Hold on a second, you think. I feel like this guy is acting inappropriately. But is it all in my head? I’m sure it is. He’s so wonderful and charming, this must just be me overthinking things!
If you’re worried that your new partner is acting strangely, improperly or aggressively, it’s important to not ignore these feelings. Our intuition for toxic partners tends to be spot on, and it’s critical to get out of an unhealthy relationship early.
People are often in denial when they think they’re seeing red flags in a relationship. “Many of my clients and people that I come in contact with actually see the early warning signs but tend to ignore them because of the narrative in their own head,” said Joe Martino, LPC, a relationship therapist based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and author of The Emotionally Secure Couple.
Make sure you’re aware of the early warning signs of a toxic partner by being on the lookout for these 11 red flags in a relationship.
Relationship red flag #1: Oversharing too soon
One early warning sign of a toxic relationship is someone who overshares information about himself or herself way too early on, when it’s not appropriate.
“This is often an attempt at creating intimacy instead of allowing it to grow over time,” Martino said. “People who do this are often not capable [of doing so] with their current skill set.”
Relationship red flag #2: A temper
If you notice your new partner seems to have a temper and is prone to outbursts of anger, run for the hills. Martino said this is a hallmark sign that you’re dealing with a toxic person.
“Often toxic people will seek to find meaning from relationships, and they put the burden of achieving this on the people they are in a relationship with,” Martino said. “They expect the other person to make them feel a certain way. If the person doesn’t perform to [their] standards, they will often try to coerce them [through] temper tantrums and outright violence.”
Relationship red flag #3: Violence
Although this red flag might seem obvious, it bears repeating: If your new partner shows any form of violence, reach out to someone you trust or to a support center for help. Martino said violence can be something as mild as yelling or as severe as physical abuse or property damage.
“The intensity of their responses will often not be commensurate with the event that happened,” Martino said.
Relationship red flag #4: The feeling you’re being watched
It’s not normal for a significant other to want to know where you are and what you’re doing at all times. If you feel like your partner is keeping tabs on you, you could be dealing with a toxic or manipulative person.
“They want to know where you are when you’re not with them—it’s as if the government hired them to track you,” Martino said. “They don’t allow you to have your own life away from them. They expect your life to revolve around them.”
Relationship red flag #5: They had a “crazy” ex
If your new partner talks about how “crazy” or terrible their ex was, yet they were with this person for a long time, exercise caution, said Adina Mahalli, MSW, a certified mental health consultant and relationship expert with Maple Holistics in Farmingdale, New Jersey. Excessively describing an ex as “crazy” shows a lack of ownership for a relationship going wrong.
“If they don’t take any responsibility for their past relationship going astray, and they blame it all on their ex, it might be a red flag that they are not a healthy partner,” said Mahalli. If they say their ex was crazy but also note some mistakes they made as well, the person is likely mature and capable of growth.
But a partner who blames everything on their ex is likely toxic. “Someone who can’t take responsibility for their actions isn’t a healthy person to be in a relationship with,” Mahalli said.
Relationship red flag #6: They don’t like your friends
We all come across people we don’t jibe with—it’s a part of being human to meet individuals who rub us the wrong way. But if your new partner seems to dislike every single one of your friends, they could be manipulating you.
An abusive partner will use not liking your friends as a way to isolate you, Martino said. They might couch it with phrases like, “I just want what’s best for you” or “I don’t think they’re good for you,” but their intentions are far from well-meaning.
Relationship red flag #7: Their Facebook or Instagram gives you pause
Mahalli warns that if your new partner seems obsessed with getting likes on Facebook or Instagram, or otherwise demonstrates excessive social media use, you might want to proceed with caution.
“If the person you are on a date with has an unhealthy amount of social media posts and vain pictures on their profile, it may be a sign they are self-absorbed, and not a caring or giving partner,” she said. “You can learn a lot about someone through what they post on social media.”
Mahalli advises using discretion, as not every social media situation is black and white. If someone seems vain on social media, look for healthy character traits—like humility and empathy—early in the relationship.
Relationship red flag #8: Inability to take criticism
An inability to take criticism can be a sign you’re dealing with a toxic person, and likely someone who demonstrates narcissistic traits. If your new partner has an intense reaction to even mild criticism, you could be in for a tough road ahead.
“When you suggest you didn’t like something or they could have done something differently—even if it’s innocuous—they will respond in a heavy-handed way,” Martino said.
Relationship red flag #9: They tell you how to talk or act
Do you get the vibe that the person you recently started seeing acts like the director of your life? Do they explain to you what you should have said or how you could have acted differently, or how you could’ve done something better? Do they answer for you or speak over you in social situations?
If you notice any of this behavior, get out quick. You could be dealing with someone extremely controlling, Martino said.
Relationship red flag #10: Signs of neediness early on
Kevon Owen, MS, LPC, a licensed professional counselor based in Oklahoma City, said one red flag early on in a relationship is excessive neediness. If you feel like the relationship goes beyond a mutual infatuation and into the realm of neediness, you could be dealing with someone who has dependency issues.
Owen said signs you could be dealing with a needy person are:
- Constant checking in always calling/texting you.
- Regularly fishing for validation and compliments.
- Constantly being in a state of crisis and needing to be rescued.
Relationship red flag #11: They dismiss your feelings
Martino said toxic partners will often dismiss a person’s feelings, manipulating them into doubting their own emotions and experiences. A toxic person might even say that you’re putting on a show or acting out for other people, Martino said.
How can I protect myself from relationship scams?
Controlling, manipulative, abusive or otherwise toxic partners are often adept at masking their behavior early on, which is why it’s important to be on guard for red flags such as potential online dating scams.
“I think the best way anyone can protect themselves is to listen to their own inner voice,” Martino said. “Don’t ignore the warning signs that you see because you feel desperate to be in a relationship.”
If you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic person, consider looking up that person online. You can use a people search tool to try and see what public information may be available on your partner. It may help confirm that a relationship with this person may not be for you.