Man and woman both sitting on cell phone as symbol for dating red flags

Essential Dating Red Flags You Should Look Out For

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by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

Dating red flags has become a popular notion in modern culture. We’re all on the lookout for them as the dating pool becomes fiercer and more competitive. But should all red flags in dating be weighed the same and are they always dealbreakers?

Let’s take a look at some red flags examples and, if/when they can be overcome through communication and basic aspects of conflict resolution before they become very real obstacles in your budding relationship.

What are red flags and their meaning in a relationship

What are red flags and their meaning in a relationship or modern dating context? In a literal sense, red flags are signals to stop play. So it’s easy to see how apt they are in a modern dating context.

Essentially, they’re early warning signs of an unhealthy or toxic dating situation. Relationship issues, which may seem functional from the outside, but erode intimacy and trust within a relationship.

Dating red flags may differ from relationship to relationship, depending on your core values and how you perceive intimacy and romance.

Online dating red flags: Staying safe in the digital world

Online dating can feel as if it’s very uneasy territory because of how unfamiliar it can be to newcomers and the fact that you don’t really know who’s on the other side of the screen. This is why it’s important to pick a reputable dating site when trying to avoid online dating red flags as most have a manual verification system to eliminate scammers. 

An important red flag online is when they behave very elusively about themselves. They don’t want to give out too many details and are reluctant to meet in person or constantly cancels plans you’ve made together are some obvious dating red flags.

On the other side of the spectrum, a big red flag is them wanting too much too soon, particularly when it’s your address or personal information. This can be a sign of an online scammer or someone who’s too desperate.

But always make sure to check the person’s social media accounts too so you can be sure they’re a real person and being upfront about their identity.

Early text conversations can also reveal if they have narcissistic tendencies, are just trying to play the field online, or are a bit too intense for a functional relationship.

What you need to know about Dating a narcissist

Do you want to dive deeper into the dating red flags of a narcissist? In the following article, we’ll look at what narcissism is, what the signs of narcissism are, and how to deal with a narcissist.

What you need to know about Dating an intense person

You might have heard someone say, “He/she’s so intense!” But what does that actually mean? Learn more about the the pros and cons of emotionally intense relationships and tips for being in one.

Early dating red flags: Signs you shouldn’t ignore in the initial stages

Pay attention to how they engage with you early in your interactions and their general attitude toward dating. They may be telegraphing various toxic dating behaviors such as signs of gender bias that will affect your relationship as it develops, attention-seeking behavior that may indicate he doesn’t properly value your role in the relationship, or whether they’re a flaky person and often reschedule their plans.

Here are some typical dating red flags in the early stages:

  • Excessive clinginess
  • Disregard for personal boundaries
  • Rushing too quickly into commitment

The important aspect of the biggest red flag is establishing whether this person will respect your needs in the long term. They may seem like a promising prospect right now, but how will their behavior change as they become more comfortable in the relationship and no longer  need to put up their everyday social disguise?

These issues can often fly over our heads when we’re very keen to find a new romance but keep in mind it’s always important to find the right romance, above all else, and establish whether or not they’re a serial dater who’s just playing with your emotions. From your side, it’s also important not to act too desperate and to focus on how committed they remain to the plans you make.

Man and woman in bed with their backs turned angry at each other

Fighting in the early stages of a relationship: is it really a dating red flag?

Fighting in the early stages of your relationship can often be an unfortunate portent. Learn why the first argument while dating doesn’t mean the end.

Dating red flags: Recognizing early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship

Perhaps you’ve been dating for a while, and you start to get a weird vibe from them as the relationship continues. Many people wait until they’re settled in a relationship to reveal their more toxic elements. Here are some things to look out for.

  • They’re controlling – Is your partner possessive? Do they become irate if you don’t message back immediately? Do they need constant feedback on how your day is going? Do you feel monitored or like your partner feels a sense of ownership over you?
  • Disrespect – Mutual respect is crucial to a healthy relationship. You should both feel like you bring something to the table in the relationship and that that contribution is acknowledged by your partner. For instance, do you feel as if they share in the household responsibilities and acts of kindness are imbalanced in your relationship?
  • Lack of communication – The core of any functioning relationship, romantic or not, is a free flow of communication between you, otherwise the paths for your conflict resolution models will be poorly laid.

Tips against dating red flags from one of eharmony’s relationship experts

We also asked one of eharmony’s relationship experts Laurel House about the biggest dating red flags and what to be aware of and she answered: “Safe, Sexy, and Seen are the top three needs in a relationship. Each need requires several other needs in order to be fulfilled.

  • In order to feel Safe – physically, emotionally, financially – you need to trust, be vulnerable, and share.
  • In order to feel Sexy, you need to feel wanted, desired, prioritized, and compatible.
  • In order to feel Seen, you need to be able to express who you are without apology or fear of judgement.

Common early red flags are not feeling Safe, Sexy, or Seen, as well as your lifestyle and love languages not aligning.”

Communication and behavior: The importance of addressing red flags in conversation

Often, you’re deeper in the relationship and you recognize a certain behavioral and communication shift in your partner which brings disharmony and an unhealthy tone to your relationship. This can often be the sign of an emerging emotionally abusive relationship and definite dating red flags. Here are some things to look out for.

  • Inconsistent messaging – Do they maintain a frequent dialogue about issues with you or do they just sometimes ghost you for most of the day? People who show a lack of messaging etiquette can often be a sign of a deeper problem.
  • Frequent cancellations – This just shows a general lack of respect for your time and should be seen as unacceptable and disrespectful behavior. And time, like your sense of self and what you bring to the relationship should be valued and respected by your partner always.
  •  A lack of follow-through – Do they do all the things theysay they will do when you’re dating? This is one of your classic red flags examples, and once again shows a lack of common decency, respect, and is closely related to frequent cancellation in that it’s inconsiderate and manipulative behavior.

Open and dependable lines of communication along with dependable behavior models are the bedrock of a healthy relationship and resisting controlling tendencies.

Sex and intimacy: Addressing red flags and consent in physical relationships

Sexuality and physical intimacy can be a very central aspect of romantic relationships, but they can also be a source of dysfunction, often, particularly as they play into the notion of power and sexual politics.

At the center of the concept is the idea of consent and it’s one we often overlook in growing relationships. That is, perhaps one side of the partnership has different appetites and kinks from their partner and these are either making one party uncomfortable or even feel exploited.

This doesn’t have to be an immediate part of dating red flags, but it is important. Communicate your boundaries to your partner, and what aspects and frequency of sexuality you’re comfortable with exploring.

Most crucial to the notion of consent is that it isn’t a standing order. Every single sexual experience should be on your terms or otherwise discussed. The important thing is feeling respected in the relationship and that you feel like the sexual experiences you have with your partner allows for greater intimacy on mutual terms. Someone who can’t understand that doesn’t respect you and that is one of the biggest red flags you need, waving there right in the air.

Trust issues and insecurities: Dating red flags and how to address them

We all have baggage. If you’ve dated, you probably have your fair share of trust issues from ex-partners as well as a vast collection of just basic insecurities you’ve accumulated throughout life, like any living breathing person.

Here are some tips for dealing with jealousy and insecurity in new romances so they aren’t unnecessarily harmful and similarly affected by past experiences.

  • How does your partner behave and how is it different from your previous relationships that created this atmosphere of distrust? Are they following that model or are you ideating it?
  • Be vulnerable and honest about your trust issues with your new partner. See how they react. You may find they’ve had a similar dating past and are willing to come to the table over certain issues.
  • Build intimacy – We don’t trust people at first until we get to know them. So, what’s the obvious solution to that? Enjoy the relationship for what it is for now and trust and intimacy will follow naturally.  
  • Know when to recognize a deceitful person – We deal with this topic in another article.

This is a slow process that will take time but make sure you reciprocate the intimacy and trust-building moments when they arrive, or your relationship will always stay at one level.

How to deal with dating red flags

Here are some tips for dealing with dating red flags and knowing when to cut the other person off early before they cause any emotional damage. 

Here are our biggest red flag examples:

  • When people are in dating mode, they tend to hide their red flags well. So look at their behavior over time, not just one single romantic instance of selflessness.
  • Try to take a look at your dating style. Are you perhaps waving these red flags in? Look at how your last few relationships have ended, whether you’re looking for the right person to begin with and how you may be behaving in relationships to invite certain partners.
  • You also need to learn to walk away when you see those red flags. It’s so easy to ignore them, particularly if you haven’t dated in a while but be kind to yourself and your future happiness by just saying goodbye when you can see things will work poorly for you two.

Dealing with red flags isn’t that difficult, it’s recognizing them when they come up and having the self-confidence to say, ‘You know what? I’m worth more than this!’ 

Dating red flags can also be specific to the person

We’re not going to pretend that identifying dating red flags isn’t tricky business in this modern dating scene. But learn to trust your initial instincts in budding relationships, even if they don’t give you the answer you want. Value yourself and being in a healthy, mutually respectful relationship is so much more important than fleeting attraction. So find the relationship you deserve today. You may even find it on eharmony.