The heady, exhilarating effect of a budding romance often makes us look past the differences between us and a potential partner. The rose-tinted glasses you’re donning make the sky look more beautiful and everything seems to fall into place. However, when you ignore the red flags in a woman, trouble rears its ugly head once infatuation begins to wear off. And when you see things for what they are, you may already be in too deep.
That’s why it’s important to spot the red flags in a relationship with a woman, despite how much you might want to believe that everything is blissfully perfect. Besides, the sooner you spot potential trouble points, the sooner you can figure out how to address them.
Since you’re not a mind reader, it’s absolutely imperative to pay attention to a person’s behavior, speech, and actions to assess whether their presence in your life is doing you more harm than good. To that end, in this article, psychotherapist Gopa Khan (Masters in Counseling Psychology, M.Ed), who specializes in marriage and family counseling, writes to help you understand the biggest red flags in a girl you must never overlook
15 Red Flags In Women You Should Never Ignore
The red flags in a woman or a man are essentially the same. An abuser always displays similar traits, irrespective of gender. Nonetheless, knowing what they are can help you make sure what you’re diving headfirst into isn’t a toxic dynamic. A young man I had counseled some years back suffered immense emotional trauma because he couldn’t recognize the warning signs in his partner’s behavior early on.
When their relationship first started, Kevin looked past the way Samantha would become disrespectful and call him names every time they got into any sort of argument. What he assumed to be a “heat of the moment” situation turned out to be an obvious lack of respect in the relationship. With every sarcastic remark and every belittling jibe, Kevin felt the hole he had dug for himself get deeper. When he realized he dreaded talking to Samantha every day, he knew it was time to call it quits.
What are the red flags in a girlfriend? Knowing the answer to this question is the difference between a situation like Kevin’s or understanding what you need to work on (or walk away from) early on in a relationship, preferably when you just start dating. Let’s take a look at what you should be on the lookout for:
1. They hurt you by calling you names
I was counseling this couple that had started dating during the COVID lockdown. They had never met each other and started the relationship over the phone. They broke up after a while because she started calling him names, telling him he was stupid, and making him feel bad. Even though they tried to reconcile, their relationship is now on the rocks.
These things may not raise red flags, since friends can often partake in such banter. But when it’s a romantic relationship, especially in cases like these where the couple hadn’t even met each other yet, there is a need to be cautious about how both partners talk to each other. When you’re dating a person and they’re not treating you well, that’s one of the biggest red flags in a relationship with a woman you need to look out for.
When you’re belittled and made to feel stupid for a mistake, it can sap away your confidence. Such toxic behavior can build up over time and leave you riddled with self-doubt. You wouldn’t want the source of that to be the person you love the most, would you?
2. They have extremely high expectations of you
One of the common red flags in a woman is that she is expecting her prince charming to swoop her off her feet and ‘rescue’ her from all her troubles. That kind of princess syndrome leads to needy behavior, which some men can so easily fall for, assuming it to be an act of affection, not knowing that it’s actually a warning sign.
What those men don’t realize is that that’s a 50-year-long road they’ve just signed up for. Sure, it’s wonderful for the ego of most men because it triggers the hero instinct in them. To such men, I have only one piece of advice: you need to understand that you need an independent person in your life. A dependent person will pull you down. When your partner has got a long list of what she expects from her partner, the only thing you can expect in return is dissonance.
3. They make you doubt your reality by gaslighting you
Gaslighting in a relationship is when your partner invalidates your feelings by saying things like, “That’s not what happened”, “You’re overreacting”, or “You’re crazy to be thinking this way, you need help”, which makes you doubt yourself. When this happens repeatedly in a long-term, serious relationship, it can spell doom for the victim’s self-confidence and sense of self.
One of the clear red flags in a damaged woman is emotional abuse such as this. It’s also one of those elusive dating red flags that may not be clearly visible at the beginning of a relationship. This ugly side of your partner may only make itself apparent when you’ve already invested some time into the dynamic.
That’s exactly what makes this all the more dangerous. By wishing to establish control over you, hurting your confidence by attacking you, isolating you, or guilt-tripping you, emotional abuse can often wreak havoc on any relationship and on the victim’s mental health.
4. They can’t stop talking about their ex
If they make it look like everything was the ex’s fault and they were the innocent baby in that relationship, you need to watch out. Comparing exes, especially with the person they’re currently with, is one of the major red flags in a woman. Now, occasionally mentioning a former lover is perfectly normal. It’s okay if they mention the ex’s name in passing while telling you who introduced them to that show they’re addicted to.
However, if it seems like they’re trying to fight a case against the ex with you as the jury, it can often mean they have some breakup healing left to do. It’s one of the relationship red flags when it seems like they’re finding excuses to bring the previous partner up and compare you to them.
5. Acting like the victim
A sense of victimhood is also a warning sign that the woman you’re with is toxic. Everything is against her and everyone is out to get her. The glass is always half-empty and somebody probably poisoned it since she’s always the victim. She’ll always highlight the negative aspects of everyone around her, and her pessimistic outlook on life will make her doubt the strength of your relationship too.
What are the red flags in a girlfriend? If she finds a way to portray herself as the victim in every situation, it’s an indication that she might be an insecure woman. It’s likely that she takes every attempt at banter as a personal attack, and scrutinizes everything you say because her insecurity renders her unable to trust you. Don’t turn a blind eye to these behavior patterns because they’re among the biggest red flags in a woman.
6. Not accepting the partner’s relationships with friends and family
Of all the red flags in a relationship with a woman, this one points to a whole host of problems like a controlling nature, jealous behavior, or an insecure attachment style. If she feels that she needs to be the number one priority in your life at all times, she may be constricting her partner’s independence.
If she always feels threatened by your best friends, colleagues, or even parents, you need to evaluate what kind of relationship you can build with her. It’s one of the biggest red flags in a girl and signifies bigger underlying issues.
Related Reading: Fixing a Toxic Relationship – 21 Ways To Heal TOGETHER
7. Everything’s always about them, and they lack empathy
Imagine a situation where what your partner said to you has made you feel disrespected and hurt. Perhaps it was a nasty attack on your insecurities or a belittling remark. When you tell them how what they said hurt you, they’re completely unable/unwilling to empathize with you and double down on what they said. Don’t be surprised if you hear, “Stop overreacting, you’re making a big deal out of nothing.” (Remember gaslighting?)
Not being able to simply say, “I understand how you feel, even though I don’t agree with it”, signifies a glaring and troubling lack of empathy. Empathy doesn’t always mean accepting their point of view. For example, I had a client who was always worried that his wife was having a sexual affair, even during the lockdown, where they spent every hour of the day in the same apartment.
Though his doubt and insecurity seemed absurd to her, she was able to say, “I understand where this paranoia is coming from and why you might be feeling this way. But I don’t think your line of thinking is justified.” While this degree of empathy can be rare to find, a complete lack of it is a glaring red flag.”
8. They have no idea of how to fix any argument
This is a red flag in a relationship with a woman that affects how you work through your issues in the long run. For example, if their idea of conflict resolution is to stonewall you into oblivion, you best believe there’s going to be growing resentment in the relationship that’s eventually going to bring the whole thing tumbling down. I had a client who woke her husband in the middle of the night, banging on the door and demanding that he talk to her about what’s been bothering her.
Trying to resolve an argument by screaming at your partner at 4 AM, of course, isn’t the most effective way of solving an issue. Of course, this isn’t necessarily just one of the red flags in a woman, it goes both ways. The basic agenda is that one partner adopts a very “my way or the highway” sort of approach toward conflict resolution, which doesn’t do anyone any favors.
9. They have toxic, dysfunctional relationship with their family
What are the red flags in a girlfriend? When you’re answering that question, you’re probably only going to think about how she treats you and not consider the nature of her relationship with her parents. If she’s always fighting with her father, the first male figure in her life, that pattern is going to repeat itself. You must then also analyze why her relationship with the family is so unhealthy. Are the parents kind people but she still finds a way to argue and fight and be insecure? In such situations, you know that it’s not the parents, it’s her.
When she has unhealthy relationships with the primary caregivers, it, in turn, incites the expectations that we talked about, the princess syndrome, where the woman might expect her partner to ‘rescue’ her. This relationship red flag may not be apparent early on, as you’re probably not going to get to know everything about your partner’s family dynamics right at the onset. But once you get a clearer picture, it’s important to take an objective look at what’s going on.
10. They’re extremely clingy and dependent on you
One of the red flags in a relationship with a woman or even a man that I see very often is extreme codependent behavior and a pattern of jumping from one relationship to the other. They don’t know who they are without a relationship, which often signifies needy and clingy behavior.
Needing a relationship to feel normal is one of the red flags of a damaged woman. You’ll often find them suffering from post-breakup depression, which only alleviates once they’re in a new relationship. Such behavior indicates that they value the idea of a relationship more than the person they are with, and they wouldn’t mind jumping ship with someone else if the current dynamic were to go south.
11. The relationship makes you feel emotionally exhausted
Relationship burnout doesn’t necessarily happen during the initial stages but over time, the signs become apparent. If you’re constantly attacked to the point where you feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time, or if you feel like you’re always on guard, it’s only natural that the relationship will leave you feeling emotionally exhausted.
Here is a simple litmus test to assess whether you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t the right fit for you: Are they someone you would want to be friends with? If not, then it’s a relationship red flag that indicates that your value system doesn’t align with theirs and you aren’t compatible with them.
12. Mental health issues that they refuse to work on
We’ve all got our issues and challenges to overcome, and just because someone has been diagnosed with a mental health condition doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of your love and companionship. Even so, it’s no surprise that a relationship with someone who struggles with mental health issues isn’t always smooth sailing, and can only thrive when both partners actively work on it.
When the partner with such problems refuses to work on themselves or for the betterment of the relationship, it can eventually be what causes it to falter. Of course, it is perfectly okay to have such issues. What’s important is how much responsibility a person can take for their actions and not use their illness as a crutch. Can they actively work toward managing their symptoms and make it clear that they’re doing all they can to work on themselves and the strength of the relationship?
Related Reading: How To Watch Out For The Relationship Red Flags – Expert Tells You
13. There’s no sign of reciprocity
Does it feel like you’re giving more to the relationship than the other person? Of course, there’s never going to be a 50-50 give and take, but if you think you can’t count on your partner to help you out in an emergency, that’s one of the red flags in a relationship with a woman.
Reciprocity in a relationship isn’t established by keeping scorecards or keeping tabs on who does what, it is a state of mind that makes itself apparent through the effort someone naturally puts in. It doesn’t even necessarily have to manifest through the 3 AM emergencies, the lack of reciprocity can be clearly visible in how your partner treats you on a regular basis.
It may start to feel like you’re the only one trying to put effort into the dynamic, or you’re the only one who cares about resolving arguments instead of fighting. Taking responsibility will be an unheard concept for your partner, and eventually, this warning sign will make itself apparent. When your relationship starts feeling extremely one-sided, it’s time to reassess the foundation of your dynamic.
14. Their idea of “communication” involves fighting and shouting at you
Every time you get into an argument and try to present your point of view, they seem to be incapable of engaging in a dialogue in a calm and composed manner. They seem to only care about “winning”, and communication with them can result in your feelings being hurt. Sound familiar?
Communication problems such as these can often be one of the most common red flags. Under the garb of communication, your partner may shout at you and hurt your feelings, assuming they can say anything they want to you. Not only does it signify a lack of respect but it also shows that your partner may have a warped sense of what communication should be like in a healthy, serious relationship.
15. They exhibit controlling behavior
Controlling, jealous behavior is one of the biggest red flags in a woman, and in men as well. Such toxic behavior isn’t something that’s limited to gender, and people, unfortunately, face controlling and jealous behavior from their partners all too often.
Your partner may disapprove or be extremely jealous of your friends and family and may control the time you spend with them. Or, they may disapprove of the hobbies you have and coax you into discontinuing them. Also, while pop culture may have you believe that control only looks like your partner blatantly telling you to not do something, understand that it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
This dating red flag can take hold over some time and you may not even realize it. Say, for example, your partner never blatantly tells you not to partake in an activity but their disapproving nature, extreme anger as a result of your actions, and constant belittling are eventually going to make it a sore point in the relationship. You may even begin to avoid people or activities you enjoy but your partner disapproves of just for the sake of keeping the peace. As a result, they end up controlling your actions and making you doubt yourself, albeit indirectly.
- Relationships red flags are not limited to gender
- Red flags include toxic behavior like gaslighting, exercising control, unrealistic expectations, belittling, inciting conflict, and a lack of empathy, among others
- The most common red flags are often ignored because of the honeymoon-phase infatuation that a person can’t look past
- A partner riddled with red flags will eventually burn you out and make you feel emotionally exhausted
- Toxic behavior once noticed must be dealt with immediately. Decide if you want to commit and work on it as a couple or move on to greener pastures
Now that you know the answer to what are the red flags in a girlfriend, hopefully, you have a better idea of what needs to be worked on and what’s only a problem in your head. I leave you with another effective litmus test of compatibility with a potential or current partner.
Share a long car ride with this person during peak traffic hours. You’ll be able to see how they react in stressful environments, what they’re capable of, the way they express their emotions around you, and how they handle stress. That should tell you everything you need to know. If this list of the red flags in a relationship with a woman has got you worried about the strength of your dynamic, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists can help you figure out exactly what your path toward recovery could look like.
This article was updated in November 2022.