“We will talk about relationships. They are cool. Everybody does not mind being in relationships unless you just got out of one and you are glad as hell to be by yourself,” the celebrated American comedian and media personality Steve Harvey once said.
He was speaking at an episode of his popular Steve TV show on YouTube. A three-minute clip from the show has been watched over two million times on the video-sharing platform. “But let us say you have been dating a person for a little while - have you ever noticed that sometimes they just get comfortable? They just start to get a little too comfortable,” Harvey added.
“And you started noticing stuff that you did not notice before. That is when you get to find out - is this the relationship that I am going to stay in?”
He then comically narrated different instances of ‘getting comfortable’, throwing examples of red flags in relationships from both men and women. Couples experience their own unique set of ups and downs when they get into a relationship - and more so when they stay in it.
The Standard explored red flags in relationships in its weekly #Inmyopinion Twitter Spaces discussion that was attended by over 2,000 Kenyan men and women.
One George Samba, who joined the discussion said that it is not easy to know peoples’ true intentions from the get-go. “We make judgements based on someone’s behaviour - and that is something that is learnt over time, not just one date, he said. “In many relationships, whether romantic, friendship or work, many people pretend along the way.”
Samba suggested learning about friends, lovers and colleagues over time and building the relationship so as see each other’s true colours through the seasons.
Grace Nyambura, a psychologist, said that it is easy to confuse red flags with personality traits, and it is best not to judge your partner too quickly.
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“Defining a relationship usually comes from a personal view. When you say that this thing is a red flag, it is you who is judging them, and you are not doing that from their point of view,” Nyambura said.
The Independent reports that a red flag in a relationship can be defined as “something your partner does that indicates a lack of respect, integrity or interest towards the relationship”.
The study adds that hesitance to make a commitment or put a title to the relationship, never initiating dates, totally hiding one’s partner from one’s social media and a power imbalance are all cautionary signs.
“If you or your partner is hiding something from the other, it is going to do inevitable damage to your relationship at some point and is a definite red flag,” the report notes on why keeping secrets is another bad sign.
“I am not saying that it is wrong to point out the red flags,” Nyambura added. “Because only you know what you like, what you have been through and whether it is something you can overlook.”
She added that one thing she would consider a true red flag is a situation where a person shouts at you, especially when you have not even made them angry or had an argument. “It means that this person could be having a problem of their own and that they may be projecting it onto you.”
Titus Kirui said that co-dependency, extreme jealousy and mistrust are other warning signs. “Many couples depend on each other on some issues. But it gets emotionally exhausting. When two people rely exclusively on each other, to the point where someone wants to own someone exclusively for emotional or physical support, it becomes unhealthy,” Kirui said.
One Tony Ouma, a contributor to the discussion, pointed out that a lack of anger management and ego-centric nature are more clues that not all is right in the relationship.
“You find that this person throws and breaks things in the house during an argument. Or that this person is not willing to compromise with you or acknowledge your point of view. Physical abuse is also a huge no-no,” he said.
The Independent also notes that a lack of compromise should sound the alarms. “If you notice that you and your partner are having an almost impossible time compromising, perhaps one of you refuses to budge on a particular issue, then there may be something seriously wrong with your relationship,” the report noted.
Nyambura Ngigi said that physical abuse often starts with subtle signs, like aggression that then turns into “that first slap.” “The next day it will be two slaps, and after that, it could be a terrible beating,” Ngigi said.
“Emotional abuse, such as your partner putting you down is a tell-tale sign. They could try to lower your self-esteem just to bring you down to a level where they can control you,” she added.
Listen to The Standard's Twitter Space on red flags in relationships here.