Look Out For These “Red Flag” Phrases

I’d never do anything to hurt you.

This is naive at best and a manipulative distraction at worst. In any meaningful relationship, the occasional hurt is unavoidable.  Toes are carelessly stepped on, harsh words erupt before they’re caught and actions are misconstrued to have an alternate meaning. Hurt happens. And it’s what happens after that matters. Instead of a promise to “never hurt,” look for somebody who will be willing to learn from the unintentional injury and try to do better going forward.

In the more malevolent case, this phrase is used as a numbing balm that conceals the sharpness of the knife pressed into your back. It claims that your best interest is at heart, when the reality is that your heart is being shredded without your knowledge.


You deserve better.

When somebody makes this claim, listen. It may be that they have been far-from-honest with you and they are admitting that you don’t deserve that betrayal of trust. Alternately, they may possess a low sense of self and they feel that they are not worthy of you. Although not malicious, this is also a warning sign because an insecure person will bring unhealthy needs and patterns into a relationship.

Ideally, a relationship inspires both people to be at their best because they want their partner to have the best.


You’re my everything.

Talk about a whole lot of pressure. If you’re someone’s everything, they are looking to you to meet ALL of their needs. And not only is this stressful, it’s also impossible.

It’s healthy and natural to be the most important thing in each other’s lives.  But those lives should also be filled with other friends, interests and supports.


Your happiness is more important than my own.

Sounds good, right? But think it through. First off, this would require a perfect reciprocity to pull it off, both partners neglecting their own well-being in exchange for cultivating their partner’s happiness. Furthermore, nobody else has the power to make you happy or unhappy. That has always been – and will always be – an inside job.

Ideally, each person takes full responsibility for their own happiness and understands that by attending to your own well-being, you’re in turn nurturing the other person as you present your best self and refrain from making impossible demands that they make you okay. You want your partner to be happy and you strive to support that, but you also recognize the limitations of you can provide.


You made me…

Just no. You cannot make somebody do/feel/think anything. You are responsible for your words and actions. The other person is responsible for their reactions. It is up to them to communicate clearly and instate boundaries if needed. Then, the ball is back in your court to respond to that information.

This phrase is a favorite one of abusers, as they manipulate their partners into believing that it is all their fault. Even in milder cases, these words are an indication that the person shirks responsibility for themselves and is more likely to point fingers than make changes.


I can’t survive without you.

Again with the pressure. This is commonly used to tether a person to a toxic relationship. It’s hard to leave when you’re told that your leaving could have dire consequences for the person that you (presumably) care about.

But that burden is not your to carry. If you need to leave, you need to leave. Your responsibility is do so in the kindest, clearest and cleanest way possible. What happens from there is not on you.


You’re my soulmate.

This one sure sounds romantic. But there’s a dark side to it. If you’re placed on the pedestal stamped with the title “soulmate,” you do not have permission to be anything less than perfect. A successful relationship of any duration requires a growth mindset that accepts that perfection is an illusion and sees mistakes as opportunities to learn.



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