relationship red flags: when to say goodbye to that boyfriend (or girlfriend)

I had a hilarious conversation with my daughter today about middle school relationships:

Kayden: Did you know kids actually KISS in the hallway?

Mom: Really?

Kayden: Yeah. Literally on the lips. 

Mom: Wow. Is it gross?

Kayden: Completely. And they don’t even really know how, so it’s kinda funny. (She proceeds to show me this giraffe neck attempt to kiss a pretend boyfriend)

Having been a teacher for 18 years, I’ve seen my share of awkward high school hallway shenanigans. Hand holding, hugging (between every class is necessary!), and even kissing is often proof of relationship status. I’ve witnessed some stuff that screams danger zone, stuff that makes me want to take these kids home, sit them down with a big piece of chocolate cake, and tell them they are worth far more than what’s happening in that hallway.

There are definitely relationship red flags that students need to be able to recognize; and when these things start to happen, it’s time to say good-bye and move on to greener pastures. 

Red Flag #1  – You’re all mine

When a boyfriend or girlfriend starts saying things like, “You belong to me” or gets jealous of time you spend with your friends, it could be a red flag. A healthy relationship will always be inclusive of other friends and relationships. When I was still dating my husband, he always encouraged me to spend time with my girlfriends. A relationship that excludes other people is definitely a red flag.

Red Flag #2 – If you really love me…

Any time someone opens a sentence with “If you really love me…” you know the relationship is conditional. Not that every high school relationship is perfect, but you should never have to DO something in order to receive someone’s love. This includes (but is definitely not limited to) physical affection, money, or sexting. No one has the right to make you “earn” love. Real love is given freely and unconditionally.

Red Flag #3 – When it comes to push or shove…

Physical violence is NEVER okay. Pushing, shoving, grabbing, hitting, slapping…I shouldn’t have to list every possibility. Physical violence isn’t just a red flag, it’s a RUN FAST and don’t look back.

Red Flag #4 – Ultimatums

If someone threatens to break up with you if you don’t do something they want, then they probably don’t have your best in mind. Threats are a sure fire way to develop distrust. You can’t feel safe with someone who is always giving ultimatums. Good relationships have good two way communication. No one person calls all the shots.

Red Flag #5 – Name calling

Even if someone likes to joke, a boyfriend or girlfriend who uses racial slurs or slang names that make you feel uncomfortable is not someone you want to spend your time with. If you are being called names by the person who supposedly “loves” and cares for you, you aren’t being built up. Love is gentle and kind, not vulgar and crude.

Red Flag #6 – Liar, liar

Watch how your significant other treats other people: teachers, parents, coaches. Watch if he or she tells them the truth. See what kind of respect he or she shows authority. Even if it’s not now, down the road it’s likely he will do the same to you. White lies turn into big black ones – and if someone is willing to lie to anyone else, he is certainly willing to lie to you. 

Red Flag #7 – Choices

Many won’t agree with me here, but I’m just going to say it. Bad choices lead to worse choices lead to devastating consequences. If someone you “love” or even “like” is doing stuff – partying, drinking, drugs – it’s a HUGE RED FLAG. There is a lot connected to those choices, and more than likely someone is going to end up hurt – and most likely it’s going to be you. 

Red Flag #8 – Not enough

If who you are isn’t enough, then maybe this relationship isn’t right. If a boyfriend or girlfriend insists on changing your style, your hair, your clothes; if he or she controls your decisions, what you eat, or where you go, you’re on dangerous ground. Who you are, right there, where you’re sitting reading this post, is perfect. Will you have to make some changes? Maybe. But you get to be the one to determine those changes. We all need to become the best versions of ourselves, but someone who makes you feel like you aren’t “enough” is someone who needs to step back OUT of your life. 

I have seen plenty of positive dating relationships among high school students. You don’t actually need a boyfriend or girlfriend to be worth something (see my viral post about that here). But, if you choose to date in high school and/or college, it’s important for you to be reminded that you deserve the best life has to offer. You don’t have to settle for red flag relationships. You can have a healthy, fun, adventure with dating. Just be sure it makes you better. 

These aren’t the only red flags, but they’re some big ones to look out for. Any of these by themselves are not good – and in combination, they can be deadly. Take care of yourself, look out for your friends (a real friend tells the truth), and be honest about your relationships. This life is too short to gamble with your heart.