Ellen is legally separated and has started seeing Rick. In their journey of getting to know each other, Rick has said some things about his past that give Ellen pause. More specifically, he has noted that when he was married, he let his temper come out, and it affected how he treated his wife and, to a lesser extent, his children. In so long as Ellen has known Rick, this temper that he speaks of has not shown up. What should Ellen do with this information? She sees a potential relationship red flag based on behaviors that Rick has admittedly exuded in his past. Should she take heed?
What about Darlene who, after dating Jim for three months, has begun to tire of his wandering eye. To tell the full story, Jim loves women, and he loves Darlene. She acknowledges that they have a robust and satisfying sex life and that he compliments her a lot and touches her. In other words, their intimacy is not in question, nor his yearn for her. That said, he does look at other women. What’s more, he does not try and hide this. From his perspective, looking is natural, and he should not be put on a leash or constantly made to explain his habit. Darlene does not like that Jim does this, and Jim is aware of her feelings about it. What should she do?
In these and other relationships where a partner sees a potential red flag, how should they go about handling it? Is it time to walk away? Is it time to have a serious discussion? Let it rest? From the perspective of this relationship coach, there are some basic questions to ask.
3 Questions To Ask Yourself When You See Red Flags In a Relationship:
Are your needs being dismissed? We should all understand our needs. These would be things that are necessities for us. In the event a red flag is raised, the first question to ask is, is one of our needs being dismissed, violated, or simply not met? Perhaps one of Ellen’s needs is to be with someone that has the patience and respect to not lose their temper. Or, perhaps Darlene needs a man that is beholden to her and no other, and from her perspective, she sees it as outright disrespectful for a man to look at other women.
How often are you seeing the red flag? The second question should revolve around how big of an impact does this red flag have and how often does it show up? Darlene would opine that Jim looks at other women all of the time. In Ellen’s case, it has not shown up at all. That said, in further discussions with Ellen, she notes that Rick losing his temper even once would be a non-starter, especially if he did so in front of her kids. In this, the scope, regardless of frequency, would be huge.
How does your partner respond when you discuss the red flag? The third and most important question revolves around whether a partner is aware of the red flags and how they respond to it. If they are not aware, is it because no one has talked to them about it? Or, is their lack of awareness due to a self-centered view on life? Once they are made aware, are they apologetic and motivated to make a change, or are they indifferent to it? Clearly, indifference is not only a red flag but should lead to a break-up, stat! Indifference from a partner does not a change make.
Rounding out this discussion, enter Carrie. She has been dating Carl for three months and their communication has begun to dwindle. It used to be that they texted or talked daily, and now it is more like two to three times a week. Carrie sees this as a “significant” red flag but does not know whether or not she is over-thinking it.
Chris: Is daily communication a need for you? In other words, if you do not have it, is that a show stopper?
Carrie: I would say yes, unless there is a legitimate reason why he cannot communicate with me, or vice versa. But that should be rare.
Chris: Have you talked to Carl about this?
Carrie: Yes. He thinks I’m too needy in this area, and I’m not sure I disagree with him. Who really needs this every day? I might just be high maintenance.
Chris: So, you are being made to feel as though your needs are less valid because they do not fit his needs?
Carrie: I guess.
Chris: Okay, I’ll put that aside for the time being. Last question: would you label him dismissive of your concern, and if you would, do you feel like he could be dismissive of other concerns you might raise?
Carrie: He definitely thinks I’m over-thinking this, and I don’t feel like I got to really talk about why it matters to me, or how it makes me feel when we rarely talk.
To you, my readers, what should Carrie do? The lack of communication is consistent and communication is a big need for her. He is aware of it but has a response that could, at best, be categorized as dismissive of her concerns. Should she walk?
What about Ellen? What kind of advice would you give her? My advice to Ellen was to be mindful but not worried. Be alert but don’t let it consume you. Give Rick credit that he is aware of his actions but given that the scope and frequency is zero in their current relationship, he deserves an opportunity to continuously demonstrate the change he has made in how he deals with that temper. For Darlene, Jim’s awareness of how it affects her and decision to keep doing it means that she needs to walk. She always (frequency) will have to deal with this.
What about you? How do you handle relationship red flags that enter your frontal lobe?