What is a red flag when we start dating someone?
I’ve heard people say, “Watch how he or she treats the waitress. Or their Mother….or a stranger, etc.”
Does it really tell the story? Perhaps, the actual place to pay attention to a red flag is within us.
Most of us are so enthralled with the possibility of what may or may not happen with the person in front of us, we tend to be outside of the moment. We’re not in what is happening, and if we are, more than likely our attention is on the other person making sure we are impressing them with who are showing up as for the date.
If it feels familiar, it probably is.
Sometimes we feel a spark of something, we may not be able to put our finger on it, but it feels familiar. It may be a feeling of bonding to someone in the first few date, or a sense of anxiety (I’ve had that happen). It may not be clear as to why the bonding or anxiety would appear, but if we can get clearer with ourselves, we might just make a different choice.
People in long term relationships, happy or not, can tell in hindsight some of the characteristics that drew them to their partner. Some of the characteristics, depending on the state of the relationship were red flags…and are still present in the current state of relating.
If we think someone has some quirks that we can somehow fix or change, we’re in for a long painful road. Many of us think those things when we meet someone, perhaps we can clean them up with our love and understanding. The problem here is two-fold, one if we’re looking to change someone else–we’re ignoring ourselves and the things we may need to grow on and secondly–the things that bug us about the other person can be mirrored back to us, and it doesn’t necessarily mean we should jump into something with them.
I have met people in the past and thought, “Okay this is better than being alone. Perhaps, after having spent some time with them, I won’t be so lonely and can move on.” In other words, I purposely looked to settle. And, I would find these situations never, ever gave me what I wanted, except more lessons about myself….and my unavailability.
Fear comes in many packages. When we purposely choose to go with red flags, we’re choosing fear. We’re settling for something we know on a deeper level will confirm exactly what we’re afraid of happening. We are then “pros,” at assessing how relationships are always painful, or start out good and end badly, or whatever it is we think.
Going for the red flag tells us we better not go beyond our limited thinking and what we believe is impossible to stay with the familiarity of what we’ve learned about life, relationships and maybe even ourselves up to this point.
I read something recently, which basically stated, as an adult, we find that our parents were right. Here’s the deal with that statement, it can be a great thing, such as: “Boy oh boy, when you put your hand in an open flame it does get burnt.” Or it can also be a LIMITING statement: “your spouse is your old ball and chain.”
Now…in the first statement it seems practical, but what about those of us who heard words from our parents, but their follow-through in action was actually opposite? And what about statements like an old ball and chain…..and that’s how they treated their partner?
What did WE learn? We learned limitation and we learned what was different could be or should be feared.
Soooooooo…when we are dating and looking for the familiar–sometimes those statements of characteristics are what we know…and someone different who is not equipped with red flags, may feel foreign or strange to us. We may be looking to meet someone and try to change them, just as mom tried with dad for 30 years…and because we’re so outwardly focused, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Pay attention to the red flags, they have a lot to teach us, about ourselves and what we want—and what we’ll settle for too.