Let’s face it: When we’re newly coupled up, we tend to look at our partner — and the budding relationship itself — through a pair of proverbial rose-colored glasses.
Any flaws we detect in our partner are all too easily written off: He shies away from introducing you to his immediate family? It will happen when it happens. She has a tendency to leave dirty dishes and shoes scattered around the house? You’re neat and orderly enough for the both of you.
But once you get real about your relationship and consider it for all that it is — and all that it isn’t — there are some issues that are just too serious to overlook. Below, dating and marriage experts weigh in with 10 red flags they say should be cause for concern in any relationship.
1. You feel the need to change who you are to make your partner happy.
We all change a bit when we’re exposed to a new partner and their individual tastes — you binge-watch an entire season of “House of Cards” because your boyfriend loves it or attempt to go vegetarian for a few months because your girlfriend has been one for years (keyword: attempt). It only becomes a real issue when you feel the need to change who you are at your core to satisfy your partner, says licensed marriage and family therapist Virginia Gilbert.
“It’s a definite problem when you find yourself molding your values, opinions and even your clothing style to suit your partner,” Gilbert says. “If you edit what you say before you say it and constantly monitor how you come across because you feel like your partner is grading you, it might be time to let the relationship go.”
2. You have to defend your significant other to family and friends.
Not everyone is going to like your boyfriend or girlfriend as much as you do. But itshould worry you if there’s a general consensus among family and friends that your new love is entirely wrong for you, says M. Gary Neuman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of The Truth About Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It.
“When all your friends and family are uncomfortable with the relationship, it’s time to take a good look at it,” he recommends. “If you find yourself isolated from loved ones and telling yourself they just don’t know your significant other the way you do, chances are this won’t end well.”
3. Nitpicking and criticism — even if said in jest — are constants in the relationship.
He finds your hourly texts really overbearing — and tells you so repeatedly. She jokingly compares her Ivy League education to the one you received at a state school, but always in a dismissive tone. If your partner’s overly critical eye is starting to affect your self-esteem, it’s time to speak up or jump ship, says relationship expert Tina Swithin.
“The criticism can even be subtle comparison put-downs, which can be delivered in a casual, passive aggressive way,” she says. “Those still can chip away at your confidence, and in the end, healthy relationships should lift you up, not bring you down.”
4. You’re always wondering what your partner is up to when you’re not around.
What Elvis sang about suspicious minds is true: You and your S.O. can’t go on together as long as you have doubts about what he or she is up to when you’re not there.
Dating coach Marina Sbrochi agrees, offering up an example to illustrate the point: “Maybe your new girlfriend keeps her phone on silent. All the time. Add that to the fact that she can only go out a couple of times a week and she prefers to text,” she says. “Knock, knock! You aren’t an investigative reporter, but you know when something smells fishy. If two plus two doesn’t add up to four, it’s time to part ways and look for a relationship that doesn’t seem like a game of Clue.”
5. Your partner makes all of the big relationship decisions.
You only get together when it’s convenient for your boyfriend and only hang out with his family and friends. You’ve been to all of your girlfriend’s work functions and friends’ parties, but have stopped inviting her to any social gathering you attend — she’s made it crystal clear she’s not interested.
Sound familiar? If your partner is calling all the shots and “you’re just following their lead, desperate for a few crumbs,” it might be time to reevaluate the relationship, Gilbert warns.
6. Your sex life is seriously lacking.
A relationship shouldn’t be all about the sex, but it needs to be somewhat about the sex, according to Sbrochi.
“If you feel like this person has all the other qualities you desire in a mate, see a sex therapist. Try some new tricks and see if you can make manufacture some chemistry,” she suggests. “Trust me, you need a sexual connection for a long-lasting relationship. You have plenty of friends, you don’t need another friend. It’s time to look for love and sex in one package.”
7. You want more “me” time — but your partner wants more “we” time.
You’re dying for some time to yourself. Meanwhile, your boyfriend is complaining about how little you see of each other. “In other words, the frequency of connecting is either too high or too low, whether it be texting, calling, or seeing each other in person,” marriage and family therapist Jane Greer explains. It’s a problem if “an amount that is mutually comfortable for both of you is never found.”
8. You feel personally responsible for your partner’s happiness.
Heed your inner red flags as soon as you start to feel like your partner relies on you — and only you — to keep them emotionally balanced, Gilbert says.
“Whether your partner is in a pit of despair or erupting in anger, he or she makes you feel that you are somehow to blame, and it’s your job to change whatever it is that you have done or said to make them feel bad,” she says. “Whatever you do or say to remedy the situation is inevitably wrong and makes your partner feel worse, which is, of course, your fault. You are always on eggshells and you feel the walls closing in on you. This kind of relationship is poison; get out ASAP.”
9. Your partner controls who you see and what you do.
This might be the biggest red flag of all, Swithin says. “If you find that your partner is controlling your time with friends or family, your finances, clothing choices or how much makeup you wear, this is something to take very seriously.”
10. You find yourself wondering if you’re in the wrong relationship.
It may sound painfully obvious, but your tendency to quiet those relationship doubts may end up being a huge regret later on, says Sbrochi. “So many times we look back on a bad relationship and only in hindsight can we really see the signs for what they really were,” she says. “But if you really think about it, you knew the whole time, you just wanted to ignore it for whatever reason. ”
Instead, be more proactive about your relationship concerns and address them with your partner — or move on before you get hurt. “Make a mental note of whatever is bothering you,” Sbrochi says. “If it happens again or you feel your inner warning lights going off (even if they are going off softly), it’s time to take a step back.”