It probably didn’t take long in quarantine to notice some of your partner’s *quirks.* Like, their bizarre “work voice,” or their insanely loud chewing, or how they rarely remember to refill the ice tray. These may all be annoying AF, but there are other quarantine habits that are relationship red flags. Experts say these particular behaviors can signal that your partner doesn’t respect your thoughts, opinions, and feelings — so being able to recognize them and address them ASAP is crucial to sustaining a happy and healthy bond.
"Time together in quarantine condenses a lot of experiences into a small period of time, allowing you to better notice patterns in your partner's behavior," explains Laurel Steinberg, licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert. "Some people will find that their partner's patterns are not something they'd like to experience long-term."
One reason quarantine brings these red flags to light is that these unusual circumstances have likely highlighted your differences as a couple. It's normal and healthy to disagree now and then — that's not a problem. But if you or your partner aren't willing or able to work through those challenges together, that can spell trouble.
"The best prognosis for a relationship is how well you navigate and process conflict together," says clinical psychologist Jordana Jacobs, PhD. "And couples have been put to the test in the last four months. Fortunately, with nowhere to run during quarantine, we have also had the unique opportunity to face these red flags head-on and determine whether or not we are able as a couple to work through them."
So, while some of your SO's behaviors may be less than ideal, the good news is that you have the opportunity to nip them in the bud before they become larger problems in your relationship. According to experts, here are some of the warning signs to look out for.
Not Respecting Your Need For Alone Time
You and your SO may have different needs when it comes to personal space — and these differences can become glaring during quarantine. Finding a balance that works for both of you can be a challenge, but the bottom line is that it's totally normal to crave some degree of alone time. So, if your partner makes you feel bad in any way for taking that time for yourself, either by outright guilt-tripping you or becoming super passive-aggressive, that can definitely be a red flag that they're neglecting to consider your needs.
"Your partner is trying to overpower you by purposefully not letting you enjoy the lifestyle that suits you best," explains Steinberg.
Not only that, but Melissa Divaris Thompson, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with young couples, adds that it may be an indication that your partner is codependent or unable to function on their own.
Having an upfront, clear discussion with your SO about precisely what personal space means to you and how much you need is key to minimizing the possibility of misunderstandings. Hopefully, if they understand how alone time ultimately makes you a better partner (by giving you more patience, improving your mood, allowing you to meditate and recalibrate after a stressful day, etc.) they'll be more supportive.
Steamrolling Your Discussions About Masks Or Other Safety Measures
Experts say it's OK to disagree on topics relating to safety — in fact, odds are slim that you and your SO will see eye to eye on absolutely everything. What's not OK is if your partner is dominating the conversation to the point where you don't get a fair chance to express your feelings or opinions.
"Being steamrolled by your partner about anything is a red flag because it shows disrespect," explains Steinberg.
Thompson agrees that if your partner doesn't really appear to be listening to you, is interrupting you, or is otherwise denying you a fair opportunity to talk, that's not a good sign. You and your SO both deserve to feel safe and heard while having an honest discussion about your concerns.
Lying About Who They Spent Time With.
As Steinberg points out, lying in general is a relationship red flag. However, lying about something that could put your partner's health at risk is especially problematic.
"Everyone has to work together and when you are quarantining together, it's super important to be honest about who you are in contact with," adds Thompson.
If your partner owns up to the lie themselves, consider giving them an opportunity to explain why they did what they did. Maybe they were feeling lonely, isolated, or depressed, but were too afraid to run their social plan by you. That definitely still doesn't excuse their dishonesty, but if you can get to the root of why they felt the need to lie, maybe you can set the stage for honesty going forward. If, on the other hand, you find out on your own that your SO went behind your back and they still refuse to admit it, that's another story. Their inability to own up to their actions will make it nearly impossible for them to grow, and your inability to trust them may cause you more stress during quarantine — which, TBH, is the last thing anyone needs right now.
Pressuring You To Do Anything In Public Before You're Ready.
As many states slowly but steadily begin reopening, your partner may be eager to return to many of their normal everyday activities. However, you may not be on the same page about what feels safe or ethical, and your partner should respect that. According to experts, putting any level of pressure on you to go out to dinner, attend a wedding or party, hit the beach, hang out with friends, or anything else in public is a red flag that your SO is putting their own needs before yours.
"Everyone has a different timeline and experience for what they feel comfortable with," explains Thompson. "Being able to honor your partner's needs are important."
Shutting Down Around Tough Topics.
When you engage with your partner about complicated topics around quarantine or the pandemic, how do they act? If their go-to response is to totally shut down and withdraw, either by obviously tuning you out, giving you the silent treatment, or suddenly acting busy, experts say that can be a red flag. This is called "stonewalling," and while it may seem harmless, it's actually one of the most destructive behaviors when it comes to relationships.
"Things happen in life that are stressful, and if your partner is not willing to communicate, this could be a red flag," says Thompson. "Everyone is running high emotionally, but the most important thing is: are they willing to work through these challenges?"
Very often, stonewalling is a reaction to feeling very overwhelmed. So, rather than berate your SO for building an emotional wall, try encouraging them to open up about why they're resorting to this tactic. Let them know why it's hurtful to you when they shut down, and ask them how you can make the discussion feel safer for them to be vulnerable and honest with you.
Keep in mind that these red flags do not mean your relationship is doomed — they're just a hint that there's a deeper problem lurking underneath the surface that needs to be addressed in order for you to maintain a healthy, happy relationship. While you're talking about these issues, Jacobs advises finding some common ground that you can bond over.
"Naturally, most partners will have different thresholds for safety, different degrees of comfort with uncertainty, different amount of alone time one needs, and different styles of coping with anxiety," she tells Elite Daily. "Rather than focus on the differences between you and your partner’s ways of coping, it may be beneficial to unite over the similar source of anxiety — the uncertainty in our lives and the world at large — that caused the need to cope in the first place."
While you're at it, Jacobs also suggests finding opportunities for negotiation and compromise.
"Perhaps rather than focusing on red flags, it would be more useful right now to focus on white ones," she adds. "Can you and your partner surrender to the uncertainty that exists in the world right now? Can you accept each another more fully for who you are? It is these white flags, not red, that help us lower our swords and love each other deeply at a time when love is needed most."
If you can remind yourself that the ultimate goal is reaching a place of understanding — rather than "winning" a disagreement — then you and your SO are surely prepared to navigate any differences that arise during quarantine.
Melissa Divaris Thompson, licensed marriage and family therapist
Jordana Jacobs, clinical psychologist
Laurel Steinberg, licensed psychotherapist