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Relationship Red Flags

A healthy relationship is a beautiful thing to behold.

Conversations around relationship red flags are prevalent; the topic is popular in all media formats. I wanted to find out just how widespread the subject was, so I typed relationship red flags into the Google browser, and the results were astonishing, a whopping 328,000,000 results in 0.49 seconds. The results were eye-popping when the search was narrowed to romantic relationship red flags; there were 11,600,000 results in 0.33 seconds.

The search results for relationship deal breakers were also high, 8,540,000 in 51 seconds.

The results are from across the internet and may include publications with the words relationship, red flag, or a combination of the terms, like my second search for romantic relationship red flags. So, the topic is popular.

Wherever we see red flags, they draw our attention to a concern for our well-being. For example, lifeguards use red flags to warn beachgoers of dangerous conditions. Therefore, we should be alert to our needs in the immediate environment. So, as a rule, we know what they mean as it relates to our safety.

In the context of a relationship, red flags would include any perceived unhealthy behaviors that could affect the overall quality of the relationship between two or more people. The list of unhealthy behaviors is long and continues to grow. The list includes behaviors such as:

  • Love bombing

  • Clingy behaviors

  • Addiction

  • Unhealthy personal boundaries

  • Infidelity

  • We are not meeting the triple six standards (6 feet tall, having a 6-inch penis or larger, and a 6-figure income).

  • multiple children with multiple partners

  • Poor communication

  • A willingness to have sex on the first date.

  • Manipulative behaviors

  • Aggressive behaviors

  • Controlling behaviors

  • Jealousy

  • Previous criminal justice involvement

  • The number of sexual partners (sometimes referred to as body count).

  • Passive-aggressive behaviors

  • Renting vs. Owning Property

  • Educational attainment and financial status

  • History of intimate partner violence

  • Other ______________________________

The “relationship red flag” concept has seemingly become a social media phenomenon, especially in podcast conversations or personal relationship vlogs. Some “relationship red flag” stories are shared after a single date. In many of the videos, it seems the person sharing their experiences on the date went to the date looking for perceived flaws in the other person.

Sometimes, it comes across as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The person went to the date seemingly with preconceptions about what to expect or look for in their date without being open-minded. Once they observe what they set out to see in the other person, their preconceptions confirm whether the date is worth pursuing.

In one relationship vlog, the vlogger acknowledged; the date was appropriately dressed but identified the clothes the person was wearing as a “red flag” because the clothes were from 2 to 3 seasons ago. The vlogger concluded there was no chance of a second date because of the date's clothes. The date's clothes were viewed as a lack of investment in their appearance. However, the date was appropriately dressed for the occasion.

How we interpret a red flag in a relationship is subjective and usually is associated with a previous experience directly and indirectly. It is not uncommon for someone to say in my last relationship, this happened …, or My friend had an … experience with her boyfriend/husband, and I will never accept anything like that in my lifetime.

Dr. David Viscott, in his book How to Live with Another Person, writes, “We are each a story, and no one’s story is completed until his death, no matter how hopeless the opening chapters seem to be or how limited their future development appears.”

The quote is thought-provoking, at least within the context of this blog post, because I have heard people describe prospective mates as a "project." This begs the question, is it possible that aspiring for relationship perfection is unhealthy, given people's diverse thoughts and behaviors?

I do not wish to imply with Dr. Viscott's quote that everyone deserves a chance to get a date or your time. This post is not to question the legitimacy of relationship red flags because each person has a right to decide whom they will get involved with and consider as a romantic partner.

However, I am curious if we are prematurely making decisions about prospective mates without knowing who they are because we desire to overanalyze everything about the people we meet. Further to this query, when you meet someone, the person is usually well-behaved at first. Some red flags will not be known until after the fact or until you exclusively date the person.

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