Red Flags to Watch Out for in a New Spouse

The excitement and bliss of a new marriage can make it easy to overlook or minimize potential red flags in a partner’s behavior. However, recognizing concerning signs early is crucial to avoid entering an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

Consider Anna’s story: within a year of her fairy tale wedding, her prince charming became controlling, and jealous and made her feel worthless. At first, she explained away his criticisms as care and concern, but the emotional abuse intensified over time, damaging her self-esteem and independence.

Red flags can take many forms – some may be subtle hints of incompatibility while others signal serious toxicity or harm. Being attentive to these warning signs, even amidst newlywed joy, can prevent immense heartache down the road.

In this blog post guide, we will share some of the most common red flags to be mindful of in a spouse’s character and treatment of their partner. Catching concerning behaviors early provides the chance to establish boundaries, seek help through counseling, or if necessary, safely exit an irreparable relationship.

Controlling Behaviors

Exerting authority, monitoring routines or restricting a partner’s choices are glaring red flags. Behaviors to watch out for include:

  • Scrutinizing spending: Micromanaging or harshly critiquing every purchase frames the partner as irresponsible. Financial control also limits independence.
  • Monitoring location: Frequently calling to check whereabouts conveys mistrust and intrusiveness. Location-sharing apps can enable surveillance of a partner’s movements.
  • Isolating from friends and family: A spouse who insists on alone time with you and deliberately separates you from loved ones exhibits manipulation tactics.
  • Dictating appearance: Critiquing clothing, hairstyles or weight aims to mold you into their idealized image. Partners should build up confidence in your own skin.

The underlying message behind these behaviors is “I don’t trust you and I need to control you.” This destroys autonomy and self-worth in a relationship built on respect and equality. Controlling actions often link to other forms of emotional abuse and toxicity.

married couple setting furniture as a new home

Emotional Manipulation and Abuse 

While words can affirm, they also have the power to distort reality or coerce reactions. Problematic communication patterns in a spouse include:

  • Gaslighting: Blatantly denying or warping factual events to confuse and disorient the victim. Over time, this can make someone question their own sanity and memory.
  • Guilt-tripping: Using self-pity, blame or appeals to obligation to influence decisions. Example: “If you really loved me, you would…”
  • Victim-playing: Turning the tables in an argument by casting oneself as the hurt party being attacked by the actual injured person. Deflects accountability.
  • Interrogations: Barraging with questions then criticizing or ignoring the responses. Indicates suspicion rather than care.
  • Minimizing/Deflecting: Trivializing worries or redirecting to other topics. Conveys the spouse’s feelings don’t matter.

These tactics break down self-esteem and trust between partners. Victims become conditioned to shrink themselves to appease the abuser. Psychological damage can haunt well beyond the relationship itself.

Unwillingness to Compromise or Take Responsibility

Navigating disagreements is inevitable.  Conflict resolution requires:

  • Compromise: Meeting halfway by each partner yielding on some demands.
  • Taking ownership: Admitting when one’s own behavior caused hurt.

Red flags wave when a spouse repeatedly stonewalls these conflict resolution steps through:

  • “My way or the highway” rigidity

-ROUTINE BLAME shifted to the partner or nebulous external factors.

  • Refusing to apologize – Indicates viewing the partner as inferior.

The basis of a strong partnership is the ability to calmly work through differences in opinion or wrongdoings. When a spouse chronically avoids this accountability, the relationship foundation cracks.

happy new couple after marriage

Lack of Respect and Boundaries

Respect encompasses seeing equal value in your partner’s beliefs, time and body. Red flags around respect include:

  • Frequently interrupting, ignoring opinions or mocking beliefs
  • Dishonoring commitments – Example: Often arriving late to events with a partner
  • Checking emails or texts during quality time. Conveys distracted disinterest.
  • Crude jokes/comments and unwanted touch crossing comfort zones
  • Going through a partner’s phone, accounts or diary without permission. Violates privacy.

Disrespect communicates the spouse’s needs and desires matter less than one’s own. This imbalanced power dynamic strains emotional intimacy. Partners must uphold boundaries around mutual kindness, consent and trust.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

While addiction is a disease requiring compassion, certain drug or alcohol use habits become relationship red flags:

  • Drinking to dangerous excess during celebrations or low moods
  • Heavy recreational drug use altering personality, memory and reliability
  • Prioritizing buying substances over shared expenses
  • Hiding signs of addiction through lies or withdrawal from family life

The chaos of addiction breeds instability for partners like broken commitments, risky behavior and unpredictable mood swings. While professional treatment options exist, the partner cannot “fix” their spouse’s addiction. Enabling codependency through covering or making excuses will only prevent accountability and progress.


Tuning into red flags before major commitment prevents emotional trauma down the line. While no one is perfect, certain mindsets and habits severely damage relationships. Trust your instincts – don’t downplay creepy comments as quirks or violent tones as bad days. You deserve respect and security.

Seek help through hotlines, counseling or support groups if you question warning signs. Entering marriage ready to compromise, communicate and uphold boundaries sets the stage for a lifetime of compassion and teamwork. With awareness, you can gain the tools to build the right partnership for you.


What are some common red flags in the early stages of marriage?

Some common early red flags include controlling or restrictive behavior, extreme jealousy, manipulative communication, verbal abuse, lack of compromise, addiction issues, anger problems, and resistance to intimacy or affection.

My spouse gets angry and yells a lot. Is this normal adjustment or a red flag?

Frequent, intense displays of anger and yelling are not a normal part of adjusting to marriage. These aggressive behaviors usually indicate deeper issues like poor emotional regulation, contempt for one’s partner, or dominance tactics.

How soon is too soon to identify relationship red flags?

It’s never too soon to be aware of red flags. Even during the honeymoon phase, take note if your romantic partner displays characteristics like secrecy, entitlement, volatility, or cruelty. Don’t make excuses for bad behavior.

What if my spouse is only mean, critical, or coercive when drinking?

Problematic drinking behaviors enable emotional abuse and toxicity. Though addiction may explain behavior, it doesn’t excuse harming loved ones physically or emotionally.

Are there early clues of financial abuse or control issues?

Relevant financial red flags include strictly limiting your access to money, scrutinizing minor purchases, making unilateral decisions about finances, opening credit cards in your name, or prohibiting you from working.

What are signs my new marriage will become emotionally abusive?

Predictors of escalating emotional abuse include possessiveness, gaslighting, shaming you publicly, sowing insecurity about your self-worth, and isolation from friends/family.

Is couples counseling helpful when addressing newlywed red flags?

Seeking help early via counseling empowers you to communicate needs, set boundaries, gain conflict resolution skills, and determine if the relationship can be saved or should be exited.