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A dating coach’s red flags: Signs to watch out for in potential partners

Don’t go looking for them, she says, but notice them when you see them

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I’ll admit the term “red flag” is overused today. People are classifying anything from someone’s taste in music to their obsession with their dog as a dreaded red flag.

As a dating coach, I’ve seen firsthand how recognizing warning signs early can save you from heartache down the road.

So, let’s delve into eight actual red flags to make note of when evaluating potential partners.

1. Unreliability: Imagine making plans, only for your date to cancel 20 minutes before without a valid excuse … or fail to show up altogether. If this becomes a recurring pattern (although, I would keep my eyes open if it happens even once), it’s a clear indication they likely don’t value your time or prioritize your relationship.

2. A negative attitude (or blatant meanness) toward other people: While enjoying a night out together, your date criticizes the restaurant staff for minor mistakes or makes disparaging remarks about strangers within earshot. Pay attention to how they treat those around them because it can reveal underlying issues with empathy and respect for others.

3. Controlling behavior: How would you feel if your partner insists on knowing your whereabouts at all times, monitors your interactions with friends and family, or becomes visibly upset when you assert your independence? These controlling tendencies, whether they stem from jealousy or something else, can escalate over time and lead to feelings of suffocation and resentment within the relationship. You’re allowed to have your own friends and your own life. In fact, it’s essential to maintaining a healthy balance.

4. Refusal to compromise: Despite your efforts to find common ground and make decisions together, whether it’s as simple as what to order on a menu or as large as how you do your work, this person dismisses your preferences and insists on having their own way. Healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise, thrive on respect and compromise, so be wary of partners who refuse to meet you halfway.

5. Inconsistent treatment: Your partner showers you with affection and attention one moment, only to withdraw and become distant without explanation. Some might call it breadcrumbing. Whatever it is, it’s confusing and unsustainable. Their inconsistent behavior leaves you feeling confused and unsure of where you stand in the relationship. You shouldn’t have to live like that, wondering which version of this person you’re going to get on any given day.

6. Avoidance of accountability: Essentially, can they acknowledge your point of view and apologize if necessary? When conflicts arise, do they deflect blame onto others or refuse to take responsibility for their actions? Instead of addressing issues head-on, they make excuses or shift the focus away from their behavior, making it hard to resolve conflicts and build trust.

7. Disregard for boundaries: You express discomfort with certain behaviors, but someone continues to push your limits. Whether it’s crossing physical, emotional or personal boundaries, this lack of respect can erode trust and lead to feelings of resentment.

8. Intense early attachment: Call it “love bombing” if you like, but someone declares their love for you early in the relationship, through actions or words, and talks about a future together before you’ve had the chance to truly get to know each other as individuals. Feeling infatuated in the early stages of dating might seem normal, but be aware of partners who rush into commitment without allowing the relationship to develop organically. Some people call this “future faking.”

Noticing and addressing these dating red flags is essential for protecting your emotional well-being and ensuring a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

Notice I didn’t say “looking for red flags” — big difference. Trust your instincts, communicate openly with your partner, and don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family or a trusted professional if you have concerns about your relationship. Remember, you deserve to be with someone who respects and values you for who you are.


Erika Ettin is founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH for updates and tips.

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