10 Emotional Red Flags to Watch Out for While Dating

Jun 5, 2024

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Dating someone new is usually filled with the excitement of potential romance or meeting the right person. However, this excitement may easily make you overlook emotional red flags while dating. Spotting red flags early on is essential for protecting your mental health and well-being, helping you make better choices, and, if necessary, ending a relationship that isn’t good for you.

What are Emotional Red Flags in Relationships?

Red flags in a dating relationship are warning signs that hint at potential problems or unhealthy patterns. They often indicate underlying problems, such as past trauma, insecure attachment, or personality issues that can prevent a relationship from being healthy and mutually fulfilling.

10 Emotional Red Flags to Look Out For

Here are ten common red flags in dating relationships.

1.    They Guilt-Trip You

Your partner may regularly use guilt to gain what they want. For example, if you make arrangements with friends, they may act hurt and offended, making you feel bad about wanting time apart. Their manipulation might cause you to question your decisions and prioritize their needs over your own.

2.    Love Bombing

It feels wonderful when your new partner showers you with affection and attention, making you feel like the center of their universe. However, if they move too quickly or seem overly interested before really getting to know you, it might be a sign of love bombing, a manipulation tactic often linked to narcissistic behavior. These grand gestures are designed to make you feel indebted and create a sense of obligation, allowing them to gain control over you.

3.    They Put You Down

If a partner treats you with constant sarcasm, a harsh sense of humor, or jokes that consistently emphasize your shortcomings disguised as being honest or “just joking,” it sets up a dynamic in which you constantly try to get their approval and affirmation. This red flag can be a sign of emotional abuse.

4.    Poor Communication

Suppose your partner did something that hurt you. You try to express your feelings, but they dismiss your concerns or change the subject. Their avoidant behavior may signal issues with communication, which can create significant obstacles to conflict resolution and deep connection, making you feel unheard and undervalued.

5.    Sudden Mood Swings and Anger Outbursts

Sudden, explosive outbursts of rage over insignificant issues such as broken glass, a misplaced phone, or a cold dinner at a restaurant can be a significant red flag of underlying problems.

6.    They Don’t Respect Your Boundaries

A partner who believes they are entitled to all your time, attention, and energy may have difficulty respecting your boundaries and privacy. If they don’t respect your requests for alone time, personal growth, and social connections outside of your relationship, you might be dealing with emotional abuse.

Also, any general sign of disrespect, such as belittling comments about your interests, appearance, or achievements or dismissive remarks undermining your confidence and showing a lack of appreciation for who you are, can be significant emotional red flags of a toxic relationship.

7.    They Cause You to Isolate Yourself

If a partner speaks negatively of your family and friends, insults them, limits your contact, or tries to cut you off from them in any other way, this can be a serious red flag of emotional abuse and control.

8.    They Are Excessively Jealous

Let’s say you have a friendly conversation with a waitperson on your way to the table, and your partner gets angry and suspicious for no reason. They might want to know everything about your conversation, criticize you for being too friendly, or act hurt. They may also tell you to avoid certain people at all costs. This level of jealousy is usually a sign of controlling behavior, making you feel trapped and constantly having to prove your love and loyalty.

9.    They are Emotionally Unavailable

Your partner may avoid deep conversations, shy away from expressing their feelings, and keep an emotional distance. This red flag behavior may result from past trauma or unresolved issues, making it difficult for someone to open up and engage emotionally in a relationship. This can leave you feeling isolated and unsupported.

10.  They Gaslight You

If you start doubting your own perceptions, beliefs, and sanity, wonder if you are too sensitive, or have low self-esteem, you may be the victim of gaslighting. Gaslighting is a sneaky way to control someone by making them doubt their own thoughts, memories, and reality. This subtle manipulation can go on for years without being noticed. Your partner may deny reality, repeatedly lie to you, and show a constant inconsistency between their words and actions, and actions that don’t match words, leading you to doubt their sanity, judgment, and self-worth.

Emotional Red Flags While Dating: The Bottom Line

At the beginning of a new relationship, it’s easy to overlook emotional red flags that might signal future difficulties.

If you are unsure whether some behaviors are potential red flags, don’t ignore them—consider seeking guidance from a relationship therapist. A skilled therapist can help you recognize these signs early, protect your well-being, and empower you to pursue relationships built on mutual respect and trust.

Let’s connect soon so we can set up a free consultation.

 Filippo M. Forni, CST, LMFT is a certified AASECT individual and couples sex therapist. Mr. Forni sees patients throughout California and Florida. His goal is to provide high-quality and effective goal-oriented therapy services to his clientele. He has extensive training in sexuality and multiculturalism and serves as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.