Subtle Red Flags in Toxic Relationships That We Should All Be Aware Of

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Ten years of (500) Days of Summer
Still from the film, 500 Days of Summer

Relationships are a wonderful thing. Meeting someone and instantly feeling a connection might just be the closest we’ll ever get to witnessing actual magic before our eyes.

Embarking on a partnership, growing old together and going through life’s ebbs and flows with the person you love sounds like something straight out of a romance novel and yes, some people are lucky enough to get it right on their first try but as most of us probably know, not all of us can be so fortunate.

The reality of the matter is that love is immaculate but people are not.

The feeling of love itself is buoyant, liberating and fulfilling but loving the wrong person can cause pain and sometimes, years of trauma.

Red Flags | Bojack horseman, Red flag, Cool cartoons
source: Pinterest

We’re all aware of the term ‘red flags’ which essentially means warnings that signal trouble up ahead. However, in the wise words of Wanda from Bojack Horseman, “When you look at someone through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”

When we’re in love, we tend to trick ourselves into believing our partner is perfect, ignoring all the warning signs and trudging forward into a relationship that might leave us in the dust.

Our relationships tend to be kept private alongside all the festering problems that come with it and we end up staying with someone for a lot longer than we’re supposed to because we believe that all the holes are just in our head.

I’m here to say that the holes in your relationship are real and they will grow bigger until one day, they swallow you whole.

What A Bunch Of Holes Gif - A Pictures Of Hole 2018

On behalf of myself and everyone else who has been in toxic relationships in the past, let’s talk about all the subtle red flags so you can identify if your relationship is actually good for you.

All screenshots were compiled from the Writer’s personal social media platforms and all identities have been concealed for privacy reasons. 

Emotional manipulation

The first thing we need to ask once our partner tells us that their ex was “crazy” is, “What did you do to upset them?”

It’s common practice nowadays for toxic partners to train their future significant other by labelling reasonable reactions to awful behaviour as “crazy” in order to prevent us from showing any real emotion when they mistreat us.

After being love-struck by a person and infatuation kicks in, we’ll do anything and everything to put ourselves in a good light and that includes veiling our emotions with nonchalance.

Gaslight: An act of emotional abuse that manipulates your partner into questioning their thoughts, emotions and reality.

We tell ourselves not to be too eager and clingy because we want to be the “cool” partner. Sure, being cool is one thing, but hiding our emotions is another.

Unless our partner has substantial evidence that their ex was acting out of line, calling them “crazy” is a red flag and a harbinger to them dismissing your emotions as well when the time comes.


Jealousy is inevitable in any relationship but extreme jealousy is a massive red flag.

Similar to everything else in the world, a little bit of jealousy is completely fine.

In fact, most couples prefer a sprinkle of that fiery passion in order to make each other feel wanted and adored. Most of the time, if your partner is wary of other people making moves on you, it just means that they see you as their loved one who deserves to be protected.

Stills from the film, The Handmaiden

However, things will start to get ugly when that protectiveness turns into possessiveness.

Partners who are extremely jealous tend to isolate you and distance you away from your friends in fear that you might leave them. The casual get-togethers and hang-outs with friends will all of a sudden come to a halt and before you know it, you haven’t seen your friends in months.

This realisation comes in stages.

At first, you’ll notice that your partner is limiting the communication you have with your friends. Then, you’ll notice that you haven’t seen them in a while. The final nail in the coffin comes when you wake up one day and realise that the only person you have in your life is your partner and that all your friends have now become strangers.

At this point, all of your waking moments surround one person which inevitably forces you to confront the question at the back of your head, “Is this relationship making me happy or lonely?”

Some people realise this red flag in its early stages thus breaking it off before it comes to a head. But others result to coping mechanisms that satisfy both their wants and their partner’s and this leads to another red flag.

Keeping secrets

You shouldn’t ever feel like you need to hide things from your partner. Regardless if it’s something that will upset or anger them, honesty is always the best policy. If your partner is incapable of talking things out, then maybe you should reconsider staying with someone who can’t remain rational.

Being with an abusive partner entrenches the defence mechanism to hide certain emotions or information from them. While it is something that you do in the moment to protect yourself, once you’re finally out of that toxic relationship, the journey for you to unlearn that nasty habit begins.

As mentioned before, toxic relationships can sometimes give us years of trauma since we’re conditioned to being treated a certain way. Any healthy relationship that comes after that will strike us as unfamiliar and we’ll revert to how we behaved in our previous one hence continuing the cycle of abuse.

Meeting someone good or even choosing to better ourselves without the help of a new partner is the first step to unlearning our own bad behaviours and red flags. If we wouldn’t want someone to hide things from us, then we ourselves should remain honest with our partners.

Always remember that someone who loves you would not leave you alone to clean up after your own mess. They’ll grab a broom and your hand and navigate through the chaos with you.


Deviating from all the obviously negative behaviours, we need to talk about some red flags that seem harmless in the beginning but in actuality, act as fertiliser to our existing problems.

For instance, we all know that relationships come with a fair share of arguments. Regardless of how in-sync we are with our partner, there is bound to be something to disagree with. Instead of compromising our own thoughts for the sake of our partner’s by always agreeing, voicing out our frustrations and thoughts is integral to heathy communication.

If we’re always bending to the will of our boyfriend/girlfriend, one day, we might just break. When that happens, it neither benefits us nor our partner and the damage might be irreparable.


Finally, we have the most unassuming red flag in the entire article.

Love-bombing is not a commonly used term because not everyone knows exactly what it means. To most people, receiving grand gestures of affection is wonderful and to a certain extent, I agree. But similar to bombs, it’s a giant spurt of energy that explodes and leaves you with nothing afterwards.

The honeymoon phase of a relationship is considered to be the pinnacle of our love with our partner. Everything is new and we’re just excited to show and receive all the love that we and our partner hold for each other. With that, comes the flowers, the picnics, the 12-hour daily calls and the endless showering of admiration.

I don’t actually think that all of those things are inherently bad, I just think it’s unsustainable and it eventually leads to burnout.

Similar to work, overexerting yourself in a relationship can tire you out quickly. The key to a healthy and long-lasting relationship is consistency, not grandiosity.

So instead of having a partner that goes all out in the beginning only to lose interest and passion during the mid-stages of the relationship, it’s important to find someone that strikes that perfect balance of love and care so you won’t feel neglected or under-appreciated.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | French Culture
Still from the film, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind

Nobody anticipates getting into a bad relationship so whatever the situation is, don’t blame yourself.

It’s time to reevaluate our own happiness and self-worth and determine for ourselves whether or not the person that we’re with values us as much as we value them.

If you have to make some difficult decisions today, don’t worry, the sadness will pass and what you will gain after it’s done is your own growth.

Featured image taken from the film, 500 Days of Summer.

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