Red Flags in Relationships

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Image credit: photo by ian dooley on Unsplash.

The dating world can be extremely exciting, however it can also be daunting and a lot of work. More than in any other realm, we would be wise to use our intuition and our observing self. If we don’t, we risk ending up one of the many couples who separate, end in divorce or even just in loveless marriages.

Many times, we choose to ignore the red flags that pop up in a relationship. We might ignore something about this person that is potentially emotionally dangerous or unhealthy, but if the red flags are ignored and the relationship continues, then most assuredly the relationship will be tumultuous or even disastrous.

And, many people who end up divorced acknowledge that they noticed these red flags early on, however they chose to ignore the warning signs, and then the issues became larger.

According to Urban Dictionary, a red flag is a warning of any impending danger. Have you noticed any of the below about your partner, and perhaps chosen to ignore it?

Is Or Does Your Partner…

  • Emotionally or physically unavailable?
  • Have too much tension?
  • Tend to get angry easily?
  • Drink more than you are comfortable with?
  • Treat you disrespectfully, i.e. with derision, sarcasm, silence, or with disrespect for your feelings and needs?
  • Not prioritize you in the relationship?
  • Have other compulsive or addictive behaviors, including gambling, excessive porn, shopping, and compulsive spending?
  • Not able to own up to their part in an argument?
  • Not have similar values?
  • Not share similar approaches to child-rearing, money, or social engagements (for instance, if your current partner never wants to leave home, but you want to travel the world…)

If You Have Had Thoughts Like Those Below, These Are Also Red Flags

  • Asking friends how they felt when they met their spouses or partners, as if needing to verify that what you are feeling is legitimate.
  • A sense of dread regarding an upcoming wedding or engagement.
  • A sense of being too clingy, needy, or jealous.
  • Not wanting to tell others (parents, friends, etc.) about the relationship – this can be a sign that we know that the relationship isn’t right for us, and we fear their judgment.
  • Not wanting to introduce your significant others to other people, because of a certain behavior they exhibit or because of the way that they act towards you.
  • A need to defend this person to friends or family (especially regarding their treatment of you).
  • You have broken up and gotten back together more than once, always with the promise that the other person will change or “do better”.
  • You feel like you’re settling (which could be due to self esteem issues).

Reasons People Ignore Red Flags

  • Physical attraction overrides looking deeper into the person.
  • Denial or rationalization that these traits are “not so bad”.
  • Thinking that “This is the best I can do”; accepting “crumbs instead of going after the whole cake.”
  • Feeling lonely.
  • Desperately wanting to be in a relationship regardless of what it is like.

We often believe that many of these issues can be worked on, or that the person will change (with our help and guidance), however if a person is already exhibiting worrying behaviors even before the wedding or union, then most likely, these behaviors will continue afterwards, also.

Love Conquers All?

We also like to tell ourselves that “love conquers all”, and that “love heals all”, and even that we “can’t help who we love.” But the truth is that while we may love and care for a person, it doesn’t automatically mean that we should form a permanent union with them.

Think back to high school or college sweethearts you might have had, and remember how intensely you cared for them. But aren’t you glad you didn’t end up married to him or her?

The same is still true now. We may care for the person, but if we have serious concerns (whether conscious or unconscious), then it is time to let go. If we do care for him or her, then it is also in their best interests to end the relationship. They, too, deserve to be with a person who is a better match for them.

Sunk Costs

Another psychological trick that we play on ourselves is our continued thinking of “well, we’ve been together for five years. All of that time will be wasted if I break up with her now.” Not true! More time will be “wasted” if you get married, and then end up divorced after five additional years.

And, moreover, there is no such thing as wasted time in terms of your heart. Each relationship is a learning process, and if you have learned to recognize what it is that you do want from another person, then you can take that knowledge into your next relationship. 

Too Old?

Both men and women, tend to think things like “well, I’m getting too old now, and this is the only person with whom I can have children / get married / etc.” Again, not true!

It is never too late to get out of a relationship, and there are millions of available men (and women) with whom to form a partnership. And wouldn’t you also want to have children with a partner whom you can love with your entire heart, and vice versa?

If you do end the relationship, then it will most certainly clear the way for the magical relationship to come, one in which there are no red flags. Heartache can be avoided down the road if we really pay attention early on to red flags, using our gut as well as our mind to notice and be mindful.

If, after reading this list, you still struggle with whether your decision is the right one or not, speaking with a psychotherapist or couples counselor may give you valuable insight into your relationship.

At Nassau Guidance & Counseling, we have worked with many individuals to help them make the right decisions in their emotional lives. A great therapist will hold the space necessary for you to feel comfortable and supported, no matter which direction you choose.

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