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Red Flags 1


Red Flags Campaign


The viewpoints addressed in this blog post are those of the Womans and Non - Binary Network and the York Sports Committee and should not be taken as fact. We have put together this blog as a form of support, and more of an explanation of what we mean by the ‘red flags’, but every case is different and you can take from it what may be important to you. Some of the content may also be triggering or upsetting.


The red flag campaign is a campaign started to try and help people who are trapped in a toxic, abusive or controlling relationship recognise the behaviours that they may not be able to see themselves.


● A lot of the time these relationships may be romantic but they can also be friendships, family relationships, and anyone in your life who brings toxic energy.


● These behaviours can apply in a relationship between people of any gender or sexual orientation.


● One of the hardest parts of getting out of an abusive cycle in a relationship is recognising and accepting the fact that it's not right, and this is something we’re hoping the campaign can help with.


Truthfully, the process of rebuilding yourself after being treated badly for a period of time can be tough, and so one of the most important parts of the campaign is the support for after you have removed yourself from the situation and advice for how to move on.


Red flags - Signs of a Toxic Relationship:


1. They make you feel as if you’re constantly walking on eggshells.

You may find that you spend the majority of your time worrying that the individual is going to be annoyed at you for what you say and do, sometimes for no reason at all. They can make you feel like you are always on edge and watching your own behaviour when you are with them. This can make you lose yourself and your personality because you are constantly worried about how they will react. It may be difficult to see this when you are in the relationship because the feeling of stress can become normal, but it can help to reflect on the differences between how you feel when spending time with others and how you feel when you are with them.


2. You are always apologising even when you’ve done nothing wrong.

In a healthy relationship, when you are in the wrong it is important that you can accept it and apologise. But often when you are in a toxic relationship somehow you are always the one that ends up accepting the responsibility, even when you know deep down that you have done nothing wrong. Manipulative people find a way of making you believe that everything is your own fault, and often this can make you overlook how badly they treat you. It can feel like nothing ever gets resolved because every conflict ends in an argument and you apologising for it.


3. They always need to know where you are, who you’re with and need constant contact.

A key sign of a controlling relationship is a lack of trust and space to be able to live your own lives. This can manifest itself in a range of different ways: constantly needing to be in

contact, needing to know where you are and who you’re with, censoring what you wear and how often you go out, looking at text messages or receipts. Privacy is a basic right and often in a toxic relationship that can be taken away from you. Trust is one of the most important and basic of requirements for a healthy relationships and is often more their problem than yours.


4. Mood swings - one minute they love you, the next they hate you.

Emotionally abusive relationships are not always easy to spot, especially when you are the person being abused. This can be made harder by the fact that the controlling and unkind behaviour may not be constant. Often, the difference between when they are treating you badly and when they seem like a perfect partner can be extreme, but the change can often happen very quickly. These types of mood swings are common within toxic relationships, and are not only exhausting and stressful to deal with, but also make it so much harder to spot the signs of an abusive relationship and make it so much easier to forgive being treated badly. You should never be made to feel bad in a relationship, no matter how well they may treat you in between.


5. They control or punish you and disguise it as ‘for your own good’.

It is a common misconception that threats in abusive relationships have to be about physical abuse, but often they can be in the form of the threat that they will leave, cut off “privileges” within the relationship, whatever they may be, or just the idea that they will be mad at you - this can be as distressing as a physical threat. Backhanded compliments and “constructive criticism” is a common method of control within toxic relationships and is often disguised as being “for your own good”. This is never okay. Relationships should be about building each other up, not making you feel bad about yourself.


6. Their needs are always more important than yours.

It is important in a relationship that you find a balance between both people's needs and that you both want to make each other feel supported. If this is one-sided, it can be draining to constantly be giving support and love and receiving nothing back. If it is only their needs that are important in the relationship, it could be a sign they are taking advantage of you.


7. You’re more isolated from your friends and family than when you began dating.

People who like control will often try to isolate you from others, in order to have more control over your life. This can often be subtle and hard to notice, but can be seen if you start to feel more distant from your friends and family. It can be as obvious as saying ‘I think you should spend less time with this person’, or it could be expressed in more subtle ways to make you subconsciously distance yourself from those close to you.


8. They make you feel trapped and that you can never end the relationship.

It can be easy when you are in a relationship to forget what life was like before that person was in your life, and can be even more difficult to remember that when that person is making you feel like you can never leave. If it feels like you are trapped and cannot see a way out, it will be because that person is making you feel like that. It is important to know that there are always ways around things, and it can be helpful to remind yourself of the people that were in your life before the relationship, and the fact they will be there after it.


9. They use you as their only emotional support and constantly act as the victim.

Obviously, in a relationship it is important that you support each other through difficult times, but this can become toxic if one of the people in the relationship finds difficult situations at all points in their life, and uses you as their only emotional support. There will always be a way to find negatives in life, and it can be that constantly acting the victim can be a way of manipulating others to constantly excuse bad behaviour. Not only can this cause you to feel guilty for ever saying you think they have done wrong, but it can also stop you from receiving any emotional support for anything difficult in you life, since you may feel it’s not as important as their problems, or you don’t want to load anything else onto them. Relationships should be a balance between both of your needs, and if they are experiencing serious issues in their life, you shouldn’t be their only support system.


10. There’s always one rule for them and another rule for you.

Double standards are a common problem in relationships, but if you have mutual respect for each other, then there shouldn’t be a difference between what each of you can do. Double standards are a common issue in many toxic relationships.


11. They constantly describe past relationships in exaggerated negative terms.

An inability to accept that they have ever done anything wrong can be obvious if they describe ex-relationships in exaggeratedly negative ways. It is common to have past relationships that ended badly, however if they describe everyone as horrible people and accept none of the blame, it can be a sign of both immaturity and an extremely toxic attitude. Although they may say that you are “special” or “different to the others”, the problem is often with them and not the other people.


12. Treating everyone better than you - so no one sees how badly they treat you.

Often people who are controlling can manipulate the people around you to believe that they are charismatic and friendly, which means if you try to explain their treatment of you, it seems less believable. This is a form of control and it can make you feel more trapped in the relationship. Just because others may not see the abusive behaviour, doesn’t mean that it’s not real.


13. Any form of physical abuse.

Any form of physical abuse is never acceptable, no matter how small. If they are capable of doing it once, the chances are they will do it again.


White Flags - Signs of a Meaningful Relationship

It’s important to remember that not all relationships are toxic, and there are many signs that you are in a healthy and communicative relationship. We have included a few to look out for:


1. You have open and honest communication from both sides

2. You are free to have your own space and do your own things

3. You are happy with the position that your relationship is in at this point in time

4. You are kind and loving towards each other

5. You trust each other implicitly

6. You are choosing to be with them because you want to be, not because you feel you have to be

7. You feel safe and relaxed when you are together

8. You can argue about things without worrying that it will be the end of your relationship

9. There is a balance between their needs and your own

10. You truthfully want the best for each other - you don’t hold each other back

11. Both people are happy to admit when they are wrong, and apologise

12. Neither people want to change each other

On-Campus Support 

  • The Advice & Support Centre (ASC) at YUSU provides free, independent, confidential advice and guidance to students on academic, personal or welfare issues. 
  • The advice service at the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) provides free, independent, confidential advice and guidance to students on academic, personal or welfare issues.  
  • The Open Door Team is a team of professionals who provide support to students  who are experiencing emotional, psychological or mental health difficulties.
  • Sexual Violence Liaison Officer (SVLO). The SVLO provides specialist confidential one-to-one support for individuals who have experienced sexual violence.
  • College Wellbeing Teams. Colleges have a network of support figures, including college managers and tutors, who can provide pastoral support, guidance and information. 


Photo credit: Olivia Burnes