6 Relationship RED FLAGS That Are Surprisingly Toxic

Some red flags are obvious.

But I’ve found over years of coaching people in their love lives that there are some more nuanced red flags that sneak up on us in a relationship, and can cause us MASSIVE pain if ignored.

In this recent conversation I had with Dr. Tracy and Dr. Morgan, you’ll learn how to easily identify these 6 critical red flags. We start off with No. 1 . . .

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Dr. Tracy:

What should people be looking for in terms of red flags? Matthew, maybe you want to start with this one. Where do you think some of those top things that a woman should be looking out for when it comes to red flags in our romantic relationships?


I think to me the ultimate perhaps not the ultimate, certainly one of them, the biggest red flags is someone who can’t say sorry.

Dr. Tracy:

Oh yeah, that’s a good one. 


I really believe that between two people who can acknowledge wrongs and take responsibility for them and apologize for them. I think that there’s hope and I think that there’s progress that can be made and you can build on mistakes. But someone who is unwilling to even acknowledge that they did something wrong or acted poorly or selfishly or made a mistake, it’s essentially an impossible person to build something sustainable with.

Dr. Tracy:

You just hit it rights at the start. That’s a big one. I think that this respect that we need in our relationships and having humility and showing up with that is so important in building a strong and solid relationship. That is definitely a red flag to be looking out for.

Dr. Morgan:

Yeah, I totally agree. I think it’s like piggybacking kind of off of what Matthew said, but this sort of like closed off fitness to change, right? When we’re with a partner who is like kind of this mentality of take me or leave me this is who I am. Don’t try to change me type of perspective can be such a massive red flag because when they can’t see that we’re all flawed in some way, there’s always room to grow and then they’re resistant to the idea of change. It makes it really difficult to be in a relationship with somebody like that.

I think something I see a lot in clients that I work with is something I call crazy-making, that’s a massive red flag and it’s essentially just inconsistency. Somebody says, they’re going to do one thing and they do something completely different. And a lot of times then you end up confronting this person and they have this way of kind of flipping it back on you or making you feel like you’re making a big deal out of nothing. And this can really start to make you feel like you’re absolutely losing your mind in your relationship.


Yeah, I couldn’t-

Dr. Morgan:

Go ahead, Matthew.


I couldn’t agree more with that. I think you highlighted two extraordinary important things. One is someone who says they’re going to do something and doesn’t. And I really think that relationships, the entire basis for them is trust in the transaction. I hesitate to call it a transaction, but when I say I’m going to do something, you can trust that I’m going to do it. Or at the very least, if I don’t do it, I acknowledge that I haven’t done it. I don’t pretend, I never said that in the first place. I don’t hope that you won’t notice. If it turns out, I just really did forget. I apologize for that. But the consistency between what I say I’m going to do and doing it is absolutely huge to any kind of relationship and the trust that gets built within it.

And Morgan, I really agree with that. The idea that someone makes you feel crazy for saying or thinking something. The basis of a strong relationship is vulnerability and humanity. There’s a distinction to be made because some people, I think they do what I call dumping, which is when vulnerability may say, maybe I’m not feeling very sexy right now. You know, to say that to someone may be a vulnerable act to admit that right now, you’re going through a chapter where you feel a little insecure, saying that to someone 10 times a day is no longer an active vulnerability. It’s making someone else responsible for the way that you feel. And, and that’s where, to me it goes into what I called dumping. But the rewind, if when we’re being vulnerable with someone about something that’s affecting us and they make us feel like an idiot for that, they make us feel embarrassed, ashamed ,judged and whatever it may be, that is a really, really, difficult thing. Because the hardest thing in a relationship is to be vulnerable and to feel safe to be vulnerable. If when you’re vulnerable, it’s not rewarded, it’s actually punished that’s a really hard thing, to come back from because you’ll find yourself shutting down and departing from your real self.

Dr. Morgan:

You are saying so many great things. And just this idea of kind of like accepting things that you normally wouldn’t in a friendship and you express some vulnerability as to me, it’s not this dumping you’re talking about, but you express some normal level of vulnerability and your friend like creates some, I don’t know, says something in response to you that makes you feel like complete crap, but you’re likely not going to take it. But sometimes we do in our romantic relationships, we accept these things from our partners that we wouldn’t from any other type of relationship. And I think that if we can kind of like step outside of ourselves while we’re in a relationship and kind of observe what’s going on, if we start to notice so many things you’re talking about being made to feel embarrassed, feeling kind of like crap, not having a safe space with our partner, this is a massive red flag that deserves attention.


Yeah, that’s absolutely right, Morgan. And if see, the trouble is when we’re in a relationship, proximity is power. When someone is really close to us, they have a disproportionate influence on what we think and feel and believe. And, that’s of course, very true. If someone were in a romantic relationship with where we’re spending an extraordinary amount of time with them and it’s emotionally heightened. So they have a disproportionate amount of kind of emotional leverage in the situation. So the thing that a lot of people experience and I’ve certainly experienced it in my relationships is bringing something up that you feel vulnerable about and maybe even ashamed about or embarrassed about you, and in some sense, being vulnerable is a very difficult thing because when you are vulnerable, it can feel like you’re giving up your power. Even though being vulnerable is inherently a powerful thing, to be vulnerable and to admit weakness, or to admit that you’re afraid it can feel like you’re handing power to the other person.

And when someone takes that and makes you feel embarrassed about it, or makes you feel stupid for even feeling that it can be hard to know whether they’re treating you poorly and, use a modern term gaslighting you, or whether it’s something that we need to hold true to, because what we’re saying is actually correct. And I think that’s one of the things, one of the reasons for having people close to you, who you really trust, who outside of your romantic relationship, whose opinions you respect, who you can go to and talk to these people about these things is extremely important. As long as you know, they’re not going to tell you what you want to hear, but tell you the truth. It’s very, important because it gives you a perspective outside of yourself that you’re talking about Morgan, that is actually sometimes very hard to get when you’re in it.

But if someone does embarrass you over something, I would say this vulnerability, shouldn’t be something that harms your relationship, even if you are wrong about the thing you’re saying. So even if you’re struggling with something, but it’s not founded in anything real, and it turns out that what you were thinking about was really just in your head, you should still be around someone who doesn’t make you feel like an idiot for feeling that way. Someone who helps correct your thinking and helps you understand that where it’s coming from is an irrational place or a place that’s founded in any logic. But at the same time, doesn’t make you feel ashamed for saying something in the first place.

Dr. Morgan:

I think what you’re saying is so key.

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15 Replies to “6 Relationship RED FLAGS That Are Surprisingly Toxic”

  • Thank you for bringing this topic to the surface. I agree that not being able to appologize or change are major red flags. Not only in dating but in all social settings. It’s also interresting to try to see wich areas I need to work on in my own life to improve my social skills. For me it’s not easy to be vulnerable. Words don’t come easily. I sometimes need to write it down before I speek. I also find it difficult sometimes to keep all the things that I’ve promiced. I find it difficult to say no and articulate my own needs.

    When it comes to dating I think smell is a big issue through. I’m dating an interestinng guy who has a good educated and interresting project. But I can’t help noticing this sent of old house, chees, smoke and something almost mushroom like smell. I don’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings.

  • My biggest red flag is thinking a man is interested and wants to pursue you but doesn’t call you or make plans for a date he talks like he’s interested but his actions don’t match what he says

  • A few red flags for me are if you are rude to waiters and if you always seem annoyed – if you usually see the negative side of things as opposed to the positive or neutral. I have dated men who were more negative and they made situations that could be fun and made then bad.

  • A few red flags for me are if you are rude to waiters and if you always seem annoyed – if you usually see the negative side of things as opposed to the positive or neutral. I have dated men who were more negative and they made situations that could be fun and made then bad.

  • SO true! I had started seeing this amazing guy, we had made plans to meet one afternoon and we ended up in different places. It was comically tragic, us trying to coordinate finding each other with limited cell reception! But he was really angry, accused me of blowing him off, and brought up his accusations 3-4x over the next week. I’m trying to explain to him that it was just miscommunication, we can LEARN from this, but I’m getting nowhere. I realized this person would probably never take responsibility for his own part in any skewed situation, so I ended it!

  • Just this week a new guy I’m seeing said he was going to book us into a specific spa for this weekend. He came over the night before to tell me it was fully booked I checked. It’s not. When challenged he sent me a video about gold diggers and made out I’m after his money. I’ve gone Dutch the times we went out and I bought the takeaway when we stayed in. My point isn’t the cost of the spa weekend it’s the lie. A massive red flag so early on.

  • I married my high school sweetheart 40 years after reconnecting. It was like a fairytale! Unfortunately, it ended after 9 months when I could no longer ignore the blaring red flags screaming at me. Yes, he never could apologize. He never fulfilled one promise he made, even simply calling or texting when he said he would. But the one that struck me hardest was his secrecy. He didn’t want to talk about anything other than surface topics. Almost every topic became taboo. He refused to engage in any conversation where he would be at rush to divulge anything about himself. And then the secret conversations with other women came to light and, even then, when questioned, he dismissed me as being silly. He said it was my fault for reading them. After all, if I hadn’t read them I wouldn’t have known about them and therefore wouldn’t be hurt. So I did it to myself. End of story, the past is the past…get over it was his motto. So secrecy for me is a huge red flag. If a person is not willing to be open and honest you have no solid foundation to build on.

  • I dated this guy. I trusted this guy. I invested in this guy- it’s called narcissistic personality disorder. I invested before I saw the reality of the person. All of what was said in this podcast resonated with me. Run from the person who says you can’t change them- they will judge and shame you over time. Making excuses for these people and being vulnerable is not ok- empaths do that. Find someone who lifts you up, who believes in you and wants to build with you!

  • 100% spot on. I would call the last flag “invalidation of your feelings”. And what about when you are being vulnerable when you show your feelings with a situation and in response to that someone claims that you’re just trying to make them feel guilty? That is so off-setting.

  • My red flag is when the relationship is heading for marriage but they don’t disclose their financial situation, like it won’t affect you so it’s non of your business. Ummmmmmm yes it does and will directly affect me!!!!!!

  • I think resistant to change is HUGE! Because this will highlight their reactions to unexpected situations and can also indicate that there is not much room for growth in their personal development and in other aspects of their lives including relationships.

    Learning to accept we don’t have control of everything was very hard for me because of my anxiety but as I got older I learned to accept that. I learned to trust myself and learned I can control how I react to any situation. Change is the only thing constant in this universe <3

  • Red flag: he won’t include you on family events/holidays after 3 1/2 years together. I just set a boundary with mine after repeatedly being hurt. Said that today was the last time this happens. I can’t survive feeling that way and “we” won’t survive that either. He apologized. Let’s see if his actions back up his words. Thank you for helping me get to this point.

  • I was in a relationship with a great guy (to whom I later god engaged for a few months), we were really getting along well. Honestly, I made him (unintentionally) feel a bit insecure, due to my own old insecurities i guess, but i always used to tell him that I need some time & he showed/told me that that’s PERFECTLY fine. However, after few months, my dad kept on putting too much pressure and treated him really rude…and eventually, my fiance took that step and broke up with me (over the phone – though it was quarantine- but I found it odd). I tried to stop that, and I tried contacting him to ask that we meet in person and talk about it. He kept delaying that meeting, providing different reasons; he needed time/ he hadn’t got the guts… and the last time we agreed on meeting 2 weeks later, but he never contacted me and we never met.
    I guess the red flag is “not being responsible enough”. But what disappointed me the most, was that he didn’t fight for me, and decided to walk away from problems with my dad and getting humiliated by him, rather than putting more effort trying to be the good son in law, or at least fight for our relationship (just the 2 of us) facing all the odds.

  • Yup, I had a boyfriend for 4 years who could never apologise. And then would insist he did. So glad to be rid of him.

  • My ex fiancee could never apologise, or if he did, he said it in anger and you could just tell it was not a genuine apology. He was incapable of change. He actually said to me in an argument “this is who I am. Deal with it.”
    He completely baffled me! We bought a house together and he asked me to marry him, yet he never made the effort to make quality time with me. I communicated with him and he would make me feel like I was asking the world of him or make out I was being unreasonable. We both worked full time jobs, had friends and hobbies on the side, yet I was willing and wanting to have time with him and would do my best to make it, but he would say he was busy or he wanted time for himself. This was always fine with me, but when it had been months since we had spent any quality time together I started to feel “why am I even here?” Every couple of months I communicated how I was feeling and he just kept being angry with me for bringing up “past problems” but they were problems that weren’t being fixed or even attempted to be fixed. After a while he would then see how closed off I was and would tell me I “needed to talk / communicate with him.” When I would say I have been but it doesn’t heard, the anger and guilt tripping started all over again.
    I always challenged myself, giving my partner the opportunity to tell me if I was doing something that made him upset but he would always tell me no.
    4 months before ending the relationship I told him he was going to lose me if things didnt change. We were together 4 years. The day I broke up with him he cried and said “so you aren’t even going to give us a second chance?” Which blew my mind. I couldn’t understand how after 2 years of telling him I was unhappy and 4 month prior telling him he was going to lose me, in his head, I was ‘throwing our relationship away’. I’ll never understand.

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