There is no better time to consider your relationship's red flags than as you edge toward what seems like an inevitable engagement. "This is the most important decision you'll ever make in your life," says relationship expert and founder of Smart Dating Academy Bela Gandhi. "You should feel happy and safe as you look forward to a life with this person."
If you have any nagging doubts, butterflies, anxiety, or fear — emotions that point toward red flags — it's time to take a big step back, Gandhi says. "Red flags are things that signal danger," she explains. Here are five she believes you should look out for.
1. Your partner is financially dependent on you.
It's one thing to have your partner ask to borrow five bucks here or there. But, "if he is always asking for a handout, doesn't have a job, or is always mishandling money, you may want to stay away," says Gandhi. "If a person truly has self-respect, it should make him cringe to always ask for money." But beyond the personal attributes you may want in a partner, Gandhi is also quick to point out that financial fights can quickly degrade your relationship or even lead to divorce. "Staying in a relationship like this will only drain you and make you feel like you've settled," she says.
2. You are constantly being accused of lying.
It takes one to know one. You've heard this cliché before, but it turns out, it's based in some truth. "When someone always accuses people of lying, they are often lying themselves," warns Gandhi. "Please pay attention to a person who is always questioning or accusing you of lying. If you don't, there is a big chance that you will end up marrying someone who is a liar or cheater."
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3. He or she doesn't take care of children from a previous relationship.
Some people look past how their partners treat their children from a previous relationship, Gandhi says, believing that the person will change their behavior with their new family. "This is a key red flag, though," says Gandhi. "No matter what happened in the past, a person should always make continued efforts to have a healthy relationship with his or her children. If he or she doesn't, it's a strong possibility that this same thing can happen to you."
4. Your significant other suffers from substance abuse.
"Don't get me wrong," says Gandhi, "a lot of people like to partake in drinks and other things here and there. But if your partner has serious issues with addiction, it can definitely be the downfall to your relationship." Why? As Gandhi explains, "an addiction becomes your partner's main love, not you." Your partner's addiction can spin into other issues, too, including money problems, bad decision-making, emotional outbursts, and more, Gandhi says. "You should not marry yourself into these issues," she says.
5. You want to fix or change your partner.
By the time we're ready to get married, most of us know what we do and don't like, and what we do and don't want. We are who we are, and we're not likely to change. At the same time, says Gandhi, "most people forget that when dating, and feel that they can treat people as projects and convert them to someone with a nicer body, better job, sharper image." But if your partner didn't care to hit the gym or climb the corporate ladder before he or she met you, "marrying them isn't going to change that," Gandhi says. "Thinking that you can change someone will only set you up for disappointment once you realize that most of the time, it can't be done."