Three things you must know about "red flags" (but probably don't!)

Three things you must know about "red flags" (but probably don't!)

When it comes to relationship red flags, there are three things you must know:

1. You can’t ignore them.

2. They are different for everyone.

3. Your gut feelings help you recognize them.

Let’s be honest. We all know what red flags in relationships are. They are seriously unappealing or problematic actions, attitudes and behaviors exhibited by your partner. We’ve seen countless articles detailing red flag after red flag. The problem is that while we recognize them, we often choose to ignore them.

My friend Jincey dated a guy who was 38 years old and lived with his mother. “I knew that was a red flag, but I ignored it,” she says. “One night, not too long after we started dating, we went back to his mom’s house to watch TV. He stripped down totally naked and sat on the couch. His mom brought us snacks and he just sat there. She cleaned up and ignored the fact he was naked. He must have done it all the time!” So what’s wrong with watching TV naked? Jincey said the real problem was his child-like dependence on his mother. Guess what? She married him anyway and it didn’t end well. “He could barely take care of himself and was terrible with money. He had a hard time keeping a job. He was sweet, but so irresponsible. He didn’t want a wife, he wanted another mommy.”

She would have saved herself a lot of heartache—and money—if she had paid attention to the irresponsibility red flag that was flying from the very beginning. “I just wanted the relationship to work out,” says Jincey. “I was tired of being alone.”

The other often misunderstood fact about red flags is that they are different for everyone. Jealousy, meanness, and avoidance are common red flags. And while it’s important to be aware of these red flags, a one-size-fits-all list doesn’t address your gut feelings. A-life-of the-party-girl may see extreme shyness as a red flag in a potential mate. Or a sports fanatic female may be turned off by a guy who dislikes sports. Or….maybe she won’t. Everyone’s different. So how do you know what a red flag is for you? Your gut will tell you. Or that little voice in your head will start to speak up and point out a potential problem in your relationship.

Katie, a 27 year old teacher, confesses that she is stuck in a relationship with the wrong guy. He’s a nice guy, but there are several red flags that are stirring up her gut feelings. “He sees the world as a sea of options, and has a hard time deciding what he wants to do,” she says. “Then, when he decides on something, he has a hard time sticking with it. That’s a red flag to me. And my gut questions his ability to help any family we might have someday. He also seems to care more about his adventures and his life than he does my own. It makes me think that he won’t be there for the important milestones in my life.”

Katie’s inner wisdom recognizes these red flags. Let’s hope she find the courage to take action. Here are some things to think about to make sure you can recognize red flags, and more importantly, not ignore them:

* When his behavior bothers you, pay attention. Is the little voice in your head trying to warn you about something? Don’t look the other way! Think about the behavior that concerns you and reflect on it.

* Ask yourself if you are changing your behavior in response to your boyfriend or partner’s behavior. Are you walking on egg shells? Are you avoiding difficult conversations? If you do try to talk about something, how does he react?

* Fast forward ten years. How will this particular behavior or attitude play out in the future? Will he be a good dad? A good friend? A solid employee? A reliable husband?

When it comes to red flags, what you see now is what you get later. Once you train yourself to recognize—and act on—the red flags in your relationships, you are on your way to a happier, more satisfying life. The choice is yours!