Red flags mean stop the relationship

Special to The TribuneApril 22, 2014 


Red flags are indications there are serious problems with a partner and that the relationship is headed for trouble. They may indicate the presence of character flaws or merely the unsuitability of a particular mate. Either way, they’re flashing lights that warn us, “Danger up ahead!”

Red flags crop up early in the relationship. Sometimes they’re subtle, as in a new guy asking to borrow money on the first date. Others are in your face: a girlfriend drinks too much at a party and gets sick in your car on the way home. Too often, we willingly overlook these telltale symptoms. We’re awash in romantic, feelgood hormones. We rationalize that the problems are no big deal or that everybody makes mistakes now than then.

Some folks like tackling a challenge and gleefully choose to rehabilitate a meth addict. Others don’t want to appear judgmental, so they plow ahead in spite of evident flaws.

Family members and co-workers are less forgiving and make no bones about what they see. “She’s way too young for you. You’re retired and she wants children!” Or “What are you thinking! He’s already married!” Instead of heeding their words, we defiantly dig in our heels in order to prove them wrong.

The perceived problem might even feel normal. Men and women are frequently drawn to partners who abuse them or abandon them because they witnessed those dramas when they were growing up. Now that they’re selecting partners of their own, they opt for mates who follow similar, if dysfunctional, patterns.

We may feel we’re too invested in the relationship to be able to end it. “We’ve already bought a house. We have two dogs. I’m madly in love with her kid. I can’t possibly get out now.”

Of course, no relationship is perfect. All couples have issues they need to work out. But truly bad relationships don’t get better. They continue on a self-destructing path. No matter how hard we try, the relationship is a disaster. And the red flags were there all along.


• Your partner has trouble controlling anger. She hurls dishware and expletives every time you disagree. She flies into a rage whenever she’s held up in traffic. These actions signal a lack of self-control. At the very least, you’ll spend a lifetime walking on egg shells. Worse yet, your life may be in danger.

• Your partner cheats on you. You discover he’s been texting a co-worker and spending long hours at the office. Don’t give him a second chance. His lack of commitment portends heartbreak in the future.

• Your partner refuses to stop contacting a former lover. She says she’s quit her last boyfriend, but she wants to be friends and go out to lunch on a regular basis. Don’t believe her. She’s still attracted to him. Get out now.

• You’re concerned about your partner’s drug or alcohol use. Your boyfriend smokes pot every night after work. After endless nags and threats, he’s started doing it in the garage. This behavior won’t get any better. It may even indicate more drug use down the line. Save your breath and find a new guy.

• You get into frequent, knockdown-drag-out arguments. You’re both hardheaded. You hate to give in. Heed these signs that you’re not compatible. Find someone who is easier to be around.

• Your partner has a police record. We’ve all made mistakes, but arrests and convictions are another matter. Avoid criminals like the ebola virus.

• Your partner is a liar. You’ve caught her lying several times. Now you don’t know what to believe. Don’t expect a liar to tell the truth. Recognize her for her true colors. Pick someone who’s honest.

• Your partner is in another relationship. He’s married and has two children. Still, he insists he’s going to leave his wife. This guy is bad news. He’s both a cheater and a liar. Get out ASAP and pick more wisely in the future.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

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