Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm in an unhealthy relationship - 5 red flags to look out for

Dear Social Shrink,

I started seeing this guy for a couple of weeks now. I really like him but my friends have been telling me I should stop seeing him because they feel like he is taking up all my time. I agree, I have been spending a lot of time with him, but that's what happens in new relationships, right? 

I find our relationship is coming between me and my friends and I don't want it to. When I told my boyfriend about what my friends said, he told me that my friends aren't happy for me and I should cut them off. Even my mom told me she is worried about how my relationship is progressing and my boyfriend doesn't like it when I talk to her. 

I know he just cares about me and wants me to spend time with him but I want to show my friends and family I still care about them while being with my boyfriend. What should I do? (Oakland, CA)

Social Shrink:  Your post worries me for a couple of reasons. 

First, it's great that you have started a new relationship that you are happy with but you should ask yourself, are you really happy with this guy? Someone who asks you to choose between them and your friends/family is not a healthy person for you to be around. These are red flags that could lead to a very unhealthy relationship. 

Second, when you choose your new boyfriend over your friends and family, you become more isolated and it will be harder to reach out to them when you need them the most. Your mom and friends are probably worried for you for good reason. I'm not saying that your new boyfriend is completely the wrong person for you, but you should definitely be aware of the signs that could lead to a controlling relationship.  

You should take a look at these red flags that could lead to an unhealthy relationship and eventually a domestic violence relationship; this goes for everyone whether you are dating a new boyfriend or girlfriend:

1) If your partner tries to isolate you from others.  
2) If your partner needs to know where you are at all times - you get several missed calls within a short period of time or find that you need to explain yourself and where you've been.  
3) If your partner accuses you of cheating when you give no reason for them to think that way (i.e. if you simply check your phone and they blow it up to something else).  
4) If your partner tells you they cannot live without you and may threaten to harm you or someone you love, if they tell you they will hurt themselves if you leave them; though this may seem like flattery, it is a way to manipulate you into staying with them.  
5) If your partner seems to move way to fast, they tell you they love you after a few days, tells you they want to marry you/have children with you without even getting to know you.

Of course there are many more signs, please check out for more information.

Again, I'm not saying your boyfriend is totally wrong for you, he may not even know what he is doing is controlling behavior. But now that you are aware of these signs, you can address them with him.  
If he is willing to change and accept your life (including your friends and family), then this could lead to a great relationship! If he seems go under a lot of the red flags above, then I suggest you end the relationship as soon and safely as you can. Please update us on how you are doing and how the relationship is going, good luck!


  1. Hi Social Shrink,
    While I believe your advice is good, I agree with the writer that in starting a relationship, that's simply what happens. I understand you are looking out for the reader and trying to promote a healthy relationship, but come on, how many people are really in those kind of relationships that need "red flags"? I feel like while you are trying to educate, you are not being realistic. It's the beginning of their relationship, of course they need to give up things like friends and family. That's just what happens when you meet someone.

  2. I agree in the way that yes, a relationship takes up time. But it doesn't take up THAT much time (especially only 3 weeks in!) When your friends and family start wondering where you are and why you're not around often, that may be a sign that you're spending too much time with your SO.

    Also, in this specific situation, when your boyfriend says that "they aren't happy for you and you should cut them off," that's a bad sign that it's probably going to go south. Your SO should never suggest you cut off your friends. That's a bad way of taking control. He wants you for yourself, and while it can sound cute, it can lead to many problems.

    Do NOT cut off your friends! This is just a sign that he's trying to take control of your life.

  3. Yes, at the beginning of a relationship you want to spend time together, but if you forget everything and everyone else along the way you may end up with no one and relying on this 1 man for everything. 3 weeks in and the bf is saying "you should cut them off" is not good. I was in a relationship for 12yrs with issues like this and was not happy. If you do whatever he wants whenever he wants he will realise he can control you, plus it may also be a personality trait of his. Now i'm with a new man and I say to the writer, as I have done this time, start as you mean to go on... give each other time and space, absense makes the heart grow they say.

  4. The first poster is totally brain washed. You should not have to give up people that really care for you because of a new relationship. It can be a matter of managing time, but people really do get into those kinds of relationships! I have lost friends because they let themselves become victims with controlling boyfriends. It got so bad that my friend was turning on me protecting the abuser when all I did was give them advice when they asked for it with best interest at heart. It is realistic because this happens.

  5. My ex boyfriend told me that my best friend is selfish and is just using me. Then he told me that my roommates are mean and fought with one of them leading to a lot of trouble for me. He wouldn't talk to anyone and always had bad things to say about people. I thought people must have been too mean to him in the past. In about six months my friends and I stopped talking. The relationship turned into an physically abusive one and I couldn't concentrate on my studies. He would always say that he couldn't live without me and all the above red flags were true in my case. It was my first relationship so it took me about 8 months to realize that I had to get out. Thank god I finally got out and met my current boyfriend of almost 3 years now. I think you should be very careful and not ignore your friends coz they are your support system. If a person tells you to cut off your friends and family there is something wrong with them.

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