THE early stages of a relationship are some of the happiest moments you can feel. There’s a new person in your life and every day you’re excited to see them, to get to know them better, and, to have incredible sex.
But as great as that feeling is, it can also blind you to the less fun aspects of the person you’re with. Every minor flaw can feel insignificant or like a fun quirk rather than something that could present a real challenge to the relationship down the road.
We call these kinds of things “red flags,” things that alert us to future danger. If you’re happy with your new partner, you might not think twice about any of them, but it doesn’t hurt to know about a few common ones so they’re at least on your radar. That way, you’ll be able to get out of a potentially nightmarish relationship before it gets really bad.
1. They’re Disrespectful to People Serving Them
One of the clearest tells about a person’s true moral character is how they treat people they deem less powerful. That’s why it’s smart to watch your partner’s interactions when around service people.
“Even if your partner is highly attentive and complimentary to you, if they are rude or intolerant of others, such as a server in a restaurant or a sales person in a store, that can be a red flag that speaks to someone’s character,” says Heidi McKenzie, a licensed clinical psychologist who specialises in relationship issues.
“Are they bossy, demanding, dismissive or just plain rude to service people? If so, it may just be a matter of time before that type of contempt is leveled at you.”
One or two bad interactions with waitstaff or cashiers might seem like small potatoes compared to the kindness they show you, but unfortunately, it could ultimately be a sign of bad things to come.
Steve Phillips-Waller, founder of the lifestyle website A Conscious Rethink, agrees. “Early on in a relationship, (a) person’s true colours are more likely to reveal themselves during interactions with third parties, and not directly with you,” he says. “Even how they treat their own friends or family members can show how they really are. If they are rude, arrogant, unkind, or treat others poorly in any way, it’s something you’ll want to pay great attention to before considering their place in your life.”
2. They Won’t Disagree With You
Contrary to what you might expect, arguing with your partner is actually important.
“(Conflict is) meant to bring you closer together, learn more about each other and ultimately grow together. But when it’s not handled well, it can cause serious issues,” says Rachel Wright, a licensed marriage therapist and co-founder of Wright Wellness Center. “The problem in our society is we don’t teach how to do this well.”
As nice as it might sound to not fight, you might want to be wary of a partner who cannot or will not disagree with you. If things are going to work out between you long-term, you’ll need to develop the capacity to argue with each other in a healthy way, and that starts with getting into — and resolving — small disagreements early on.
“Research suggests that engaging in small disagreements can help to ease tension and ward off the potential of bigger fights down the road,” notes Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “And disagreements also help you to clarify your needs and expectations and better understand your partner’s so that you can both adjust your behaviour moving forward. Arguing that results in positive resolutions can also lead to greater relationship satisfaction as you become more honest, relieve relationship tension and communicate your needs and expectations.”
3. They Want to Be With You 24 /7
At the beginning of a relationship, it’s normal to want your partner around all the time. But if you suddenly find yourself wondering where your “me” time went, it’s possible that there might be some boundary issues.
“There are some boundaries that should be kept,” says Adina Mahalli, MSW of Maple Holistics. “If your new partner wants to come over every night, even if you’ve made it clear that you’re busy, you should acknowledge this as a potential red flag. It’s healthy for you both to have your own lives and commitments.”
As much as time spent together is important, healthy relationships also allow each person a measure of independence and free time.
“That means that your partner understands if you want to have a guys’ night out from time to time or if you need an evening to yourself just because you feel like it,” adds McKenzie. “If your partner becomes threatened by these needs or makes you feel guilty about it, it may be a sign that you’re getting into a relationship with someone who is needy, jealous, or controlling.”