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by Maureen Pollard,
Emotional Health Editor

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered

social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. 

February is celebrated as a time of love, and we like to snuggle in together to keep the cold of winter away. But love isn’t always easy. We learn this in all of the romantic comedies and dramas that show us the pitfalls and challenges of love. What we don’t see as often is that love is not always safe, either. 

Some relationships turn dangerous. When one partner uses power and control to keep the other one isolated and vulnerable, it can sometimes lead to violence. As you get to know someone and your romantic relationship deepens, there are some red flags to watch for which suggest your partnership may not have a healthy balance:


They tell you you’re perfect and seem to put you on a pedestal. This can feel flattering at first, but, since perfection is an unrealistic expectation, eventually the person will realize you aren’t perfect. And since nobody’s perfect, that could be a problem.

They don’t stop when you ask them to. Whether it’s making an annoying sound near you, tickling or some other generally unwelcome contact, if the person consistently ignores your boundaries once you’ve said, “stop,” that's a warning sign your needs and desires aren’t being considered important.

They want to keep the relationship secret or low profile. If  your partner is really into you and all is well,  they should be happy to show the world that you’re together.

They rush you through the stages of the relationship. They’re in a big, big hurry to spend  every moment together, to move in together, or whatever the next step in your relationship might be. This can be a sign they don’t want to give you time to get to know them and reflect on how you feel.


Image: Family Planning National Training Center,

They don’t like your family or friends. Sure, your boyfriend/girlfriend  might  dislike someone in your circle for some reason, but if they dislike everyone in your life, and don’t want you to spend time with anyone but them, it could be a sign they’re trying to isolate you from your support systems.

They roll their eyes at you a lot, call you names, make fun of you or put you down. These behaviours all show serious disrespect  toward you.  It  may seem like they feel superior to you or you are a burden. This sort of manipulation may make you feel they are doing you a favour by staying in the relationship, lowering your confidence and increasing your dependence on them.

They’re incapable of apologizing. Or they apologize, but then they do the exact same thing again, which shows that they weren’t really remorseful, just trying to get you to calm down.

They demand access to your phone, email and social media accounts. If they want to read all of your messages and need to know everything you’re doing, that’s a sign of some serious trust issues that could develop into a big problem.

They use guilt, intimidation and threats to hurt you, or someone else (including themselves). If they use any of these tactics to try to get you to do things their way, or to do what they want you to do, there is a chance they could act on some of their threats by hitting you or becoming violent. If physical violence happens, it’s time to end the relationship. For more help with that, see our article “When it’s Time to Leave” in this issue. 


If you notice one of these red flags once in a while, someone could be having a bad day, or learning to be a better partner. If you are on the receiving end of any of these behaviours on a regular basis,  it’s time to reassess your relationship. And it is important to note that physical violence is never okay, not even one time.  If that happens, it’s time to end the relationship. Period. 


These tools can help:

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