Remember: If something feels wrong, it IS wrong. A “relationship” is any web of interaction, including the one you have with yourself, religious regulations / philosophical teachings, authority figures, subordinates, peers, strangers, and the world around you.
“Intuition: The last voice you ever get the chance to ignore.” --Motifake
What is a Red Flag a.k.a. Warning Sign a.k.a. Gut-Instinct Danger Klaxon (™) a.k.a. The World Famous Original Patented Nagging Urgent Voice In The Back Of Your Mind That Is Saying “Watch Out! Run!”?
If you read here regularly, you can guess where the best definition comes from:
“A red flag can be a character trait, a certain habit, behavior, or any kind of beliefs or core values of someone else that makes your intuition sound off. This can be an issue in the present moment or something that you may see as a potential problem down the line (even though we resist it and think we can change them or that it will go away)...Red flags are things that you KNOW you don’t like, don’t agree with and aren’t conducive to a mutually respectful, loving, valuing and trusting relationship.”
And again, in a different way:
“Have you ever heard the saying ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’?
A red flag is the smoke that no matter how much you try to fan away, choose to identify as fog, or spray with the air freshener of denial and keep walking through, it will always lead you to fire. You may be able to see past the smoke and keep moving for a while, but fire is one thing that we all can agree, you will never be able to move through or ignore into extinguishment.
All you can do is tend to your burns by adjusting your boundaries, understand that ignoring the red flags of others is a major red flag of your own, and make the decision to stop normalizing and personalizing smoke signals when they appear.
The emotional toolbelt you were born with did not come with a hose to put out the fires of relational arsonists.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, abandonment issues, and a disease to please, any sign of smoke will make you feel like you have to work that much harder to prove you are “enough” for it to clear.
And when you eventually get locked into the vicious cycle of investigation opening, receipt collecting, truth chasing, instinct prosecuting, and reality questioning…
You will know that you got burned.”
Red Flag Awareness isn’t about starting some sort of undercover-reporter-style expose witch-hunt to beat anyone and everyone you meet in a race to the bottom of gaining their trust, discovering all their flaws and embarrassing moments, and discarding them for not being the impossible shade of “perfect”. That’s a sign of your own inner insecurity and inner ultra-critical self-hate. And it’s a recipe for being very alone and miserable.
Like anything else, when you “do without doing” (wu wei wu), when you allow yourself to be yourself, and allow others to be themselves…
People can’t help but reveal who they really are, and because the one thing people do best is be themselves, it never takes long to slip out of the character they want to project and into the one they habitually be. I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last (because it is true); it takes most of us painful experience before we realize it.
But if there are Code RED Warning Flags...it rarely takes you long to know it, whether you really want to or not. You came with built-in Red Flag Detectors. Whether you override your own God-given life-saving code (instinct) or not is up to you.
Why would you do that, anyways?
Well, um, lots of “great” reasons in the moment:
It’s cloaked in the all-encompassing, resistance-is-futile, vengeance-obsessed private-hell “spiritual” terrorism branded as “God’s will”. You are brainwashed that fear and love are inseparable while being simultaneously told that “real love drives out fear”. The consistent inconsistency of mixed messages and contradiction is pervasive, but you are too afraid to say anything lest you be “doomed” for realizing how illogical and nonsensical and manipulative it all is lack of faith.
You were raised in a Red Flag Factory, so without any context, you don’t see warnings so much as a “Welcome Home” wreath and business as usual. Doctor Nicole LePera, the Holistic Psychologist said it best in her caption here:
“We talk a lot about red flags in relationships. The problem is these red flags typically existed in our earliest relationships. That’s why we don’t see them as red flags.
Many of us grew up in dynamics where there were no boundaries, where people betrayed themselves, and where codependency was the norm. Few of us have had healthy emotional examples of what relationships look like.
This conditioning will confuse red flags as acts of love.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of: it’s something to simply be aware of.
Our work is to unlearn these dysfunctional relationship dynamics. This will be difficult because the pull to the familiar is very real. Our mind will always seek to repeat the past. That’s where it feels safe, even if safety is pain:
--Impulsiveness might feel like adventure
--Directing your relationships might feel like care
--Professing undying devotion might temporarily soothe the wound of not being seen
--Crossing physical boundaries might feel like excitement
--Having another relationship to ‘compete’ with might feel like an opportunity to prove your worth
--Labeling ex’s as crazy might make us feel like the chosen one
--Moving too quickly might feel like acceptance
There is nothing wrong with having these feelings. They’re normal. They’re showing us what needs to heal.
Authentic love is slow and steady. It’s stable. It’s predicable. It doesn’t seek to fix or rescue. It doesn’t come into your life and rearrange everything you know. It values boundaries, integrity, and accountability. Most of all, it’s safe.”
Sometimes, we even subconsciously hope to “do-over” our past trauma “just right” in the now, so that we FINALLY heal and are whole and happy and well-adjusted just like we should have been from the start, before our needs weren’t met or we were abused in those delicate developmental stages of childhood. Closure and Time-Travel By Proxy wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
SHUT UP! LEAVE US ALONE! WE’RE FINALLY HAPPYYYYYYY!!!! Who the hell wants to pay attention to possible party-pooping “details” when you FINALLY found someone and you are FINALLY having a good time and this could FINALLY be “The One”? Aren’t there more fun and important details to pay attention to anyways, like...superficial ones? Looking too closely at the deal-breakers can give you that same feeling as when you look at how many hours you worked for “free” because people calling themselves the government confiscated your wages with the Top Secret Codeword for “theft”: taxes. It just feels better not to know. Ignorance is bliss right?
Right...until it isn’t anymore.
And don’t we have a full-time job suppressing our own flaws and portraying ourselves the very best we can? Making sure we have nothing in our teeth and our outfit is on.point and we laugh just right (even when the joke isn’t that funny) and not with our *weird* laugh, or *too much* laugh and we say and do all the right things that will be impressive but not rock the boat and oh gosh did you make sure nothing is in your nose?! Whew. Who has the energy or brain power to devote to noticing any subtext?
I mean...what’s the worst that can happen? How bad could it really be? Not worse than LONELINESS for sure.
Denial is a hell of a drug.
But they come highly recommended! Have you read their C.V.? Incredible! Why be cynical? It all looks amazing. It all checks out. You are too invested, too easily influenced by hype, status symbols, and personal branding.
You just feel like you are in too deep. It’s just...a done deal for now. You’ve gone too far.
SOME SPECIFIC RED FLAGS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
ANY relationship book, blog, or talk show will warn you to believe someone when they come out with a blatant DISCLAIMER about behavior they KNOW will likely be unacceptable, including controlling behavior (“I have to have things my way, just so”), commitment issues, life goals or lack of ambition, and a lack of mutuality (I have literally been told not to expect conversations about anything that didn’t interest the other person because 'I’m not interested in what I’m not interested in' and that I would be expected to remain completely faithful but they couldn’t promise the same. Yikes. And yes, true to their word, it was EXACTLY that way, and caused no end of fights and misery because who wants that? But I also didn’t want to be alone either so I would get passive-aggressive pissy instead of being a class act who proactively voted with my feet).
The worst part? They were the “honest” one (however lame), making you a willing volunteer and donor instead of the victim you will definitely feel like.
Meaning: with their disclaimer, as with *any* disclaimer, they have abdicated mutuality (and therefore otherwise due recourse of grievances to you) because you have agreed to the “if you have a problem with it, it’s your problem” perpetual checkmate that means a cage of loneliness for you, and getting called a “liar” because “I told you how it would be and you agreed to it and now you want to go back on your promise”.
Disclaimers include admissions to past pathological behavior (cheating, stealing, substance abuse, obsessing over things being cleaned just so, no sense of cleanliness whatsoever, obsession with money and prestige including the idea that the amount of money you bring in and your attractiveness is the exact measure of your value, etc.) that they go on to claim is and will no longer be a problem. Proceed with extreme caution. This may VERY well be a disclaimer / confession wrapped in wishful thinking (delusions of reformation), with you as the next victim to get (semi) blind-sided.
There Is No “TEAM” In Win...There Is Only “I” In Win:
You instinctively feel the urge / need to be a “Yes” man and hide your true dissenting opinions on just about everything. The other person is more than a little condescending or downright hateful when someone holds a different philosophy, lifestyle, or point of view.
When arguments or disagreements or days when you feel bad / ornery / hormonal / exhausted / hangry / needy do come up, rather than being met with any compassion, empathy, or any form of de-escalation...you are met with savagery, word-twisting (if you can even get a word in edgewise, because they *love* to monopolize and dominate), crazy-labelling, vulnerability-exploiting, and increasing cruelty up to and including humiliation, punishment (in some form), and abandonment. If they had a motto, it would be a line from a PinkCatDaily cartoon: “I’d rather lose you than the argument.”
Just be aware that to survive for long in this kind of relationship, you will become a professional self-individuality-stifler and bend-over-backwards-er. And a cry-yourself-to-sleep-er.
How do they treat YOU as a partner?
You’ll hear/read that how your love interest treats “people who are of no use to them, or lower in power/status” (such as people in the service industry), their friends, family, acquaintances, even animals is a sign. And while that *can* throw up some serious RED ALERTS…
They can be the most filial-duty-bound offspring, go-to emergency contact friend, top performer at work, extravagant tipper, charitable, stylish charmer, and animal rights champion…
And it is still no guarantee that you won’t find yourself in some medieval-mindset, double-standard, taken-for-granted, second-class citizenship or emotional (or verbal or physical) punchingbag-ship.
People can be mind-f*ckingly wonderful to everyone else and still be a scumbag towards you. Which is important because in your relationships, YOU are who counts.
YOU are *always* your biggest advocate. Watch how you feel and how YOU are treated. If they are an apparent “saint” everywhere else but make YOUR life a living hell, save yourself.
These people exist, and it really ISN’T you, it’s them. I have known people who made *great* friends / family / job-doers and TERRIBLE life partners. TERRIBLE. Did I say TERRIBLE?
This goes for any relationship, from religious organization to parent to boss.
And if this is still the early stages, look at how they view / talk about / portray / insinuate about their exes or past members. Do they have a monopoly on always winning the Blame Game because nothing of any substance was ever their fault, and everyone on the latest update of their sh!t-list is “crazy”? This is a VERY bad sign.
Or rather, a very good sign, a life saving sign: the glowing red EXIT sign. RUN.
How do you FEEL?
If you feel miserable, that is a HUGE red flag warning. Something is very wrong. Whenever I have been miserable, I was in dire need of a re-route in my life (from incredibly fraudulent and restrictive religious beliefs to field of study to place of residence).
If you feel they are brutish, vitriolic, extremely nit-picking / fault-finding, tit-for-tatting, creepy, impossible to please, perpetually disappointed, attention whoring, jealous, joy-sh*tter-on-er, explosive, or cruel...GO. WALK OUT THE DOOR. JUST TURN AROUND NOW.
If, after trying to communicate, you walk away feeling hard to love, easy to abandon or ignore, and like a chore or burden...continuing with them will be a long, agonizing, torturous death.
If you feel a weird familiarity and sense of re-living your childhood dynamics with the energetic twin of an influential someone who broke your heart and broke your spirit….Yikes.
You didn’t come to this world (or this relationship) to see how much you can take of being: unheard, unseen, unempathized with, alone-surrounded-by-people, defeated, confused, abused, powerless, hurt, taken for granted, or taken advantage of. You have a present life to live besides trying to get the guardians / childhood you deserved--in adulthood, & by proxy.
Fair-weather friend or foul-weather friend, but not both:
The AAA Roadside Assistance of friends, they are always there in an emergency, any time, day or night...but then they are so negative, critical, backhanded, arrogant, full of conflicting advice (they don’t take themselves) so they can gloat, “See, I told you so” later that...you find yourself getting accused of “using” them because what gets rewarded gets repeated so you ONLY call them during emergencies because...they’re miserable to be around any other time...They just don’t let you have fun with them.
Or conversely, they are great fun but...any time something comes up and you could really use a shoulder to cry on, a pair of hands to help out, or just some soup because you’re sick...you get ghosted. Or they appear to have all the makings for the world’s greatest double agent, bouncing from whoever is down at the moment to whoever is most successful, and back again (sharing / backstabbing with every bit of gossip and information they glean along the way)...
Or they prey on or favor ideology geared towards keeping you: helpless,
value-and-worthiness-dependent-on-your-submissive-malleable-boundaryless-compliance (plus gullibility),
and distrustful of what you *know* to be true:
from infantilization to manipulation,
to being told that you are somehow inferior or designed to be subservient / submissive,
making you feel alone and unheard and worthless with their: ingratitude (or perpetual “martyrdom”),
and especially financial, physical, and sexual abuse...
Anyone who specializes in training you to doubt and distrust yourself and your inherent brilliance and goodness, anyone who needs you to need their capricious or compliancy-dependent good favor and live in fear...this is not love, they are not your friend, this is not the “Truth”.
Domineering or controlling behavior, religious beliefs (including arbitrary restrictive behavior with obvious ulterior motives, like the need to use your body as a breeder to make as many new members for the cult, I mean “Kingdom of Heaven”, as possible, while denying you the right to the sovereignty of your own body without threat of nonsensical eternal punishment (coercion by any other name)), or other mindset (including that masked as distasteful “jokes” you are being “shamed” into tolerating / enabling)...NO GO. BAIL BAIL BAIL.
It’s cliche because it’s true: you know better, you deserve better, you can do better, you WILL do better.
A^2 + B^2 = C(rap)^2:
Forget 50 shades of grey, this is 180 copious degrees of triangulation: You feel there is an invisible 3rd member of the relationship (and a 4th, and a 5th maybe). There is some omni-present addiction (which could be a drug like alcohol, but could just as easily be gambling, workaholic-ism, eating, sleeping, shopping, games, porn, gossip and meddling...anything that is just such an obsession and such a big part (crutch) of their life, it may as well be given a name and receive mail at your house.
Or because everything is a photo op. over-the-top fakey-fakey-happy despite a subtle, pervading melancholy, and their ex-’s name gets dropped just beyond the pale of decency....you wonder if this just might be a Rebound relationship.
OR… (I don’t know why I wouldn’t have thought of this because this has literally been a problem in my own family AND I have been guilty of this very thing--talk about red flags feeling "normal"):
“He’s got a relationship with a family member that makes your gut go on 'this-is-wrong-911' alert: I will write a post on this soon [she did here] because I have sooooooo much to say on this topic. I’m not alluding to incest. What I am alluding to is that if he has a relationship with someone he’s related to that seems a bit ‘off,’ ‘too much’ or ‘weird’ to you, it probably is. Run. I’m calling you on your phone and there’s an emergency right now. You gotta go, something came up… baiiiiiiiiiii.” --Natasha Adamo
How will you know?
“Inappropriate relationships are easy to recognize. Eventually, it gets to a point where the creep factor and the alarm that your gut sounds off become too loud to ignore. Although a weird relationship with a family member is as easy to identify as a pink elephant in a room, it’s tough to acknowledge – especially when everything else is going so well.
You try to convince yourself it’s a good thing; that he’s either 'such a family man,' because of how close he is to his mom, dad, sister, etc. Or, if he has a hateful/dysfunctional relationship with a family member, you tell yourself how great it is that he’s able to have 'boundaries,' despite a familial connection.
The b.s. eventually and inevitably becomes too hard to ignore. You find yourself more and more creeped out, frustrated, and in a state of perpetual competition with the one thing you’ll never be able to compete with – FAMILY.
I’ve been in relationships where I’ve been extremely happy. But eventually, I had to acknowledge…
‘My boyfriend and his Mother are too close. Why is he telling her personal details about me / our relationship? His mother shouldn’t know that I’m on my period. Why does he have to run everything by her? How come he’s capable of emotional intimacy with her and not with me? Why do I feel threatened?’
‘My boyfriend and his sister are too close. Why does she always get in our business? Why does she seem jealous, sabotaging, and spiteful / competitive? Does SHE want to sleep with her brother? What the f*ck is this?’
‘My boyfriend hates his Mother and subsequently doesn’t have a relationship with her. Why? How?’
‘My boyfriend doesn’t speak with or have a relationship with his Father. Why?’
Here’s what to do if you’ve identified that your boyfriend has a weird relationship with a family member…
If he’s got a relationship with ANY family member that makes your stomach crawl, creeps you out or at best, seems 'off,' listen to your instinct and RUN. Seriously.
Save yourself the time that you’ll never get back, the tears, the confusion, and the anger. There’s nothing confusing about an iron-clad, emotionally-incestual-Teflon relationship that was established way before you ever came into the picture.
Sprint and don’t look back. You will never, I repeat never, be able to compete with dysfunctional, emotionally-incestual relationships (nor should you ever want or have to). If you do, you’ll just end up getting vilified and be made to feel crazy.
This is all, obviously, easier said than done. So, let’s break it down…
If he’s too close for comfort with his Mother, sister, etc., you have to understand that just like dating an addict. You will never be in a mutual, one-on-one relationship with this man. You will ALWAYS be in a perpetual threesome: you, him, and the family member.
Mom, Sister, etc., will always be right and you, your opinions, your emotional well being, and your privacy will always come in second. And if you’re okay with coming in second (not including children), you have no business dating. If someone makes you feel like you are asking too much by not wanting to be with an emotionally-incestual swinger, you need to work on YOUR boundaries and self-esteem. Instead of getting a Ph.D. in his f*cked up family dynamic.” --Natasha Adamo
The big S-E-X:
Natasha Adamo said it best on this too, and I’m not going to improve on perfection, so here is the quote:
“The sex is…. Different. Get the 50 shades out of your mind. If you notice that he has sexual habits or preferences that make you feel uncomfortable, run for the hills. There’s a difference between kinky and W.T.F. and only your gut can make that call because we are all unique. Also, stay away from guys that have to make it known to the world that they need their daily 'fix.' You will wind up not only feeling depleted, dissatisfied and resentful, but your self worth will be a thing of the past and you will be looking at every girl comparing yourself and thinking that they’re better than you.”
Can there be a red flag before sexy time actually happens? Yes:
“Intense Childhood Trauma. This is a very sensitive subject. I’m lucky to have lived under extremely strict rules as a kid and I subsequently dodged any kind of traumatic experience or event because my Mother was my shadow and I had no privacy (even then, you never know. Things happen; I consider myself very lucky), but I have dated men that have had to go through some unimaginable things early in life. While I’m not telling you to write off people that have experienced childhood trauma, I am here to tell you that it is a red flag. These kinds of things have a lifelong impact and if they aren’t properly addressed and processed, it will be impossible to get through to them and have a mutual relationship.” --Natasha Adamo