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Relationship Red Flags

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

There are subtle and not so subtle signs a relationship won’t work out. The primary one I have learned to look for over the years is narcissism. Anyone who is very self-focused and believes their needs are more important than other people will doom a relationship.

This is, of course, not the DSM-V definition of narcissism, but the over-elevation of one’s self and unwillingness to take the needs of others into consideration is a huge roadblock for relationships. All successful relationships are a dance of give and take. There are times your needs will be paramount, and times you need to focus more on a partner. Narcissism prevents a person from being able to focus on someone else or/and give another person credit for being an autonomous, thoughtful adult.

There are six predictors or signs of narcissism I watch for in any new relationship. I cover each below with a brief explanation of why I see these behaviors as issues.

1. Texting and Driving

Thanks to PSA campaigns, by now we all know we shouldn’t text and drive. We have been told that the chance of getting in an accident while texting is exponentially higher than when you are not texting. The stats bear this out. Texting is a huge factor in car accidents.

Texting is not just bad driving behavior, it is narcissistic. When you text and drive, you make the decision that whatever text you need to read and send is somehow more important than anyone else’s health or well-being. The person who texts while driving takes the risk that they might harm or kill someone in order to satisfy the need to check their phone.

Yes, some texts are very important, as are some calls. Any driver has the ability to pull over and park momentarily to reply to a text. I do this in LA and San Francisco and other large cities. If an important text comes in, you can double-park for a minute if necessary to read and respond without killing someone. There is no excuse for this bad behavior.

2. Timeliness

Being on-time is a big deal to me, and should be to you. Yes, we all occasionally run late. Things happen: traffic accidents, bad parking, train crossings. But, chronic lateness is not cute, its not a joke, it is simply disrespectful.

When someone is chronically late, they are telling you their time and whatever they are doing is significantly more important that you, your plans, your needs and your time. Anyone who is chronically late for dates with you will never make you a priority in a relationship.

3. Always being “Busy.”

Americans have come to link being “busy” with their own value. This is a false relationship. We spend way more time doing things like social media, YouTube videos and watching television than we do just about anything else in our spare time.

Yes, people have kids and family commitments. Yes, people have demanding jobs. And, if someone cares about you, they will make time. I say this as a person who had a high-powered, high-profile job that required 60 to 70 percent travel. For people I cared about, I still made time.

If you are in a relationship with someone who is always “busy” and only willing to see you on their time schedule, it is a sign this relationship won’t work. If they won’t work with your schedule and priorities, if they demand that you bend to them and their needs but don’t reciprocate is a bad sign for the future.

4. Never Asking About Your Day First

I have had many relationships like this. Someone comes over- friend, partner, whatever- and I ask “How are you” or some such thing first. The person launches into whatever is going on in their life. We have an extended conversation about it and possibly other things .By the time they leave we have failed to get around to anything about what is happening in my life or how I am doing. Sometimes the omission is in purpose. Often it is accidental. I am an oversight and it is that way with everything in the relationship.

5. Inability to Put Their Phone Away

We are a society highly addicted to our smartphones. However, there are few reasons to stay connected to your device throughout a date.

If a partner has kids, they will most likely need to periodically check their phone throughout a night. Points of checking in, sending a good night text, and updating a babysitter are just practicalities of having kids at home.

A few people, very few people, have jobs that require they check their phone on the evenings or weekends. If a date simply cannot disconnect from their device for an hour to pay attention to you, you will never be as important to them as their phone.

I know many people who argue that they can reply to a text and other messages and still be present for a date. This simply is not psychologically possible. To reply to a text or other media prompt, they must take some of their attention from you and think about and reply to someone else.

Any good relationship prospect should be able to give you attention without their phone for at least an hour.

6. Not Taking Your Needs Into Consideration

We all have obscure needs when it comes to transportation, diet, and events. Whether you are a vegetarian, need help accessing someplace with a lot of stairs, or get overwhelmed when movies are too loud, we all have a thing.

A partner does not have to take every need into consideration every time you go out. But, a partner should remember that you don’t eat meat, or that you are sensitive to gluten so a beer bar is a bad idea, or that really loud action movies are too much for you to enjoy without earplugs. If a partner continually forgets these things, they are not paying attention to you and you know you are not a priority.


These things may not seem to be deal breakers for you. You may do a few of them. But, in a healthy relationship that will last, these things should not be present. If they are, you are dealing with someone who thinks they are more important than you and more important than most other people. I see these as things to be avoided.

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