How many times has a relationship ended in your life and you’ve commented that “there were red flags all along”? Or, how often have your friends pointed out red flags with people you are dating that you may have chosen to ignore, defend, or rationalize? You might even find yourself talking to a friend after the breakup and commenting that it is “obvious in hindsight” that your former partner wasn’t a good fit for you.
It’s not uncommon to consciously or subconsciously ignore red flags for a variety of reasons. If you are “lying to yourself” throughout a partnership by ignoring small warnings about a partner or relationship, read on to understand why you might choose to do exactly that.
Fear of Being Alone
Sure, you may question whether you and your partner have enough in common and whether he or she is open to enough new experiences to keep you interested long-term. But, you don’t want to be alone, so you stay in the relationship hoping that he or she will be adventurous and open-minded enough to keep your curious mind engaged in the partnership. Or, you are getting close to “age 35” and want to stay in this relationship because it’s your “best bet” for having kids and “settling down” like the rest of your friends. If you leave the relationship, you fear you may not have another chance to start a family. Sound familiar?
The fear of being alone can often be a catalyst for you to spin up a story that he or she will “change” or “is more interesting than I’m giving credit for” or “will finally commit and start a family with me”. Pushing away the fear and discomfort of being alone by lying to yourself about what you’ll accept and how satisfied you’ll be in a relationship is a great example of how quickly relationship red flags can be ignored as a way to prevent pain, such as loneliness.
How do you better understand the real reason for staying? Take some time to reflect on the gaps you feel between your true needs and the actual reality of your relationship. This might be in interests, values, sexual desire, the cadence of time together, or many other aspects of your partnership. Be objective to try and decode the real reasons for your staying.
Another reason you might ignore red flags is due to relationship anxiety. When you struggle with feeling nervous about the status of a relationship or over-analyze and obsess over all the details, you may lack the clarity you need to identify relationship red flags. Wanting to make the relationship work and fearing that it will not, can cause what we commonly talk about as “tunnel vision.” When this happens, your anxiety has you preoccupied on one aspect, for example, “Where is this heading?” or “Is he/she the one?”, that you miss a lot of important information along the way, the information that lies in the periphery or between the lines. When you experience relationship anxiety, you tend to “fill in the gaps” when you don’t understand the behavior of your partner. Sometimes this can be justifying or making excuses for his or her behavior to align with the conclusion that your tunnel vision is leading you towards. Therefore, instead of objectively evaluating a given situation, your relationship anxiety makes it very hard to see the problematic patterns as red flags. Overcoming relationship anxiety can help you better identify red flags in a future partnership because you remain open to all information and are more clear about the actual dynamics between you and your partner.
When you want a relationship to work, you tend to see a relationship working. It’s that simple. We see the world through the lens of our own desire. Being optimistic about the potential of you and your partner can make you see the glass as half full when in reality, it might not be. Having a positive outlook on everything in life is a growth mindset strategy, but can sometimes hinder the process of identifying and addressing red flags. If you know you are a positive person and tend to give others the benefit of the doubt to the detriment of seeing what’s really happening, it could be helpful to ask your friends and family for honest feedback on your relationship in an effort to help you see dynamics that your optimistic mindset might write off.
At Center for Shared Insight, we strive to help clients decode relationship dynamics before they are surprised about a breakup or beat themselves up for “seeing things clearly in hindsight”. We proactively work with you to identify how a relationship could fall short in meeting your needs and provide strategies and tools to address those gaps with your partner. We also love to work with clients between relationships to help them understand what they missed and why, so that they use healthier dating strategies moving forward. Contact us for a free intake and consultation.