10 red flags in a relationship you should never ignore, according to psychology

Navigating relationships is never easy, and understanding the warning signs of trouble can be even more complex.

Psychology tells us there are certain red flags that we should never ignore, because they could potentially signal deeper issues in a relationship.

These red flags might sound alarm bells, suggesting that something isn’t quite right. And while it’s not always easy to face these things, acknowledging them is the first step towards resolving them.

In this article, we’ll delve into the 10 red flags you should never overlook in a relationship, according to psychology.

Let’s get started. 

1) Constant criticism

The world of psychology has a lot to say about criticism in relationships.

It’s completely natural and healthy for couples to disagree and critique each other from time to time. But when criticism becomes constant, that’s a red flag waving right in your face.

In fact, renowned psychologist John Gottman refers to constant criticism as one of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” for relationships, indicating its potential to cause serious harm.

Gottman states, “Criticism is staging the problem in a relationship as a character flaw in a partner.” If you or your partner can’t express dissatisfaction without attacking each other’s personality or character, that’s a clear sign of trouble.

Recognizing this red flag can help you confront the issue head-on, hopefully leading to healthier communication patterns.

But remember, ignoring it can lead down a path of resentment and further disconnect.

2) Lack of communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. I remember in one of my past relationships, we struggled with this a lot.

There were times when we’d go days without really talking about anything substantial. It felt like we were drifting apart, each trapped in our own little world. I realized, too late, that our lack of communication was a red flag that we should have addressed.

Famous psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian once said, “Words are the least important part of communication.”

It’s not just about talking for the sake of it, but about understanding each other’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

If you find yourself in a relationship where meaningful communication seems to be a struggle, that’s a red flag you should never ignore.

Because without communication, you’re just two people sharing space without really connecting on a deeper level.

3) Emotional unavailability

Let’s be brutally honest here. An emotionally unavailable partner is a red flag you can’t afford to ignore.

Being in a relationship with someone who isn’t emotionally available is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. No matter how much love, affection, or attention you pour in, it never seems enough.

One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from psychologist Dr. Brené Brown: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

Partnerships need vulnerability. They need emotional openness. If your partner isn’t willing or able to open up emotionally, it’s a sign of deeper issues that could lead to heartbreak down the line.

Ignoring this red flag could result in a one-sided relationship where you’re left feeling unsatisfied and unloved.

4) Disrespectful behavior

Disrespect in a relationship is another red flag that can’t go unnoticed.

I recall a friend who stayed in a relationship where her partner consistently belittled her ideas and opinions. It was disheartening to see her internalize that disrespect, which began to affect her self-esteem.

The renowned psychologist Carl Rogers said: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

This quote is a reminder of the importance of self-respect and the need for it within relationships.

If you or your partner don’t respect each other’s thoughts, feelings, or boundaries, it’s a clear sign of trouble.

Everyone deserves respect in a relationship, and any form of disrespect should never be taken lightly.

5) Excessive jealousy

It might seem counterintuitive, but a little bit of jealousy in a relationship can sometimes be a good thing.

It can be a sign that you care about each other. But when it becomes excessive, that’s when it turns into a red flag.

Excessive jealousy can lead to possessiveness, control, and mistrust, creating a toxic environment for both partners.

Jealousy is not a sign of love, it’s a sign of insecurity.

If you notice an unhealthy amount of jealousy from your partner or even from yourself, it’s time to address this issue before it spirals out of control.

6) Dishonesty

Dishonesty is a red flag that can’t be swept under the rug in any relationship.

Whether it’s little white lies or major untruths, dishonesty undermines trust, which is a fundamental pillar of any strong and healthy relationship.

Famed psychologist Jordan Peterson stated, “If you say no to your boss or your spouse or your mother when it needs to be said, then you transform yourself into someone who can say no when it needs to be said.” This highlights the importance of honesty, even when it’s difficult.

If dishonesty becomes a pattern, it’s a clear sign of trouble. It’s essential to address this issue head-on, as ignoring it can lead to a breakdown of trust that might not be repairable.

7) Neglecting personal growth

Personal growth is essential in life, and it’s equally important within relationships.

I remember a time in my life when I was so wrapped up in my relationship that I forgot to nurture my own development. It was only when I realized this neglect that I understood its impact on my overall happiness and the health of my relationship.

Famous psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “What a man can be, he must be.” This highlights the significance of personal growth and self-actualization.

If you or your partner stop nurturing personal growth and become overly dependent on the relationship for happiness, it’s a red flag. 

A healthy relationship involves two individuals growing together, not just one.

8) Controlling behavior

Let’s cut to the chase. Controlling behavior in a relationship is a glaring red flag, and it’s one that requires immediate attention.

Being with a partner who constantly wants to control your actions, decisions, or even thoughts can be suffocating. It strips away your freedom and can leave you feeling trapped.

Psychologist Dr. Leon F Seltzer once said, “Paradoxically, the people who love you the most are also the ones who may try to control you.” It’s a stark reminder that controlling behavior can often be masked by words of affection.

If you feel like your partner is trying to control aspects of your life, it’s time to address this issue.

Because everyone deserves to have their freedom in a relationship, and any form of control is a clear violation of this right.

9) Always agreeing

This might sound counterintuitive, but a partner who always agrees with everything you say can be a red flag.

While it’s great to be in harmony and agree on things, constant agreement could mean that your partner isn’t voicing their true opinions or feelings. This lack of authenticity can lead to a shallow relationship that lacks depth and growth.

The key to a good relationship is the ability to let go of trying to control the other person.” This includes allowing them to have their own opinions, even if they conflict with ours.

If you notice that your partner always seems to agree with you, it might be time for a conversation about the importance of honesty and authenticity in your relationship.

10) Ignoring your intuition

Finally, one of the most important red flags in a relationship is ignoring your own intuition.

There was a time when I was in a relationship that looked perfect on the surface, but something inside me kept nagging that something wasn’t right. I ignored it for a while until I couldn’t anymore. My intuition was right.

Psychologist and author Dr. Judith Orloff once said, “Intuition isn’t the enemy, but the ally of reason.” This quote emphasizes the importance of trusting our gut feelings.

If something feels off in your relationship, even if you can’t put your finger on it, don’t ignore it. Your intuition is a powerful tool and can often signal issues before they become apparent. Trust yourself.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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