Most people have a rolodex with red flags to turn off on a first date. However, when you’re in a serious relationship, red flags can be harder to spot.
After there is a level of commitment and you have experienced many ups and downs with your partner, it can be difficult to know what is a rough patch and what is a sign that your relationship is in trouble.
But there are some behaviors that could signal that your partner is unhappy or that you both should be serious about the state of your relationship.
These 4 red flags could indicate problems in your relationship
1. You feel like you’re raising your partner
Parenting your partner refers to when you feel someone hasn’t fully matured and you are the person who helps them get to where they “need” to be, regardless of what they want.
It can be small things, like when to get to the airport, or big ones, like how to budget for a house.
It’s not a good dynamic, says Lisa Bobby, psychologist and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver, Colorado.
“I think that in itself can be a little red flag in a relationship,” she says. “Not because a partner needs parenting, but because they’re with someone who thinks they need to.”
Some signs that you might be raising your partner include:
You think her way of being “isn’t good enough,” says Bobby. They might be frustrated with how they make decisions or have opinions about how they could be more effective. You think they can’t do anything without you. This goes a step further than being frustrated and means you actually believe they couldn’t function without you. You don’t feel safe when they don’t do things your way. “If you need your partner to do certain things in a certain way to make you feel safe and happy, that’s a sign of overdependence,” says Bobby.
2. You use these two terms
John and Julie Gottman are renowned clinical psychologists and researchers. The two have interviewed more than 3,000 couples and followed some of them for 20 years.
They also studied more than 40,000 couples about to start couples therapy.
One reason romantic unions are in dismay, they write, is that people aren’t asking for what they need.
Instead, we drop hints of what we need in hopes that our partners will pick up on the hints and grant requests we never actually made. When they fail this already doomed test, we criticize them and say, “You never” or “You always.”
“These red flag phrases alert us that a couple is treading shaky ground,” they write. “The negative perspective could gradually set in.”
Asking for what we need to be happy can feel harder than it sounds. If you’re having trouble vocalizing, try these three things:
Reflect: Think about what you wantReframe: Instead of blaming your partner for not doing something, give them an opportunity to do something. Describe yourself: Ask what you need by telling how you are feeling
Let’s say you think about it and decide that more dating would make you happier. You can frame this as an opportunity and ask your partner out on more dates by describing how you’re feeling.
Instead of saying, “You’re never taking me on dates anymore,” say, “I miss you. Can we plan to have more single dates this month?”
3. Your partner has stopped caring about their needs
In some partnerships, red flags look like indifference.
Lia Love Avellino, psychotherapist and CEO of Spoke, an emotional wellness space in Brooklyn, says many of her clients who are having a hard time initiating a breakup don’t know how.
“A lot of people who worry about a breakup are cannibals,” she says.
If you want your partner to do certain things in certain ways to make you feel safe and happy, this is a sign of overdependence.
“They go along to get along, and they tell each other they don’t want to hurt their partner, but they really don’t want to deal with the discomfort of being the person who quits.”
Telling your partner what you need emotionally or physically can create conflict, but it also means you care about them, says Avellino.
If your significant other doesn’t seem interested in sharing how they’re feeling, they may be breaking out of the relationship.
4. Your partner is unwilling to admit their anger
Instead of engaging in direct conversations, your partner might start acting out of character.
For example, if they like to cook for you every night, they might stop.
“Their action is intended to dismiss the other person, but in reality they feel bad that their own needs are not being met,” says Avellino.
If you notice your partner doing this, you may need to be up front for them.
For example, you can say, “Hey, I noticed you’re not cooking anymore, I want to get in touch with you.”
This can cause friction, but that’s not a bad thing.
“Sometimes we think if we avoid the conversation and don’t name it, we’re keeping the peace,” says Avellino. But “If you name it and it comes to a fight, you didn’t create the problem, you exposed the rift.”
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