Content warning: This article contains mentions of or references to sexual and physical violence.
Even in the gloom of winter and a pandemic, love is in the air! When you’re looking for a special someone, it’s important that you put yourself first while you put yourself out there. Here are some red flags you should be aware of in a partner, or even work on for yourself!
Controlling behavior can come in many forms, but the major indicator of it is if you find yourself having to ask for permission to do things that only affect you. For example, if you have to ask them to hang out with your friends, go to parties or run errands, that’s a major red flag.
Another sign is if your partner is telling you when you can and can’t spend time with people besides them, or forces themselves into parts of your life before you’re ready.
If they're unwilling to hear you out or respect your distance, you guessed it — that’s another red flag.
A partner who loves you will not try to control you or replace everyone else in your life! While love and romance are all about vulnerability and sharing experiences together, it’s still important to maintain boundaries.
Entitlement to your body, emotions or time
Partners who respect each other recognize they're each separate human beings who are blessed enough to share time and space together. If your partner acts like you belong to them — and not in a cute Taylor Swift “You Belong With Me” kind of way — and expects you to give things up for them without talking to you first, demands that you agree with them on everything or touches you without your permission, that’s a major issue.
Even if it doesn’t seem serious yet, this kind of entitlement can escalate to more extreme situations, like pushing you into unwanted sexual activity. Cuddle partners who are very familiar with each other might know each other so well that explicitly asking for permission to cuddle, for example, might just not be necessary anymore.
But at the end of the day, a partner who truly loves you will always respect this: Your body, your feelings and your time are yours.
Hurtful words or actions
Everybody makes mistakes and does things they regret later. But if your partner keeps doing things that upset you, it’s important to talk about it — either to them, or to a trusted confidant.
If you bring up your feelings to your partner and they respond by gaslighting you, blaming you for their behavior or trying to convince you that you’re just overreacting, that’s an even bigger predicament.
And if your partner has ever physically hurt you or even made you scared by threatening you, breaking things or joking about hurting you, that’s not just a red flag — that’s a blaring alarm bell.
This is the exception to my general belief that everything can be fixed with more communication: If you feel unsafe, you don’t owe anybody forgiveness or second chances.
You deserve not only to be safe, but also to feel safe, too. No amount of apologies can make up for ever making you feel anything less, and it is not your responsibility to “fix” someone who is hurting you. Look out for yourself first, always.
Forgetfulness and lack of communication
This last one is not necessarily an indicator of a potentially abusive partner, but more of a sign that … well, your partner might not like you as much as you like them.
Unless there’s another reason you’re aware of, if you’re constantly the one reaching out, reminding them of special dates together and in general keeping the relationship going, I hate to break it to you, but chances are your partner just doesn’t care about you the way you care about them.
Now, there are a lot of reasons why someone might forget something — we’re literally in the midst of a global pandemic that has us battling financial insecurity, public health hazards and devastating deaths in our families all at once. But if you notice an inexplicable, pre-pandemic pattern that the relationship is one-sided, then it probably is!
If this is a person you’re willing to stick around for, even if you feel like you’re coming second to other priorities in their life, then by all means — do that. But if it’s taking a toll on your mental health, you might be better off by ending things, so you can focus on who matters most: you.
As wonderful and exhilarating as it is to love another person, you should always put yourself first. If you do feel your relationship is worth it (and only if the red flags aren’t a consistent pattern), tell your partner about your feelings! You might be surprised to find just how much more beautifully your love can bloom just by valuing your own emotions and experiences.
If you’re currently dating someone, make sure you have someone who’s not your partner in your life like a close friend or family member who will prioritize you in situations where you feel hurt or unsafe.
And if you know someone who needs help or have noticed any of these warning signs yourself, please consider using on-campus, confidential resources like Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance are still operating during the pandemic.
So happy Valentine’s Day, you beautiful, lovely person! Here’s to finding love with others and for ourselves.