“In the beginning, what red flags did you ignore?” My therapist asked me in my second session post break up. I sat there speechless for a moment. At first, I wanted to get defensive and say there weren’t any. Then as I opened my mouth to say so, I realized it was probably not true. She told me that there are always red flags, some flags are redder than others, but there are always red flags. She sent me home with homework: I had to think back and spot all the red flags that I ignored. What were they? Why did I excuse them? How red were they?
Sitting in that office on that couch I just couldn’t admit to myself that there were red flags in a relationship that seemed so perfect. After being out of the relationship for more than a year, I can tell you every red flag and how red it was. I can even tell you the day one flag was waving, so bright and shiny like it was waiting for a bull to come charging, and instead of paying attention, I brushed it away. Actually, I rolled it up so quickly and shoved it in a trunk and put that trunk in the back of a garage and then put things in front of that trunk hoping to pack away the existence of the flag.
Of course that never works. If you’ve been in a relationship that didn’t work out you too can look back and see the signs. If you can’t I beg you to go back. Like Clare says in Patterns Versus Change we’ll continue the same patterns until we learn from them.
I am not saying that any of us are free of flags. I think that we all have our own flags in a variety of colors and that’s what makes us unique. But some flags should be hints while others are red alert warnings. Not every person you date will be the right match for you. My last relationship was the picture of perfection. What every girl is supposed to want. I ignored the flags because society’s idea of “perfect” trumped my idea of “perfect.” Working on my therapy homework, I unpacked the garage after leaving my session and started looking at the flags I ignored. What an eye opener that was!
What happened next? My confidence in dating, trust within myself, my own choices, and eventually, love. I grew up, grew strong, and got honest.
As a coach for relationships and goals there’s often lots of red flags that I hear about. My Duty Dating was the perfect red flag training ever for my life. As I listen to friends, clients, people at coffee shops (I do eavesdrop, but it’s all in the name of research), I ask myself “how red is that flag” for me? As an outside observer, things look different. Flags that are really really red to me, might be orange to you. Its not my job nor my place to interfere or interpret your flags. Side note: friends want your advice that doesn’t mean you can judge their flag coloring (see No More Projections Please). However observing others is a good and less invasive beginning to viewing your own flags. I want you to practice recognizing the red flags that pop up or stand out in your life and in those of others, and then also observe what patterns or feelings arise.
Lately there’s been some sadness and disappointment in the dating world with my friends, clients, even from some of you readers. You meet someone, there’s excitement, smiles, something to look forward to and plans for your weekend. Then a few dates later, combustion! Or worse: silence. We’ve all been there, I’ve been there. Can you get upset, sad, disappointed and or stab a voo doo doll? Sure, for a moment. Maybe you give yourself a day; mourn the loss of “what could have been.” Then pick yourself up! Dust yourself off, and ask yourself the tough question. The honest question. What Red Flags did I ignore? What behaviors did I pay no attention to or excuse away?
Dating can be hard. Life can feel lonely. But do you really want to be with someone just so you’re not alone? I didn’t think so! Get excited about a date but remember while you’re hoping their into you make sure you’re into them! Show off your colors and take a look at all of theirs. There are two people in a relationship. Even if one of you walks away, or stops calling you, at least you will not have been a participationless bystander. You were a an equal partner in the relationship (again at least should have been). Not that I want you to think that if something didn’t work out its your fault! I am absolutely not saying that. We all have choices. We choose what to pay attention to, who to give our attention to, and how we deserve to be treated.
On your next date, instead of excusing the guttural reaction because someone is cute, your type, the first date in five years, dig deeper. Ask the tough questions. You may be surprised. Something you thought was red is orange. Something you thought was yellow was bright freaking RED.
We have no control of others actions. We can only control our controllables. If you are honest with yourself, totally love and value yourself, those red flags will stand out like a Viking at the Art Museum (not that Vikings don’t go to art museums just that Vikings stand out pretty much anywhere).
You won’t “fall” for every opportunity…not because you’re pessimistic but because you’re in control of your ship. You have awareness of your wants, needs and desires. Red flags just get in the way of those things. They delay your happiness. Why oh why, my loves, would you let your own self get in the way of your own happiness?
Shed those red flag preventing glasses and see your own wants, desires, happiness. Let those in who support you. Show them who you are and see them for their true selves. See the red flags. See the other colors of them. Make a decision, and try it out. If it doesn’t work with this person, at least you were honest. Try the next person; maybe their flags are the right colors for you! Then you two can roll around in your other colored flags and run off into the sunset holding your sans red flags hands high!