Relationships are by far my favourite part of growing up. I firmly believe that breakups, when taken in stride, can be excellent lessons in the growth of your emotional self. The breakups I have gone through have taught me love, humility, and forgiveness. Every breakup has made me stronger, smarter, more in tune with myself, and I am proudly and controversially, pro-breakup. That said, there is no denying that the ending of a relationship, especially a sour one, hurts more than sitting on a bed made out of nails.

An important caveat here is that although relationships have the power to school you, they have to be good, healthy relationships in order to give you room to grow during and after them. Although I am a self-proclaimed breakup fanatic, I want to make it clear that not all breakups are made equal. There are ones that exercise your emotional muscles and force you to introspect. There are others, however, that cause so much pain that you wish you had identified the red flags early on and saved yourself the tears.

Red flags come in abundance, sometimes even in relationships that end up being perfectly healthy later. However, it is hard to identify them at the start of romance when you have rose-coloured glasses on and may not necessarily know what a red flag even looks like. We chatted with psychologist Anagha Bhave, an alumna of St. Xavier’s College and Columbia University to hear what she had to say about the topic. Here is a list of some common red flags to get you on the path to a healthy relationship:

1. They think all their exes suck

If your partner claims that all their exes were crazy psychos and you are constantly hearing about it, you should run for the hills. Someone who spends their time fixating on the faults of their former partners probably lacks the ability to look inward and learn from a separation. Besides, one person alone shouldn’t take the blame for a failed relationship. It takes two to tango.

2. They gaslight you

Gaslighting is unfortunately a fairly common toxic trait to come up in relationships. If you are often made to feel like you’re overreacting, like your display of emotions is ‘crazy,’ or like you can’t safely communicate your wants and needs without feeling invalidated or ridiculed, it’s likely you’re being gaslighted. Tricky to identify, and vastly harmful to one’s sense of self-worth, gaslighting is almost its own category of red flags in itself. Once you start identifying the signs, it’s hard to stop.

3. You have to defend them

If you frequently find yourself in a position where you have to defend your partner’s behaviour in front of other people, you should probably chalk that down as a red flag as well. This is especially harmful when your partner’s actions are contentious within the relationship in the first place. If you find yourself explaining your partner’s actions to your friend when you don’t even buy the explanation yourself, you should cut your losses and leave.

4. You don’t like their friends

You don’t have to be all buddy-buddy with your partner’s friends all the time. But if you’re in a relationship where you are confused about why your partner keeps their friends around, you should take some time to try to see what you may be missing. Our company says a lot about who we are. If you feel like there is a clash between your partner and their friends, it’s possible there isn’t a clash. You may just not be catching the similarities.

5. They are rude to service workers

The way that you treat those you hold power over is a direct reflection of the type of person you are. If you notice that your partner is rude and dismissive of service workers like waiters, valet, etc., it is a sign that they are a person who takes advantage of power dynamics that work in their favour. I will go ahead and assume it will be hard, maybe impossible, to build a healthy relationship with them.

6. Your anxieties and insecurities have increased

If you are in a relationship where you are more anxious than before, your insecurities are heightened, and you constantly feel uncomfortable emotions attached to these mechanisms, that is a glaring red flag. Healthy relationships are supposed to make you feel good about yourself. If your partner does not affirm you and ease your anxieties about yourself, they are not a good partner.

7. Their time and needs trump yours

In a healthy relationship, both partners understand and mutually respect one another’s time and needs. If your needs are always on the back burner, and you feel that your partner does not have the same regard for your time that they expect you to have for theirs, you should consider what that means for your relationship. A good relationship comes from a balance of respect and care, and it can not exist without both people putting in the same amount.

What do you think makes a healthy relationship? Besides red flags, do you find that there are any green flags that make you want to take the plunge with someone? Tell us in the comments below.

Don’t forget to follow @missmalinilifestyle for more conversations about healthy relationships and how to foster them.