13 relationship red flags to watch out for

A couple that loves to match
A couple that loves to match

Breakups are never exactly fun, but even worse than a normal breakup?

One that you never saw coming.

Feeling totally blindsided by a split is actually crazy-common, though, says Dr. Terri Orbuch, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great—especially if you were in that all-consuming phase of the relationship where you can’t pay attention to, oh, anything besides how head-over-heels you feel.)

While cluing into red flags might not change a breakup being in your future, it can prevent that deer-in-headlights feeling of being surprised in the worst possible way.

Here are the signs experts say most commonly indicate you’re heading for some rough waters.

(One caveat, though: Please, please don’t take this as a green light to over-analyse every element of your relationship—you could drive yourself crazy by making a concerted effort to look for warning signs when they may or may not exist.)

1. You stop doing the little ‘just because’ gestures that show your partner you love them

It doesn’t take a relationship expert to figure out that saying “I love you” for a while and then stopping out of nowhere is a warning sign. But if you used to bring your S.O. something from your coffee run just because—and now you don’t—that can be just as worrisome, says Orbuch.

The same goes for if your partner used to be in the habit of texting you cute throwback photos of the two of you on the regular but hasn’t done that in a while.

That’s because couples express love and affection with their actions just as much as they do by saying the “L” word, explains Orbuch. So if showing your partner you love them isn’t as top of mind for you lately, you might need to do some soul searching and think about why.

READ MORE: Here’s exactly how toxic relationships affect your health

2. You don’t tell them about that awesome thing that happened at work

Sure, it might not seem like a big deal if you don’t immediately think to tell your partner when your boss gives you extra kudos. But if you notice that tendency to confide in other people first—and maybe even skip your S.O. altogether—becomes a pattern, it could be a warning that you don’t feel supported in your relationship, says Orbuch.

It’s a similarly bad sign if you find out that your partner isn’t running to fill you in on what’s going on in his or her life.

“One of the ways partners bond and become close with each other is to share personal, often confidential, information with each other,” says Orbuch. So if you’re not doing that, well…

3. You don’t want to introduce each other to your inner circles

There’s a reason that first meeting with your parents is such a big deal: It helps give your partner a sense of your past and a deeper connection to your life, says Orbuch. While no one expects you to go on a double date with your brother on the second date, if you find yourself preventing run-ins between your close friends and your S.O., that’s a problem.

And if the situation is flipped and your partner won’t introduce you to anyone in their life, it could be a sign that heartbreak is on the horizon.

READ MORE: The ultimate compatibility test: 7 questions you must ask

4. One of you switches from saying ‘we’ to ‘I’

As much as you might roll your eyes when your friend starts dating someone new and turns into a “we” person, there’s a perfectly good reason this happens, says Orbuch—it’s a sign you see your lives as intertwined and that you consider yourselves on the same team.

If you or your partner have crossed that relationship milestone of using the “w” word—but then you notice that stops—it’s an indication that the person with the change of lingo may be having a change of heart, as well.

5. They’re super tight-lipped about past relationships

“One of the ways partners bond and become close with each other is to share personal, often confidential, information,” Orbuch says. So, if you ask your partner about his ex or something similarly personal—say, what they envision for your joint future—and they brush off your questions, it could be because they don’t see your relationship as being that serious.

Granted, that’s not necessarily a reflection on you—they just might not be ready for a relationship. But if you are, it’s better that you catch on ASAP.

READ MORE: 6 signs that your partner is much less likely to cheat on you

6. You don’t consult each other before making big decisions

When someone sees their relationship as serious, they consult their partner before making major moves in life, says Orbuch. It’s not about approval, but a sign that they want to make choices together—and that they see a shared future with you.

If you keep something like the fact that you’re looking for a new job from your partner, on the other hand, it could mean they’re not a priority for you.

7. They have a lot of solo plans

In healthy relationships, couples don’t do everything together. But if your partner is headed to a party and they don’t even give you a heads-up, there’s something going on there, says Dr. Jane Greer, a New York-based marriage and relationship therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. At best, failing to include you was an oversight. But it could be another indication that they don’t feel comfortable letting you spend time with their friends or family.

And if the tables are turned and you find yourself enjoying time spent away from your partner more than you do with them, that’s a pretty good clue that it’s time to cut them loose.

READ MORE: 3 toxic behaviours that are major relationship red flags

8. You stop seeing their little quirks as charming

If minor habits you used to be indifferent to—or even found endearing—start annoying you, Greer says this means you’re losing patience with the relationship.

Accepting your partner, loud phone voice and all, is key to a healthy relationship. So if you find yourself losing your temper over little things, you might want to consider whether the dirty dishes are the actual reason you’re angry or if it’s because you don’t want to be with your partner anymore.

9. They’re suddenly showering you with gifts and attention

“A partner who is suddenly much more attentive and complimentary or who starts buying you gifts for no reason may be feeling guilty about something,” Greer says. Coming home to prepared dinners when that isn’t the norm could be a clue that they feel guilty about something—and so they’re overcompensating by fawning over you.

Granted, a nice gesture in isolation is nothing to freak out over. But if it coincides with other warning signs, that’s when it really might mean something’s up, says Greer.

10. They start putting you down

This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth saying—mostly because you definitely deserve better than a partner who’s emotionally immature enough to create distance by criticising you.

“The goal here is to make you feel bad and get you to back off so they don’t have to break things off themselves,” Greer explains. The tactic is designed to make you feel so bad about yourself and the relationship that you’ll call it quits and do the hard work for them.

Our advice? Lose the low-life—and any guilty feelings you might have about dumping them.

11. There’s a change in how your partner spends money

If your S.O. starts splurging at the mall and that’s totally out of character for them, they might be dealing with some emotions or stressors they’re not telling you about.

Even if it’s unrelated to you and your relationship—like the loss of a job or a bad investment—not sharing the reason behind their impromptu shopping sprees could mean that your partner doesn’t feel comfortable telling you the truth. Not a great sign.

Similarly, if your partner is suddenly stingy or strict about how you (or they) spend money, Greer says, it’s another tip-off of insecurity in the relationship.

12. You switch up your style

Have you started adopting your partner’s style of dress or found yourself doing your hair in ways you know they like, but you don’t love? Dr. Lillian Glass, author of He Says, She Says: Closing the Communications Gap Between the Sexes, warns this may be a red flag that you’re losing sight of yourself in the relationship.

Take a step back and ask yourself if you’re giving more than your partner is (and be honest). If you are, this imbalance is a sign that you guys will have to recalibrate—or call it quits, says Glass.

13. Their body language gets…different

Sure, something like a stressful week could have your partner more fidgety than normal. But Glass says that differences in your partner’s mannerisms could also indicate that they’re less comfortable with your relationship. Something as simple as an eye roll, or avoiding eye contact—if it happens several times—can be a relationship red flag, Glass says.

Do they seem to be using more agitated gestures than normal? Feel free to ask if something is up with your S.O. to try to head off issues before they become any bigger.

The bottom line: Think about your relationship norms, and if you notice changes from that baseline—on your partner’s part or on yours—that could be a sign that one or both of you is starting to feel less secure in your bond.

That said, there could be something else at play, so it’s always best to try to approach the issue via an honest and open conversation with your partner.

This article was originally published on Women's Health.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
22% - 531 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
10% - 230 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 1171 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 36 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 438 votes