How to Recognize Red Flags Before You Commit to a Marriage/Relationship?

“We were at this huge bustling shopping mall”, she narrated, her eyes suddenly turning moist and her lips quivering ever so slightly, “and I was excited since that was one of our first few dates. Suddenly this girl walked in, wearing a top with quite a revealing neckline. Her cleavage was prominently displayed, and she was quite a beauty. He was talking to me when he suddenly stopped and gaped at her. And then he said, ‘that girl is begging the guys to check her out.’
I was shocked at the remark and looked at him. ‘What are you saying?’ I asked. He abruptly caught my hand, walked fast towards the girl and deliberately brushed against her and while doing so, pointedly looked right at her cleavage.
I felt my breathing stop. I saw the shock register on the girl’s face as she blinked hard. He actually stopped for a split second while brushing against her and ogled at her cleavage directly, in front of her face. I got a sinking feeling in my gut and almost felt like throwing up. He then rapidly walked away, all the while pulling at my hand.

I pulled my hand away and realized I was trembling. ‘You cannot behave that way.’ I told him, ‘you have no right.’
‘Why?’ he demanded, ‘what’s wrong with you? That girl deserves it.’
‘No!’ I cried out. ‘No, she doesn’t! You have absolutely no right to behave that way. It was cheap!’
‘She was the cheap one,’ he said, ‘wearing those kinds of clothes.’
‘No’ I cried out, my head reeling, I felt like I was in a nightmare, ‘she has the right to wear whatever she wants. Every girl does. It is you who don’t have the right to behave like that,’ I told him. I was still shocked and trembling. All the while I was thinking, ‘I am already engaged to this guy? To this guy?’

“And yet you married him,” the therapist intervened. “Yes,” she said.

“Why?” the therapist asked. “The incident clearly shows that this man is not well brought up and does not know how to respect women.”

“Yes”, her head dropped as she stared at the ground, “I know now. At that time, after the incident, I insisted on going back home immediately. He got a shock and pleaded and apologized repeatedly, saying he would not do it again. He asked me to cool down and have a cup of coffee, and if I still felt bad he would drop me home. People around were looking at us and all I wanted to do was cry. When we sat down at a coffee outlet I understood he was clearly scared. I was angry, upset and confused because the wedding invites had gone out and seeing him behave in that manner that day was disgusting for me. He said he would not have behaved that way had he known it would have upset me so much.

Much later in the marriage, of course, he told me he learned how to behave with women by being with me! He never learned from his family it seems, because the family was (and still is) overwhelmingly patriarchal in nature, with the few women in it being a subdued lot. Which was not at all consoling, because by then in the marriage I had already experienced a lot of emotional and physical abuse. Immediately after every episode of abuse though, he would repent, apologize profusely, and even buy me expensive gifts.

The worse part was when after a full eight months into the marriage I learned my husband has bipolar disorder! He and his family did not think it necessary to tell us about it before the wedding!

Now in hindsight, I feel this incident with the girl at the shopping mall was very clearly a big red flag for me among others, and ideally, I should have backed off from the wedding then. But I didn’t.
I did panic after the incident at the shopping mall and even talked to my mother about calling off the wedding, without telling her what had occurred. But my Mom and other family members thought it was a case of nerves and said that the wedding invites had already gone out and my age too was not in my favour, so I should compromise, not be so picky and get married. Perhaps I should have told the people around me about the incident… I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter now. But I do regret brushing aside all the warning signs I received and listening to the ‘hurry up and get married’, everyone kept saying around me.

Right now, I am thankful I separated from him and the divorce proceedings are progressing. But I feel I have lost faith in myself, my sense of judgement and self-respect. I still think about how that girl must have felt that day when he ogled at her breasts pointedly, and I feel disgusted with myself. I should not have thought about ‘what would people say if I broke off the wedding?’ I could have saved myself a lot of pain and emotional torture.

Clearly, meeting a person a couple of times after seeing his profile on a matrimonial portal is not enough. I should have taken more time to get to know him well, and done a thorough background check on him.  I have learned a lesson the hard way.

And yes, I remember something strange that happened when he first came to see me at our place. Looking at his eyes I felt something was off. He had this listless gaze for a few seconds and I got a very strong feeling that something was wrong with him. But he was very smart and talked quite confidently. Moreover, his academic qualifications were impeccable. So, I chose to disregard my gut instinct.
Ironically, after he left when I checked my Facebook the first message that came up said loud and clear:

“Never discredit your gut instinct. You are not paranoid. Your body can pick up on bad vibrations. If something deep inside of you says something is not right about a person or situation, trust it.”

I now feel that was fate’s strong warning, but I did not heed it. A part of me faintly realized I was getting into a mess.

And what is even more ironical is, that when my gut instinct was spot on I chose to disregard it and now I have actually lost faith in myself.

I know I need help. That’s why I am here. I need to gain my trust in myself back.”

This, my dear readers is a real-life story.

It highlights how rushing into a relationship, ignoring the glaring red flags and thinking “my compromising and adjusting will surely right matters and also transform the person,” can instead actually open up a veritable Pandora’s box.

In the above case, the shopping mall incident was the most glaring red flag the lady chose to ignore, because of the immense need to be “stable and secure” in a relationship since age was catching up with her and owing to family and societal pressure.

In this article, we will take a look at how to recognize the red flags and save yourself from entering into any relationship that could be detrimental to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. After all, isn’t prevention always better than cure?

Some Major Red Flags

Here are a few red flags that can put you on your guard and prevent you from committing yourself to a marriage or a relationship in haste: 

  • First and foremost, TRUST your gut instinct: Yes, trust it. The lady mentioned in the case above regretted not listening to that ‘little voice’ cautioning her from within.
    That little voice may speak up when your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé/fiancée verbally abuses a waiter, keeps eyeing other girls/boys, speaks too smoothly, is on the phone all the time when on a date, very often asks you to pay at a restaurant, or it may simply choose to speak up by noticing an expression, a gesture, or even simply tell you ‘be careful, things are appearing too good to be true’, which you may dismiss as overthinking or being paranoid. DON’T. Even if you don’t feel like listening to the voice or your gut instinct and feel like dismissing it, at least give the voice the benefit of doubt.
    Do a background check on the person. You owe it to yourself.

In the above case, the lady’s gut instinct spoke up the moment she noticed a slight listless gaze in the man’s eyes during the first meeting. She chose to dismiss it. Much later she realized it was true all along when she found out he suffered from bipolar disorder. Listen to your gut instinct, you have nothing to lose but maybe everything to gain.

  • Are you making excuses for his/her noticeable bad behavior: Are you noticing bad behavior towards you or others and making excuses such as, “but he/she went through all this and that’s why he/she is like this?”
    When you are forcibly making excuses for his/her inexcusable behavior, but it doesn’t feel right in your heart, that right there is a red flag.
    Your monkey mind can analyze and rationalize and give tons of excuses and start painting a picture that you want to see, perhaps even desperately. You may even think, ‘that’s okay he/she is mean, it won’t be so the next time round’ or ‘he /she is not always like this,’ or ‘it will get better.’
    But the evidence of his/her actions and words are right in front of you. And guess what?

    Toxic people are masters of manipulation and can create a halo around themselves to impress you and make you feel even their bad behavior is necessary or justifiable. Question is, are you allowing yourself to fall for it and even justifying it?

    If so, you need to take a step back and check. You could be walking into a trap with eyes wide open. 

  • They are not willing to talk through issues: A major red flag is when he/she brushes issues under the carpet, is unwilling to discuss anything with you. In the beginning, the person may appear to be brushing away issues nonchalantly. He /she may change the topic or make a joke of the issue.  

    As time goes by he/she manipulates and makes excuses and escapes, or shuts down completely, or worse still, throws a tantrum and blames everything on you.

    He/she makes you feel as if he/she is the victim and you are the villain.
    You cannot bear the burden of this relationship all by yourself, for that is what it will become – a burden. It will not remain a relationship anymore. Ask yourself if that is what you are willing to sign up for.
    Communication is the key to any relationship. And in a relationship of equals, both the partners would be willing to sort out differences by discussing their feelings, perspectives, and by making sure each is heard and even understood to a certain extent by the other. 

  • They are constantly criticizing/judging you: You remember people by the way they make you feel. And if you don’t feel good about how they make you feel they should not be in your life in the first place.

    If your partner is constantly criticizing you, demeaning you, judging you even if it appears jokingly at first and is successful in making you feel not good enough and depleted, you need to move away from the relationship as soon as possible.

    This may start in a subtle way, with sudden overboard reactions, sudden emotional outbursts, or behaviours such as withholding contact, being secretive, or any weird or unexplained behavior, and you may find yourself thinking, “perhaps I am not doing enough/being enough/ good enough.” Well, these are the signs when you need to look the other way and run.  Don’t linger around in the hope they will change, and it will all be rosy. That is the trap they want you to fall into. And once you do, you enter into their world of toxic loops and heightened emotional dramas. 

  • You could be dealing with a drama king or queen: This is a prominent red flag when they try to make everything about themselves and be the centre of attraction.

    Emotional manipulators are highly charged drama kings and queens. And they are emotional abusers. They always need an audience while they play Narcissus. You exist solely to glorify them. Even if that means they will put you down repeatedly to feel the sense of control and power over you to feel great. If you wish to discuss an issue with them they lament about how they are the victims and how you are hurting and upsetting them, and you are the one who is wrong. They can never be wrong.

    Emotional manipulators do not care about you, your feelings, or what you need from the relationship. For them, they need to come first and your world should revolve around them no matter what. And to keep up their hold on you they emotionally abuse you, something that you should never tolerate.
    To know more about the different forms of abuses please see: Facing Abuse and Domestic Violence in Marriage? How to Overcome It?
    If you do tolerate, this toxic relationship can steal your self-worth make you feel constantly guilty, drain away your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-trust.  You will lose all sense of individuality and self-respect. Ask yourself is any relationship worth all this mental and emotional trauma? 

  • Are you the one constantly giving and not getting: or instead what you are getting is the feeling of being depleted in the relationship, emotionally and perhaps even physically, but not getting anything from the relationship that can emotionally charge you and your well-being? Then you are being used in the relationship.

    In fact, you are not even in a relationship because you are a commodity or an object to be used by the other, not a person to have a relationship with. This is a major red flag. The sooner you put an end to this relationship the better.

  • They constantly step into your boundaries: Emotional manipulators have no respect for your boundaries because they are the ones who profit the most from your not having any boundaries. This is one of the biggest red flags before getting into a relationship.
    The signs of this include, asking personal questions to gather more information from you about you but giving out less information about themselves, snooping around to find out more about you, you feel you lose your voice around them, they do not respect your need for space or time but you need to respect theirs, they literally walk all over you because they see your empathy as a weakness, they do not care if they are inconveniencing you in any way as long as their need gets fulfilled.
    All this occurs if the person they are with, in this case, you, is unable to say no.

    Saying “No” is putting up your boundaries, creating a safe zone for yourself and most importantly saying “Yes” to yourself.

    Though, emotional manipulators sometimes attempt to breach that boundary as well to get you to say “Yes”, either by threatening you or by trying to gain your sympathy or by acting distant and aloof. In such a scenario you need to stick to your guns i.e. stick to your “No” adamantly and ideally move away from the relationship ASAP.

  • They speak disparagingly about their exes: Notice how the person speaks about his/her exes. Does he/she speak demeaningly about them and blame it all on them constantly? That is a warning sign for you. A relationship takes two to tango. If the person is blaming it all on his/her ex, know that this person is not ready to take a hard look at himself/herself. Everything that happens to him/her is the fault of others around and that will include you if you commit to the relationship. In fact, if you do, this is something you will have to put up with every day, for this person can never be wrong and will always play the victim. And you will end up questioning yourself why you are such an awful person who never gets anything right, and ‘is never enough’. Move away, before you end up completely losing yourself.

As the wise saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. By watching out for the tell-tale signs and red flags you could be preventing immense heartache, severe emotional and even physical trauma, a damaged sense of self-worth, and most importantly any form of emotional and physical abuse. It is when you suffer from a low sense of self-worth, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence that you open the door for emotional manipulators to prey on you.

Loving and honoring yourself comes foremost in a relationship. Self-love and self-respect will protect you from even considering a relationship with an emotional manipulator and abuser. 

If you are in a fix in your relationship and need some guidance you can get in touch with any of the counselors right here at You can even post any queries you may have for free, and a counselor will get back to you with a reply at the earliest.  
To know more about counsellors you may be interested to consult, please see: Best Marriage Counsellors.

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