The One Red Flag This Therapist Wants You To Watch Out For In Relationships

Whether you’re just starting to date someone new, or your current relationship seems to be evolving, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for red flags—and proceed with caution when they appear.

While everyone has different red flags that are personal to them, there are a handful that simply can’t be ignored. And according to psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, M.S., Ph.D., there’s one red flag, in particular, she considers a nonnegotiable.

One big red flag to watch out for.

A healthy relationship comes down to reciprocity, aka, an equal give and take. “If you’re giving more than you’re getting back, that’s a red flag,” Nuñez recently explained to mbg.

And this is actually twofold because your output (or effort) into the relationship should be just as much as the input (what you’re getting from the relationship), and also, both partners need to honor this. In other words, both people should be giving and receiving in the relationship, and neither should be giving more than they’re receiving, or receiving more than they’re giving.

“If there’s a distribution of unequal balance there,” Nuñez adds, “then those are red flags, and that, for me, would be a nonnegotiable.”

This lack of balance is what can lead to one-sided relationships or potentially codependent relationships.

How to spot it & what to do.

To spot this kind of unequal distribution, it takes a level of honesty with ourselves, as well as the self-worth to know what we deserve. Nuñez is a big proponent of trusting your gut, so if you have a bad feeling that you’re pouring your heart into a relationship and not getting much back, trust that feeling.

Some straightforward examples of an imbalance include:

As with any relationship issue, communication is key, and the right person will respond well if you express that you feel there’s an imbalance. If they’re willing to work on it and follow through, that’s great—but if not, don’t stick around trying to force it.

“In the beginning, those red flags people ignore end up being big, big long-term issues in the relationship,” Nuñez explains. “That’s your time to leave and not make excuses.”

She adds that she sees many of her clients make excuses with phrases like “Yeah, but…” when they’re desperate to make it work. But this is when we wind up abandoning ourselves, she explains, “and if this is happening, it’s time to walk away.”

Of course, relationships will go through different stages, and there may be times when one partner has to lean on the other more than usual. But in the case of a consistent imbalance that leaves one person depleted, defeated, and dejected, that cannot and should not be ignored.

As Nuñez says, “Healthy relationships involve equal give and take and should add to our happiness, not take away from it.”

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