25 relationship red flags to avoid

A little while ago I found myself having drinks with a friend. The subject got onto men, as it often does, and specifically my apparent lack of skill when it comes to identifying good ones.

Belle was there too, and she’s always happy to feed into a conversation about my failings, so the stage was set.

We were talking about an ex partner of mine, and I was revealing something they had done early in the relationship which, when it happened, I had chosen to ignore.

‘What the FUCK dude?’ said the friend. ‘Why didn’t you tell me that at the time?? I’d have made you leave him.’

I sighed.

‘Seriously,’ she said, ‘you can’t ignore things like that!’

I can’t remember what it was exactly – it may have felt insignificant at the time – but it was an excellent example of why I end up in these odd and unsatisfying relationships. It’s because I choose to ignore the relationship red flags.

I like the see the best in people, I empathise, I understand. I think to myself ‘okay so that’s not ideal, but I can totally see why their experiences as a child/low self-esteem/borderline personality disorder etc etc might make them behave like that, and so it’s really not their fault and I have to let that go.’


You absolutely do not have to let anything go, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable or disrespected or anything like that AT ALL. People may have their own shit going on, and if you’re in a relationship and you’re supporting them through something and they are being respectful about it then sure, stick with it if you want to, but remember that you don’t ever owe anyone anything, especially not a random new partner.

To help me out, my friend decided to make me a list of relationship red flags that I should absolutely, definitely not ignore. Some are based on my previous experiences, some may be personal to me, others are more general. When she was finished, I read through the list.

‘So how many of these are they allowed to do before I get rid of them?’ I asked innocently.

She gave me a death stare.

‘NONE OF THEM,’ she said.

‘Oh,’ I said.

‘It’s not a fucking pick and mix,’ she said, (or words to that effect, it was a little while ago now.) ‘It’s not multiple choice. Any one of these is a BAD SIGN.’

Here’s the list:

relationship red flags

It’s a solid red flag list right?

Quite a few of these are classic signs of narcissism – if your boyfriend is super charming some of the time but then is rude to people he considers ‘beneath him’, like waiting staff, then BEWARE. Not having many good or long-term friends is another one – the narcissist is very quick to fall in love or to take up with a new friend, but bores quickly. And by that I mean gets bored AND bores other people, as he will quite likely want to talk about himself a lot. He’ll drop people as quickly as he picks them up, once they stop feeding his ego.

Some may also seem a little extreme, but they are often symbolic of other behaviours, or very specific to me. I don’t need another boyfriend with a Somerset County Cricket Club tattoo.

The next day one of the cats knocked a can a coke over the list, which I thought was pretty unsupportive to be honest, but luckily I had already taken this photo so that I could have the list handy on my phone for emergencies.

The truth is that I KNOW all of these things are red flags in a relationship, I just need to stop ignoring them, to trust my instinct when something feels off and to act on it. Chances are if you’ve found this post by Googling then that’s the exact same gut feeling you have now. The very fact of Googling ‘relationship red flags’ tells you that something’s not right doesn’t it? If you want someone to validate your decision to dump your boyfriend because something feels wrong then consider yourself validated.

So those are 25 of my relationship red flags – do you agree? What would you add?



  1. Emily
    3 January, 2021 / 3:24 pm

    Having been involved with a narcissist look out for them telling you they are in love with you within days and saying you are their soulmate. They are not so easy to spot, mine had many friends who were taken in by his fake persona.

    • Jo Middleton
      3 January, 2021 / 3:34 pm

      YES! They ‘fall in love’ at the drop of a hat don’t they? You’ll be ‘the one’ the very same day they meet you, and they often seem weirdly proud of it too, like they are just so in tune with their emotions and who they are that they can’t help but share their soul…

    • Maddie
      3 January, 2021 / 5:18 pm

      I had one who had loads of friends who were (some still seems to be) taken in by his ‘nice guy’ TM facade, I didn’t know whether to feel angry with or sorry for his friends when they turned on me for leaving him. Made me doubt myself for a long while! He ticked a good 12 of the 25 boxes

      • Jo Middleton
        4 January, 2021 / 10:56 am

        12 is a LOT of boxes!

  2. 3 January, 2021 / 7:31 pm

    Vegetarian? Or claiming to ne vegetarian when really not? I get all the rude and narcissistic behaviors.

    • Jo Middleton
      4 January, 2021 / 10:58 am

      The latter! I hope that doesn’t just sound like I hate all vegetarians! For me it’s about someone having a version of themselves they like to present, like ‘oh I don’t watch TV or eat meat’, which they say because they think it makes them superior, but then actually they watch films on Netflix (still counts guys!) and eat meat when they fancy it!

  3. Roger Habgood
    3 January, 2021 / 11:25 pm

    Feeling rather ( unjustifiably perhaps) smug that I only hit 4 negatives. Shit that’s 5 smug must be a negative. Nice list, do you think a mans list would be significantly different ( stupid question) shit that makes it 6. Doah mixing your needs with mine that’ makes it 7. This is winding me up. Bugger dam that makes it 8. No wonder I don’t have any long term friends and I thought it was because I couldn’t cook. Aah that’s a double whammy 10. Is that how you spell whammy oh sod it I shouldn’t have checked tinterweb whist in this discussion 11. You know that tenner I owe ya can you make it twenty I need to tax the Jag and the Audi needs new tyres 14. Oh don’t bother I can wack it on my Amex oh no sorry my visa ah no tell you what if I don’t tip I can use cash, service was crap anyway, I’m glad I told that waiter he was crap 18. Why are you looking at me like that it’s not problem to you it’s my issue. anyway I’m not in debt really. 20. I wish you would stop stroking that furry beast and listen to me fir a minute cats I prefer dogs they are real friends 22. I don’t know why you bothered asking me to yours especially when your just sat in front of the box, I hate soaps 24. Don’t suppose there’s any chance of a quick….

    Ah perhaps we are not that comparable after all.

    Sorry Jo couldn’t help it love the list keep the friend she’s wise

    Ps I really did only score 4

    Best Roger

    • Jo Middleton
      4 January, 2021 / 10:59 am

      Hahaha love it Roger! In all seriousness though, yes, I’m sure the list would be different for men – it would be different for everyone I think. Probably my list ten years ago would have been different! It’s all just learning and evolving right?

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