Building and maintaining healthy relationships is an important part of adult development; a large majority of humans spend their early adult lives searching for a compatible partner to have children and build their life with. This is no easy task, though! Relationships require mutual commitment, dedication, and trust, and many of the relationships that begin in youth end because of a lack of one of these things. The key to a successful long-term relationship does not just involve what others bring to the table, but being aware of your own needs and what your expectations are for each relationship you’re in. So, while there are definitely behaviors to look out for in potential partners that could be considered “red flags” in long-term romantic relationships, it is equally important to recognize when your own behaviors may veer toward the red zone as well.
Most people seek out romantic relationships for similar reasons: they want to feel loved, to share an intimate connection with someone else, and to build a life with them. In this search, each person has a story they tell themselves about how their relationships will begin, develop, and how they will be maintained. If your story of your relationship is drastically different than your partner’s, this could lead to some difficult conversations and possibly to the ending of the relationship in general. The beginning of relationships is filled with excitement, attraction, a bit of anxiety or nervousness, and feelings of infatuation that come from showering each other with attention and admiration. Once you begin to settle into a comfortable, intimate relationship, the initial excitement fades but what is left in its place can be a deep, rich, intimate connection, the likes you have experienced with no one else… But, that’s only if you see the “red flags” before you dive in too deep with a partner who isn’t right for you.
Here are some of these “red flags” to be aware of when looking for a long-term partner:
- Long-term relationships require both partners to have similar compatibility with lifestyle, sexuality, finances, etc. If one partner is ready for marriage and children while the other is nowhere close to this milestone, their relationship is doomed to end or to continue with one partner being resentful of giving in to their partner’s choice. Similarly, if the partners do not have the same libido or sexual compatibility, this can also lead to problems in a relationship where a partner may try to go outside of their committed relationship to get an unmet need met. Differences in how finances should be addressed and spent is another major red flag in a relationship and could cause significant strain in long-term relationships.
- Everyone has beliefs about the world and how it should be run. Some of these beliefs come from religion, some of these beliefs come from education or literature, and others come from family and the way they were raised. No matter where a couple develops their values about the world, finding a partner with similar views will lead to a better chance at a sustainable long-term relationship. Those who struggle with differences of opinion politically, religiously, sexually, socially, etc. often struggle to remain a cohesive and loving unit.
- Lack of
- When relationships begin, the infatuation stage can cause many people to want to spend all of their time with the one they love. While this is a healthy part of developing a cohesive partnership, if there are no boundaries and rules established it can lead to its demise. A healthy relationship assures that each partner feels mutually respected, included, and involved in the relationship while maintaining privacy, personal space and time for themselves.
- Lack of
- Similar to lack of boundaries, some couples become enmeshed with one another where they struggle to have independence and see themselves as separate people. This can be suffocating for partners after some time and can lead to jealousy, controlling behavior, and many other things. It is important to have and maintain separate interests, hobbies, and relationships where partners can have individual experiences that bring them joy that do not have to involve their partner.
- Lack of
- Whether it be a romantic relationship, friendship, or collegial relationship, everyone is looking to partner up with others who appear to have good social judgment. Social judgment involves being able to make the right choice in a social situation and not to cause others to feel awkward, embarrassed, angry, or upset. If a partner struggles with these things, it can make it difficult for their romantic partner or support them and not experience negative feelings when associated with them.
- Lack of
- Communication is obviously one of the most important parts of a relationship; being able to trust, confide in, and talk with your partner about anything and everything is one of the main facets of a truly intimate relationship. When partners struggle with communicating about negative experiences or struggles, relationships tend to fall apart.
- Everyone has a past, but some people’s may be darker or more complicated than others. When getting involved in a romantic relationship and wanting it to last, it is important to be able to communicate with that partner about things that have happened and to avoid keeping things secret in an effort not to hurt them or for some other reason. This all goes back to communication, as mentioned above. If a person feels the need to hide things from the one they love, or to hide the one they love from others, this clearly shows lack of social judgment that is necessary to strengthen a relationship.
- Any controlling, manipulative, behavior including physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse can severely impact a relationship and the partners inside it. If you, or someone you know is experiencing any of these kinds of abuses, there is help. Call or go online to the National Domestic Violence Hotline here: https://www.thehotline.org/ 1−800−799−7233
Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events