Why do we ignore red flags? How do we ignore red flags? They’re bright and waving around in a frantic motion. And we just…pretend not to see them? Maybe we tell ourselves they are just disfigured hearts, ushering you in, saying, “Come on, it’s safe over here!” Then, when things begin to feel unnerving—when issues begin to pop up in the relationship—you take a closer look at the quirky hearts that drew you in and say, “Oh sh*t! These were red flags all along. And they’re everywhere.” All this time, you thought you were surrounded by love, and you were actually surrounded by bad signs.
You can’t blame someone for being hopeful—for wanting something to work out. That is only human. Besides, are we to walk away from a new relationship every time the tiniest thing goes wrong? There has to be some leniency, right? Some compromise? If we’re militant about bouncing at the first possible sign of trouble, how is any relationship meant to get off the ground? And we certainly hope that when we show our true colors—including those that aren’t that pretty—that someone wouldn’t bail on us right away. We hope they’d give us a chance to explain ourselves, or give us the benefit of the doubt.
It is important to discern between little things you can let slide and huge red flags that show you just who someone is, and just what’s in store for you if you continue down a path of a relationship with him. Some incidents and behaviors are just a taste of what’s to come, and will only get worse, the deeper you get into this commitment. But still, many of us just keep walking right by those terrible omens, wanting to see a silver lining that isn’t there. Here are red flags you love to ignore.
He is actively in therapy
He tells you he sees a therapist three times a week. You interpret that to mean, “Aw, he’s in touch with his feelings. He’s comfortable talking about his emotions. He’s willing to work on himself. That’s healthy!” But um…if someone is in therapy multiple times a week, it is likely because they have so much personal work to do that they’re not ready to be in a relationship.
He wants to move too fast
This can feel like a nice antidote to the commitment phobes you’ve been encountering. This guy wants to meet all of your friends, meet your parents, and see you every night of the week, though you’ve only been on two dates. The attention feels good, but it won’t feel good when it turns into an extreme codependency/possessiveness/neediness that you can’t escape.
He throws an unexplained tantrum
He totally loses it over what feels like nothing. You can’t help but wonder if you two are even in the same reality—did you even just witness the same thing? Because you really don’t feel that what just happened should cause someone to storm out, yell a mean thing, and slam a door. Then later he explains that it’s because it reminded him of something from his past (or something like that). Ooooh. He was triggered. He’s still broken and incapable of differentiating the present from the past. Well, that will be a fun minefield for you to walk through every day.
Throwing a tantrum at all
Honestly, even if he is justified in getting upset about whatever upset him, the tantrum-throwing behaviors (yelling, storming out, hanging up on you) are never a good sign. That’s a sign of someone with anger issues and who doesn’t have control over his behaviors. What happens when those tantrums turn into him…cheating on you or…downing a bottle of whiskey and driving off drunk and mad?
Every date surrounds his industry
Most (or all) of your first dates take place around his industry. You go with him to this networking event, to this convention at which he’ll be speaking, to this industry party, and so on, and so on. At first it feels exciting and flattering—he’s showing you his world. Later, you’ll realize he’s a workaholic (and possibly a narcissist) who cannot break away from his career to have a regular date night and always puts work first.
He holds a grudge
He suddenly gives you the silent treatment, then starts being cold, makes passive aggressive comments, claims “nothing’s wrong” when you ask him what’s wrong, and about a week later, explodes over the tiniest thing, throwing in your face something you did…a week ago. Oh, so he’s a big baby who doesn’t know how to communicate in an efficient manner when he’s upset. Yeah—that doesn’t go away over night. Or even over a year.
He demands device privacy
We are all entitled to privacy with our devices, but he’s very finicky and irritable about it. If you, without even realizing it, glance in the direction of him while he’s texting, he explodes, “Are you reading my texts? What do you think I’m doing? Do you read my emails too? How about a little privacy!” and shoves the phone deep in his pocket. Mmmm. People who aren’t up to something don’t react like that.
He won’t talk about his ex
He refuses to tell you anything about his ex. Not a thing. When you casually mention the existence of exes, he gets squirmish and noticeably aggravated. He says, “Do we have to talk about our exes? It’s weird.” And while you don’t want to over discuss the exes, something’s up if he gets angry when the existence of exes comes up. Something went very wrong in his relationship—probably the same thing that will go wrong in your relationship with him.
He’s researched you
He knows you’re in this book club, or you have an older sister, or your favorite restaurant is that mom and pop Italian spot downtown. “Oh I just…saw you posted a selfie there/with that person/doing that thing,” he says. But, these little pieces of information he has about you keeps popping up. He researched you a little too much. And that’s often a sign of paranoia.
He says he’s not great at relationships
But you’ll be the one to change him, right? Your love will be so good—your connection will be so strong—that he’ll become a relationship person for you, is that it? Nah. He literally just held up the biggest rest flag one can find, actually blocking your body with it, to say, “This is as close as you’re allowed to get to me.” And he’ll prove it to be true.
Anger towards his family
He gets very worked up when he talks about his family. He clenches his fist. He grinds his teeth. He looks off into the distance and you think you can see blood in his eyes. He has some serious beef with his family. And while nobody’s family is perfect, part of becoming a mature, emotionally stable adult is coming to peace with our family, separating ourselves in a healthy manner, and finding a way to get along with them.
Slacking off on generosity
There are just little things in the beginning. He asks you to drive to his neighborhood. He asks you to pick up the takeout food, because he’s tired. He divides up the bill to the penny. He won’t give you a ride to the airport—traffic will be bad at that time—you understand, right? Sure you do. Because you’re an accommodating person. But he’s…not. He’s going to be one lazy *ss, selfish boyfriend.
Dismissing your career talk
You notice that he sort of tunes out when you talk about your career. That’s weird because your career means a lot to you and you light up when you talk about it! You become most animated when discussing your work. How could he tune out at a time like that? Well, it might be because he doesn’t want a partner who has her own career, but rather one who is just an accessory to his life—a support system for him. So he’d rather not engage talk about your career.
Dodging a lot of questions
He dodges questions about his financial situation, his ex, his friends, his family, why he can’t/won’t enter that one restaurant. There is just a lot of secret keeping. He excuses it by saying, “Hey, we just met, there’s time for this stuff later.” But, he really has a pattern of avoiding questions. He is not an open book. You decide to ignore it, because, again, you decide people are entitled to their privacy.
Going MIA for long stretches of time
He’ll fail to call you back for almost three days. Or become too busy to hang out for two weeks. His text responses go from lengthy, flirty ones to one-word replies. When he comes back in the picture, he has the best excuse—his best friend was deathly ill and he was caring for him or he had to take a spontaneous work trip to a place with no service. So, you forgive it. But…come on. If somebody likes you/cares about you/isn’t up to something sketchy, and those work trips/sick friends were real, he’d find a way to communicate that to you, some time, in that two-week period.