So often people ignore red flags because they want to believe the person they’re dating is someone who they aren’t.  They focus only on the positive aspects of the person while overlooking the glaringly obvious negatives.  They want to believe that the person is great for them.  For example, Mr. Prince Charming is, in fact, tall and handsome with a great career….but his drinking or drug abuse isn’t an issue.  Or, you’ve met a great gal, but that great gal isn’t quite over her ex.  

Here are three common red flags my patients speak to me about:

  1. Alcohol and drug abuse.  These spell nothing but trouble and your relationship is doomed from the start.  Abusing drugs or alcohol suggests poor coping skills, poor health, possible financial troubles, and maybe even lying and deceit to cover up such behavior.
  2. Bad mouthing their ex.  Doing this is akin to speaking negatively about your previous employer on a job interview.  Both show a lack of accountability and really are just about blaming others.  Furthermore, if he or she is speaking negatively about their ex now, you might, at some point, be the future ex that he talks so poorly about.
  3. Married or not over his or her ex.  You deserve way more than to be the other guy or girl.  You should be your new partner’s #1 and not settle to simply be someone’s rebound.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself making excuses for the person you’re dating:

  1. Self-Reflection:  It’s important to examine your own feelings and motivations in the relationship. Take time to assess whether you have been ignoring or downplaying any concerns, fears, or doubts. Understanding your own emotional state will help you approach the situation with clarity.
  2. Identify Patterns:  Look for consistent signs of disrespect, manipulation, or control. Often, red flags are not isolated incidents but recurring behaviors that can gradually erode the foundation of a relationship. By recognizing these patterns, you can gain a broader perspective on the health of the relationship.
  3. Trust Your Gut: Trusting your intuition is crucial. Pay attention to any nagging doubts or uneasy feelings. If something doesn’t feel right, then it likely isn’t right. It’s important not to dismiss it. Your instincts can alert you to potential red flags that may be difficult to pinpoint logically.
  4. Seek External Perspective: Trusted friends, family members, or a therapist might be able to provide outside perspective that you may not see. They can offer a fresh and objective viewpoint.  In addition, by understanding what constitutes a healthy and respectful relationship you’ll recognize red flags more easily.
  5. Set Boundaries:  Establish clear boundaries within the relationship. Boundaries help protect your emotional well-being and maintain a sense of self-respect. Communicate your expectations and values to your partner, and observe how they respond. If he or she is not receptive to your concerns, then that’s a clear red flag. 
  6. Take Action: Recognizing red flags is only the first step; taking action is crucial. Prioritize your well-being and make decisions that align with your long-term happiness. If red flags persist despite attempts to address them, it may be time to jump ship.

Ultimately, it’s about making proactive choices and doing what’s best for yourself. By implementing the strategies above, you can develop the awareness and courage to recognize red flags and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and create a healthier relationship dynamic.

For more helpful tips, check out Jonathan’s book: Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.


  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert