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Subtle relationship red flags you shouldn't ignore

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When it comes to being in a relationship, we’re always told to steer clear of people who exhibit “red flags.” Some are obvious: I definitely didn’t need any guidance to know that making hateful comments over dinner isn’t exactly charming. But sometimes, warnings come in subtler packages, ones that can easily fly under the radar unless you’re really looking. Here are five relationship red flags that might not be obvious, but can nonetheless indicate a possible, incompatible dynamic:

An unwillingness to compromise

An unwillingness to compromise can come in many different forms, but ultimately, if you feel that the decisions you make together are consistently one-sided, you might want to proceed with caution. Whether this involves consistently foregoing your preferences for how to spend a long weekend or extends to not feeling like you have a voice in important decisions, a lack of compromise can make you feel unappreciated and resentful.  If you notice that you’re always the one bending, and your needs and preferences are routinely overlooked or dismissed, this pattern could be indicative of a deeper imbalance in the relationship. 

Isolation from your friends and family

I think this is a subtle red flag because wanting to spend every second together can often just feel like the honeymoon stage of a relationship (we’ve all been there). But spending time with yourself, your friends and your family is healthy, and if your partner regularly asks you to cancel plans — or just guilt trips you for going out — I think it may be an indicative concern of codependency. 

Talks about their past relationships insensitively

Pay attention to how your partner speaks about their former relationships! It’s natural to have negative feelings about parts of your romantic past, but if a partner speaks about their breakups without a shred of self-awareness (and blames everyone but themselves), it could potentially be a warning sign. The odds are, their inability to reflect and engage in introspection will extend to your relationship, and maybe even get you added onto their list of “crazy” exes. 

They don’t want to spend time with you when you’re upset 

A partner who is emotionally available in the good times, but nowhere to be found when you’re upset, is definitely a red flag in my book. Oftentimes, it can be subtle because they won’t explicitly come out and say “I don’t want to be there for you when you’re upset.” Rather, they might flake on plans last minute when they knew you had a bad day or they won’t make any effort to console you. If you’re feeling like your partner is neglectful or lacks concern for your difficulties, it could be a sign that your emotional needs aren’t being met. 

Your friends and family don’t like them

Sometimes love can be blind, and we don’t see the faults in our partners that are more obvious to others. If your friends and family, who have your best interests at heart, don’t like your partner, it’s worth considering why. They may see something that you don’t. While you don’t need to take every piece of advice from friends and family, if everyone in your life is raising an eyebrow, it might be worth it to ask them why, precisely, they don’t approve of your relationship. Their answers might be as casual as they chew with their mouth open, but it could also be brutally honest and point to negative behavioral patterns. 

Remember, everyone has their own perception of what a “red flag” entails, and these were just some of my personal opinions. While it’s important to trust your feelings in a relationship, it’s also crucial to be aware of subtle red flags that could signal problems down the road. Keep these red flags in mind and don’t be afraid to critically evaluate your relationship — after all, your well-being and happiness should always come first!

Contact Isabella Shin at