I was browsing the internet this morning like I often do. I “surf the net” instead of putting on that noisy thing called television. I came across an article online…I think it was the Huffington Post, that I wish I’d read a few years ago. It was about RED FLAGS in a relationship.
I have ignored a lot of red flags, several should have sent me running as fast as I could and never look back. Alas, I wish I knew then what I know now.
Why do so many of us ignore these red flags? Some are subtle, some are very obvious, but either way we often tend to ignore them. Why is that?
The girls all get prettier at closing time. And the men get better looking. Right? Well, I think that’s a red flag that we may laugh about and even ignore all the time. Maybe just being at a bar at closing time is red flag behavior. Maybe we ignore our instincts or “gut feeling” because we rationalize bad behaviors or try to rationalize that the flag is not really red, maybe just a little pink. Maybe we tell ourselves not to be so darn picky, or have such high standards and that there is no perfect person anyway. Hey, he may not be perfect, but he won’t be my last mistake either.
Do we deliberately ignore those obvious red flags because to acknowledge them might mean we have to admit that the relationship has failed? We continue to hope that whatever we think is wrong, really isn’t THAT wrong. Whatever may be causing these negative, depressed, anxious feelings will just go away. So we continue to look the other way and view the red flags as something we can handle. Or we think being in a relationship with some red flags isn’t all THAT bad. After all it beats being alone. But does it? Does it beat being alone when the red flags are so big they are actually eclipsing every day interactions, damaging the entire relationship, our relationships with others, our jobs, and potentially our own emotional and physical well-being?
In reality we probably already know the outcome. Maybe we only see what we want to see. We don’t want to believe that someone may not want to be with us, not love us. To acknowledge that would mean to that we’ve been fooled, lied to, played with and so on, which of course just hurts! So we don’t do that, we don’t acknowledge what our instincts are trying to tell us. At least not at first. We don’t want to think that we’re more invested in that person than they are in us. After all, we’ve invested so much time in this person, this relationship! We falsely tell ourselves that maybe the “issues” are our fault and we strive to become an even better person so that all our time invested has not been a waste.
Unfortunately, when we do that we actually make an agreement with ourselves that we’ll continue to waste more of our time on this relationship. In reality, all we’ve managed to do is delay the inevitable, stall the breakup, hold off on feeling that pain. Maybe we think we just do not have the guts or energy or financial means in which to end the relationship so we bargain with ourselves to just stay a little longer until something changes. It’s probably different for everyone…the red flags that tell us to run, but I can only address the red flags that I ignored when I first met my MONSTER MAN called Rick who shall be referred to from here on as pRick, because I think that is what he really is–among other unsavory personality/character flaws. You see pRick is a narcissistic jerk or he might be a sociopath or he might be both or have some other personality disorder that, if the DSM had photographs then pRick’s image would be next to several disorders.
Red flag! Red flag! Red flag!
The first red flag that I ignored with pRick was LACK OF COMMUNICATION. I didn’t actually ignore it, as I was very aware of it, so maybe I should just admit that I allowed it.
- Lack of communication. These individuals find it difficult to talk about issues or express how they feel. Often, when it would seem most important to be open and honest, they distance themselves emotionally, leaving their partner hanging, or having to deal with a situation on their own. Often, whatever is “communicated” is expressed through moodiness, and sometimes the dreaded “silent treatment.”
That definition is pRick to a T. In four years I think we’ve had two, possibly three meaningful conversations–ok maybe four. (But now I”m being generous). Those conversations were about him and whatever he was dealing with, of course, because it’s always about him. At first I thought pRick just wasn’t a chatty-Cathy sort of person and that’s ok with me. I don’t mind quiet people. But as I got to know him I started wondering if he really didn’t have much to say or he preferred to listen rather than talk. No that wasn’t it. I would talk and he would look around, at his cell phone, out the window, at the TV, whatever, occasionally looking at me, but I suspect he read somewhere that we’re supposed to maintain eye contact with people talking to us. He wouldn’t respond to anything I said and I often found myself asking him, did you hear me? He would almost nod his head in acknowledgment that I was saying….something. Now don’t get me wrong, pRick did talk…about himself. How great he was at his job, how he wasn’t appreciated at work by his boss, how others are getting paid more than him even though he’s doing more work and he’s more skilled than the others, he’d talk about things he’s done in the past, where he’s been who he went with, he’d talk about his first and second former wives; he’d talk about women he had dated, he’d talk about his adult children; or he might talk about something he heard on the radio while at work. What he never talked about was ‘us”, our relationship. He most certainly would never ever talk about an argument we’d had or what might be wrong in the relationship or if I was upset with him about something. Those topics were OFF LIMITS always. If he was drunk then he would just chatter happily away about nothing substantial. He also liked to talk about other people, friends we know. He’d criticize them, talk about how “white trash” a couple of them were. He would talk about a woman he met who he thinks is a “sweetheart and just so cute too!”. While he was talking if I attempted to interject something, he would just ignore me, talk louder and faster and give no sign that I’d said anything.
During these talk sessions of his I had to be very careful not to ask a wrong question, or interrupt him. If I did the result would be for him to get immediately and irrationally angry, he would stop talking, get sulky and surly and silent. If we were out somewhere he would just abruptly leave, even if we came together in his truck. He would leave me stranded and not care how or if I got home. I have been with him, during one of these silent treatment punishments, in social settings where he would chat with everyone around him, but blatantly ignore me. If people were talking and I attempted to involve myself in the topic, pRick would constantly interrupt me–which was his way of telling me to shut up without actually saying it. He is hyper conscience of the “image” he puts out “there” for the world to see and nice guys do not say shut up to their friends. pRick liked the silent treatment and he used it on me as one of his standard control maneuvers. He could remain silent for hours, days and went 6 whole weeks one time without talking to me.
This silent treatment includes all forms of communication, verbal, text or phone calls. I would be subjected to complete and absolute silence from pRick until something would happen that forced him to talk to me, he had a question about something that he knew I had the answer to, someone he knows needs my help to do something or other. Or occasionally I would just get sick of the silence and start talking to him as if “it” wasn’t there. Whenever I did that, which is actually just about every time, he would grunt a response–when breaking that wall of silence don’t ask questions that can be simply answered with a YES or NO. That doesn’t break the silence. If pRick was ready to stop punishing me then he might grunt at me, mumble something at me or give a very brief response to whatever I’d said and I’d take it as a sign he was ready to ease up and I would start to talk as if nothing happened. If he wasn’t ready to stop the punishment he would simply ignore me as if I wasn’t standing right in front of him and talked or he wouldn’t respond to my texts, wouldn’t answer the phone when I called. I have been with him, during one of these silent treatment punishments, in social settings where he would chat with everyone around him, but blatantly ignore me. If people were talking and I attempted to involve myself in the topic, pRick would constantly interrupt me–which was his way of telling me to shut up without actually saying it. He is hyper conscience of the “image” he puts out “there” for the world to see and nice guys do not say shut up to their friends. I would get annoyed at pRick when he was subjecting me to the silent treatment and I would snap at him, telling him to knock it off or use sarcasm…I’d sing the line from Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts song:
And who do you think you are?
Runnin’ round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
and tearing love apart
You’re gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul...
It has always been my experience, in any sort of relationship after an argument or disagreement then the parties involved would talk about it, discuss why we had the argument or ways to avoid it in the future, etc. Not pRick oh no. There was no resolutions needed because he was right and I was wrong. Plain and simple. He didn’t need to discuss that because he already knew it and words won’t change his mind. During the first year I marveled at that attitude, I wondered about it and I worried about it. How can you just go throw life sweeping everything under the carpet? After a while that carpet is going to get pretty lumpy and we won’t be able to walk on it. pRick’s attitude would be: just move then and for him that could easily be translated into breaking up. Lifting that imaginary carpet to clear the air simply never occurred to pRick.
Therefore, being in this relationship with pRick I had to change my principles of relationships and how to keep them healthy and running smoothly. Even though I knew better and that it could lead to problems down the road, I allowed pRick to dictate the communication level or lack thereof in our relationship. This often left me feeling extremely frustrated, devalued and that my thoughts, opinions or feelings were just unimportant.
Also, when there is no communication of any depth then misunderstandings happen, feelings of loneliness and depression can start to grow in the person who is being shut down and trust issues can start to blossom.
What red flags have you ignored?