Over the many years of working with thousands of people looking to find a committed relationship, I've discovered numerous red flags that may indicate future problems. Very often, when the person I'm working with has moved ahead with the relationship, one of these issues -- which might not have seemed huge at the beginning -- becomes a major problem leading to the demise of the relationship.
Below is a list of some of the red flags I've discovered. It's a long list, but certainly not exhaustive. Some of these items might not be deal-breakers for you; if the issue is okay with you, then there is no problem. But, don't expect to be able to change the person. That's when you can get into relationship trouble. As you read this list, don't just focus on the other person. See if you can identify personally with any of these red flags.
1. The person comes on strong at the beginning of the relationship, and tells you exactly what you want to hear.
This is one of the symptoms of narcissism. Narcissists can be very intense in their pursuit, and many of them have learned exactly what to say to pull you in, such as, "I've never felt as connected with anyone else as I feel with you," or "You are the most amazing person I've ever met. I can see that no one has ever really seen you." For many narcissists, the pursuit is everything and once they have you hooked, they are either off to another pursuit, or they become more and more demanding of you.
2. The person becomes angry, critical or withdrawn if you say no.
This is another symptom of narcissism. Narcissists need constant attention and often become very upset and punishing if you don't give them what they want.
3. The person becomes logical and tries to talk you out of your feelings or your experience.
He or she tries to make you feel that you are wrong for your feelings or your position. This is another narcissistic trait: the belief that only his or her feelings and opinions are valid, and that differences pose a threat.
4. The person talks on and on about himself or herself and doesn't ask much about you, or is uninterested when you do talk about yourself.
Again, another symptom of narcissism. This person is not interested in you or your feelings. He or she just wants you to keep your attention on them.
5. The person is an older man or woman who has never been married and has been in a series of broken relationships, or has had numerous broken marriages.
People get together at their common level of woundedness -- i.e., their common level of self-abandonment. While this person may blame the other person for the problems, or claim that he or she has just never met the "right" person, it always takes two to create relationship problems. Unless this person has had a good amount of therapy and personal growth since the last relationship, a series of broken relationships or marriages may indicate that he or she doesn't know how to have a loving relationship.
6. The person was abused as a child and has not had therapy or done sufficient inner healing work.
We all bring our unhealed wounds with us into our primary relationships, often projecting our parents or other caregivers onto our partner. This can make for a very challenging relationship.
7. The person lacks empathy and compassion.
This is another symptom of narcissism. If this person cannot feel pain for your pain and joy for your joy, you will end up feeling very lonely in the relationship.
8. The person has abandoned his or her children.
Abandoning one's children -- other than giving up a baby for adoption -- may indicate lack of empathy. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that prevent a parent from seeing their children, or a parent might come to the painful realization that it is not in the child's best interest to be involved with them. But, if someone does not care about their children, then they likely have a deep problem with caring about themselves or others.
9. The person is not open to learning from relationship conflict.
Without an openness to learning about themselves and you when there is conflict, there is no way to resolve conflict.
10. The person participates in addictions that are unacceptable to you -- smoking, drinking, drugs, addictive eating, gambling, TV and so on.
Again, don't expect that you can get the person to change. The person needs to be acceptable to you as he or she is. They will change if they want to, but you can't make them change.
11. The person is financially irresponsible.
If the person is in a lot of debt, or tries to "borrow" money from you, beware. Many of my very kind clients, in trying to help their partner, have been used and burned by loaning money, or by allowing their partner, who is not earning money, to live with them.
12. You sense that the person is not honest.
It's not always easy to determine if someone is lying or withholding the truth. You need to trust your feelings here. If you consistently feel that you are not being told the truth, and you have not been concerned about this in other relationships, then trust your feelings. If you have a trust issue in general, then you might want to deal with your issue.
13. The person has no close friends and is not close to family.
There is always a reason that a person has no friends and is not close with family, and the reason might be important for you to know.
14. The person is judgmental of self and others, talking about self and others in disparaging ways.
This is a person who does not love him or herself, and therefore cannot love you. If this person is not open to healing their judgmentalness, then this will become an increasingly major issue in your relationship.
15. The person is possessive and jealous. He or she gets upset when you do your own thing.
A jealous, possessive person is a person who is very insecure. If he or she gets upset when you do your own thing, then you need to accept that it is more important to that person to control you than to care about you.
16. The person has totally different views and values from yours in important areas such as religion or spirituality, politics, child rearing, health and nutrition.
These areas can become major battlegrounds. Relationships are hard enough without dealing with conflict in these contentious areas.
17. The person has few interests and hobbies.
A person with few hobbies or interests may be a person who is dependent on others for their sense of self, and may be very demanding in a relationship.
18. The person takes no responsibility for their own feelings.
This person is a victim, blaming others for his or her feelings and circumstances. In a relationship, this person will blame you for his or her unhappiness.
How About You?
If you identify with any of these red flags, then you have inner work to do before you are ready for a committed loving relationship. The more you become a person who is loving to yourself and capable of sharing your love with others -- rather than a person who is intent on getting love -- the more you will attract someone capable of a loving relationship.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free!
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