13 Subtle Signs of a Bad Relationship

unhappy couple

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For people in the beginning stages of a relationship, there’s usually one hovering question in the air. 
Friends and relatives may ask it.
It has many variations, but what it comes down to is this:

Are they the right person for you…how do you know?

You might’ve heard, “It’s just a feeling; you know when you know.”
Or thought to yourself, “I love him. He just gets me.”
But how do you know?
When it comes to relationships, one thing is true:
Sometimes the signs of a bad relationship are subtle. So let’s talk about 13 common relationship red flags:

Related: How to Get the Guy: Learn the Secrets of the Male Mind

1. They’re Flaky

man using cellphone

You know that one person that never answers their phone?
That person that texts you, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes” and still shows up late?
Or that person that cancels plans because “something came up”?
Yeah, that person sucks. And who wants to be in a relationship with that person?
Here’s the thing:

When you’re invested in someone, then you’ll do whatever you can to see them. Even if that means for 30 minutes during your lunch break or a few minutes before work.

You’ll call them, text them, and fit in time to talk to them. Why? Because people make time for things that matter to them.
They don’t just show up late or fail to show up at all.
So if you’re with someone who constantly shows these signs of flakiness, then it could be a sign of a larger issue.
Sure, you could bring it to their attention and see if they change.
But, if they promise to change the first and second time you bring it up (but don’t) then they definitely won’t change the third, fourth, or tenth time you ask them, either.
Related: How to Get the Guy: Learn the Secrets of the Male Mind

2. Whenever you have good news to share…

couple holding hands

You don’t.
It might be a little thing, like a small win that happened at work, or a big project that you got finished.
If your first instinct to “just not mention it” then ask yourself why.
Just think about it:

We all have milestones in our lives that we want to share, and it’s important that we feel supported and uplifted.
So when you’re in a healthy and happy relationship, your first instinct is to tell them everything about your life.
You celebrate each other’s success. And if you feel like you can’t, then it’s one of the clear signs of a bad relationship.
Are you afraid they’d disapprove?
Are they a negative person?
Are they a bad listener?
Whatever the issue is, it can definitely lead to an unfulfilling relationship in the long-run.

3. No Matter How Much You Try, You Can’t Trust Them

woman using cellphone

Trust is one of the key elements of any relationship. So it’s no secret that without it, the relationship lacks stability.
But before you go thinking it’s all them, you’ll want to make sure it’s not jealous or insecure tendencies you have.
There is a chance that it’s you, not them.
But if you’ve already caught them doing stuff in the past, it can leave you questioning their motives.

Does it feel like some things don’t add up?
Do you wonder about the things they tell you or their whereabouts?
So many people have been through this. And the people who left always say they didn’t want to spend the rest of their life on the lookout.
I once heard someone who had been cheated on say:
“It doesn’t matter if she’s still with him or not – the point is that I’m always going to think that she is, so I’m ready to move on.”
I think he had a point.

Related: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

4. You Make Excuses for Them

two friends talking

He really wants to change.
She’s just going through a rough patch right now.
He’s been burned before, so that’s why he has trust issues.
But I know she cares about me.
Once you start making these kinds of excuses for their actions, then it’s usually the beginning of the end.
Sometimes the excuses happen immediately, sometimes they’re after months of let-downs and disappointments.

But regardless of when they start happening, it’s one of the obvious signs of a bad relationship.
I applaud you for trying to remain optimistic and make it last.
But here’s the deal:
It’s not worth holding on even a little longer if the relationship isn’t going to work.
So, if you’ve caught yourself making excuses, then it’s time to see those as warning signs pointing you to the exit.
Sometimes you just have to face reality and trust that it’s better to move on. Why continue down a path that doesn’t lead anywhere?

Related: No More Fighting: The Relationship Book for Couples: 20 Minutes a Week to a Stronger Relationship

5. There’s A lot of Family Drama

family get together

This may not be a red flag, but it’s at least an orange one.
There are usually two scenarios:
1. They don’t get along with their family.
2. Their family doesn’t get along with you.
If they don’t get along with their family because they have issues, then those issues will have affected them growing up.
If they don’t get along with their family because of their own issues, even worse.

And if their family dislikes you (even when they have no reason to), it can lead you down a road of perpetual awkwardness and unhappiness.
The ideal would be healthy, sane family members, having fun together when they see each other.
A family who relate to each other as adults, not stuck in a grownup/child dynamic.
When you’re around their family, you’ll learn a lot about the future of your relationship.

6. You Wonder if There’s Someone Better Out There

man looking out over lake

You know those exciting new feelings of a fresh relationship?
It’s fun, the chemistry is there, and you’re all wrapped up in the honeymoon phase.
When that phase passes, you might start seeing signs that you didn’t notice before.
Like, they want to move for a career and you’re happy where you’re at.
Or, you’re both opposites – and not the kind that attracts.
It’s not necessarily one of the signs of a bad relationship, instead, it’s a sign that you’re heading in different directions.
Whatever the reason for it, you might find yourself asking:

“Is this what I want? Is there someone better out there for me?”
Or, you picture yourself with someone else and dream about what that life would be like. 
Texas A&M University found that people were more likely to break up with their partner if they felt they could find someone better.
The sign here is that when you’re with the right person, all the other fish in the sea don’t seem as appealing as they did when you were single. 
You’ll want to nurture the relationship you already have instead of falling for the ‘greener’ grass on the other side.

Related: Mindful Relationship Habits: 25 Practices for Couples to Enhance Intimacy, Nurture Closeness, and Grow a Deeper Connection

7. They Struggle With Their Mental Health and Won’t Get Help

woman stressed

You can only play doctor, therapist, and parent for so long before you become emotionally drained.
If you’re naturally a caregiver, then you might start feeling responsible for their issues.
Except, you’re not.
Of course, you want them to get better, but part of getting better means seeking help. You should provide emotional support where you can, but you can’t let it run your life.
These days, there is plenty of help available for people who suffer from mental illness.
(Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or something else).

If you’ve told them many times to get help and they still aren’t trying – then it’s time to make a decision.
What’s worse:
If your relationship has been falling apart and they still refuse to get help, then it might be time to move on. 

Don’t let guilt hold you back from being happy.
Take care of yourself.
After all, isn’t that what you’re asking them to do?

8. You’re Not Aligned

couple holding hands

This is one of the most obvious signs of a bad relationship.
And there are three common reasons someone might not feel aligned in their relationship:

  • You’re ignoring one of your dealbreakers
  • Your goals ultimately clash
  • You’re trying to change them

We all have key qualities that we look for in a partner. Aside from the foundation of a relationship, there are other things you value too.
So don’t ignore your dealbreakers.
Why? Because when you try to ignore them, then you’ll end up trying to change that person.
There’s always room for improvement, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to change the person you’re with. 
It doesn’t work and it only wastes precious time – that you can’t get back once it’s gone.

Related: I Do!: A Marriage Workbook for Engaged Couples

9. They Bring Out Your Worst

couple arguing

Relationships aren’t all sunshine and roses all the time. They take patience and dedication.
But, no amount of patience and dedication can fix a relationship between two people who just aren’t right for each other.
Relationships are supposed to bring out your best. You’re a team. Unfortunately, many people stay in relationships that drag them down.
You look at yourself and don’t even recognize who you’ve become.
Your friends and family notice that you act differently.
People don’t want to be around you and them because it makes them uncomfortable. 
This can easily happen when you get caught up in your feelings for someone, and it might not be something you recognize right away.
You can still love them even though they don’t bring out your best, so don’t let that cloud your judgment. 
They might not even be a bad person, they just might be bad for you.

Related: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married

10. They Aren’t Committed

man looking out over water

Have you danced around the issue of commitment with them?
Are they “just not ready for a relationship”?
Or do they want to “get it together” before you guys try to make it work?
The truth is, if they want to commit, then they will. If they don’t, then there’s nothing you can do to force it.
Don’t ignore this. It’s one of the plainest signs of a bad relationship.
(Besides, why would you even want to force someone to be with you?)

People commit because they want a future with you, and the thought of losing you is scary. If they aren’t committing, then it could be because they aren’t afraid of losing you.
Sure, they may enjoy the time you spend together, but they enjoy keeping their options open more.
You shouldn’t have to question whether you’ll have a future with someone.

Related: How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

11. They Make You Feel Bad About Yourself

stressed out man

And it’s usually because they feel bad about themselves, so it’s a vicious cycle.
But you’re not their punching bag and they should work through their own issues first. No happy and mentally healthy person wastes time trying to tear someone else down.
Does they nitpick what you do?
Are they a negative voice when you’re together?
Do they embarrass you around your friends and family?
A good partner sees your success as their own success.
They try to help you improve your imperfections instead of fixating on them.
We’re already hard enough on ourselves. The LAST thing we need is for someone else to be hard on us. 

Related: I Love You But I Don’t Trust You: The Complete Guide to Restoring Trust in Your Relationship

12. They Don’t Invest in You

woman looking out over water

Between work, family, kids, and life – things tend to get a little busy.
But in a world where we’re constantly reachable by phone, text, or email, it’s important to discuss boundaries.
Can you both agree to unplug from those distractions?
It doesn’t mean they have to drop everything to be by your side every free minute.
…but you don’t want to feel like you’re fighting their phone for attention, either.
People can still get a lot of sh-t done and also prioritize their relationship.
After being with someone for a while, sometimes you just have to work at keeping the fire going.
And if you can’t talk and agree on times to ‘unplug’ and spend quality time together, then it could be a sign that you’re last on their list.  
A relationship is a two-way street, and you shouldn’t be left feeling like you’re the only one who makes an effort. 

Related: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship

13. You Just Feel it in Your Gut

woman sitting on kitchen counter drinking coffee

One of the last signs of a bad relationship is that feeling you have in your gut. If there’s something telling you that the relationship feels off, then it probably is.
But it’s a scary thing to admit.
Why? Because you’ve already invested time and energy into making it work – and you care about them.
Here’s the thing:
Every relationship has peaks and valley. That’s life.
But if you find yourself regularly questioning if they’re right for you or not, then the answer is probably the latter.
Think about what you’re missing with the right person.
The more time you spend with someone who isn’t right for you, then the more time it takes away from the person who is.
Trust your intuition, always.

Recapping the 13 Signs of a Bad Relationship

  • They’re flaky
  • Whenever you have good news to share…you share it with someone else
  • You can’t trust them
  • You make excuses for them
  • There’s a lot of family drama
  • You wonder if there’s someone better out there
  • They struggle with mental health and won’t get help
  • You’re not aligned
  • They bring out your worst
  • They aren’t committed
  • They make you feel bad about yourself
  • They don’t invest in you
  • You just feel it in your gut


3 Resources for a Better Love Life:

  • Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay or Get Out of Your Relationship
  • Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married
  • No More Fighting: The Relationship Book for Couples: 20 Minutes a Week to a Stronger Relationship


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