Young women are jumping into new relationships with guys they just "met" on Instagram.
College grads are creating Tinder profiles.
Date nights now widely consist of takeout -- and Netflix.
Many dating formalities of years past -- which helped give parents a clue about how things were going for their young men and women -- have fallen away and instead become entwined with and absorbed by today's social media obsession. So gauging exactly who your kids might be dating and whether those relationships are happy and healthy can be tricky to navigate.
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But social media aside, for young people in brand-new relationships, there are almost immediate changes to detect: There's that fresh twinkle in the eye, the swifter move in the step -- initially.
But after a few weeks, as the early motions of a relationship settle in, there may be some clear signs that will help parents see whether their daughters, in particular, are in healthy dating relationships or not.
Here are a few red flags that, when waved high enough, are indications a young woman may not be in the right relationship over the long haul:
1.) She's withdrawn from her core group of friends and family.
It's natural for a happy new couple to be enamored with each other and spend time alone. But over the course of time, if your daughter has completely dropped her closest relationships and has no interest in sharing this part of her world with you or others close to her, she may be withdrawing from a lot of other core elements that define her -- which is not good.
"When a girl or young woman is in a dating relationship and it appears she is becoming more isolated except for spending time only with 'him' -- it's a red flag," said Katie M. DeLoach, a mental health counselor based in Lakeland, Florida. "Often the man will be very charming and persistent about creating a lot of opportunity for just the two of them." While this may be appropriate in some cases -- in others, it will not. No new guy, no matter how "fabulous," should take a woman completely away from her friends and family.
2.) She's increasingly insecure or always feels bad about herself.
This may be the most obvious (and painful) sign for parents to observe. Many young women become more self-aware when a man is suddenly in the picture. But when the young woman is constantly second-guessing herself, concerned with meeting his expectations and never feels like she amounts to enough in order to please him -- something is wrong.
When a relationship is healthy, petty worries and comparisons should diminish into thin air. A strong, appropriate relationship should bring out the best in a person -- and make any woman feel like she's the only one in the room, supporting and encouraging the person she is.
3.) He never pays for dinner.
Many a young woman has experienced the end of a night out when, out of the blue, the guy expects her to pay for her own meals. After a relationship is a bit more solidified, this is understandable -- there should soon be an ebb and flow, a give and take (equal pay for women and everything else, right?). But right off the bat, a guy who is not only willing but eager to pay for the first handful of dates will also, in the long run, be eager to provide, eager to protect, and eager to love your daughter as she deserves and needs.
In today's economy and with so many young people struggling to find decent jobs, or holding jobs that don't pay well, this may seem like a tall order (and may seem a tad old-fashioned). But given where many relationships lead to today, maybe an old-fashioned relationship isn't so bad.
4.) He tries to change her.
Young women put an immense amount of pressure on themselves to be the "ideal woman" they assume a man would want. When a guy encourages her to fit a certain mold or style that suits his preference -- it can be a manipulative effort to create a person who suits his life rather than appreciating the individual she already is. No one wants to spend the rest of their lives playacting to gain approval.
5.) She feels the need to save him.
The underdog can be endearing to some girls. Like the boy she never noticed until he's walking on crutches and somehow that becomes a desirable trait -- he is human and in need of support as much as she is. He feeds her need to be needed. Yet if a guy is in a broken place personally, in need of counseling and direction, a girl can easily get lost as well with the desire to "save him."
A girl can't save a guy, and vice versa.
6.) He leads her away from her core values and beliefs.
At the foundation of a relationship, the values that a couple holds should very well be the one thing they have the most in common. In many aspects they should be heading in the same direction. So when a girl begins to easily let down her guard and give way to the standards and deeply rooted values she has long held, this could be more than a red flag this isn't the right guy -- a young lady is opening herself up to be hurt.
Understanding your young adult's relationship may feel like a foreign language -- and often, the idea of "live and learn" seems easier than getting in the way. But by taking interest in the current state of your young adult's relationship, you may not only save her (or him) from hurt and pain in the future, but guide them to understand and appreciate their worth.