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Ever been on a date where everything is going really well, but later, you realize that you felt uncomfortable at one point during the evening?
In hindsight, you realize that it was something your date did that just left your scalp tingling and caused a knot in your stomach. It was a red flag.
Being aware of red flags in men is a vital skill if you are going to date safely and successfully. Sadly, we are conditioned “not to be picky” and to be pleasant and polite when we should actually listen to our gut and get out if needed.
Many an awkward and even dangerous date can be avoided by simply watching for the warning signs before the date goes wrong.
What are these warning signs you should be mindful of? It’s time to know your flags and take the safe route out when needed. Here’s what to look out for and why these are all red flag signs.
What Are Red Flags?
The color red is commonly used as a warning or a sign of danger, so a red flag in dating is a characteristic, trait, or behavior that suggests your date isn’t safe or a good match for you. It’s a clear indication that there are potential risks to dating, being friends with, or working with such a person.
The more red flags a person has, the more careful you need to be. Actually, that’s a sign that you should run as quickly and as far away as possible from the unhealthy or toxic person.
Not all red flags indicate serious danger. Some are probably more like yellow flags that indicate you should slow down and be cautious. The person with yellow flag behavior may be uninteresting or unpleasant.
But a red flag almost always indicates danger or future harm, and that should be a big no-no in your dating rule book.
We don’t often recognize red flags in people, and we may think it’s a challenge or that living so close to the edge (in danger) is fun. It’s not. Not heeding a red flag will land you in a pot of boiling water—and you will get burned.
Remember, seeing red flag behavior means stay away. Why would you want to date someone who is a threat to you – whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally?
Plus, a red flag is meant to stop you investing in a relationship that will only end in hurt and heartache.
The Dangers of Ignoring Red Flags When Dating
Not all red flags are easy to spot in a person, and some will only show up when your date drops their mask, showing aspects of their true self.
It’ll catch you unawares, and you may be so deep in the relationship that you are trapped and can’t get out. And that’s what makes red flags so dangerous – the fact that they aren’t (always) so easily recognizable.
The stakes of identifying red flags are well captured in this quote by Margaret Atwood: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
While some relationships embody life-threatening situations, missing or catching red flag behavior is the difference between getting too close to a toxic person and avoiding them.
Don’t be so enamored by a romantic partner that you can’t see the red flags for what they are: warnings. The potential consequences of turning a blind eye to red flags and not acting accordingly could mean that:
25 Red Flags in Men You Should Avoid at All Costs
Our communication happens with words (verbal) and physical (non-verbal) signs, but there are often signs that are less clear to define.
Paying attention and being mindful of what your date is signaling is how you stay safe and avoid taking things further with a gargoyle.
Of course, not all men will show their true colors up front, but the majority may drop hints if you are aware and not blinded by charm.
When you realize there are red flags in the guy you’re with, remember that it’s never too late to get out.
Here are some red flag signs that tell you he’s not a keeper and should be avoided.
1. He’s Emotionally Unavailable
I recently had a date with a guy who could only talk about himself, his life, and his feelings (and thoughts, and whatever else came up in his self-obsessed little mind).
I realized he was emotionally closed off, and the chances were pretty big that he’d never be emotionally available to me in any future relationship.
While he talked a lot, he never really shared any true vulnerability or humanness. When I did try to steer things to more sensitive topics like his childhood or his family, he shut down pretty quickly.
Someone like him would struggle with genuine emotional intimacy, and I didn’t go on a second date as I knew any type of mature bonding wouldn’t be possible.
2. He Doesn’t Share Your Relationship Goals
A relationship is about seeing eye to eye about where your relationship is going. If your man has different goals than you, it will create chaos and future issues, which may mean your relationship isn’t on the right track.
Having different goals can be a huge red flag, and don’t for one second believe you will change a man’s mind once you “have” him.
Discuss your goals, checking if they are genuine about their goals. So talk about all the important stuff (that truly matters) like money, children, marriage, careers, retirement, family, and growth. See if you face the same direction or not.
3. He’s an Addict
Someone I know said that an addict has a first love – their addiction – and you’ll never be better than that love. So if the man you are seeing is addicted (to anything), it’s a HUGE red flag and a clear exit sign from the relationship.
The trick is knowing when something is an addiction and when it’s just a habit or entertainment. It’s not like addicts advertise their status in a new (or even older) relationship.
So be wary of signs of addiction, such as regular and heavy drinking, jitters (signaling substance abuse), gambling or thrill-seeking addiction, and always being short on money (meaning they blew their cash on gambling, porn, or other addictive habits).
4. He’s Controlling
You are meant to run your own life, and if your date tries to make decisions for you, such as deciding what you need to order (or ordering for you without even knowing what you like), choosing your outfits, telling you what to wear, or never letting you decide about anything, you know he is a controlling man.
The thing with control is that the controller never wants to give it up, and this applies to more than just sharing the remote control.
Controlling behavior is a clear red flag, so don’t miss it. Being controlling isn’t limited to relationships where there’s a big age gap.
Even younger couples may find one partner being the dominating and controlling one. You want a partner, not a parent, so don’t let a controlling man enter your life.
5. He’s Persistently and Irrationally Jealous and Doesn’t Trust You
They say that jealousy makes you nasty, and this is absolutely true.
When you notice a man is always being irrational about where you go, who you were with, why you are wearing something, or what you spent money on, it’s a warning sign that he is jealous, and he doesn’t trust you at all.
Trust is really important to any relationship, so your man needs to trust you implicitly, or you won’t be able to trust him. And in a twist of fate, it’s often the jealous man who ends up cheating on his partner, so don’t set yourself up for failure.
Being in a relationship with a jealous man isn’t healthy and will cause you to walk on eggshells to try and appease his insecurities. What may start as a “cute” bit of jealousy, can quickly turn into a nasty red flag.
6. He’s Abusive
When he raises his hand to you, it’s time to raise yours to open the door and leave.
If a man threatens violence or actually engages in an act of violence against you, it’s a HUGE red flag. There is no happy ending to a relationship with an abusive man.
Abusers lack all empathy with others, and all they see is their version of what happens, which is always one where their actions are justified.
Abuse also tends to escalate, and what may start as a friendly slap on the rump can quickly turn to fists, strangulation, and violence that will put you in hospital or the grave.
Is it worth staying in a relationship with a man who is so blatantly waving a red flag at you? NO.
7. He Always Talks about “Crazy Exes” and Old Flames
A man who enjoys telling you about his past partners and all their flaws is engaging in self-gratification by making himself seem great by belittling others.
Remember, if you are one of his exes, he’ll likely discuss you in the same way with his next partner.
You want a man who is mature enough to admit that he also had a hand in a previous relationship not working out.
Being adult enough to own up to his flaws is a sign of quality, while blaming his ex is a sign of disrespect and a lack of integrity.
8. He’s Super Focused on You or Codependent
Men are the hunters, while women were the gatherers in prehistoric times, so it makes sense that men “hunt” their future mate.
However, if you’ve only just met the guy, and he’s already planning weekends away with you, constantly showing up to see you, and follows you around like a lost puppy, he’s a big warning sign.
Relationships should evolve naturally, without one person trying to force the other to love them.
You want a man, not a puppy, and you certainly don’t want someone who becomes obsessed with you. Avoid codependent relationships, or you will soon feel trapped.
9. He’s a Cheater
Infidelity is a big and angry red flag. If your new partner cheats on his current partner with you, remember that if they can do it with you, they can do it to you.
You want to be in a relationship that fosters trust, not one that’s built on lies.
If you realize your current date has a history of cheating, you know what future awaits you if you stay. Choose better for yourself and leave. You won’t make a leopard change his spots.
10. He Gaslights and Manipulates You
Being with a manipulative man isn’t healthy. If he starts using manipulation tactics like gaslighting and isolation, your warning signs are flashing large and red. Be wary of a relationship where a man is constantly making you feel like you are losing your mind.
A man who is isolating you from your friends and family and making you feel as if you’d done something wrong is engaging in emotional abuse.
Nobody has the right to tamper with your take on reality, nor should they make you question your version of the truth. If this is the case, it’s time to leave ASAP.
11. He Has No Friends or Hobbies
We are often attracted to the lone wolf, the man of mystery, who doesn’t seem to have many hobbies or friends, but this type of man may be wrong for you, for all the possible reasons.
It may be that this man is alone because he can’t connect to others, is unreliable, and lacks the drive and dedication needed to sustain a relationship.
Perhaps he is unable to look after his own needs due to his own traumas, which will then transfer to his not looking after you if you try to be in a relationship with him.
12. He Love Bombs You
A large bouquet of 100 roses may seem like an incredibly sweet gesture after that first date, but it could also be an attempt at love bombing you into liking him more than you should.
Love bombing isn’t a case of someone really liking or loving you. Instead, being love bombed is a clear manipulation tactic being used to make you more complacent about watching out for those red flags.
The love bombing man could be looking for ways to gain your affections simply, so he can abuse and break you.
13. He Breadcrumbs You
This next red flag is a truly vicious one and indicates a man is truly intentional in his falsehood and bad intentions.
If he seems like a nice guy, though he’s not really showing signs of wanting to commit to you, you may soon lose interest in him and move on. But a man who keeps you within his reach, despite not wanting to commit to you, is leaving breadcrumbs.
You are being led astray by tiny bits of encouragement, just so he can continue using you. If you pull back, he’ll lure you closer with promises and more breadcrumbs. It’s a game to him, and you’re the one that loses by staying.
14. He Doesn’t Respect Your Boundaries
Being with a man who realizes that you are entitled to your boundaries is important to having a healthy and balanced relationship.
You and your partner don’t have to (nor should you) live in each other’s skins. There are boundaries that are meant to keep you on the straight and narrow and protect you from neglect and disrespect.
What are your boundaries? Do you prefer not to kiss before the third date? If you are with a partner who forces a kiss on you on the first date, then he isn’t respecting your boundaries, which undercuts your rights.
15. He Has Mommy Issues
Whenever you fight, he runs to his mom. Talk about a HUGE red flag (or is it a red diaper?)! Men should be independent and weaned from their mothers. After all, he’s in a relationship with you, not his mother.
While it’s endearing to have a man who loves his mother, you also don’t want him comparing you to her, trying to make you more like her, or inviting her into every aspect of your lives. You’re his lover, girlfriend, or wife, not his mother.
16. He Makes Poor Financial Decisions
Love makes the world go round, but money pays the bills. When you enter a relationship, you share most things, including your joint financial futures.
A man who struggles to work with money, has unhealthy spending habits, and doesn’t have the same relationship with money as you is sure to make financial decisions that will cost you dearly.
Do you really have to hang around until he puts you into serious debt before you pack your belongings (and your savings) and head out the door?
17. He’s Self-Centered
While having a healthy self-esteem is a desirable quality, you shouldn’t be with a man who is all about me, myself, and I.
The relationship can’t be about him alone. So if your man is constantly turning everything, so it’s about him, it’s a warning sign that he doesn’t see or understand you.
Your discussions will always be about him, making him the dominant partner, while leaving you with nothing. Choose better.
18. He’s Unreliable
You waited for two hours at the restaurant for him to shop up, but he never arrived. A relationship with someone who is unreliable is doomed to failure. Relationships are like a two-person canoe.
It takes two to paddle, or you spin in circles. Likewise, if your man isn’t paddling his end, you’re just spinning wheels and will be left waiting.
Choose a man who is reliable and knows to pull his weight to steer the relationship forward.
You’ll do well not to go for a man who is unreliable as you’d end up being the designated driver for your union.
19. He’s Rude
Rudeness is a sign of being mean, self-centered, and emotionally immature. Being consistently rude means your man has no manners, is irresponsible, has poor judgment, and doesn’t care about others.
There’s a big difference between standing your ground with firmness and being rude. Don’t confuse the two, or you’ll be receiving some scathing comments too.
20. He’s Superficial and Wishy-Washy
You want to be with a partner who is dependable and steadfast. Don’t let a “schoolboy” into your life—you know, the one who gets caught up in his own drama and never shows up to support you.
While he may shower you with affection, he’s low on talking about deep stuff like commitment and values.
This type of man will string you along for months while he enjoys all the perks of the relationship with no sign of him ever committing to marriage or even an exclusive relationship.
21. He Doesn’t Listen
Your partner should listen to you, understand you, and really see you. This is the only way to feel seen, get gotten, and be understood.
When your date doesn’t listen to you, he’s caught up in his mind, thinking about what to say next. Or, he’s thinking about the game this weekend, how hot the new barista is, how he can see down your shirt, or how many emails he needs to catch up on.
There’s a reason why communication is so essential in a healthy relationship, and listening is a significant aspect of that.
A blank stare, incorrect response, or a “huh?” are yellow flags, and when these become a constant, they become flashing red flags (and a sign you should leave the relationship).
You are worthy of respect and to be heard.
22. He Lacks Self-Awareness
He acts without thinking. A raised voice, defensive words, and getting upset over things in an unreasonable way are all signs that he is not self-aware.
Being self-aware means you know what the impact of your actions will be in a situation, which makes you act, not react.
Self-awareness brings self-control and self-respect.
If your man doesn’t have those vital things, he’s likely to have little awareness of his impact on you.
He won’t see how what he’s doing is hurting you or how he’s betraying you. Without that self-awareness and self-control he won’t want to nor be able to change.
A healthy relationship requires two partners with some self-awareness, or he’s going to end up hurting you all the time.
23. He’s a Liar
Sure, everyone lies, but it’s usually to save someone’s feelings. Or we tell a white lie to get us out of a situation. But can you really believe and trust a guy who is a compulsive liar? No, right?
Dating a guy who’s a pathological liar will only lead to heartbreak for you. You’ll never know when they are being genuine and telling the truth and you’ll constantly be disappointed (and feel betrayed) to learn that they lied—yet again.
24. He Doesn’t See You
We all have a need to feel seen and understood, so imagine you’re dating a guy who doesn’t see you? Oh, he values you—but only in terms of what you can do for him. Who you are as an individual has no value.
When you speak, it falls on deaf ears. This guy will also walk all over you, changing the topic mid-conversation, canceling plans (without informing you), and doing what’s right for him, never taking you, your needs, or your feelings into consideration.
Your opinions don’t matter because you’re just a warm body or a trophy to him.
That’s a big red flag, and while the sex may be great, you need more to make a relationship work.
25. He Thinks He’s God’s Gift to the Ladies
I once dated a guy who thought he was “God’s gift” to everyone, especially the ladies. He was perfect in his own eyes, almost God-like or a Superman who could do no wrong.
He was the handsomest, most intelligent, hardest worker I’d ever met—or so he believed (and constantly told me).
Needless to say, this is an ego-sized warning sign that kinda flashes before you. It’s hard to miss.
This man who believes he can do no wrong wants you to reinforce that high self-image every step of the way. He expects compliments and ego stroking, and being honest about his faults will only land you in hot water.
Final Thoughts about Red Flags in Men
Red flag behavior isn’t a game. Ignoring red flags in a man will lead to an unhappy and toxic relationship, and the more involved you become with this unhealthy man, the more challenging it becomes to untangle yourself from him and the relationship.
You are worthy of better. So watch out for a guy who is emotionally unavailable, who doesn’t listen, who controls, manipulates, gaslights, lovebombs, leaves breadcrumbs, and abuses.
Other red flags in men include being rude, unreliable, self-obsessed, and jealous. If you didn’t see the red flags when you started dating someone, know that there are benefits to ending an unhealthy relationship.
However, safely leaving your toxic boyfriend can be challenging. So follow these 15 steps to safely get out of a toxic relationship.
And if you're looking for more articles on relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 7 Steps to Overcome Insecurities in a Relationship
- I Hate My Husband: 13 Reasons Why You Feel This Way
- 5 Steps to Stop Love Bombing Someone in Your Life