8 Relationship Red Flags No Christian Should Ignore

Every relationship will have its ups and downs—not just romantic relationships, but any person you’re trying to have a healthy, godly connection with. How can you tell when your relationship is dysfunctional or downright destructive? Discover the relationship red flags for Christians that can help you identify warning signs of dysfunction and toxicity.

Hopefully you know that issues such as abuse, infidelity, substance abuse, and being secretive are examples of toxic behavior.  

But what about the less obvious examples—the ones you just can’t put your finger on?

Today I want to talk to you about 8 relationship red flags that no Christian should ignore in ANY relationship.

Before we dive in, I just want to say that there is a difference between troubled and toxic. 

Troubles can play out in a difference of opinions, personalities, and even a difference in values. Troubled people can have difficulty regulating their emotions and are likely to struggle with past and current triggers and suffer from emotional immaturity.  

While toxic people can have many of these same struggles, it doesn’t end there. 

While we do want to extend the same grace to troubled people that God extends to us, we also want to discern if we’re trying to treat a wolf as a sheep.

Relationship red flags for Christians

Red Flag #1: Manipulation

  • If you’ve forgive me, you’d back off
  • If you leave, I’ll hurt myself
  • I don’t know why you don’t just trust me

When a person is manipulative, they only have one thing on their mind–how can I get my needs met? It’s self-serving but sly. 

Manipulation can take the form of guilt, anger, passive aggression and scripture twisting.   

If someone responds with rage when you question them, they are trying to manipulate you into backing down.  

The same is true for passive aggression. Behind the mask, passive aggressive people are extremely manipulative. They pretend to be one thing while scheming to change your behavior to suit their agenda.

Their intent is to deceive you. And if you catch them in their lie, they will often deflect from their true motive by saying things like, I was only joking.

Red Flag #2: Walking on Eggshells

  • It’s not just what you said, it’s how you said it. Now I’m upset. Thanks a lot.
  • Why do you have to breathe so loudly? You know it bothers me.

In healthy relationships behaviors and communication are easy to navigate (for the most part). 

In eggshell relationships you take considerable care to avoid upsetting the other person. This often creates a dynamic of codependency as you’re constantly watching for how this person feels so you can navigate without upsetting them. It’s tense. 

People that make you walk on eggshells are controlling. They target your mental and emotional well-being in an effort to subdue you.

If you’re constantly scared to bring something up, or if you’re always trying to formulate what you want to say and how to say it, and are constantly met with gaslighting, blaming, or utter disregard, my friend, you have crossed a serious red flag. 

If you find yourself a tiptoer, be sure to check out my online course Conquering Codependency biblically.

Red Flag #3: Control

  • I do it because I love you
  • After all, I’ve done for you, this is the least you could do for me

Controllers aren’t always the overtly domineering people that we think of. Many come to use low-key tactics that make it difficult to detect their wicked ways. And make no mistake, their ways are wicked.

Their behavior may come across as caring, but the slide to controlling is quick. They may use guilt, manipulation, punishment, and domination to keep you in line. They tend to micro-manage. 

And 2 Timothy 3 reminds us to avoid these people.  

Red Flag #4: Gaslighting

  • I know what you THINK you saw, but that wasn’t me
  • You’re so sensitive. It’s not that big of a deal

Gaslighters will deny, blame, or manipulate your thoughts and feelings with the intent to deceive you.

This doesn’t mean that everyone who denies what you say is gaslighting. There are times of simple misunderstandings or miscommunications. However, gaslighters know the truth, and their phrases and questions are designed to make you think you’re crazy by telling you that your feelings and experiences are wrong!

Instead of getting bent out of shape so that they don’t see what you see, maybe it’s time you see that you’re dealing with a deceiver. 

Red Flag #5: Devaluing

  • If I want something done, clearly I have to do it myself
  • You’re going out looking like that??
  • You’re not even worth me responding to.

In toxic relationships, your needs, opinions, goals don’t matter. This person may support you as long as it doesn’t interfere with their needs. They may be on board with you until it disrupts them. Then you’ll get met with teasing, insults, and guilt-inducing comments designed to put you in your place.

Devaluing can also play out in inconsistent behavior, where they say one thing and do another or help one minute and hurt the next.  

Red Flag #6: Isolation

  • Don’t you dare share what we’re going through with anyone else
  • Are you trying to make me look bad? 

If you’re told that you can’t get help or you’re betraying the family, you are in a toxic, isolating situation, whether it’s your spouse saying don’t you dare share what we’re going through with your friends, or your parent who says ’nothing leaves this family.’ 

This behavior makes you feel trapped because getting help means that you’re betraying this person. Your desire to be a patient spouse or respectful (adult)child is now used against you. But Scripture tells us to expose evil works of darkness.

Toxic people don’t want their deeds exposed because they don’t want to be challenged to change. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do IS expose them.

I don’t mean post it on Facebook or make it a Sunday morning announcement but go get the help you need. Grab a godly friend, a trusted counselor, or a reliable pastor, to help you get the right perspective about what’s right and what’s wrong, and what’s your responsibility and what’s theirs.

You can’t go it alone when in a toxic relationship.  Isolation is a breeding ground for the works of darkness.

Red Flag #7: Disregard for boundaries

  • I know you wanted to be alone, but I need something
  • But I’m your mother!

Boundaries indicate where one person ends and the other begins. But in toxic relationships, there is an expectation of enmeshment.  

Often toxic people have little in the way of boundaries themselves, so when you try and set one, you’re often labeled as uncaring and selfish. 

If you’re having trouble setting AND keeping boundaries, be sure to check out this episode here.

Red Flag #8: Toxic Responses

  • Why can’t you just drop it?
  • Well, what about all the mistakes YOU’VE made?

We all make mistakes. At some point, we all say something offensive or do something selfish. The RESPONSE to that wrongdoing can be the difference between mistake and malicious – troubled and toxic.  

If you’re struggling with insecurity and you go to your spouse and you’re met with an onslaught of accusations and verbal assaults, that’s toxic.

If you’re constantly stonewalled by your mother when you don’t ‘obey’ her, and if she counters with deflection, blaming, ridicule, or gaslight when you try to let her know how that makes you feel, it’s likely toxic. 

Does this mean that you have to leave the relationship? Of course not, but before you go putting all of your emotional eggs in someone else’s basket, remember Proverbs 4:23…Above all else, guard your heart!

Being in toxic relationships for a significant length of time can develop into codependency. It’s like you can’t be OK unless they change their behaviors. That’s why it’s better to save yourself before it’s too late and walk away from toxic people.

Codependency says if you’re not ok, I’m not ok, so I need you to change so I can be ok.

Recognizing relationship red flags for Christians is crucial to avoid falling into codependency

My friend, this is not OK. If this sounds like you, I invite you to check out my online course Conquering Codependency Biblically.

And if you want to learn the 7 signs of covert narcissist, check out this episode next.


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