Six Romantic Relationship “Red Flags”

From “Clingy” to “Gross”, research identifies the deal-breakers people watch for in short- and long-term relationships.

Grant H Brenner

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While waiting for the bus recently, along with about twenty other poor souls, I was somewhat involuntarily subjected to a conversation between a man and a manifestly recent love interest. In a rather harsh tone, he was notifying the woman on the other end of the line (we could all hear both parties publicly negotiating their not so fresh relationship) that he was “no longer going to use lotion”. He went on emphatically: “It was cute at first, but I’m not doing it anymore “.

As the bus was over an hour late, we got to hear many similar exchanges. I found myself reflecting, with some concern, whether this was turning out badly for the woman. He seemed to be making a case that he was being mistreated, a self-professed victim in spite of his aggressive tone, a sign of future gaslighting risk. His next call was to work, saying he was sick and wouldn’t be able to come in. He was most evidently in good health!

Evidence-Based Deal-Breakers

A recent article in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (2023) re-analyzes data collected from a prior experiment to distill out key deal-breakers-red flags. The original work (Jonason et al., 2015) identified deal-breakers, without full analysis. Researchers recruited 285 U.S. undergraduate students, 60 percent women, 61 percent European American, 95 percent heterosexual, and 50 percent in a committed relationship, with average age of about 22.

Participants completed two rating scales: the Mate Value Inventory, a 22-item scale of desirable traits rated in terms of how much they agreed a particular trait (e.g. sense of humor) was important to them, and a rating of how open they were in relationships, the Sociosexual Orientation Index. They rated items from a prior 49-item inventory of deal-breakers (see below for full list [1]), defined as “bits of information you learn about a person that might make you lose interest in the potential partner”.

Researchers used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to find the best fit for the data, deriving a six-factor model. While no judgment…

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Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer