Why Do We Ignore Red Flags That a Relationship Will not Work?

Why Do We Ignore Red Flags That a Relationship Will not Work? why do we ignore red flags that a relationship will not work?
Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash

When we think of relationships, we see ourselves enjoying quality time with out beloveds, cuddling, smiling and laughing while strolling by the beach, and all those fantasies of happily-ever-after. But we then find out that thoughts/fantasies and reality are two different things when that partner we fell in love with ends up being what we least expected.

You now find yourself deeply enmeshed in an abusive relationship and some of the questions you ask yourself are “How did I get here?” or “How could I not see that coming?” You even start having flashbacks on some of the things you ignored or overlooked early on in the relationship. Red flags are indicators of likely relationship problems to come. All toxic relationships have a beginning and they may display early warning signs which we mostly ignore or we may not be aware of.

For instance, take a relationship where your partner is so secretive and displays some habits (like excessive control and extreme jealousy) which you’re not comfortable with. What we mostly do is choose to ignore what’s happening presently in the relationship and even rationalize that you will resolve those issues later on in the relationship(like once you make it ‘official’) .

What we don’t realize is that, the more we rationalize, the more we allow our partners to do as they wish. You may even have seen the red flags in your partners and even went ahead and did a quick Google Search about it but you still find yourself ignoring them. So, the question is, why do we ignore red flags in our relationships?


1. The Trap of Potential

How many times have you quietly told yourself that your prospective date has the potential to be the partner you want? Some of your close friends and family may have even told you of how the guy/girl you’re dating has great ‘potential’ and you should not blow the chance away. Potential is a dangerous thing as it will keep your eyes glued in the future you will have with your partner instead of what’s happening in the present moment.

If you cannot take someone as they are currently, then there’s no need to stay in the relationship. You see, one thing about the future is we never know how it will turn out. We will never know if our partner will change, we will never know if we will resolve the problems we push into the future. The trap of potential is the main reason why people ignore red flags because they hope that things will work out in their favor or their partner will change their behaviors.

Nobody is perfect but it’s good to be firm on what you cannot tolerate in a relationship and only that will keep you away from waiting for things you’re not in control of. If you choose to invest in a relationship based on potential, you should know that it may not turn out as you envision. Potential is an illusion and the earlier we realize the better.

2. Feeling of Investment in the Relationship

Any relationship is an investment, we invest our time, energy, resources, and emotions and we care so much about its growth. Children, family home, common friends, shared amenities, shared hobbies are also other examples of investments in a relationship. We choose to turn a blind eye on the red flags when we think about those investments we’ve already made in the relationship.

We cannot imagine losing the things we’ve built in the relationship and so we may choose to rationalize the red flags or plainly act as if we’ve not seen them. This is another common reason that makes people ignore the red flags, as they cannot imagine themselves ‘losing’ their investments, starting over or reinvesting in another relationship.


It may push someone to the point of a do-or-die kind of effort in the relationship. A close friend once told me something close to this, “It’s either we work on it or we die together, there’s no turning back.” It looked like a joke but I really felt it and it’s simply because they’ve been together for a long time and they’re nearing the ‘marriage-age.’ So, this feeling of investing in a relationship looks like a ‘realistic’ reason to ignore the red flags. To the mind, the cost of abandoning the ship is just too high than the cost of staying in the sinking ship.

3. Fear of the Truth

They say truth will set you free, and yes it does but I think they forgot to include ‘it will painfully set you free’. We choose to ignore the red flags because we may be afraid of the consequences which will come about if we question our partners or if we ‘see’ or follow-up with the truth. For example, you may plainly have enough evidence that your partner is having an affair but you may choose to ignore this as we think of the consequences.

The consequences are mostly not easy as it may include, a painful divorce process, your friends finding out about your ‘failed’ marriage/relationship, or your family and children finding out about your cheating spouse. Truth will mean an emotionally challenging change in our lives and no one likes doing these exhausting things.

For the sake of maintaining peace now, you may choose water down the red flags and even convince yourself that you will be fine living with a cheating partner. “What can go wrong? Cheating is just a once in a while thing and I spend most time with him/her, as long as he/she is providing for us and the kids.” That’s what you might find yourself saying in your head and that later on you will find a solution for the problem. We will keep consoling ourselves that what’s happening is not a big deal.

4. We Lack Self-Trust

Toxic people can be so manipulative that they make you question your sense of reality. They may distort your thoughts and sense of reality through various way like gaslighting, blame shifting or others forms verbal abuse. It’s a relationship where the more you stay, the more you question your sanity.

When you live life in this state, you may find it hard differentiating between what’s true and what’s not and so you may choose to ignore the red flags because you don’t trust your own judgments, intution and decisions. We even take the opinions of others as the ultimate truth other than our own. When we don’t trust ourselves, we will not trust our ability to see and call out the red flags.

5. Societal Conditioning

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard this line ever since I was born, “Marriage and relationships are all about perseverance.” In a way, it might have a point but when looked closely, it’s a trap as it will mean that they’re two dynamics the oppressor and the oppressed in a relationship. The oppressed is to persevere in the relationship but nothing is said about the oppressor.

That’s how the society has put it, relationship (marriage in particular) are permanent entities and nothing should come in the way of not making it work. Fed with this, someone will choose to ignore the red flags because they’ve been told that they are supposed to make it work, even if they have to die for it. That level of indoctrination is a dangerous thing that one may choose to be disrespected or downtrodden for the sake of keeping the ‘traditional’ family unit.

Societal pressure may also push someone to ignore the red flags so that they can just fit in the society and be like the rest of the people who are going through hard times and are holding the family together. This is hard one to pull out from as it’s mostly being enabled by our ‘loved’ ones and those around us.

6. The comparison and generalization trap

One of my favorite quotes is by Jiddu Krishnamurti — “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”

Most times we do compare our relationships with the relationships happening around us. We may hear of a friend or family member going through hard time in a relationship. They may be even going through physical abuse (sadly), and we may find ourselves comparing what we’re going through with their experiences. As a result, we may rationalize the red flags and tell ourselves that some people have it ‘worse’ and you’re in a better place.

This is simply because you’re comparing with a worse alternative. You may even seek advice from friends who will normalize some of the experiences you’re going through as part of relationship ‘challenges.’ Here’s the thing, just because majority are going through it does not mean that you’re supposed to go through it.

Yes, it may bring a certain false feeling of comfort but deep inside it’s not what you want. The experiences of a crowd will cloud your judgement and even make you believe you are in a better place as compared to them. When your standard becomes worse, you will ignore and play down the red flags in a relationship.


A red flag is just a sign that the relationship you’re about to invest in will possibly turn toxic in the future. The main reason why we ignore red flags is falling in love with someone’s potential instead of who they are now. As a rule of the thumb, if you don’t like them for who they are presently, do not fall for the illusion that they will be what you want in the future and they will change. The key takeaway here is do not ignore or rationalize the red flags as that will save you the emotional distress later on.

What Red Flags did you ignore early on in your relationship? Share your thoughts.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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