7 Yellow Flags To Look Out For In A New Relationship, According To Experts

They're not deal breakers, necessarily.

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Yellow flags in a relationship are signs you should tread lightly.

When you’ve passed the “talking” or situationship stage and started seriously dating someone new, you’re bound to be excited. When you feel like you’re ready to take the next step of exclusivity with your partner, being aware of how compatible you are is crucial to forming a healthy partnership together. While you might be ready to dive in head first, yellow flags — behaviors that aren’t out-right deal breakers but make you second-guess for some reason or another — might give you pause.

According to registered psychotherapist Parisa Ghanbari, “Red flags are the signs that tell you when to disengage from a relationship. Yellow flags are the signs that tell you when to tread lightly, be cautious, and give yourself time to further assess your partner to ensure you’re investing in the right relationship.” More often than not, glaring red flags mean the end of a relationship. Yellow flags, however, can be more ambiguous and nuanced.

If your new partner maintains contact with an ex, for example, that could be a sign of their emotional maturity, or it could mean there’s unresolved feelings there. Yellow flags can go either way, but if you and your partner can work through them together, doing so might bring you even closer together.

For more guidance on the signs you’re seeing, here are 7 behaviors that could be considered yellow flags in a relationship, according to experts.


They Haven’t Had A Long-Term Relationship Before

If this is your partner’s first serious relationship, it’s natural to be wary. “In some instances, a lack of a long-term relationship in their history may mean that they aren't a great partner, they have commitment issues, or they have unrealistic standards or expectations about relationships,” psychologist Dr. Sarah Schewitz, Psy.D, tells Bustle.

Observing how their lack of experience impacts you and your relationship is wise, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t work out. Schewitz says, “Not everyone is intrinsically motivated to be in a long-term relationship in their early years. For many people, this changes as they get older and more mature. So, just because they haven't been in a long-term relationship yet, doesn't mean they can't or won't.”


They Have A Relationship With Their Ex

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Finding out your partner is still in contact with their ex might freak you out at first, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. According to Schewitz, “Being friends with an ex can be a sign that they are a mature individual with the ability to recognize that their ex is a good person who just wasn't the right fit for them. It's often an indication of true closure to the point where there are no romantic or triggering feelings left at all.” If that’s actually the case, then this might be more of a green flag than a yellow one.

“However, keeping in touch with an ex can also be a sign that they have poor boundaries or that they have unfinished business with their ex.” says Schewitz. She advises to explore curiously — ask your partner about the breakup and why they want to keep the connection open. “If your partner gets defensive about answering these questions, you might be seeing a red flag.”


They Get Upset By Criticism

Being receptive to uncomfortable conversations is a sign of an emotionally intelligent partner. Ghanbari says, Watch out for how your partner handles criticism.” Does your partner seem open to hearing your constructive feedback, or do they react with defensiveness and maybe even retaliate out of hurt? If so, that’s definitely a yellow flag.

“You want to be with a partner who makes the effort to understand and empathize with your feelings, as opposed to getting defensive or offended,” says Ghanbari.


They Tend To Make The Plans Themselves

If your partner is consistently calling the shots and beginning to make most of the decisions in your relationship, this could be cause for evaluation; are they considering you and your needs, or are they showing signs of self-serving behaviors? Ghanbari says to ask yourself, “When planning dates in the beginning, is your partner the only one who decides on the place and time to meet? Do they ask you what you would prefer for your date? What if you say no to them?”

Taking charge and showing up confidently in service of the relationship can be a good thing (especially if that energy is what you’re looking for in a partner), but it’s important to distinguish the line between that and inconsideration.


They Remind You Of Your Ex

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Satira Streeter Corbitt shares that “A yellow flag may be a love of cats.” Yes, really. While it may seem inconsequential, Streeter Corbitt explains that, “This may trigger you because of an experience with an ex who obsessed over their cat to a point that you felt like this cat, not you, was their [number one].” This may be one specific example, but even if your partner is well-meaning in their interests or passions, there might be times where they fall too similar to a negative relationship experience you’ve had in the past.

It’s worth noting how similarities between your ex and your new partner might be affecting you. “In this case you may have to observe a new partner while simultaneously checking in with yourself to see how you are feeling and processing the actions of your new partner.” Streeter Corbitt says.


They Make Assumptions

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According to Ghanbari, making negative assumptions about how you are thinking or feeling is not a good look for your partner. “It’s as if they imply that they know you better than you know yourself.” she explains. If you’re in a disagreement or your partner reacts negatively to something you’ve said or done (especially if it wasn’t meant out of harm) and they attribute malice to it, it might be more of a red flag.

“This indicates that the person is really not trying to get to know you, that she/he has [preconceived notions] about you and who you are. If this continues, trust can never be built in the relationship, and you may feel like you’re not being heard, seen, or understood for who you are,” Ghanbari says.


They Have A Hard Time Telling You How They Feel

Communication, especially in an emotionally charged situation, is a necessary skill for a healthy partnership. “This might be a sign that they are emotionally unavailable, but it could also be a sign that they are trying to take things slow or that they need more time to trust you with their vulnerability,” says Schewitz.

“If you feel they are too shut down, share with them that you would like to know more about their inner world,” she says. “Ask questions to make it easier for them to share. Get curious about why they don't talk about emotions and try to create a safe, non-judgemental space to draw them out.”

With any relationship, communication is key; if you start to notice yellow flags in your new relationship, consider talking through any concerns that arise. Coming from a place of honesty and the desire to better understand your partner helps build trust, and a strong foundation.


Parisa Ghanbari, registered psychotherapist

Dr. Sarah Schewitz, psychologist and founder/CEO of Couples Learn

Dr. Satira Streeter Corbitt, licensed clinical psychologist

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