None of us are immune to the occasional red flags in relationships. While most romances begin with the usual honeymoon, often we come to discover our partners aren’t as perfect as we initially believed. And that’s completely fine, of course. We all deal with minor inconveniences and mild annoyances in our relationships. Dirty dishes on the counter, hair left in the drain, laundry piling up, or the potential to forget important dates. These things happen. But what happens when they begin to happen frequently? When they begin to become a real problem? When things go beyond minor irritation and become hostile or abusive or worse?
As feminists, we have plenty of tools in our toolbox to deal with the BS of everyday life. We also have plenty of methods with which we deal with these often subtle relationship red flags. Feminism teaches us how to maintain respect for ourselves, how to stay safe, the importance of self-care, how to support one another, and how to reach out for help (through a variety of networks or to professionals) when all else fails. If any of these red flags apply to your own relationship, here are several feminist ways to handle them:
They Don’t Clean Up After Themselves
It’s probably rare that two people who are both Danny Tanner levels of tidy find one another and are able to maintain a pristine household. More than likely, one person in a relationship is fairly clean while the other is somewhat less neat. This kind of balance exists in most relationships. That said, everyone should be able to at least clean up after themselves. You don't have to be a neat freak to show a basic level of respect for the person you live with.
If your partner is constantly avoiding housework, any reasonable person will tell you to confront said person about their messy habits. Don’t just keep cleaning while you sulk or stew in your anger. Let them know that this is unfair, that you should both be equal participants in house work. You can always use read them some lines from The Politics of Housework by Pat Mainardi for a reminder (for both of you) that the feminist revolution begins in the home.
They’re Always Out Somewhere And Never Want To Tell You About It
This is a major red flag that could highly indicate cheating or some other lie. Some people might tell you to do things like follow them. Hell, some would go so far as to hire private detectives. As a feminist, I would mainly advise you to save your money and confront them about their behavior. Like, you could waste your life tailing them or sifting through their digital behavior...or you could just talk to them directly and let them know that, no matter what they're up to, you respect both of you too much to settle for a lack of trust and communication.
Feminists don't play around with shady or duplicitous behavior. We explain how we're made to feel and ask our partners why they won’t ever give details. Yes, you trust them to go about their lives as they please, but they should also respect you enough to keep you in mind about their daily goings-on. If they’re still jerks about it, it’s probably time to bounce.
They Wants All Your Passwords
If your partner is being unreasonably controlling and demanding access to all your private things (social media accounts, e-mail, blog logins, etc), and there’s no real reason for it (like, you run a business together), any feminist will tell you you’ve got to set your limits and say no. Anyone that starts off a relationship wanting to control you will very likely continue to exhibit this behavior.
They're Still Good Friends With Their Ex
This could be a red flag, but it could also just mean your partner is able to maintain healthy relationships post-break-up. Feminism breaks down the ridiculous notion that women must always be in competition. As many feminists will tell you, sisterhood is powerful. If you’re so concerned about them being friends with their ex, maybe befriend the ex as well. At the very least, a feminist doesn't usually run or react just because someone they're involved with maintains a relationship with their ex, because we get the evolving nature of relationships and believe more in trust than control.
Or Worse, They’re Convinced All Their Exes Were “Crazy”
Any feminist would see this as a big red flag. Someone who always puts all the blame on everyone else may just not recognize their own faults. Proceed with caution and walk away when necessary. Plus, if your boo can’t get with the program and not use ableist slurs, maybe you need to look elsewhere.
They Never Want To Communicate
A lack of communication can completely ruin a relationship. Feminists understand the importance of language and communication and would likely suggest you seek out couple’s therapy or setting aside regularly just to talk. If your partner just isn’t into it, figure out if you’re OK with this or if you need more out of a relationship. Feminists are more likely to figure out solutions that specifically fit their relationship, but either way, they're definitely not going to settle for not getting their needs met.
They’re Terrible To Other People For No Real Reason
This is a major red flag, and no feminist is going to look the other way. Being mean and nasty for no reason could be a sign of a more deep-rooted issue. Talk to your partner about it. Suggest counseling if they have anger issues they need to resolve. Let them know how uncomfortable you are by it. You deserve to be with someone who isn’t constantly bringing down the mood with their bad attitude.
They’re Visibly Depressed
Feminists are not super likely to run the other way when their partner is dealing with mental and emotional health problems, but they also know that getting pulled down into a codependent black hole isn't doing anyone any good. To we get proactive about depression, and encourage our partners to do the same: We discuss with them the possibility of seeing a therapist. If they’re open to it, we might even help them find one. If they’re not, or are on the fence, we might suggest some alternative approaches to treating depression, like exercise (yoga is especially helpful), meditation, getting their hormone levels checked, and changing their diet. It might give them the boost they need to eventually take the steps toward getting professional help.
You Never Get To Make Any Decisions
One of feminism’s main objectives is to achieve equality, not only among the sexes and genders, but also in terms of race, ability, sexuality, etc. If there is no equality in your relationship, it’s not a relationship worth sticking to. Any feminist would tell you to confront and change the situation or GTFO.
They Make Negative Comments About Your Physical Appearance
There are some folks who think it’s perfectly fine to belittle their partner’s physical appearance. News flash: It’s not OK. Feminists are all about body positivity or at the very least, body acceptance. If a partner is being abusive in this way, explain to them that they need to stop or this will end immediately.
They Never Apologize, Even When It’s Crystal Clear They’re Wrong
Gaslighting refers to the ability to turn a situation around so that it’s never your fault, so that the other person is made to feel as though they were losing their sense. It’s a manipulative tactic. If you believe your partner isn’t even aware of their own behavior, a counselor might be able to help. Otherwise, ending the relationship before you begin questioning your sanity is the safest bet.
None Of Your Friends Or Family Like Your Partner
This isn’t entirely a red flag on its own, but it can be. It honestly depends on why your friends/family dislike your partner. Confront them first and ask for their reasons. If it’s simply because they’re rough around the edges, it might be something you can work on with them and/or your partner (after all, everyone is different). But if they say they don’t like how your partner treats you, you might want to take their suggestions to heart.
And Your Partner Doesn’t Like Any Of Your Friends Or Family
Same rules apply. If they love you, they’ll find ways to work around their initial impressions and try to get to know the people you care about. Or if they see something negatively affecting you about your relationships with certain friends (because sometimes we don’t see it ourselves), and they explain it to you clearly, then maybe it’s not your partner that’s got to go.
They Won’t Give You Any Free Time
You can’t maintain a healthy relationship with someone who is always lying. Self-love and self-respect are vital aspect of feminism. You need to be sure to care for yourself and love yourself first and foremost. If your partner is demanding that you always be around, never giving you a moment to yourself, you need to figure out why this is happening and talk to them about it. Feminists recognize the importance of self-care and if your relationship won’t allow you to do this, it’s time to cut it loose.
This is when you seek out your feminist circle of friends. They will be able to help you figure out if you’re unhappy due to your partner’s attitudes or behaviors, or if you’re suffering from depression and need therapy or possibly even medication, or if it’s a combination of things. Relationships do tend to shift around and it’s not always hot and happy, but if it goes on for too long, any feminist will tell you it needs addressing.