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Red Flags and Warning Signs in Developing Relationships

Posted Dec 06 2009 12:00am

I was asked recently to point out some of the red flags and warning signs to look for when in the process of getting involved with someone in a relationship.

Here is a list of problematic characteristics and behaviors which are usually excellent predictors of future unhappiness and disappointment:

(1) Blames others for their own poor choices and outcomes, rather than taking responsibility, owning their errors, learning from their mistakes and making a conscious decision to be more aware and insightful.

(2) A corollary of #1: Is unable or unwilling to admit when they have been inconsiderate and unloving, and constructs a scenario instead which puts you as the cause of their bad behavior.

(3) Is unable or unwilling to say I’m sorry.

(4) Dominates the conversation. Interrupts you. Is more interested in talking about themselves and promoting how interesting they are, rather than discovering who you are.

(5) A corollary of #4: Is self-centered, self-absorbed and selfish. Is more concerned with their needs rather than yours. Has difficulty sharing, compromising and being generous.

(6) Is easily threatened emotionally. Is easily angered. Is volatile and overreactive.

(7) Raises voice and yells when angry. Calls names, belittles, and demeans when angry.

(8) Doesn’t listen. Invalidates. Accuses you of being irrational when you’re not.

(9) Misinterprets. Distorts the truth to win an argument. Denies having said or done something that triggered the argument.

(10) Has difficulty disengaging when embroiled in arguments and aggression. Has difficulty calming down when perturbed.

(11) Holds grudges and hangs onto resentments. Retaliates.

(12) Is passive-aggressive.

(13) Is excessively competitive. Always keeping score as to who has done what to whom and who owes what to whom.

(14) Gossips and spreads rumors about others.

(15) Is impatient and intolerant. Lacks empathy.

(16) Is eying other people when with you.

(17) Doesn’t listen when talking with you.

(18) Doesn’t say and do things to make you feel special.

(19) Expects you to behave in certain ways but doesn’t reciprocate, maintaining a double standard.

(20) Very attached to their ego and the material world. Has a strong sense of self-entitlement. Treats people like objects to be used for personal gain and amusement.

(21) Has little concern for the plight of others less fortunate. Gives lip service to ideals and ethics but doesn’t walk the talk.

(22) Has difficulty making commitments.

All this having been said, it is necessary to make an important clarification:

Recognizing red flags and warning signs does not necessarily mean that one should immediately reject the person and look at your other options.

It might be extremely wise to do so, but it might also be extremely wise to address your concerns in a non-threatening way and observe the person’s capacity to communicate effectively, accept criticism, and make a commitment to change.

Should this attempt fall on deaf ears of denial and defensiveness, then that becomes the red flag that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak, and it truly is time to lick your wounds and move on.

A second point worth making: These red flags and warning signs can also be used to assess the nature of a current relationship, however long it may have been in place, to determine if it is worthy of an investment of additional time and emotional energy.

Bottom line: Nobody’s perfect. We all have our flaws. We all make mistakes time and again. And we need to keep this in mind when assessing the qualities and qualifications of a potential partner.

Not sweating the small stuff is important. Giving the benefit of the doubt and overlooking minor transgressions is important.

What’s critical is not setting ourselves up for a life of disrespect and abuse.

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