Relationship Red Flags • ep. 094

A puppet is controlled by strings attached to a hand hovering above it, symbolic of unhealthy relationships with red flags.

No Excuses for Red Flags

After I covered crushes + ships in episode 42, I received multiple requests for related topics. So today I want to discuss relationship red flags. These go for significant other kind of relationships in-person, long-distance, and online. I know that nobody is perfect, but sometimes when we really like someone, or we are so eager to be loved and chosen by them, we tend to focus on their redeeming qualities and allow those good things to excuse their concerning behaviors. Let’s explore what some of those are so you can be aware of them and know what to do.

Being Mean

As a kid, when a boy would tease me or other girls, I remember hearing adults give this justification: “He’s just being mean to you because he likes you.” I guess that was supposed to make us feel better, but then us girls grew up believing it was ok for boys to insult us or make fun of us or embarrass us–apparently they had a crush on us, and that made their behavior okay? I know now that’s a red flag. If someone actually cares about you, they will show you respect. And if they give the excuse that being unkind to you is just their way of showing they like you, that’s not how you want to be liked. If they say things about your looks, your size, your weight, your intellect–but brush it off as a joke, or straight up criticize or compare you, do not accept that. Those are clues for how you will continue to be treated by this person. And you deserve better.

Love Bombing

Have you heard the term love bombing? It’s when someone makes grand romantic gestures, like professing their love, buying you expensive gifts, giving you excessive attention and affection, and wanting to move quickly with your relationship. This is a red flag both early on in a relationship and especially after they were really upset–maybe you notice the relationship is either really high or really low but never stable. Love bombing might not appear problematic at first, but often happens before other red flags show up.


If someone keeps pressuring you to do things that you’re not comfortable with, that’s a red flag. They may keep asking you to lie to your parents, ditch school with them, go to parties with a fake ID, or vape/smoke/use drugs or alcohol. They might want affection in ways you aren’t ready for, or they may try to convince you to have text conversations or send pics or videos that make you feel uncomfortable. They may justify it like, “If you really loved me, you’d do this for me,” which is selfish and coercive. If you do not want to do that (whatever it is), they need to respect your boundaries. Continually pressuring you to wear you down so you’ll give in–that’s not love. If you don’t want to do something, or if you didn’t say Yes or agree to it, then it’s a No–and No means No. Even if you said Yes to it before, you’re allowed to change your mind and redraw a boundary–and they need to respect it without pressuring you.

Obsessive + Controlling

It’s one thing to be interested in someone’s life, ask how their day went, see what they’re up to. But it can get extreme, and when it does, that’s a red flag. Obsessive and controlling behavior looks like they constantly check on you to know who you’re with, or track you to know where you are. They get jealous that you’re spending time with friends or family, and try to isolate you from them. They check your phone calls/texts/social media/DMs and want to know who you’ve been communicating with. They might frame it as being caring or protective of you, or even play the victim saying you’re going behind their back, but it’s actually obsessive and controlling–and not healthy in a relationship.

Manipulative: Gaslighting + Threatening

When someone tries to change your mind so they can force you to do something they want, that’s manipulation. One kind of manipulative behavior is gaslighting–convincing you that how you perceive something is wrong, or making you question your feelings. They may try to gaslight you so that you trust yourself less and rely on them more–red flag. Another form of manipulation is threatening, which sounds like, “If you don’t do (this), then I’m going to …” and it’s usually some form of harmful behavior to themselves or to you. For example, “If you break up with me, then I’m going to hurt myself.” Or “If you don’t send me more of the pictures I want, I’m going to post other sensitive pics of you on social media.” Threatening is a major red flag, and it’s an intimidation tactic because rarely does the person actually follow through with their threat. Regardless, threatening and gaslighting are manipulative behaviors.


If someone ever lashes out in angry outbursts, throws things or punches walls, or aggressively grabs/shakes/pushes/hurts you, that’s an automatic massive red flag, no matter how sincerely they apologize or love bomb you afterward. Violent behavior has no part in healthy relationships. They may even gaslight you to believe that you made them lose control, that you’re responsible for their actions–which is no way true. They are in charge of themselves, and you should never be afraid or feel unsafe in a relationship.

What To Do

So what do you do when you recognize a relationship red flag? You may be scared to do anything, fearing retaliation from that person–which is a huge sign that this is not a healthy relationship. So first, if they were violent, you need to immediately get out and get safe. From there, and for any of the other red flags, talk to someone–a parent, counselor, or another adult you trust. If you’re hesitant about how your trusted adult will react, start out by letting them know that you really need their guidance, not a lecture. They can help you break up with that person, give you support as you heal from that unhealthy relationship, and prevent that person from contacting or interacting with you. Depending on your situation, your trusted adult may advise you to involve law enforcement, which may seem alarming, but it could help protect you and other people from that person. 

No matter what that person told you, you do not have to put up with any of these relationship red flags. That’s not how people in a healthy relationship treat each other. You deserve better, you deserve respect, and you deserve love. 


You can also get help from these organizations:
One Love Foundation at

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