When you’re newly in love, you of­ten con­vince your­self that ev­ery­thing is fine be­cause you want the re­la­tion­ship to work. But there are warn­ing signs that you shouldn’t dis­miss, says mar­i­tal ther­a­pist An­drew G Mar­shall



When you first meet, he’s vague about his re­la­tion­ship sta­tus, or he’s on his phone a lot and you’re banned from go­ing any­where near it. If pressed, he ad­mits he’s see­ing some­one but it’s ‘noth­ing se­ri­ous’. Months later, you find out that the girl in ques­tion was dev­as­tated when he even­tu­ally ended their re­la­tion­ship be­cause he’d led her to be­lieve they were go­ing to marry.

Why you ig­nore it You’ve been brought up to be hon­est and you can’t imagine why any­one else wouldn’t be. When you ten­ta­tively voice your doubts, he gets all huffy or goes on the at­tack and be­fore long he has con­vinced you that it’s you who has the prob­lem be­cause you are too sus­pi­cious or too needy.

Why you shouldn’t One red flag doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the end of the re­la­tion­ship – espe­cially as it’s now more ac­cept­able to date sev­eral peo­ple be­fore agree­ing to be ex­clu­sive. But if he per­suades you with con­sum­mate ease that you are imag­in­ing things, it prob­a­bly means he’s done this many times be­fore.


Although you’ve only just met, he makes ex­trav­a­gant state­ments about love, throws money around, drops hints about ‘for ever’ and is so re­lent­less in his pur­suit that he might even find out where you’re go­ing to be and turn up un­in­vited.

Why you ig­nore it It’s in­cred­i­bly flat­ter­ing – espe­cially if you’ve been dis­ap­pointed in love pre­vi­ously. Ev­ery­one wants to be­lieve that fall­ing in love is just like in the movies: you’ll meet some­one, he’ll sweep you off your feet (be­cause he’s re­ally into you) and all your prob­lems will fade away.

Why you shouldn’t If you take a step back, you will re­alise that it’s not just you that he’s try­ing to con­vince – he needs to be­lieve that this is love with a cap­i­tal ‘L’ him­self. He has fi­nally found the woman who is go­ing to ‘save’ him or at least give him enough of a ro­man­tic high to overlook that he is up to his neck in debt and his last ten re­la­tion­ships ended mess­ily.


His ex-wife was un­faith­ful, she makes it dif­fi­cult for him to see his chil­dren and they never had sex. His for­mer business part­ner stole from him and his boss is on his back all the time. It’s your friend’s fault that he was flirt­ing with her and when he lost his tem­per with another mo­torist it was be­cause they were ‘driv­ing like an id­iot’.

Why you ig­nore it You are in love or well on the way and that means you sup­port each other and watch each other’s back. More­over, you feel sorry for him and want to help him turn his life around. And, be­cause he’s so con­vinc­ing, you tell your­self your friend can be a lit­tle ‘free with her favours’ and you weren’t driv­ing so you didn’t see the other ve­hi­cle.

Why you shouldn’t At the start of the re­la­tion­ship, when he’s crazy in love, you can do no wrong. But be­fore long, some­thing will be your fault and there­fore you will – in his mind – ‘de­serve’ his wrath. He doesn’t have enough in­sight to re­alise there is one fac­tor in com­mon with all th­ese dis­as­ters: him­self.


Be­yond the first flush of lust, there are prob­lems with your love­mak­ing. Per­haps he never wants to ini­ti­ate sex (so it’s al­ways up to you) or he claims not to be in­ter­ested, re­fuses to hold your hand in pub­lic, or doesn’t like to be touched. Al­ter­na­tively, he has un­usual sex­ual tastes or in­ter­ests which you don’t share.

Why you ig­nore it You tell your­self there are more im­por­tant as­pects of a re­la­tion­ship; you buy help­ful books and you’ve al­ways got some plan to re­solve the is­sues (even though all pre­vi­ous at­tempts have foundered).

Why you shouldn’t Men are brought

up to ig­nore their feel­ings but pay a lot of at­ten­tion to their sex­ual de­sires, so don’t be­lieve his protes­ta­tions that prob­lems in the bed­room don’t mat­ter. Per­haps he di­vides women into the madonna or a whore, which could mean you’re the ‘per­fect’ woman with whom he can’t be sex­ual and he’s get­ting ‘down and dirty’ with some­one else.


He dis­ap­pears for chunks of time, with some lame ex­cuse. There are holes in his sto­ries that don’t make sense. He doesn’t have any long-term friends and he has fallen out with his brother for some dark rea­son that he won’t dis­cuss.

Why you ig­nore it You tell your­self that you’re bet­ter than his sus­pi­cious ex so push ev­ery­thing un­der the car­pet. When he’s in a good mood you don’t want to spoil things, and when he’s grumpy you don’t want to pour petrol on the fire.

Why you shouldn’t Your gut is telling you that some­thing is wrong. Things don’t add up be­cause he’s ly­ing and, worse still, he’s so good at de­cep­tion that he has even con­vinced him­self he’s right.


There is al­ways some cri­sis. His ex is about to sue him for unpaid child sup­port or some ‘de­luded’ woman at work has ac­cused him of ha­rass­ment. Al­ter­na­tively, he gets drunk, picks a fight and storms off into the night – tak­ing the car and leav­ing you to get a taxi home.

Why you ig­nore it You tell your­self that ev­ery­thing will be fine once you’re over this bump in the road.

Why you shouldn’t You’re too busy fire-fight­ing to no­tice the big­ger pic­ture: th­ese in­ci­dents aren’t one- offs, they’re the norm. He is ei­ther ad­dicted to drama or the sort of risky be­hav­iour that is al­most guar­an­teed to throw ➤


➤ up prob­lems. On top of that, many of his ‘so­lu­tions’ – such as counter- claim­ing – make mat­ters worse, not bet­ter.


When things don’t go his way, he shouts, throws things or thumps the wall. Although he has never threat­ened you phys­i­cally, his be­hav­iour is fright­en­ing and you end up walk­ing on eggshells to avoid another melt­down.

Why you ig­nore it He ei­ther pre­tends that you are mak­ing a big deal out of noth­ing or wins you round with flow­ers and prom­ises to change. Be­fore long, he has con­vinced you that it’s you who has ev­ery­thing out of pro­por­tion and you start to ques­tion your own judg­ment.

Why you shouldn’t If he re­minds you of a five-year- old hav­ing a tem­per tantrum it’s be­cause he’s stuck in this early de­vel­op­ment stage. His prob­lems are deep-seated and all the re­as­sur­ance and be­liev­ing in him is not go­ing to turn around your re­la­tion­ship. He is us­ing his tem­per to con­trol you and maybe even to dis­tance you from friends and fam­ily who might help you re­alise that the red flags are not only adding up but are get­ting pro­gres­sively more se­ri­ous.


He is al­ways talk­ing about get­ting mar­ried or says he wants a big fam­ily, but his ac­tions in­di­cate the op­po­site. His work is so pres­surised that he can’t spare the time for a hon­ey­moon or he was about to pro­pose but then you had that row...

Why you ig­nore it When you chal­lenge him, he ei­ther bursts into tears and lists all his woes or is so full of right­eous in­dig­na­tion at be­ing doubted that you al­ways back down. Al­ter­na­tively, he swears blind he never made the prom­ise or ‘you took my words out of con­text’. So ar­gu­ments be­come about ar­gu­ments, go round in ■ cir­cles and you’re too tired to fight.

Why you shouldn’t He doesn’t play by the same rules as you. He al­ways has to win and that makes you the per­pet­ual loser. Do you re­ally want to live like this?


She is ei­ther un­pre­dictable and noth­ing he does is ever good enough, or he is the ap­ple of her eye and can do no wrong. He will ei­ther rant about her for hours or not have a word said against her. She will ei­ther hate you for no good rea­son or try to be ‘spe­cial friends’, which makes your skin crawl. The one thing guar­an­teed is that you’ll have strong feel­ings about her.

Why you ig­nore it You feel sorry for him for al­ways hav­ing to dance at­ten­dance to his mother or for be­ing made to feel small. So you try to help him un­der­stand her bet­ter or of­fer ways to patch up their re­la­tion­ship.

Why you shouldn’t Boys learn how to deal with women by watch­ing how their fa­thers are with their moth­ers. His dad will have ei­ther run away, by clos­ing down emo­tion­ally or by phys­i­cally dis­ap­pear­ing, or tried to ap­pease his wife, be­com­ing de­pressed or full of un­ex­pressed rage. Is your part­ner sim­ply re­peat­ing his fa­ther’s be­hav­iour? If his mother was crit­i­cal, he will in­ter­pret your ac­tions through this lens. If he was the per­fect son, he will hear ev­ery­thing be­yond a round of ap­plause as ab­ject fail­ure.


At first, it might seem ro­man­tic that he books an ex­otic hol­i­day for two with­out check­ing you can get time off work. How­ever, it quickly be­comes a ma­jor prob­lem. He buys an ex­pen­sive new car, even though money is tight, or tells you he has quit his job – with­out prior dis­cus­sion – and is set­ting up his own business.

Why you ig­nore it If you’re mar­ried or have chil­dren by this stage, you con­vince your­self to look the other way. After all, you’ve had plenty of prac­tice at min­imis­ing and ra­tio­nal­is­ing away your fears.

Why you shouldn’t While ev­ery re­la­tion­ship needs some give and take, you’ve been do­ing all the giv­ing and, apart from a few iso­lated in­stances, which he re­minds you about con­stantly, he has been do­ing all the tak­ing. Ask your­self, apart from when he’s try­ing to win you back, has he any real de­sire to change?

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