Most people who are interested in men might agree with this – Doesn’t it seem we can gather around and speak about red flags in a man for at least an hour, even if we are all strangers to each other? This isn’t because something is inherently wrong about men. This is more of an upbringing issue. And in this upbringing, I’d like our educational institutions, the intolerance and rituals ingrained in religions, our sexist homes and relatives (including the women who proudly uphold patriarchy), our friends and peers, our movies and media, to take a bow for collectively ensuring that men don’t escape toxic masculinity.
Each one of these entities has done a great job in contributing to the biggest red flags in a guy. Men assert dominance over and reject anything they consider less or non-manly, whether it’s a gender identity or even a color. They prove their worth by being louder, better, larger, bolder, more aggressive, with more money and power. Or in an unfortunate heteronormative way, they prove their worth by competing with each other to see who has sex with more women.
We spoke to psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (PhD, PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. He shares his thoughts with us on this issue, and together, we tried to explore red flags in a man.
15 Relationship Red Flags In A Man To Be Watchful Of
When we talk about red flags in a man, we are talking about red flags in an entire system. But cis men are often the more prevalent and the louder face of patriarchy, and they reap more rewards by sustaining patriarchal systems. Dr. Bhonsle adds, “A competitive germ has been injected into men by the patriarchy in which they are constantly supposed to measure up and scale up. This germ has passed on from the times when men fought wars and indulged in strenuous activities, and women were nurturers and took care of the house. These gender roles are outdated and don’t serve a valid function anymore. You can’t stay prisoner to a certain personality type just because you’re born with a certain gender.”
Related Reading: 10 Examples Of Traditional Gender Roles
So let’s try to unlock some of these conversations in this article. If you are attracted to men and have been thinking, “Why can’t I ever spot early red flags in a man?”, this article is for you. Let’s talk about 15 relationship red flags in a man to be watchful of.
1. There’s clear disregard for your boundaries
He displays a clear disregard for your boundaries even after you’ve stated them. Can I have your number? Your address? Can I call you at this hour? Can I hold your hand? Can I come with you when you meet your friends? Can I send you my nude, or can you send me yours? If they keep asking you questions where you feel you’re being pushed against the wall and you’ve had to state your healthy boundaries time and again, it’s time to run. These are some of the biggest red flags in a guy. A man like this thinks he’s entitled to your space, time and body. It’ll only get worse.
“We’ve been taught to not think about asserting ourselves, and to please and accommodate others all our lives. It’s hard to unlearn this conditioning, but I’ve been more conscious about it in the last few years. It does help to recognize your levels of comfort and to state them clearly,” says Chloe.
2. He is obsessed with outdated ideas of manhood
They make their disgust or dislike for anyone who they don’t consider manly pretty obvious, whether it’s in the form of facial expressions, mockery or discriminatory language. If they are obsessed with ideas of manhood that align with power and dominance, or by being a possessive and controlling boyfriend, it will affect you negatively sooner or later. These are huge red flags of an insecure man.
Dr. Bhonsle shares, “What makes a man? If you ask random men to answer this question, they will be at a loss. They don’t know how to define manhood beyond the patriarchal definitions that have been imposed on them. They haven’t been taught to question the source of their half-truths, because that source was their immediate society and innermost circles of family, friends and schools. They derive a lot of comfort, stability and luxury from such sources, and so are afraid to challenge them. But we must continue to question our value systems and philosophies and ask ourselves on regular intervals: do they serve us anymore?”
Dr. Bhonsle also talks about how we stereotype men, “If a man wants to become a fashion designer, people tell him to go wear a sari to imply that he has ‘lost’ his masculinity. I would say a man who takes care of his baby all night is more of a man than a man who thinks punching someone will resolve the issue.”
3. He has a machismo-centered world-view
One of the early red flags in a man is that most of his favorite movies, shows and books are created by men and have men as the central characters. If your media world is consciously filled with only one kind of male narrative that largely caters to men, and teaches men how to be ‘manly’, then something is certainly amiss.
Also, one of the major red flags in a man could be that he is obsessed with his muscles and often talks about or implies being better than other men simply because of his physique. “He didn’t talk about anything meaningful and couldn’t stop watching fitness videos, talking about his diet, or how he can beat up another man. Toxic masculinity and casual sexism to the next level. It was slightly scary and a huge turn-off,” shares Amelia.
Gay men are not immune to sexism either. Bell Hooks in her book The Will to Change said, “Most gay men are as sexist in their thinking as are heterosexuals. Their patriarchal thinking leads them to construct paradigms of desirable sexual behavior that is similar to that of patriarchal straight men.”
4. Red flags in a man: He is sexually insensitive
He doesn’t wish to talk about your sexual comfort, boundaries, traumas, needs, specific pleasures, dislikes and likes, contraceptives, etc. Of course he doesn’t. Some men think they know you better than you know yourself. Anyone who’s interested in men, and especially if you’re a younger lot, listen up. If they don’t respect what you “can’t” do in terms of intimacy, and if they dismiss your sexual comfort and sexual health at ANY stage at all during the process, it’s one of the most important red flags in a man when dating. You’re allowed to say no and you deserve that “no” to be heard and complied with at any point of sexual intimacy.
It’s not just about penetration or the buildup to it, even a touch could cross your sexual boundary if you hadn’t consented to it earlier. “I used to think if I’ve said yes to sex, and we’re in the middle of it, I can’t go back on my word anymore because that will disappoint him. I’m glad I know so much better now. If my comfort is not important to him, he ceases to be important to me. Simple,” shares Chloe.
Related Reading: The Trauma Of Sexual Abuse Brings A Lifetime of Intimacy Issues
5. Emotional unavailability is his default setting
One of the red flags in a man when dating is that it feels like it’ll take a hammer and a chisel to open him up. “Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they chose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them.” – Bell Hooks, Will to Change.
There could be many reasons for his lack of emotional availability, and though you may empathize with him, you do deserve to have a partner whose heart is open to receive you. Emotional unavailability could also manifest itself in passive-aggressive behavior, sarcasm, and anger.
Dr. Bhonsle says, “Men are taught to hide away emotions, as if they are dirty little secrets. Even in families, they tell a boy to change his emotion if he displays vulnerability. Anger issues in a man are more acceptable, just like we think sadness is more acceptable in women. This is why boys and men don’t seek or receive comfort for their pain the way other people do. This isn’t fair, and the psychological harm on them is evident.”
6. He shames you constantly
“Whether it was the way I dressed, or my past sexual experiences, this person was so regressive I could only date him for a week. I felt suffocated. I wish I could just spot red flags in a man’s dating profile so I don’t have to go out with him at all,” shares Amelia.
This experience is unfortunately quite common across the board. They project their own insecurities on you and make you their little experiment that they can control and tweak as they like. You deserve to have a partner who lets you be unapologetic, respects your self-expression and your past, and isn’t one of those partners or husbands who criticizes your looks, your past, your sexuality and preferences.
7. Red flags in a man: He is sexist
He often calls women weak and dramatic. He talks about them in a degrading manner but tells you that you’re different. We’ve all met different variations of this man, haven’t we? Sexism in a man can manifest in how he blames abuse or harassment survivors for what they went through, he is openly condescending toward women, and he likes to control their sexual behavior. He doesn’t think women are intellectually equal to men, and mocks or dismisses their achievements.
If you see these red flags in a man’s dating profile, swipe left immediately. As we grow up, we learn that any sexist person who is degrading femininity in anyone or degrading your entire gender cannot be an emotionally mature person.
8. His communication skills need a lot of work
Whether he is unable to have vulnerable and intimate conversations with you or he is downright rude, lack of communication skills is one of the major red flags in a man. Conversations are what you’re left with in the days when sex takes a backseat and going out feels like a task. If he can’t communicate well with you and it feels like you have to come up with topics to talk about every time, or you feel drained after every phone call, then it’s time to reevaluate this unhealthy relationship.
“It was my friends who pointed out that he is dismissive, and that he wasn’t gentle with me at all. I didn’t even notice it initially and in fact, was mad at them for criticizing him. But they were right. They saw what I refused to see or acknowledge. We broke up soon after,” says Cathy.
Related Reading: 12 Cute Little Ways To Say Sorry After A Fight
9. He is not an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community
And no, not in the way ‘every’ person seems to be an ally to the community when you ask them. But in a more concrete manner – they follow queer people to learn more about our views, they educate themselves (at their own pace) on issues that cishets plague us with, they watch and read more queer content created by queer people, they stand up for the socio-cultural and legal rights of the LGBTQ community whenever possible, they speak to some of their friends and family to make them more aware, and most importantly, they don’t use gendered and binary language.
Queerphobia and transphobia affects cishet women too, and are vital red flags of an insecure man to watch out for. This is especially important for those who are trans or queer, and wish to date a cis man. You’ll need to know if he’s a strong ally to the community you belong to, and that he respects and stands up for your political and social identity, otherwise it’s a deal breaker.
10. He breadcrumbs you
Breadcrumbing is the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal social signals (i.e. “breadcrumbs”) in order to lure a romantic partner in without expending much effort. In other words, it’s leading someone on. Breadcrumbing means a partner shows you love but then suddenly withdraws, and repeats this pattern until they drive you up against the wall.
“I started to wonder if the love was real, if the relationship even existed, and if it’s my fault that he was driven away from me,” shares Dan. Their instability of emotions, and lack of sensitivity and commitment toward you is not your whirlwind to deal with. Run. Like my friend says, “You don’t deserve breadcrumbs, you deserve the whole bakery.”
11. Gaslighting behavior is a red flag in a guy
Gaslighting in relationships is one of the major red flags in a man that is often talked about. It’s a manipulative tactic used to shift the power dynamic in a relationship so that one person has complete control over the other. Many people go through this unfortunate reality.
The one space where you’re supposed to feel the safest, a romantic relationship, becomes a nightmare. You’re made to doubt every aspect of your life – your skills, your friends, your family, your fears, your needs, even your conversations and belief systems. There’s no accountability on the other side and the best thing to do is leave as soon as you can. Because the longer you wait, the deadlier their influence gets. If you’ve gone through this, you deserve to heal and at Bonobology, we offer professional help through our panel of licensed advisors who can help you embark on a path toward recovery.
12. He doesn’t let you inside his world
Do you always feel like an outsider, one step outside their home, waving at them, waiting to be let in? If so, you deserve better. You deserve their whole heart, and the beautiful experience of certainty of love. If he is not ready to let you meet his friends, doesn’t make an effort to meet you, doesn’t wish to see you in public or among people who he knows, then you need to note these major red flags in a man, and end this relationship immediately.
Cora says, “I was so confused all the time. He would shower his love on me when we met in private. But then he’d put up walls. He’d never invite me to his place. I didn’t know what his friends thought of me, and I just never felt “needed”. It was hurtful.”
13. Red flags in a man: Over-possessive and jealous
He is possessive to the point of control and harmful jealousy. Movies be damned, possessiveness and jealousy are NOT attractive after a point. When men become jealous, it may make you feel wanted in the short term, but if you’re someone who cherishes their freedom, this possessiveness will soon feel throttling. The issue is that we, as a society, condemn jealousy.
But jealousy is just another emotion, and it shouldn’t be shamed. It tells us a lot about our needs and what we want at the moment. If only we had learned to communicate those needs in a healthy manner, and not learn through movies to let our jealousies seethe and rage – until they consume us and our partners!
Dr. Bhonsle suggests, “If you’re jealous, firstly, take responsibility for your discomfort. Then, express your discomfort to your partner in an honest, non-threatening and respectful manner. Ask for suggestions on how to resolve or prevent this jealousy. Be open to suggestions. Relationships need nuanced conversations and you should have a dynamic where you both can tell each other that, “I need your help to alleviate my discomfort, and I promise my help in this regard would be available to you in the future as well.””
Related Reading: 13 Traits Of A Toxic Boyfriend – And 3 Steps You Can Take
14. He compares you to his previous partners
This is such a turn-off and can make you feel rejected and heartbroken. His exes could be his chosen family, could be still vitally important for him, and all of that is great, except he has a habit of bringing that person up constantly in an intimate conversation or as a way to compare you to them. It’s not fair to you, and you deserve better.
If he is not spending quality time with you, but is able to free up all the time in the world for them, walk out. You should be welcomed in a relationship and not have to fight for attention. His constant rejection of your presence for his ex’s presence shows he might be in love with his ex too. You don’t need any more red flags in a man in order to get up and leave.
15. He doesn’t give you space
He wants to tag along with you everywhere. He wants to know what you’re doing at all hours, and who you’re with. He wants to speak to you all the time and doesn’t take kindly to suggestions of you taking space. It’s reached a point that when your phone rings or buzzes, you know it’s him and you start to get anxious or frustrated.
Everyone has their preferred frequency of talking to their partner. You need to tell him kindly and firmly what works for you, and what doesn’t. If he still doesn’t let you be, then please don’t look to change him. This is who he is until he decides to heal from his insecurities. You don’t have to deal with that.
Dr. Aman Bhonsle implores men to change the cultural and mental stereotypes of what it means to be a man. He says, “They are told to be macho and violent in our culture, even through our movies. No wonder men have difficulty expressing emotions. It is completely normalized. And men don’t speak up against this because for them, things seem to be running smoothly. Then why would they question the norm?
“The only time they actually start to question everything is when something truly bad happens and it all blows up in their face. Then they are forced to ask themselves, “Where did I go wrong?” This is the point where they start to introspect, and can hopefully start working toward healing.”
We hope you can now spot these red flags in a man much better, and this can improve your dating experience a bit. There are many aspects of someone’s personality that we disagree with. The first thing to do with any of these red flags is to talk it out with that person, and only then make your decision.