

3. Lack of Trust

Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship and while trust does have to be built, a relationship shouldn’t start with absolutely no trust. If your partner is constantly accusing you of lying to them or cheating on them, they either don’t trust you or are being controlling. It is not normal for your partner to want to go through your phone, have your location, or know what you are doing all day every day and get upset at you for not telling them every single thing.

4. Anger Issues

Everyone gets angry at times, it’s a normal human emotion, however, if your partner is likely to fly off the wall at any disagreement, that is a major red flag. You should be able to communicate with your partner, especially about difficult topics, without fearing that they are going to yell at you, storm away and slam their door, or give you the silent treatment because they’re upset with something you said or did.

5. Codependency

While it’s normal to want to be around your partner often or help them with whatever they’re going through, you shouldn’t feel as if you have to spend all of your time on them. If your partner completely relies on you for emotional support and expects you to be their sole support, that is not fair to you at all. While supporting your partner is important, you should not be their only support. Codependency is especially common when the partner is ill or battling an addiction, and while supporting your partner through these things healthily is important, you should not be their only means of support, everyone should have more than one person that they can go to for emotional support. Especially in the case of illness or addiction it is important to recognize that you are not a professional. You cannot fix your partner’s problems by caring about them enough. They need support from professionals.

6. Lack of Communication

Communication is key. A common saying, yet one that is often forgotten in relationships. It is not fair or healthy for your partner to expect you to ‘just know’ what they’re thinking. Your partner should never expect you to know everything about them; it is their job to communicate with you when they are upset or angry with you. If they cannot do that, it is a major red flag indicating a tumultuous relationship to come.

7. Constant Jealousy

Like anger, jealousy is a normal emotion. But if your partner is jealous of you having any sort of relationship outside of them, even with your family, then that is incredibly unhealthy. Like we mentioned with codependency, your partner should not be your only means of emotional or social support, and if they are constantly acting jealous of you doing anything with anyone that is not them, if you allow it, they will eventually become the only person that you talk to.

Overall, being in an unhealthy or downright abusive relationship can cause you to isolate yourself, lose support from your family and friends, and destroy your mental health. It is important to take care of yourself first, and if your partner begins exhibiting signs of being controlling or abusive, it is important to talk to them immediately, and if you feel that you cannot address these issues with them, then your relationship is perhaps not one you should be in, as open, healthy communication is the most important part of a healthy relationship.

If you recognize your relationship in this and feel that you are too deep to be able to leave immediately, you can start gathering an exit strategy. An exit strategy is what it sounds like, a strategy or plan to exit the relationship. The main steps are getting a support system, which could be reconnecting with friends and family, confiding in your therapist (or begin going to therapy), and start saving money in a separate account to be able to leave as quickly as you can. There are also support groups you can join that can help you feel less alone and help you create an exit strategy if you do not have friends or family near you that can help.

Guest Blogger: Natasha Lafferty

Natasha Lafferty works as an intern for MHA. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware. She wants to help bring awareness to the stigma around mental health and disabilities. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and crochet. She hopes to get involved in community outreach and advocacy.