Experts debunk myths about “red flags” in romantic relationships

Hookup culture is common in college settings. Why else do we create Tinder accounts? Your “sneaky link” is just a match away, and these dates usually make for an exciting debrief with your besties, but one thing that’s always mentioned are their warning signs explaining why you hightailed it out the back door of their apartment. 

So, with that in mind, how do we go about navigating these “red flags”? This term is not a new one to college students who spend time on any social media platform; it is often used in conjunction with things such as if a potential suitor “still uses Axe deodorant,” “doesn’t change his socks everyday,”  or “is under 5 ‘9.” Some of this can be answered by the expertise of Ms. Claudia Werner, Director of MC’s counseling center. 

With her experience in the topic, Werner gives a technical explanation for the term: “(A red flag is) when someone is crossing someone else’s boundary… This could be a physical, emotional, sexual or a mental health boundary.” She also notes that “everyone has different boundaries.” 

So you’re saying that him being under 5’9 isn’t a red flag? Hard to believe, I know. However, even though he may be a “short king,” his height isn’t the actual issue. So, what are true red flags that can determine compatibility between yourself and a partner, and an overall healthy relationship? When asked that question, Werner’s eyes lit up, and she turned towards her laptop to begin printing sheets with information on healthy and unhealthy relationships. At this time, Ms. Emily Dobais, also a staff member under the counseling department, and a social work master’s student, chimed in. 

She said that a good way to tell a lot about a person is “How someone treats a stranger or someone they don’t know,” but a better way to see someone’s nature is to observe them when they’re handling a stressful situation. Overall, Werner said a big red flag is “anyone that takes away your choice.”

So, what do you do if you find yourself in a situation where these “red flags” are actually damaging your relationship with someone, or are harming your well being? Well, the first step could be contacting the counseling center. There, you can learn tools to help change the relationship into a healthy one. Another option is that, if both respective parties are willing, the counseling center can help navigate you to possible couples therapy. That may not be everybody’s jam, so Werner mentions an option called “Let’s Talk” on Wednesdays at 4 p.m., which allows a student to drop in at another counseling center located on the ground floor of Carnegie. This option is more casual, and includes an art aspect.

It should also be noted that TimelyCare can be a useful tool in counseling. Based off of statistics from Dr. Kristen Riggsbee’s class, “Community Health,” it was found that some students didn’t feel there was enough availability at the counseling center, and for them, TimelyCare would be a wonderful option because time slots can fall into the evening or on Saturdays. 

Prevention Education Coordinator Jessica White is also a great source of information, especially as a resource for relationships where you don’t feel safe. Linked below are her contact information and tips on identifying healthy and unhealthy relationship qualities: 

  As fun as it is to say that a red flag is that he plays baseball, we should keep in mind that as long as your partner respects, trusts and is honest with you, maybe him being a catcher isn’t so bad. After all that being said, we hope that this Valentine’s Day, you wear your pink and red, upload your cute Insta post, and see green flags, not red. 

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