Red Flags to Look Out For When You're Dating Someone New

If you're in the dating game, you'll be familiar with the term "red flag." A sign of dangerous, controlling or toxic behavior, a red flag is a warning to get out before you get your heart broken—or worse. According to relationship experts, there are eight red flags you should look out for when dating someone new:

  • Love bombing
  • Moving too quickly
  • Not introducing you to their friends or family
  • Gaslighting
  • Inconsistent behavior
  • Ignoring your boundaries
  • You don't like their friends
  • Bad-mouthing exes.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Flaw and a Flag?

Everyone has character flaws—and they can be deal-breakers for a romance—but a flaw or annoying habit won't usually lead to an abusive relationship.

Angela N. Holton, a dating coach who runs the Love Sanctuary website, told Newsweek that when you spot possible red flag behavior, you shouldn't try to rationalize it.

"Red flags are there for a reason," she said. "Stop, assess and pivot if this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship."

People tend to ignore red flags when they have a crush on someone, according to dating coach Hayley Quinn, but this can lead to more pain down the line.

"Bad relationships drain your emotional energy and hold you back from getting the love you deserve," she told Newsweek.

To differentiate between a flaw and a red flag, Quinn recommends taking your time to decide if this is someone you want to commit to.

"If your doubts subside as you get to know them better, you're on the right track," she said. "If you feel on edge, constantly judged or confused, get out."

New relationship red flags to watch for
A woman cringes as a man tries to kiss her. Relationship red flags aren't just annoyances; they can signal abusive behavior further down the line. Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Love Bombing

The early days of a relationship are meant to be all flowers and chocolates, but if the person you've started dating is going over-the-top, this can be a red flag. Known as "love bombing," this behavior is an attempt to trap someone into a relationship as quickly as possible—before letting their dark side loose once you're invested.

You might find it flattering to be wanted but coming on too strong can be a sign of a controlling nature, according to Quinn.

"No one can sincerely like you that much after only a few dates," she said. "Avoid people who can't accept a 'no' and push you to do something you don't want to do."

Moving Too Quickly

Moving too quickly is another red flag. Your date might not be trying to embed you into an abusive relationship like a love-bomber, but it can be a sign of other issues.

They could have a love addiction, where they're "in love with love" rather than with their partner. "It's about the idea of [what they're] looking for, rather than the person themselves," said Holton.

Other potential causes include low self-esteem or a fear of being alone, which can lead to toxic relationship patterns if not addressed.

Not Introducing You to Friends or Family

No one wants to meet the parents on the second date, but if you've been seeing each other for a while and haven't been introduced to any family or friends, that's a bad sign. Keeping you separate from the rest of their life—also known as "pocketing"—can mean they aren't looking for anything serious, Quinn said.

"After a couple of months they haven't followed you on social media or they only message you for last-minute, late-night dates—[that's] a lack of willingness for a serious relationship," she explained.

It's best to be upfront about what you want from a relationship, so you don't get relegated to booty-call status or stuck in a romance that's going nowhere.

Gaslighting

A form of emotional abuse, "gaslighting" is when someone manipulates you into questioning yourself and your reality. Examples include minimizing your feelings, causing you to question memories or events, shifting blame onto you or telling you "it's all in your head."

If the person you're dating makes you feel invalidated or second-guess yourself—even at an early stage and in seemingly "harmless" ways—get out now.

Inconsistent Behavior

Do they never call when they say they're going to? Inconsistent behavior is a sign of immaturity and untrustworthiness—it can also mean they don't see you as a priority, according to Holton. "They could be unsure if this relationship is for them and have others on the back burner."

Changing their behavior according to who they're talking to also suggests that they can't be trusted. "If they treat one person a certain way, but are completely different around others, pay attention," she warned.

Ignoring Your Boundaries

Your boundaries define what you are comfortable with in a relationship, and ensure your wants and needs are respected. If you make them clear but they are ignored, that's a big red flag.

If the person you're dating is making you uncomfortable, Holton recommended asking yourself: "Do they honor my physical, emotional or mental boundaries?"

A person who crosses lines early in your relationship could easily progress to more serious boundary-stomping at a later date.

You Don't Like Their Friends

"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." You might have doubts about that statement, which is usually attributed to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, but Holton believes a person's friends can help you to understand what they're really like.

She recommends taking "a look at the people they spend time with. Who are their friends?"

If your new partner's friends are fond of telling offensive jokes or are rude to you when you're out in a group, this can be a sign you are incompatible.

Bad-Mouthing Exes

Does your new partner talk about their ex all the time? At best, this might mean they're not over the break-up. At worst, they're trying to make their former partner look bad and gloss over their role in the relationship's demise.

Comparing you to their ex is also a big no-no, Holton said. "It can create feelings of despair if you feel you can't measure up to their expectations."

Whether you've just started dating or you've been together a long time, you can get out of a toxic relationship—here's how.

Have you noticed any red flags that made you end a new relationship? Let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

Correction 05/11/22, 3:55 a.m. EDT: This article was updated to correct the name of Angela N. Holton. The article originally referred to her as "Angela Holton."