We have all been deep into a relationship, went through a breakup, and then saw several red flags in hindsight – after having time to reflect upon things with a new perspective. Seeing life through the lens of experience and wisdom can be a profound thing and yield important learnings. But, what if you had the tools to reduce your chances of getting into a relationship that ultimately led to heartache and pain? What if you had the ability to better identify red flags along the way?
In this post, we examine how to identify red flags by examining the signs within yourself that things aren’t exactly as they should be. It’s common to study “what the other person is doing” to identify red flags but the truth is that examining your own behavior and feelings can often help indicate whether red flags exist. Ask yourself these important questions to understand more.
How authentically am I interacting with this person?
Notice whether you feel you can be yourself on dates and when communicating between them. Do you openly share information about your day? Do you feel safe communicating when you are tired, or with something as simple as a preference for dinner? Do you notice yourself holding back your true preferences on things like politics, hobbies, and even something as fundamental as your values? Sometimes, you might feel the need to control or manage your partner’s impression of you by trying to be who you think they will love. You might feel the need to impress rather than show up as you truly are, even if that includes insecurities. To feel accepted, do you have a tendency to mirror this person’s hopes, fears, and interests, rather than truly expressing your own?
Tuning into whether you can be yourself can help you identify red flags in a variety of ways. It helps you understand whether your partner might be judgemental, have unrealistic expectations, or expect perfection from a partner. Make sure you are not doing things you wouldn’t normally do in an attempt to be liked, accepted, or valued. Or, whether you are sidestepping more difficult conversations in an effort to keep things easy and avoid any level of conflict.
Does the pace of this relationship feel sustainable?
It’s common for relationships to move too fast, especially if your new partner has an anxious attachment style. On the flip side, there could be a lot of resistance in your relationships, and it might take much longer to reach deeper levels of intimacy. In-between these extremes will be a pace in which a relationship unfolds in a mutually healthy and sustainable way. If you feel uncomfortable because your new partner is already talking about moving in together in the initial months of your partnership, or it’s been several months and he or she still hasn’t invited you over, note these situations as potential red flags. Someone who tends to rush into next steps might have a desperation for love, that could result in a variety of relationship challenges. On the flip side, a partner who is resistance to taking next steps might be avoidant, fearful, or emotionally unavailable - all of which will present painful, ongoing challenges in a long term relationship.
Do I feel calm, anxious, or even indifferent?
Notice your demeanor, especially right after spending time with your partner. Is there a calm, sustainable, and light feeling? Or, do you feel anxious about parting ways and fearful that he or she will change his or her mind about the relationship in your absence? Do you obsess about every detail in or between dates? Do you generally experience relationship anxiety or relationship security? It might even be possible that you feel apathy or a sense that you could “take or leave” the relationship. This might feel like “not showing up” for yourself or the other person. These feelings are precursors to red flags and should be carefully examined early on. If you don’t leave a a date mostly feeling connected and grounded, and instead feel like you are walking on eggshells or depleted, dig deeper into the root of your feelings and ask yourself honestly if this person can meet your communication needs and ultimately enter into a secure relationship.
Does this person honor my boundaries and set his or her own?
Healthy boundaries are one of the most fundamental requirements of a sustainable relationship. Boundaries create a container in which both parties in a relationship can show up long-term with their needs met. Boundaries create room for reflection, self-care, self-love, and personal development. Maintaining healthy boundaries can enable both partners to show up more regularly for one another from a wholehearted place.
Do you sense that this person is not holding boundaries or is making it difficult for you to set them? Lack of honoring boundaries should be a red flag and create additional questions around respect, and whether your partner is just viewing the relationship based on “what they are getting” rather than working toward mutual growth and long-term sustainability. Examples of this might be limiting social time so that there is time for you and your partner on the weekend, taking some weekend time to yourself for hobbies and interests, or even setting limits around intimacy, food and alcohol.
It’s natural to want to identify red flags by studying the behaviors of your partner. However, your own reactions to their behavior provide the most compelling signs of all. Understanding what reactions his or her behaviors evoke in you is even more powerful than trying to decode what you might or might not be seeing in them.
At Center for Shared Insight, we help you understand your own feelings, emotions, reactions, and desires more deeply for a more fulfilling life. Our team specializes in improving relationships, including the relationship you have with yourself. If you are struggling with relationship patterns and repeatedly missing red flags, contact our team to discuss how we might help you choose new, healthier, relationship patterns that will result in more satisfying partnerships.