~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #89
“The best gift we can give ourselves when we aren’t in the relationship we want, should that be what we desire, is to not be in the wrong relationship.”
Often it seems easier to spot the strengths and weaknesses of a relationship when we are on the outside and have the benefit of objectivity as we are not the ones actually in the relationship. And while this is a perceptive skill to possess, it can be ironic how we cannot often see these said strengths and weaknesses in our own pairings. But that doesn’t mean it is not possible. Much like anything we wish to be successful at, it takes conscious awareness, a willingness to learn and from time to time, first-hand experience and initial failed attempts to learn valuable lessons.
Believe it or not, the relationships that didn’t work out can offer their own long-lasting gifts in our present as we go about building new, lasting, loving and supportive relationships. In fact, the biggest gift may be stepping away from a relationship prior to any emotional attachment when we realize it was not going to be a better path for us.
We can prevent much heartbreak, devastation and unnecessary pain by heeding glaring red flags and recognizing that we need to refrain from ignoring them. Not all red flags speak negatively of the person we are beginning to get to know. For example, simply because someone’s values are different from your own or perspective on life is not in align with yours simply means an intimate relationship might not be the best path should you both want a vibrant, fulfilling future together. Let them go. Let yourself move on. But when a red flag reveals their true character that is something that would crush the vibrant person that you are, move on as of yesterday.
Before I dive into the 18 red flags that we should not take lightly, let me preface by saying the more obvious red flags are not listed: physical abuse, cheating, etc. Also, noticing red flags doesn’t happen necessarily on the first date, or even the second or third. Be patient. Get to know them without committing, and in some cases, don’t assume something is a red flag when maybe they’re being guarded because they don’t know you yet either. Keeping in mind that none of us is perfect and that we are all capable of growth should we wish to pursue it, the key is to respect yourself and the life you have created as well as the life you want to live enough to walk away when something is telling you to take notice before proceeding any further.
Below are 18 red flags to not only notice, but respect as a warning to move on.
1. Sense of humor that is hurtful
The question often comes up on dating blogs, “What if our humors don’t match?”. Is this a red flag? Not necessarily. Granted, often someone with a sense of humor is more attractive, but simply because you see different things as funny, doesn’t mean you should bail. However, if their humor is a direct result of seeing other people, animals or things suffer or embarrassed, then yes, this is a red flag worth respecting. Stay with the person who makes you laugh or allows you to feel comfortable being yourself so you can be your goofy self, but know the difference between hurtful humor and playful humor.
2. They are amazed that you could like them
Sometimes when we’re just gaining our self-confidence or are rebounding from a blow to our self-esteem, we can be tempted to be thrilled when anyone pays us attention. Move past this, and move past this quickly. Why? Often we are so self-conscious that we aren’t paying attention to who is truly standing in front of us, our date. And if by date three or week two, your date tells you they can’t believe you would be with someone like them, nine times out of 10, that’s a sign that you haven’t been paying close enough attention. This may sound snobby, but trust me, it isn’t. People will reveal their truths to you if you pay attention, and often this statement is said in complete sincerity, an unguarded moment. While such a comment may sound like flattery, take a moment and get to know them better.
3. They don’t respect your boundaries
In a post shared last month on trust, one of the key components to developing trust with someone is if they respect your boundaries. Sometimes we have to state our boundaries and sometimes it is understood unless we say otherwise. For example, if you share with them that you need some time alone or are exhausted after a long week and just want to stay home, yet they ignore your wishes and intrude or make plans for you to go out, these are examples of ignoring your boundaries. These may seem like simple over-steps, and if it is the first time, sure. But if happens repeatedly, they aren’t respecting what you need.
4. An ex (or exes) is still in the picture and children aren’t involved
Mentioning of the exes is a benign event and expected eventually in a relationship; however, heed to what degree the ex (or exes) are mentioned. Most of us have exes, so we’re not talking about sharing your past which is completely expected, but if they still have a relationship with them, determine what type of a relationship it is: friendly, respectful, or best-buds? What role does the ex have in their life? What role then do you have in their life? Why hasn’t the ex moved on? While this isn’t an immediate red flag, perhaps you can have a conversation with your partner, but as you move forward ensure that whatever their role is, if any, you are truly comfortable with it and feel respected.
5. They impose guilt when they don’t get what they want or you don’t act they way they prefer
The imposition of guilt is a weak man’s way of communicating. The key to a healthy relationship, any healthy relationship, is clear, honest, thoughtful conversation. Someone who is tossing around guilt is trying to manipulate your behavior. It could be a comment they say in passing about if you really liked me you’d stop being friends with her or it may reveal itself in the form of passive aggressive behavior, i.e. the silent treatment. Either way, they aren’t communicating what they want in an adult fashion, and unless they want to change, they aren’t going to because this behavior has clearly worked for them in the past if they are still doing it.
6. Lack of direction
Perhaps you’ve heard of it, the Peter Pan syndrome. If the person you are dating appears to have not grown up or doesn’t have a desire to be a grown-up who is responsible for their life without reliance on mom and dad, you may have met your very own Peter Pan. Now, rest assured, there are female Peter Pans as well, there just doesn’t seem to be a name that is as well-suited.
7. They need a relationship and anyone will do
Relationship hoppers. Those people who don’t know what it’s like to be alone because they really never have been. Everyone’s time between relationships will be different for a myriad of reasons, but when you find someone who is ready to jump into a relationship, back up a step and find out why. If it feels like they have a canned speech or first-date routine, if their personality or friendliness comes across as insincere, or if they really don’t want to get to know you, they just want you to like them, put this relationship on pause permanently.
8. You are their only means to happiness
With time, a healthy relationship will find you spending more and more of your time with your partner, but each of you should be independent, secure beings, capable of enjoying life’s moments from time to time without each other, truly enjoying these moments on your own. The co-dependency often provides us with security and stability when the relationship begins because we are uncertain about where the relationship stands, but in the long run, this type of relationship isn’t healthy. You must be secure with yourself, enjoy your own company, and they themselves if you are to enjoy a life together. Every one’s amount of time they will need or want to themselves will be different, but be sure to cultivate your own life before you settle down with someone else.
9. Differing life values
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, simply because you have different values, perhaps religion, stark differences in understanding when it comes to politics or the direction you want your future to take (kids, no kids, etc.) doesn’t mean they are bad people, or something is wrong with you. It just means, this isn’t someone to begin a long-term relationship with.
10. Rather than support you in your goals, they want to improve you for their benefit
As discussed in last week’s episode, there are five love languages, and one of them is “words of praise”. When we encourage our partner to be the best they can be, we may not understand why they want to do what they are doing, we may not understand how it will be possible, but we do need to support and encourage them. It is not our partner’s job to change us, fix us and assist us in improving so they are happier with us. We are not objects, but rather someone who needs a partner. Do not allow someone to see you has an object or a project.
11. Things said in confidence are shared with others
Speaking of building trust, whether it is something we share with a confidant or our romantic partner, if we share something we understand is to be kept between the two people in the room and that promise is violated, trust cannot be built. Sometimes the first time is a mistake, a misunderstanding, and at that time, communication, clear communication needs to take place. But if it happens again, see their behavior as a red flag and move on.
12. They have more than one friend who has troubling values
Sometimes the people we date are friends with someone who is going through a hard time. After all, we all have ups and downs, and being a good friend involves hanging in there. But if their friends behaviors, more than one, tend to be troubling to you and your way of life, take a step back and ask yourself why is this person friends with these types of people? While we aren’t expecting to love their friends as they do, we do need to see what type of relationships they surround themselves with, as it speaks to what they are comfortable with.
13. They latch on quickly, too quickly
Similar to #7, this person is quick to latch on to you and your life. They quickly assimilate to your world without hesitation, and often after close inspection it may become apparent they don’t have much going on in their own life: goals, dreams, projects, etc. Choose someone who loves the life they are living, and you will have a happy relationship. Choose someone who loves your life, and co-dependency or at the very least, an unequal relationship, will begin to foster.
14. Your only attraction is the physical
These types of relationships are excusable when we are young and don’t understand the chemicals rushing around our body when we observe someone who absorbs our attention without saying a word. Now, this is not to say we shouldn’t have some chemistry with a person; we absolutely must. I don’t care what objectors say, there at least needs to be a hint, otherwise you are just friends. But basing your interest solely on someone’s looks is a plan for disaster down the road. Substance, not superficiality. It’s worth mentioning that height needs to be reconsidered as well. It took a long time for me to move past this one, looking for someone who was taller than me, and while there is a limit of how much taller I will be than a man, I’ve realized that the height does not make the man, rather it is how he carries himself and treats the person he is with.
15. They are always asking something of you
I can only share my experience being a woman, but I have a feeling women do it as well as men. If your partner sees you as their maid, their cook, their dog-sitter, their baby-sitter, their house-sitter, basically, if they see you as someone who will help them out without taking into consideration how it makes you feel, either sit them down and have a conversation or just be done with it tactfully. Much like a family member who assumes merely because you’re family that you must take them in in times of trouble, a person who assumes you fulfill a role because that was how it was done in the relationships they saw modeled, needs to be set straight. Relationships are partnerships, not employer/employee, not finding someone to do your laundry or cook your dinner because you didn’t take the time to learn. The love language, “Acts of Service” is communicated because someone wants to do them for you to express their feelings, not because they have to.
16. How do they treat complete strangers?
The treatment of service staff, strangers passing on the street, other people’s property, anything that will not benefit them in any way can be a helpful indicator of their true character. Now be sure, sometimes they will put on their best behavior when you are present, so just pay attention in moments when their guard is down. How they interact, what they expect reveals habits they might not even be aware of.
17. They never ask questions to get to know you
A red flag from the beginning is when someone you are intently interested in allows you to do all of the asking and conversation starting, but asks nothing of you as to get to know you. Sure the evening went well, you were stroking their ego, but in reality, were they there because they wanted to be with you or did you simply made them feel good? Be honest with yourself and allow a ping-pong game ensure where questions are tossed naturally back and forth. This is a good sign, the former is not.
18. Your gut feels uncomfortable about them . . . still
I probably could have begun and ended with this one to be truthful when it comes to red flags, as it has been my gut that has alerted me to warnings I couldn’t see with my own eyes or thankfully didn’t have to experience first-hand. But if we have taken the time to get to know ourselves, and learned the lessons from the past, often we can sense when something is off, when someone is being disrespectful, or doesn’t have the same intentions as we have. All of this depends upon how finely tuned your instincts are. I don’t care whether you are a man or a woman, your instincts are like a muscle: all of us have them, but not all of us use them or use them effectively. If your instincts aren’t well-toned, you may have to take a little bit more time to get to know them. But either way, eventually the red flag, if it’s there, will raise its ugly head. Trust it.
The primary reason I shared this list with you today is because often we don’t trust ourselves when it comes to love because either we’re too self-critical or perhaps have lost confidence temporarily from a past relationship. Let me just say right now, you are amazing. No, you are not perfect and you never will be. But stand in your shoes right now, know that you will always be a work in progress and look for someone who wants to make the journey with you in a similar way that you have imagined. Each of our desired journeys will be different, but we must be patient as we find someone who will be elated with the journey we will have the opportunity to travel together.
And, hey, let me just say, if a red flag does pop up, be thankful. Be thankful that you have the opportunity and now more time to look for a person who will be a pleasure to be with.
SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~First Date Cheat Sheet (podcast)
Un Sandwich Beurre avec Jambon et Fromage
(butter sandwich with ham and cheese)
- fresh baguette
- emmental cheese (or any semi-hard cheese: gruyere, cheddar, etc.)
- ham – the best you can afford
- optional: butter, mayonnaise, tomatoes, pickles