How to Spot Red Flags (Or, Happy Valentine's Day!)

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Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! We love love – but so often, we’re seeing abuse masquerading as love, and things that might seem oh-so-romantic can actually be cause for concern. Below is a list of seven behavioral “red flags” in relationships that are sometimes overlooked:

  1. Wanting you all to themselves. It is common, especially in new relationships, to want to spend all of your time with your new partner. But, sometimes this can morph into a situation where one partner is actually restricting the other’s access to friends, family, and support systems. Love bubbles are okay (for a bit!), isolation is not.

  2. Wanting to help you better yourself. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism – we can all use some help now and then, right? But when “advice” begins to feel like put downs, (especially as it relates to your intelligence, appearance, etc), that’s not okay. 

  3. Feeling hurt when you tell him that his critiques are upsetting you. If you tell your partner that his critiques feel more like attacks, and less like helpful feedback, and he turns it around on you or tries to make you doubt your own perception of reality, this could be a form of gaslighting – which we talked about, in depth, a few months ago.

  4. Wanting to experiment with drugs and alcohol with you. If you are an adult and decide that you want to use drugs and / or alcohol (responsibly), then that’s your call. But if you aren’t interested, and your partner pressures you (“I just love you so much, and I want to experience this with you. Don’t you want to share in this experience with me?”), that’s not okay. Drugs and alcohol can seriously lower your inhibitions and alter your state of mind, which, sadly, is often an ideal situation for an abuser. 

  5. Wanting to experiment sexually with you, or guilting you for not wanting to engage in sex. Again, if you’re an adult, and want to try new things sexually, and your partner is on board, have at it. But if your partner wants to do things that you aren’t comfortable with and tries to pressure you to do them (“If you really loved me…”), that’s not okay. Similarly, if you don’t want to have sex, and he tries to turn that into a question of your love and commitment to him, that’s manipulation, and also not okay.  Sometimes it’s even more subtle than that, and can just be incessant requests to have sex, despite your refusal. No means no, period, end of story.

  6. Saying that he’s only sober thanks to you. If your partner has recovered from an addiction, and credits you for his sobriety, that could feel like wonderful praise. However, paired with other things, it could also be a manipulative tactic to make you feel responsible for his ongoing sobriety. The implication is that, but for you, he would not be sober, so without you, he won’t be sober. 

  7. Saying that he’d die without you, or even threatening suicide. Movies, television, and books have made us think that nothing is more romantic than a partner declaring that without you, he’d have no reason to live. Sounds sweet, right? You are his world – if that’s not love, what is? No, girl, that’s messed up. This forces you to remain in the relationship, even if / when you don’t want to. Why? Because if you leave, he’ll die. 


This publication is for informational purposes only. It does not contain any legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for consulting an attorney. We always recommend that you consult an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.