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Relationship Red Flags

Relationship Red Flags

Relationship red flags

Atlanta-based psychologists, coaches and therapists discuss how to spot and avoid common relationship issues.

In the current era of oversaturated and unsolicited TikTok, Instagram and armchair therapy, it’s easy for buzzwords like ‘gaslight’ and ‘narcissist’ to be misrepresented. While conflict is a natural part of any adult relationship, it’s how you tackle it that says the most about the overall health of the partnership. To help you clear through the chatter, we spoke with several local therapists, coaches and psychologists to discuss the biggest warning signs to pay attention to and how to identify, navigate, and avoid red flags in your own relationships.

Common Relationship Red Flags

Lack of Communication
“Partners should be able to confide in each other,” explained Dr. Laura Louis with Atlanta Couple Therapy, “if you don’t feel safe opening up, that’s a huge concern.” This, in turn, can create a lack of emotional intimacy. “It becomes easier to simply not talk about certain things, or to keep the conversation on surface-level topics that don’t allow you to connect on a deeper emotional, intellectual and even sexual level, leaving you unable to bring your full self to a relationship,” said Dr. Joshua Noblitt, who specializes in individual, relationship, sex and group therapy. Even fighting is better than no communication at all, as this at least signifies that the issues are being spoken about.

Controlling/Possessive Behavior
Partners should allow each other freedom and space to be individuals. If your partner has displayed patterns of trying to control your personal choices, using guilt and criticism as a tool, this oftentimes stems from feelings of jealousy and insecurity. “Insecurity often manifests through controlling or possessive behaviors. This is why it’s important to find the true root of the issue,” explained Dr. Louis.

Lack of Empathy
If your partner displays an inability to understand or support your needs, they might suffer from a lack of empathy. This is a common personality trait in people with Narcissist Personality Disorder, as they struggle to see outside of themselves. Without the ability to see others’ points of view, these people typically don’t understand how their behavior affects those around them.

Lack of RespectCouple in therapy
You and your significant other should always remain equals, so if disrespect ever becomes a pattern, it often signals deeper issues like resentment or an imbalance between partners. “Being on the receiving end of continual criticism and sarcasm erodes self-esteem. Even if the disrespect is framed as joking, it can still be hurtful and reflect a troubling power dynamic,” explained Dr. Louis. Pay attention to how they describe their exes. Do they treat service workers poorly? These subtle behaviors give glimpses into how they might treat you.

Poor Conflict Resolution
When your partner shows poor emotional regulation, anger issues or an inability to properly communicate through issues, it can be a huge warning sign for their conflict resolution skills. “Reflect on how they handle conflict, stress or disagreements. Short fuses, outbursts, manipulation or hostility during conflicts are concerning,” explains Dr. Louis.

Emotional manipulation can mean many different things. Maybe they share veiled threats of leaving the relationship, or maybe they subtly point out your flaws, as a means to establish a power dynamic. This also tends to be when the term ‘gaslighting’ comes into play; defined as making someone question their own sanity and what they know is true. However you define manipulation, it is a giant red flag.

Misaligned Goals
Trish Roberts, a transformational coach and happiness expert, points to the not-so-obvious red flags. “They aren’t always things like a bad temper or a history of infidelity, they can be rooted in things like spirituality, work ethic, hobbies and lifestyle. It’s important to not sacrifice your own personal deal breakers,” she notes.

So Should You Stay or Should You Go?

To put it simply, if you find that your partner consistently makes you sad, anxious, lonely or insecure, don’t ignore those signals. Always pay attention to unhealthy patterns. Things like safety, willingness to change, repeated patterns, deal breakers and your own gut feelings should guide your decision. Some therapy practices to help mediate this are Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Discernment Counseling and Intimacy Therapy.

“Individual and relationship therapy helps identify triggers, narratives and tendencies that lead to painful cycles in relationships,” explained Dr. Noblitt. “Once these cycles are identified, we can work toward fostering a sense of safety and collaboration, leading to a more secure and healthy relationship.”,,

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