Relationship Red Flags That Could Actually Be Healthy Signs
Relationships can be difficult to navigate. Once you're out of the initial "honeymoon period," it's common to experience complacency or, in some cases, even boredom. It's also human nature to occasionally wonder if you're in the right relationship.
There’s a handful of warning signs that most people assume are relationship "red flags." However, things aren't always what they seem. In some cases, the behavior you may perceive as being negative or an omen of a doomed relationship is actually the complete opposite.
Flirting With Other People
Infidelity is never a sign of a healthy relationship. However, just because you're married or in a committed relationship doesn't mean you stop being human. Flirting is a fun, playful form of human interaction that can be entirely harmless. If you find yourself flirting or learn your partner has been flirting, don't panic.
Innocent flirting, so long as it doesn't cross any boundaries, can actually be a healthy sign in a relationship. It can make parties feel less confined or trapped. It can also serve as a slight confidence booster that could end up benefiting your relationship in the long run.
Arguing Over Little Things
One of the most common reasons people in relationships start thinking the end is near is that they begin to fight more. If every day brings a major, tear-inducing, blow-up fight, it's probably not a good sign. However, arguing, even or especially if it's bickering about little issues, doesn't necessarily mean that you've reached the end of the road.
Fighting with your significant other can actually be healthy for your relationship because it can make you stronger in the long run. As long as you’re fighting in a healthy way that doesn't involve verbal or physical abuse, arguing is a way of communicating and voicing opinions that displays passion.
Having Different Hobbies and Interests
Having completely different interests from your significant other doesn't mean that you aren't good for one another. In fact, it can actually mean the exact opposite. While some relationships grow from exploring new activities with your partner, maintaining your individual hobbies and interests helps keep you both healthy.
You don't need to enjoy everything your partner does to make your relationship work. Pursuing your individual passions demonstrates independence, which is important for long-term relationships. Being with someone for the long run doesn't mean you need to morph into the same person.
Not Always Knowing What They're Thinking or Feeling
Being in a committed relationship doesn't immediately turn you into a mind reader. While you certainly get to know someone the more time you spend with them, it's not necessarily a bad sign if you're unable to decipher what they're thinking or feeling at any given moment (or vice versa).
It can be a toxic pattern to expect your partner to be able to read your mind or assume they understand how you're feeling without telling them. It can set unrealistic expectations that eventually lead to miscommunications and unnecessary arguments. Verbally articulating your wants and needs is a sign of a healthy relationship.
Feeling Like You Need to Continuously Work at It
Feeling like you need to put in the effort to make your relationship work, especially after years of being together, isn't a sign that you’re failing; it's a sign that you're succeeding. Relationships require both parties to be willing to put in the time and attention it takes to keep each other happy.
Of course, if you're starting to think the relationship is no longer worth the effort, that's a different story. But it's not a sign that your relationship is toxic if you and your partner are both making a mindful effort to improve it. It means you both love and care about the relationship enough to nurture it.
Wanting to Keep Some Things Private
It's a misconception that, for your relationship to be healthy, you need to be an open book. It's important to be honest and truthful with your partner, especially when it comes to the big things in life. Being authentic and transparent is also crucial when it comes to your feelings and emotions.
However, it's not toxic if there are some things that you want to keep personal. There are times when maintaining an air of mystery is preferable. For example, wanting to keep the bathroom door shut doesn't mean you aren't comfortable with one another; it means you have appropriate boundaries.
Discussing Controversial Topics
It's a common belief that there are certain topics that are impolite to talk about, such as politics or religion. However, what's considered "appropriate" for a dinner table or social gathering doesn't apply to your relationship. Being able to talk about the important things in life, even when they're controversial or you have differing opinions, can be healthy and even cathartic.
When approached and navigated correctly, debating tough topics — even scary ones such as death — can be healthy. If you trust and respect your partner, it can create a healthy dialogue between two open-minded people. It can also help you feel closer.
Considering Couples Therapy
Not every couple that goes to therapy makes it in the long run. Couples therapy isn't a cure-all for relationship problems. Sometimes, the events that transpired and led a couple to seek therapy were too damaging. However, that doesn’t mean going to a relationship therapist is a red flag that you're in a failing relationship.
Couples therapy can actually be an effective method for preventing minor issues from spiraling into major problems. Wanting to see a relationship professional is a sign that you care enough to put in the work to correct any concerns you have.
Not Getting Jealous Anymore
Many people falsely interpret jealousy as a sign of love and caring. Therefore, if you're in a relationship in which experiencing feelings of jealousy isn't a common occurrence, you might translate it as a lack of caring.
However, jealousy is often a direct reflection of insecurity. If you suddenly find yourself at a point in your relationship, or in a new relationship, where jealousy isn't constantly present, it's actually a sign of a healthy connection. It means you're confident and secure, both with yourselves and with one another, and you trust and support yourselves without feeling threatened.
Wanting to Change Things About Your S.O.
No one’s perfect. Being in love with someone, while perhaps making it easier to look beyond imperfections, doesn't suddenly make you impervious to pet peeves or shortcomings. Just because there are things about your partner you wish you could tweak doesn't mean it's worth calling it quits.
It's one thing if what you wish you could change is a daily distraction. However, encouraging your significant other to make minor improvements can be healthy and mutually beneficial. For example, urging them to put their dirty clothes in the hamper isn't a threat to their confidence or well-being (or shouldn't be).
Enjoying Time Alone
Spending time away from your partner and actually enjoying it doesn't mean that your relationship is on the rocks. Couples that take time to separate and recharge away from one another can help facilitate individual growth that ultimately helps strengthen the relationship in the long run.
You can be in love with someone and not want to breathe the same air as them every waking hour of the day. It's the same as it was with your family growing up. You can love them unconditionally, but sometimes you need your own space and alone time.
Wondering What It Would Be Like to Be Single
Similarly to the way innocent flirting isn't always a sign of an unhealthy relationship, a partner who has the occasional thought about singledom doesn't mean they don't want to or shouldn't be in the relationship anymore. It's natural to periodically evaluate and consider where we are in life and our current circumstances.
At the end of the day, what matters is that the person decides that they’d rather be in the relationship than "play the field." Wondering how life could or would be different if you were single doesn't make you a bad person or partner. It simply makes you human.
Saying Whatever Comes to Mind
In a healthy relationship, it's good practice to be mindful and considerate of your partner's feelings. If you find yourself in a relationship where you feel like you're constantly sharing your thoughts unfiltered, or as if your partner doesn't think twice before voicing their opinion, you might worry that there’s a lack of consideration.
However, feeling free enough to express yourself and share honest thoughts can indicate your comfort level with your partner. As long as they’re not hurtful or harmful, letting your thoughts flow is a sign you trust your partner to understand or at least accept your venting.
No Longer Surprising One Another
When the relationship is new and you're in the honeymoon stage, it's easy to surprise one another. No matter how long you've been together or how old you get, getting little surprises and unexpected gestures from your loved one feels great. It's a wonderful way of keeping the spark and romance alive.
However, surprises becoming fewer and further in between doesn't necessarily equal a relationship "red flag." It simply could mean that you’ve gotten to know one another well enough that surprising the other person becomes more difficult. The absence of surprises shouldn't automatically be perceived as a lack of care but rather a level of familiarity.
Experiencing Occasional Sadness and Doubt
You can be in a healthy relationship and not be happy all the time. Experiencing feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction and doubt is a product of being human, not of being in a bad relationship. But if feeling depressed about your current relationship becomes a regular, unshakable occurrence, something needs to change.
However, experiencing emotions is part of life. There are lots of life factors that can affect your circumstances and, in turn, mood. This is as true for you as it is for your partner. You won't always be "up" at the same time. The goal is to support one another through the ups and downs.
Assuming If It Were Meant to Be That It'd Be Easier
People sometimes have a tendency to believe that the best relationships are the easiest ones. While you definitely don't want your relationship to be a constant battle and draining aspect, it's unrealistic to assume that the only sign of a healthy relationship is if it's effortless.
If both parties assumed what's meant to be will be, there’d be many more divorces and breakups. Making a relationship work takes active, consistent attention and nurturing. Being overly passive in a relationship can be hurtful and damaging in the long run. A healthier approach is to navigate your relationship with the intention of making it work.
Experiencing Intimacy Becoming Less Frequent
There’s no right number of times a couple needs to be intimate for their relationship to be considered healthy. Every relationship is different. After years together, it's common for couples to experience ruts or times when intimacy isn't their number-one priority. And that's okay.
If your romantic moments aren't as passionate, spontaneous or frequent as they once were, it doesn't mean you're in an unhealthy relationship. It could simply mean that your priorities are changing. This may be temporary, but the important thing is to work through it with your partner rather than comparing yourself to other couples.
Failing to Apologize
Stubbornness and a refusal to compromise aren’t ideal traits in a romantic partner. However, a reluctance to apologize during an argument doesn't necessarily mean a bad relationship. There are reasons worth considering before chalking it up as a lost cause.
It's possible your partner feels adamant in their stance, and those feelings are worth acknowledging. Not wanting to apologize doesn't always mean they don't value your feelings. It could mean they feel strongly justified. Sticking to their beliefs can demonstrate a sense of confidence. In some cases, giving in may simply be a means of dismissing the argument and its significance.
Not Feeling Happier or Closer After a Baby
Many people assume that starting a family is a surefire way to mend some unresolved issues. Having a child with another person can strengthen your relationship and make you cherish and appreciate your partner more. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Having a child changes your lives in many ways — not all of them for the better.
A child adds a lot more stress and responsibility to the equation. Even the happiest of relationships can feel strained or tested once a baby arrives. If you're fighting more than usual, it doesn't mean your relationship is toxic. It means your priorities have shifted.
Realizing Work Is Sometimes Your Top Priority
Life is a series of cycles. Depending on where you are in your career, there are certain times when your work may be a top priority. There might also be times when your partner needs to spend long hours working and you wish they could be home.
Focusing on professional development isn't always a red flag that the relationship is no longer important. It simply means that you or your partner might be at stages in your lives when an area, such as work, requires more attention. If both parties support and encourage each other, it can mean a healthy relationship.
Taking Trips Separately
For many happy, healthy couples, taking vacations together is an enjoyable experience that both parties look forward to. However, taking a partnerless getaway, whether it's a day trip or week-long retreat with friends, isn't a sign of a relationship that's on the outs.
Shared vacations are wonderful treats that can and should be taken whenever schedules and budgets allow. But taking time off from work and family responsibilities isn't always possible at the same time. So there's nothing wrong with taking time to unwind and get some R&R, even if doing so requires you to do it at a different time and place than your partner.
Not Checking In as Frequently
It can be all too easy to mistake being overly possessive and smothering as being affectionate and caring. It's important to check in with your loved one; it can be a sweet way of letting them know you're thinking of them. However, there's a difference between periodically checking in and being codependent.
If you can't go a few hours without sending a text message to your partner, it might be a sign that there's a lack of trust and independence. Needing constant contact with your partner throughout the day can be an unhealthy marker of obsessive behavior.
Not Feeling Scared at the Thought of Being Without Them
It's one thing to spend your days wishing you weren't with your significant other and hoping that a breakup is right around the corner. However, feeling overwhelming anxiety about what your life would be like without your partner isn't healthy. It's a sign of codependency.
At the end of the day, relationships need two healthy and whole individuals. You should be together because you enjoy each other's company, not because your existence relies on your relationship. You can feel like you prefer to live with them, but it's not a red flag if you acknowledge that life would go on if you couldn't.
You Seldom Get Showered With Gifts
Random gifts and romantic surprises are often seen as grand, sweet gestures. But before you get jealous of your coworker who always seems to be getting random flower deliveries from their significant other, it's important to realize that sometimes spoiling a partner can be a form of manipulation and control.
Of course, this doesn't mean anything nice your partner does for you is a sign that they're feeling guilty or trying to overcompensate. But excessive gift-giving and grand gestures can sometimes be toxic if they come from a place of wanting to claim "ownership" over you.
Going to Bed Angry
It's one of the oldest adages in the book: To make a relationship work, you should never go to bed angry. However, if you don't sort through every conflict or area of contention before hitting the hay, don't assume your relationship is doomed.
Choosing to go to bed and revisit the argument in the morning may be healthier. It gives you time to rest, reset and come to see how you feel about the problem in the morning. Making a conscious decision to put the fight on pause until you've cooled down may indicate self-awareness and maturity.
Being Hesitant About Introducing Them to Family
When you're in the beginning stages of a relationship, a major step is meeting the person's friends and family. After a few months and as things start getting a bit serious, it can be concerning if they seem reluctant to introduce you. It's hard not to feel like they're either not serious about you or aren’t proud of your relationship.
However, there could be a wide range of reasons that make a person hesitant about bringing someone special home to meet the family. It doesn't mean they aren't serious about you. It can be a sign that they take relationships seriously and don't want to rush things.
Discovering New Qualities That Irritate You
Just because you love your partner doesn't mean you need to love everything about them. It's okay if there are minor quirks that irritate you. It's also only natural that the longer you spend time with them, the more of these irritating qualities you may begin to notice.
Assuming that these irritators are relatively easily to dismiss and pale in comparison to what you love about your S.O., having a small list of things that irk you about your partner doesn't mean you shouldn't be with them or that your relationship is a ticking time bomb. It can actually mean you're still paying close attention.
Feeling Like the Effort Isn't Always 50/50
Relationships are like a see-saw. Sometimes you're up; other times you're down. Sometimes you're the giver; other times you're the taker. It's all about balance. It's okay if not every moment of your relationship can be boiled down to an evenly split effort.
There will be phases of your relationship when one of you will need to be more selfish with your time or require more attention and care. It's unrealistic to think that both you and your partner will always be in a place where you can give the same amount of effort. The goal is to support the other when they need it.
Letting Things Go Even When You Don't Agree
Many people assume that relationships should always be passionate and intense. But sometimes calm is healthy. When you feel happy and confident in a healthy relationship, it tends to be easier to let the little things slide, even when you don't agree.
While it's not always ideal to have a passive approach to your relationship, a little bit of compromise can go a long way. Letting things go doesn't mean you stop caring enough to fight. It simply means that you're able to see and appreciate the bigger picture and are willing to put your ego aside to keep the peace.
Not Spending as Much Time With Friends
Isolating yourself from your friends and family for the sake of your relationship is a major red flag. It can be a sign of a controlling partner and is definitely cause for concern. However, realizing that you spend slightly less time with your friends as you did when you were single doesn't mean that your relationship is toxic.
It could simply mean that you're in love. As people grow up and mature, their priorities begin to shift. Once you get married or have children, it's only natural that your family becomes your main focus. In turn, your social life may not be as wild as it once was.