Whether you’re entering the dating scene for the first time or are newly single it is helpful to remember something author Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” What does this mean? Many people are on their best behavior when they first start to date yet over time their true self emerges. In the throes of a new relationship, you may see only the best of the new person in your life and you may pay no attention to inconsiderate behavior.
Lonesome people often ignore red flags and paint them green because feeling lonely is depressing. Most people crave human connection. So when they begin to date they think this person is the perfect person, my soul mate. There may be a tendency to ignore some warning signs that tell you who this person really is. Here are some red flags you shouldn’t ignore.
You’ve been dating for a while when you notice your companion tells “little lies” and brushes it off as, “no big deal it is only a little lie”. This is a RED FLAG because that person has told you lying is okay. The green flag you tell yourself? “ Oh it is only a little lie, not a big one. It doesn’t really matter.” Yet it DOES matter. This person has just told you they are comfortable with being untruthful. Small lies may become big ones. Not a good thing in a relationship. It is okay to trust, it is important to verify too.
How does your new friend talk about the people in their earlier relationships? Ridiculing previous partners, using critical words to describe people, blaming relationship failures on others and taking no responsibility for their part in the failed relationship is a RED FLAG! They have told you who they are. This person is some one who is judgmental and critical of others and doesn’t accept responsibility for their own choices.
The green flag? You tell yourself, ”It’ll be different with me because those others were horrible. Now wonder they broke up.” Wrong. What they’re really saying is they have no insight into why their relationships fail and they are the common denominator of the failed relationship. If the new friend doesn’t accept responsibility for their part in bad relationships, one day you’ll be blamed if this relationship fails. The nasty words they say about their exes? Now those same words will be said about you if the relationship ends.
Asking for too much personal information about your previous love life early in the new relationship is a RED FLAG. Perhaps the person says, “I just want to know everything about you because I love you so much.” Flattering, right? NO. This is a RED FLAG. The person is telling you your past is more important than our present. You paint it green by telling yourself, “No one has paid this much attention to me before. I love that my date cares about me and really listens.” Consider this – maybe this information will be used against you to justify jealousy and needing to keep tabs on you when you’re out. It may turn out to be a power and control issue in your association.
Does the new person try to speed the relationship along, even when you set limits, by telling you, “I’ve never felt like this before. I’m just so into you. My last partner wasn’t into sex and I’ve been without for so long. You’re not frigid, are you? You want to make me happy, don’t you?” Your previously communicated boundaries are ignored or disregarded. This is a RED FLAG. This person is telling you that your values don’t matter as much as his or her needs. You change red flags to green flags by telling yourself, “Maybe I’m being unreasonable. It’s kind of sweet how much loving my new friend needs.” This is not sweet. This is a pressure tactic to get you to do what they want by not respecting your boundaries. Disrespected boundaries may create contemptuous relationships.
Does your date confide they are up to their eyeballs in credit card debt? Is the blame placed on their previous loves for their current financial woes? This is a RED FLAG. They are telling you they are not fiscally responsible. You paint the red flag green by saying to yourself, “Wow, the last person really took advantage of her or him. What a shopaholic!” You help out by paying for all your dates and maybe buying things the other person wants, but doesn’t necessarily need. You promise yourself you will only do this until your partner has more money. In the mean time, your finances get drained. What you later discover is the person you’re dating is a gambler, or a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or a user. You saw the red flag and ignored it by painting it green. Didn’t work out for you, did it?
Does what your buddy says go with their actions? Congruency means words and actions go together. For example, you’re told, “I really want to quit drinking.” Yet you find their favorite hangout is the bar. The friend has just told you who she or he is. This is not someone who is ready to quit drinking. This is a RED FLAG. You paint the red flag green by saying everyone makes mistakes. Incongruence (words and actions don’t go together) is the same as dishonesty. A relationship like this is built on deception.
Pay attention to people’s behaviour. Give yourself permission to take any relationship slowly. This way you’ll learn the genuineness of your new love, who they really are. Don’t excuse inexcusable behavior. By keeping your red flags red you may gift yourself with a shift from being in an unhealthy relationship to being in a healthful one.
Dawn Fuller is a Registered Clinical Counsellor. She has been a therapist for over 35 years.