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Recognising Red Flags in a Relationship

Jonathan Riley

“Love should never cost you your peace. It should never cost you your joy. It should never cost you your happiness” – Jonathan Riley

Navigating relationships and dealing with red flags is like reading a map correctly – it’s vital for a safe and fulfilling journey. But to effectively tackle these warning signs, you first need to recognize what they look like and understand their potential danger. Sadly, some people misinterpret these red flags, considering them as just “part of the package”, instead of viewing them as crucial warning signals. This misinterpretation often leads them into a position of vulnerability, exposing them to emotional, psychological, and even physical harm. This blog aims to provide a detailed understanding of these red flags, equipping you with the necessary knowledge to protect your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Abuse: Physical, Emotional, or Mental

Abuse in any form is an undeniable red flag in a relationship. While physical abuse is often more discernible, emotional and mental abuse can be subtle and insidious, making them just as harmful in the long run. Psychological abuse can manifest in various ways such as belittling comments, manipulative behaviour, or overt control, often leading to long-term damage, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). No one should ever be used as a scapegoat for another person’s problems. It’s crucial to remember that issues should be addressed constructively and fairly, and abuse is never an acceptable response to a problem.

Narcissism and Co-dependency

Narcissism involves an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. It can lead to a controlling and emotionally damaging relationship dynamic. Co-dependency, on the other hand, is characterised by an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. This dependency can trap you in a toxic cycle in which your self-worth and happiness are dependent on your partner’s mood or behaviour, which can be emotionally draining and ultimately damaging to your self-esteem.


This form of psychological manipulation involves a person sowing seeds of doubt in the victim, making them question their own memory, perception, or sanity. Gaslighting often makes the victim feel guilty irrespective of their actions. The constant self-questioning can be emotionally destabilising and can severely damage a person’s self-esteem and self-trust, making gaslighting a significant red flag in any relationship.

Being Uncomfortable Being Yourself

One of the most beautiful aspects of a healthy relationship is the ability to be your authentic self. If you find yourself changing your behaviour, speech, or even appearance because you fear judgment, criticism, or ridicule from your partner, it’s a sign that the relationship may not be healthy. Your partner should appreciate and respect you for who you are, not who they want you to be.

Life-Stage Misalignment

In every relationship, it’s essential that partners have mutual understanding and respect for each other’s life goals and stages. If you and your partner consistently clash over major life decisions, such as readiness for marriage, having children, or career choices, it might indicate that you’re not in the same place in life. This misalignment can create stress, unmet expectations, and ultimately, resentment.

Constant Competition

A healthy relationship is marked by mutual respect, support, and joy in each other’s accomplishments. If your relationship feels more like a constant contest where you’re always trying to outdo each other, it can lead to a toxic environment of jealousy and score-keeping. There’s no room for one-upmanship in a partnership; your successes should be shared, not compared.

Perpetual Negativity

A partner who continually brings you down, criticises your ambitions, or dismisses your achievements can be incredibly harmful to your mental and emotional health. While constructive criticism is valuable, consistent negativity is a red flag signalling a toxic dynamic.

Emotional Immaturity in Conflict

Conflict in relationships is inevitable. However, how it’s managed can make a significant difference. If your partner displays signs of emotional immaturity during conflicts—like shifting blame, making inappropriate jokes instead of having serious discussions, or resorting to silent treatment—it’s a sign of their inability to communicate effectively and healthily.


Honesty and trust form the bedrock of any healthy relationship. If your partner frequently lies, obscures the truth, or hides significant aspects of their life, it’s a significant red flag. Chronic lying shows a lack of respect and trust, essential for a thriving relationship.


A healthy relationship involves a balance between togetherness and individuality. If your partner discourages you from pursuing your interests or maintaining relationships with your friends and family, they are isolating you—a serious red flag.

Negative Financial Behaviours

Managing finances in a relationship often involves mutual agreements on spending and saving. Disrespect of these agreements, consistent reckless spending, or secretive financial activities can lead to substantial stress and conflict, indicating a significant red flag.

Recognising these red flags is the first crucial step towards maintaining healthy boundaries and ensuring your mental and emotional wellbeing in a relationship. These are not mere challenges but serious issues that can cause lasting harm.

If you’re facing these red flags and need professional help, please reach out to My Practice Counselling Melbourne. We are dedicated to providing you with the support you need to navigate these challenges and foster healthier relationship dynamics for a better future.