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Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Walter Jacobson, M.D.

Posted December 6, 2009

Published in Lifestyle

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Red Flags and Warning Signs in Developing Relationships

Read More: communcation, red flags, relationships, taking responsibility, warning signs

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I was asked recently to point out some of the red flags and warning signs to look for when in the process of getting involved with someone in a relationship.

Here is a list of problematic characteristics and behaviors which are usually excellent predictors of future unhappiness and disappointment:

(1) Blames others for their own poor choices and outcomes, rather than taking responsibility, owning their errors, learning from their mistakes and making a conscious decision to be more aware and insightful.

(2) A corollary of #1: Is unable or unwilling to admit when they have been inconsiderate and unloving, and constructs a scenario instead which puts you as the cause of their bad behavior.

(3) Is unable or unwilling to say I'm sorry.

(4) Dominates the conversation. Interrupts you. Is more interested in talking about themselves and promoting how interesting they are, rather than discovering who you are.

(5) A corollary of #4: Is self-centered, self-absorbed and selfish. Is more concerned with their needs rather than yours. Has difficulty sharing, compromising and being generous.

(6) Is easily threatened emotionally. Is easily angered. Is volatile and overreactive.

(7) Raises voice and yells when angry. Calls names, belittles, and demeans when angry.

(8) Doesn't listen. Invalidates. Accuses you of being irrational when you're not.

(9) Misinterprets. Distorts the truth to win an argument. Denies having said or done something that triggered the argument.

(10) Has difficulty disengaging when embroiled in arguments and aggression. Has difficulty calming down when perturbed.

(11) Holds grudges and hangs onto resentments. Retaliates.

(12) Is passive-aggressive.

(13) Is excessively competitive. Always keeping score as to who has done what to whom and who owes what to whom.

(14) Gossips and spreads rumors about others.

(15) Is impatient and intolerant. Lacks empathy.

(16) Is eying other people when with you.

(17) Doesn't listen when talking with you.

(18) Doesn't say and do things to make you feel special.

(19) Expects you to behave in certain ways but doesn't reciprocate, maintaining a double standard.

(20) Very attached to their ego and the material world. Has a strong sense of self-entitlement. Treats people like objects to be used for personal gain and amusement.

(21) Has little concern for the plight of others less fortunate. Gives lip service to ideals and ethics but doesn't walk the talk.

(22) Has difficulty making commitments.

All this having been said, it is necessary to make an important clarification:

Recognizing red flags and warning signs does not necessarily mean that one should immediately reject the person and look at your other options.

It might be extremely wise to do so, but it might also be extremely wise to address your concerns in a non-threatening way and observe the person's capacity to communicate effectively, accept criticism, and make a commitment to change.

Should this attempt fall on deaf ears of denial and defensiveness, then that becomes the red flag that breaks the camel's back, so to speak, and it truly is time to lick your wounds and move on.

A second point worth making: These red flags and warning signs can also be used to assess the nature of a current relationship, however long it may have been in place, to determine if it is worthy of an investment of additional time and emotional energy.

Bottom line: Nobody's perfect. We all have our flaws. We all make mistakes time and again. And we need to keep this in mind when assessing the qualities and qualifications of a potential partner.

Not sweating the small stuff is important. Giving the benefit of the doubt and overlooking minor transgressions is important.

What's critical is not setting ourselves up for a life of disrespect and abuse.


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10 Comments | Leave a comment

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This is very good! And comprehensive!

I would probably add these:

- afraid of making eye contact

- doesn't smile when it seems natural

- doesn't attune to the experience of others


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Absolutely!

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Good article! It helped me feel better, more at peace, over a hard decision I made a few years ago. We were friends with a couple, and they did every single one of those points. We tried hard to address the concerns, as the author suggests, without success. We finally decided to cut them out of our life. I hated giving up on them and I've sometimes worried that I gave up too soon. However, I've been happier and much less stressed since we cut them out, so I've let it be. This article gives me even more confidence that it was the right thing to do.

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This article was not very helpful. Most people put their best foot forward when initially getting to know someone. Some people are very effective in hiding their flaws until after the relationship is well under way. Most of the behaviors listed in the article are not revealed at the initial stages.

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I thank you for your comment and I appreciate the fact that the articles I write aren't going to please or be of value to all the people all the time. That being said, I take exception to a number of things that you wrote and I wish to reply to them:

When you write "Most people put their best foot forward when initially getting to know someone," this says to me that there are some people who don't, in which case knowing red flags and warning signs for this group can be helpful.

When you write "Some people are very effective in hiding their flaws initially," this says to me that there are some people who aren't, in which case, again, knowing the red flags and warning signs for this group can be helpful.

When you write "Most of the behaviors listed in the article are not revealed at the initial stages,"this says to me that there are some behaviors which are revealed, in which case, again, knowing the red flags and warning signs for this group can be helpful.

I agree with you that most people do, indeed, present a facade at the beginning of relationships such that they present themselves as more intact and together than they really are. But what this means to me is, not to conclude that red flags and warning signs are therefore worthless, but rather to pay closer attention before falling head over heels for someone. What this means to me is, take the beginning of the relationship real slow and look real closely before you leap into love.

By being aware that people mask their true selves early on in a developing relationship, and taking the time to discover who they really are before allowing our infatuation and chemistry to run away with our common sense and discrimination, it is possible to use these red flags and warning signs to avoid getting emotionally entangled in a relationship that will ultimately disappoint and dissatisfy.

Additionally, as I pointed out in the article, these red flags and warning signs are valuable at all stages of a relationship. Even if we find ourselves caught up in love and romantic illusions about who we've fallen for because they have effectively pulled the wool over our eyes, doesn't mean that it's too late to apply these concepts, get out of the relationship and avoid wasting a huge amount of time chasing a pipe dream.

Finally, when you write, "This article was not very helpful," I feel it would have been more accurate to say, it wasn't very helpful for you. People need to be aware of the games people play and all the tools available to best navigate the world of relationships and romantic involvements.

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I am just speaking from my own personal experience, which is something that you, sir, cannot dispute.

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It was never my intention to dispute your personal experience or to offend you, which it appears I have done. I appreciate and do not want to discourage people sharing their personal experiences. My replies, in general, are not meant to defend my Self, but rather to expand on the topics being addressed.

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Thanks for offering us that perfect example of point #1!

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Sociopaths do put their best faces forward at first, but with mine, I still had that strange feeling that something was wrong. He seemed too interested and in a hurry to get close to me. He agreed with me too much and seemed to have everything in common then he started calling about 5-6 times a day. Some might say this is very romantic, and possibly, it could have been. I tried to ignore those little warning signs, telling myself that I was just being paranoid and his words were just so wonderful, I should believe him. On the surface, it seemed wonderful but my instincts knew something didn't seem right. I'm guessing many people know very early on, but don't realize that their instincts were right until later.

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