Psych Corner: 5 Relationship Red Flags and Deal Breakers

Is this a deal breaker? Or something we can work through together? 

That’s something everyone should ask themselves when they are dating. The problem is it can be easy to dismiss doubts about your relationship. We’ve all been there, in a relationship that doesn’t quite work but for whatever reason we can’t seem to break it off, or we want it to work so badly we just keep hanging on.

In my experience counseling clients, I’ve learned there are certain things that you can’t ignore. Here are a few dating deal breakers you shouldn’t rationalize away.

1. Red Flags for Abuse

Keep an eye out for red flags that might suggest abusive traits. Here are a few common ones:

  • criticizing you in public or private
  • controlling behaviors (like telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, rather than talking differences out; or constant questioning about where you go or who you’re with)
  • demanding constant attention, acting jealous when you aren’t spending time with them, or being suspicious of others that you have no romantic interest in. You might think it’s cute that they are showing ‘concern’ for you, but trust me, don’t confuse being protective with being possessive.
  • making you feel crazy when you are sure you are not.
  • making you feel like you have to walk on eggshells because of their extreme emotions, like getting quickly and excessively angry.

If you suspect that your relationship is abusive, get out and get help, preferably from a professional.

2.They’re Still Married

I know that there are a multitude of circumstances that could rationalize dating someone who is still married (i.e. their partner just won’t grant the divorce or it’s been over forever, etc.) but I am going to say that generally it’s not a good idea.

Why? Because they almost always have some issues that need to be addressed and/or resolved before they are ready to be in another relationship. And we’ve all heard of rebound relationships right?! Do you really want to have that relationship?

Even if their failed marriage is not their fault, it’s very likely that they now have some major trust sensitivities as a result of what happened. Things like this need time and some self-reflection to work through.  So give them some space to air out and circle back when they are through their divorce if they still seem like a good fit.

3. They Treat Other People Badly

How your partner treats others is one of the key areas, research has shown, that can predict how they will treat you in the future. When I say “other people,” I am referring to all others.  For example, friends, exes, pets, family, bosses, subordinates, waiters/waitresses, etc. Look out for how they talk about them, especially those they don’t feel pressure to impress.

It’s a good rule of thumb to remember that the way they treat others will likely be how they treat you at some point. So if they treat other people poorly, then move on. You can guarantee that it will be directed at you at some point, and who needs that.

4. The Only Thing You Share is Physical Chemistry

Goodness gracious, you’d be surprised how many people date someone for a LONG time or even marry them when they don’t even have that much in common. There are so many reasons that this happens, which I’m not going to cover in this post, but one of the biggest is REALLY good chemistry.

It is so common to get physically involved too quickly because of intense chemistry. Unfortunately, this accelerated physical involvement can create blind spots and overshadow long-term incompatibility.

Look for ways in which you are similar to your partner and ways in which your differences improve one another. That includes personality, lifestyle, and values. You don’t need to be a clone of one another to be a good fit but think about how your differences balance one another out.

Figuring that out can take some time. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you aren’t getting hot and heavy too soon. Put the time in to really get to know one another, this will pay off in the long run. To build a good relationship, you need to get to know how compatible you are as partners first.

If you aren’t fitting well or blending well, take that seriously.

5. Your Aspirations for the Future aren’t the Same

If your partner tells you that they don’t want to get married, or have kids, or that they aren’t looking for a serious relationship … believe them! When you’ve fallen hard for someone, it is so difficult to let go of that hope that they will change their mind; that they will come around to want exactly what you want.

But dreams and aspirations are important; you should not compromise your future goals because a partner doesn’t want the same thing. Please don’t misunderstand me to be saying you shouldn’t compromise, because compromise is important. But if you’re ready for a serious relationship, don’t invest all of yourself into a partner who isn’t looking for a relationship. If you want to get married, don’t date someone who doesn’t. If you want children, don’t waste time with someone who has no interest in having a family.

This is a hard one because you may have all those intense feelings, you may even love them. But when you two don’t have the same goals in mind, it will save you a lot of heartache and pain to walk away sooner rather than later.


It’s really important to know your deal breakers, and the best time to figure them out is before you are in a relationship. Take some time to reflect on and even write down what your other deal breakers are. Don’t be scared that having these standards will make you less desirable. Having high standards can even help you attract higher quality partners. Hold to them because you will save yourself a lot of grief in the long run.

Morgan C
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