What’s Love Got to do with Red Flags?

by Janet Ong Zimmerman on 01/10/2012

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Definition of Red Flag: 1. A warning of danger or a signal to stop.  2. Noticing that something isn’t quite right with your man but dismissing it because you want to be with him, don’t want to be single, you like him, etc. 

What Red Flags Mean to Love

Red flags warn us that something isn’t right with our partner’s behavior, actions, etc.  Denial and doubt are the main reasons we don’t see or believe red flags that happen to us.  Until we recognize and learn from these signs, the same red flags will keep showing up in our existing relationships and our next relationship.

Sometimes we can’t put our finger on what it is, even though we feel uneasy about it.  We overlook and misread red flags for many reasons including wanting a relationship to work out, getting caught up in the moment, not believing that someone we care about would do something bad to us and focusing on how wonderful we think our partner is.

We’ve all experienced red flags in our love life.  I share a couple of mine in hopes that you’ll learn from my mistakes, helping to minimize and save you from pain.

Lessons from My Red Flags

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

My 3-month relationship with a man who was actually a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” started out with high hopes.  He said the right things, took me to nice places, had a good job, was attractive, etc.  We enjoyed each other’s company and I was hopeful that our relationship could work out.  After a short period of time, red flags began to pop up.  Instead of listening to my intuition, I turned a blind eye to these glaring situations.

  1. “Wolf” lived with a friend in his friend’s townhouse and didn’t have his own furniture or much of his possessions with him.  Because he had no roots, he could pack all of his stuff in one suitcase and take off at a moment’s notice.
  2. When l didn’t hear from him for a week, I thought he might be dead – I really did!  (Oh, the tricks my mind played on me…)  I went to his friend’s townhouse and his friend said that “the wolf” was fine, but not home.
  3. “Wolf” and I had plans to go to dinner one night.  We spoke on the phone earlier that day.  As it got close to dinner time, I called him when I didn’t hear from him.  He didn’t answer his phone and didn’t call me back that night.  The next afternoon when we spoke, he said he fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next day.
  4. “Wolf” and I spent a great weekend together.  My friends came into town for a girl’s weekend and I remember telling them that I had met this really nice guy and was excited to see where our relationship was going.  After the girl’s weekend, I never heard from him again.  That same week, I saw him in his car at a stop light with a woman sitting in the passenger seat.

For a long time, I wanted to speak with him to find out what happened.  Many times we want the answers from our partner to our question of “why”.  We need only to look at their actions as our answer. “Wolf’s” actions told me that he was having relationships with many women at the same time.

Here’s what you can learn from my mistakes.

  • People tend to put their best foot forward in the beginning of a relationship.
  • If someone’s best foot is questionable, it’s best to move on.
  • Actions speak louder than words.  When someone is a smooth talker, pay close attention to the inconsistencies between what they say and what they do.  When things continually don’t match up, run to the nearest exit.
  • When you’re sad or upset about what the other person is doing, remember that it’s not about you.  It’s about their (lack of) character.
  • Spend your precious time with someone who is trustworthy and can be counted on.

The 1-year Relationship that Lasted 5 Years

My 5-year relationship should have only lasted a year.  I met “Mr. Unhappy” when I lived in Kansas City.  He was originally from Florida.  We were both from out of state and into fitness; this is what brought us together.  Things were good during the first 6 months then took a turn for the worse after we moved to southern California.

  1. We stayed with my parents for 6 months rent-free until we found a place of our own. “Mr. Unhappy” got irritated with normal noise that my parents would make (i.e. shutting drawers, washing dishes, etc.) and asked them to be quiet saying it was too noisy for me.  I was fine with the noise and didn’t like when he blamed me.  I constantly felt caught in the middle.  He started his own business and would borrow my parent’s car to drive to work.  My parents are the nicest people and to this day, have never said a bad word about him.
  2. He was not happy in southern California and with his life in general.  I felt bad about going out with my friends and having a good time when he was so unhappy.  I also felt guilty that he had moved out here to be with me which made me feel responsible for his happiness.
  3. He hated the traffic and only wanted to do things that didn’t require driving any real distance.  Our going-out activities were limited to meals and movies.  My love of exploring, taking day trips and traveling was put on hold while we were together.
  4. When my friends would call, he would pick up the phone and just hand it to me without greeting them.  Friends would comment about this and in fact, one friend called my sister saying, “We can’t let Janet marry “Mr. Unhappy!”
  5. He didn’t have a car so when I bought a new car, I sold him my used car at a reduced price.  He was supposed to pay me for the car.  Instead, he took the car when he moved and has never paid me.

Despite these red flags, there was a time when (I thought) I wanted to marry “Mr. Unhappy”. I really wanted to get married by a certain age (I was in my mid 30s at the time) and didn’t approach this love relationship with the right mindset.  I rationalized questionable behaviors and actions, thinking that he might change.  It’s hard for me to believe that I stayed with “Mr. Unhappy” for so long.

Here’s what you can learn from my mistakes.

  • Love, value and respect yourself first.  Your partner will treat you the way you treat yourself and the way you allow him to treat you.
  • A person’s true character comes out during difficult times.
  • We’re only responsible for our own happiness, not someone else’s.  If you put someone else’s happiness before yours, you’ll never find happiness within yourself or in your relationship.
  • How your partner treats your family and friends is just as important as how he treats you.
  • Don’t stay in the wrong relationship because your biological clock is ticking.
  • A true love relationship is not stressful.
  • Staying in a relationship because you feel bad or guilty only prolongs the pain for both of you.  Instead of hoping your partner will change and wishing your relationship will get better, leave when it’s obviously over.
  • Don’t waste your time; you can never get those days, months and years back.

While I’ve been in other relationships with red flags, those days are behind me.  I’m grateful for these flags because they  revealed to me what I don’t want in a partner and relationship. Learning from these red flags led me to my husband. :)

How to Recognize Red Flags in Your Relationship

Red flags happen early on in a relationship.  When you pay attention, you’re given the opportunity to learn and grow to improve your next relationship.  Red flags give you the chance to get back on your path of core values when you’ve drifted off.

Recognize red flags when they happen by paying attention.  Here are some questions to answer:

  1. Does he say one thing then do another?  If so, where are the words not matching up to his actions?
  2. Does something feel fishy about what he’s doing or saying?  If so, what is that “something” that doesn’t quite feel right?
  3. Do I feel responsible for his happiness?
  4. Do I constantly find myself defending or justifying his actions to my family and friends?
  5. Do my friends and family like him?  If not, what don’t they like about him?
  6. Does he treat others with respect?  Is he thoughtful and kind to others?
  7. Do I feel uplifted around him?

If your answers are “yes” to any or all of the first four questions and “no” to any or all of the last three, you’re dealing with red flags.  Recognizing, acknowledging and dealing with the red flags in your relationship will lead you to a wonderful and fulfilling relationship with Mr. Right.

 

 

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