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Identifying Red Flags in Relationships

Identifying Red Flags in Relationships

This article was originally published in Bonjibon magazine January, 2020.

In the context of relationships, red flags are like yellow lights: they don’t necessarily mean stop, but they definitely mean slow down and pay attention. They can be signs that the relationship is, or may become increasingly, unhealthy and/or abusive. Identifying red flags is a key strategy in empowering ourselves against bad relationships. If you notice more than one or two, take it as an opportunity to reflect on your relationship. Here are some of the top red flags I recommend paying attention to.

Please note there are tons of red flags out there, and they should be taken seriously. If your gut tells you there is something wrong, talk to a person you trust about it and find a local organization to help. There is no shame in relationships that don’t work – they just don’t work.

They won’t compromise/Won’t meet in the middle

They want sushi and you want burgers, you end up getting sushi. If you get anything but sushi, you’ll spend the night, and then some, feeling guilty for it.

Moving things along very quickly

They say “I love you” early on, want to move in together quickly, want to get married immediately, identify as your partner soon after dating.

They put you down

You make an ant-sized mistake, they treat it like a behemoth problem. You feel uncomfortable being vulnerable because you know you’ll be made fun of. They disregard your knowledge and expertise.

Restricting finances

Don’t worry babe, they’ll take care of our accounts. They wouldn’t be able to afford sushi if you were in charge. Here, take $20 for that – no, $40 is crazy, why are you so greedy!?


You feel like you’re crazy in general and especially whenever you try to address issues – did it happen like you remembered? Is it crazy to want a burger over sushi? Did you even want a burger?

Encourages you to quit job, school, etc.

They encourage you to quit things that add to your potential for independence, and keep you in contact with the world outside your relationship. They act jealous and angry if you don’t.

Don’t want to be with your friends or family

They like to keep you close and alone – they’ll do things to keep you with them like cause arguments before social gatherings, or try to cause conflict between you and your friends and family.

Pressures you to use drugs/alcohol

They pressure you to do drugs and alcohol, either with them or alone. They do not support your choice to use or not use.


They assume the worst – coffee with a friend? Cheating. Texting a colleague? You’re in love with him.

They are always the “good one” in stories

According to them, all of their ex’s are crazy. They are the hero in all of their own stories. That time they got in a fist fight in front of you? Definitely the other party’s fault.

They are secretive about their past

You know vague details, but not much about their histories. One thing’s for sure, they’re the “good one” in the stories you hear.

Pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do

Sell the car, drink the vodka, do the sex act, yes you’re in the mood…

Things don’t add up

The stories they tell don’t make sense; when you inquire, they escalate into anger.

If you are concerned about your partner finding out about this article or further research you do, consistently clear your browser history or use a device they cannot access. Find a local organization to help you start making a plan.

To sum up

There are a ton of red flags out there. In general, if you don’t feel good about it, take a breath and touch base with a friend. Do some googling. Ponder a little. And figure out how you feel about it. There are people to talk to and articles to read in order to understand. However, if you do approach your partner about any of these behaviours and are met with anger, consider this a double red flag and crossbones. That is, it is likely not a relationship that is adding to your life.


About the writer

Katie Aitken

Katie Aitken (she/her) is the co-founder of Bonjibon. She is a passionate feminist advocate and activist. Katie believes that sexual liberation is an important component of stomping stigma, shifting gender norms, and ultimately changing the status quo. She brings years of experience and devotion to her role as editor-in-chief of the Bonjibon Magazine.

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