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Five Steps for Dealing with Red Flags

Have you ever met a new guy, gotten to know him, felt really good about the blossoming relationship, and then suddenly he said, did, or told you about something that made you think, “Uh oh, why did he have to go and say/do/tell me that?!”? I can't even begin to count the number of times this has happened to me.

Let me tell you about the most recent occurence: A couple of weeks ago, I went out on a date with a new man, let’s call him Doug. I really like Doug. He's friendly, wickedly funny, and has a multi-faceted personality. We had a great time on our first date and I felt the potential for a real connection. But then, towards the end of the date, he said something that triggered that big old red flag to pop up and flap away in front of my nose. “Uh oh.” Dammit!

What is a Red Flag?

Let’s rewind for a minute. What do I mean by a red flag? Red flags are alerts that pop up in your head, heart, or gut to tell you that all is not well and that things aren’t as shiny and wonderful as you were hoping. Often the red flags alert us to relationship deal breakers. Here are some examples of red flags:

  • Catching your date in a lie.

  • Your new guy constantly talking about his ex.

  • Him drinking excessively on your first date and getting completely hammered.

  • The guy you just met making plans to move in with you by the second date.

  • Your date trying to pressure you into sex early on.

The problem with red flags is that a lot of the time we ignore them.

Why Do We Ignore the Red Flags?

Sometimes it’s much easier to ignore the red flags than to deal with them. There are many reasons why you may not want to address them. Here are some examples:

  • It’s easier to be in denial than to face the reality that this is not the guy for you.

  • You'll be faced with less conflict and you hate conflict.

  • You're willing to suck it up because you want the relationship to work.

  • You really like this guy.

  • You just don’t want to deal with a break-up.

  • If he just did things a bit differently, everything would be ok, and you think he has the potential to change, so you you're pushing him to make adjustments for you.

  • You're scared of being alone.

Sound familiar?

So you push the alerts to the back of your mind and keep moving forward. But at what cost?

What is are the Costs of Ignoring Red Flags?

The bigger the flag, the bigger the indication that a relationship isn’t going to work. If you're ignoring the big signals, you're probably wasting time on a relationship that isn't healthy, isn't the right one for you, and/or won't satisfy you.

Some flags are small enough not to have too much long-term impact. Maybe you can deal with him playing xbox all weekend even though you hate it. It’s not a deal breaker. But add up enough of those smaller red flags, and you end up on breakup highway.

Have you ever looked back and thought, “Why didn’t I listen to what my intuition was telling me? I was right about him from the beginning!” That was you ignoring the red flags.

I’ve done this more times than I care to admit. And although I have been working on breaking the habit, I find myself tempted to push aside the flag that came up with Doug. I am quite sure this is going to be a deal breaker, but I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Agrh!

What To Do When Red Flags Fly

Here are my five steps to dealing with a red flag:

  1. Acknowledge it. The more awareness you have about the flag, the better. Don't go burying it in the sand or closing your mind to it.

  2. Be honest with yourself as to the size of the flag.

  3. Speak about the flag out loud to a trusted friend or professional, like a counsellor.

  4. Listen to and trust your intuition.

  5. Address the flag/issue with the guy you're seeing - it might be solvable.

Bottom line. When you're at the beach at there is a red flag in by the water, it means beware, dangerous tide, no swimming.

When there is a red flag next to your date, it means beware, potential problems, proceed with caution - or not at all. Just remember, as long as you follow your intuition, you won’t go wrong.

Now I'm going to go and take my own advice with Doug. See you next week!

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