In the early stages of dating, you're always keeping an eye out for something strange, especially when your new partner seems too good to be true. It's fair to watch out for signals that this is not the right person for you, but before you get carried away, you should learn how to discern a red flag from a dealbreaker. As you embark on a relationship, you need to understand that dealbreakers and red flags are two different things. Without the ability to tell the two apart, you could preemptively toss a potentially great partner to the side.
A red flag is something minor that makes you raise an eyebrow. Red flags are "indicators that something needs to be questioned or otherwise validated. Often these are clues that something may be trouble in the future," writes Abigail Brenner, MD, for Psychology Today.
A dealbreaker, on the other hand, is something more significant that you cannot look past. Dealbreakers are "qualities that would disqualify someone as a dating prospect, regardless of how many other wonderful traits they have," writes Gwendolyn Seidman, PhD, for Psychology Today.
Yue Xu, co-host of the Dateable podcast, puts this into terms of computers. "I think of a red flag as hardware," she previously told Best Life. "Think about a screw in a computer. If it's loose or damaged, it's an easy problem to address. However, a dealbreaker is usually referring to the software that runs the computer, the OS. That's a much bigger issue to address, and it implies that it affects every part of the computer."
Xu gives the example, "If the person is negative, it is a negative operating system that affects everything he does in life. It's intrinsic to who he is, and that's why most women wouldn't even want to touch it."
If your potential partner has a quality that is unequivocally negative to you—and that you believe will permeate every aspect of his life and your relationship—that is likely a dealbreaker, in which case the relationship may be futile. However, if your potential partner has a minor quality that is unattractive to you, then it might just be a red flag, in which case you should step back and give the situation more thought. And if you're wondering what some people consider dealbreakers, This Is the Biggest Dealbreaker for Men, Study Says.