Wellness Wednesday: Identifying Red Flags
by Rebekah Elkerton
When developing a new relationship, each of us enters with varying levels of caution. By paying close attention to both the actions of the other person, as well as how we feel in our bodies about the connection, we can find the answers to how we should move forward. Another person's actions can be very telling of their compatibility with us and the values we abide by. When we see something that doesn’t sit right with us, these moments can be identified as “Red Flags.” These flags alert us that we are entering new territory. Whether they’re seen early on in a relationship or later, once the initial honeymoon stage has passed, we have a responsibility to ourselves to take control of our own well-being, and enforce boundaries where necessary.
We must pay attention to the red flags in all relationships, knowing that they may be especially difficult to identify in romantic relationships when feelings are heightened in a very specific way. Red Flags are important in that they reveal what may be yet to come including unhealthy behaviours that will grow with time. Consequently when we ignore red flags and the decision is followed by a harmful experience, our ability to love and trust in the future may be diminished. We set ourselves up to take the long road around to wellness as we will surely have to heal from a relationship that has caused pain. This can all be avoided should we stay alert to the red flags. We’ve put together a brief list of possible red flags and the emotions that accompany them, in hopes to remind you to trust yourself and act with self love. Here we go:
Lack of Common Decency
We all want to be treated with kindness and respect by other people, including those we don’t know personally. Observing how someone treats those who cannot offer them something they want can be telling of their integrity. When someone mistreats others and is openly disrespectful or unkind, they reveal that they think themselves to be better than that person, a slippery slope toward unhealthy interactions. If they mistreat someone in the service industry who has made a mistake or is not meeting their expectations for a desired outcome, they’re showing you how they’re willing to treat others. Although you may be unscathed in these interactions at present, their inconsistent attitudes toward other people are bound to swing back around to a point where you may be the target of rude or dismissive behaviours. When it comes down to it, kindness is key to healthy and happy relationships.
Doesn't Prioritize Getting To Know You
When someone doesn’t show interest in getting to know you it can be confusing and disappointing. When you like someone you want to get to know that person, their interests, and about the things that bring them joy. When this isn’t reciprocated, that person may not be the right person to continue developing a bond with. They may like the idea of you better than getting to know the reality of who you are. They may be self-involved, have unhealthy relationship patterns or simply see the relationship differently than you do, and so this must be addressed.
Too Much Too Fast
When someone new enters our lives it can be exciting and we may feel the urge to go all in on getting to know them because we believe we see promise in them. It’s important that when getting to know someone that we take a step back and let air in so that all parties can breathe and the bond can grow organically. While we may feel like we’ve known a person forever, in reality they are a stranger and it’s important to treat one another accordingly. Boundaries and pacing will aid in developing a respectful relationship in the long term. When someone wants too much too fast- whether it be personal information, access to your space or other relationships, or a quick jump into physical connection, we’re denying ourselves the enjoyable process of pulling back the layers of getting to know one another.
We all have different ideas of what is the proper timeline and it’s integral that we stay true to ourselves, listen to intuition, and be ready to unapologetically say no when we are uncomfortable. Someone who truly cares will be patient and accommodating of your timeline because you are more important than their desired outcome.
Lack of Motivation
If a person has not done the work to cultivate a fulfilling life for themselves, they may be lacking in self-love and purpose. And while both of which are life-long processes, it’s important that we surround ourselves with people who can be mutually supportive and energising, especially when creating a new connection. Struggles in mental health may impact motivation, and it’s important that one is self-aware and seeking ways to better themselves longterm. It feels good to be around people who inspire us whether it be with their good energy/positive outlook, their hard work, or achievements. When we ignore this and share our energy with those who are not aligned with a sense of purpose, we may be pulled downward and away from the better versions of ourselves.
Pay attention to the ways in which someone speaks about their friends and loved ones. When a person breaks the trust of their friends or family members by flippantly sharing other people’s personal details or secrets, it is likely this behaviour will transfer to how they treat your personal details. It’s important to feel safe and trusting with those we let have access to us, and when we observe someone to be disloyal it plants the seed that this person is careless with their relationships.
While some tropes in the media may mark this behaviour as cute or reflective of “true love,” possessive behaviours indicate insecurity and a desire to control. A person who truly cares will find peace in knowing that their loved ones have a solid and healthy support system around them. They will take steps to become part of your established support system and seek to connect with your family and friends on the basis of a shared caring for you. When this is not the case, it is likely that they have unhealed parts of themselves that they need to address and seek guidance in mending. An unwillingness to work on possessive patterns can be an indicator that a person’s intentions are muddled, self-serving or downright dangerous. If ignored, the person who acts possessively may overtime create situations in which their partner is isolated from their loved ones or support system- a situation no one should have to endure.
This one can be a hard one to flag, as we may enjoy the flattery of receiving attention from someone we’re interested in connecting with. It can be identified through behaviours such as someone asking for constant access to you, whether in a shared physical space or knowing your whereabouts and the details of your interactions with others at all times. Their energy may be intensely focused as they hang on your words, assess your social media posts for personal information or deeper meaning, or show up uninvited to your home, work, or social engagements. These actions may indicate a person does not have their own interests, and have not made a life for themselves outside of the relationship. Their lack of self love is then redirected toward you as a means to fill that void. This places stress on the relationship which overtime can be draining and may even become scary.
Lack of accountability
Conscious self-reflection and taking responsibility for the impacts of one's actions is integral for building a healthy relationship. Taking accountability is ongoing and requires continuous checking in. When a person does not seek to understand the impacts of their choices, apologize, make amends and change their behaviours so that they don't continue to cause harm, this is a red flag.
An accountable person will seek answers in how to heal and be better to other's ongoing. They can also take responsibility for their role in a situation.
Those who deflect, gaslight or throw out the age old line: “All my exes are crazy," are showing us that they are not willing to do the internal work to be better and have healthier relationships.
Asking That You Compromise Your Values
When getting to know someone it may become clear that their values are not the same as your own, and rightfully so, as we are each on our own path. It is natural that, on a case by case basis, we will think through and weigh these differences to decide if their values are fundamentally at odds with what we hope to gain from the relationship. If it’s decided by all parties to move forward in building a relationship and continue to share time and space, there must be respect for one another. When another person knowingly asks us or tries to intimidate or coerce us into compromising our values, they are showing a lack of respect for who we are and the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. This is unacceptable.
Big lies or little lies, dishonesty cannot be a building block to a healthy relationship. Instead, dishonesty offers nothing but a hollow shell of a brick that won't hold up those layers that are yet to come. Dishonesty can come in many forms including an inability to get a straight answer, or an omission of truth, and yet every time it occurs it denies all parties the opportunity to make an informed decision about how to move forward. When the truth is finally revealed so much of a relationship can come undone as it has not been formed on a solid foundation of knowing and connection.
Downplaying Your Accomplishments
It’s important that we surround ourselves with people with whom we can mutually uplift one another. When we care for someone we are truly proud of them when they achieve a goal or reach a new milestone. We are happy that they are happy and together, each individual in the relationship vibrates with joy in knowing they share in a victory simply by being there for their loved one. When this support is experienced it can be one of the best feelings and create deeper bonds.
When someone we keep close does not root for us or downplays our accomplishments it can be disheartening, and should not be ignored. Such behaviour carries negativity, possibly jealousy and can be generally understood as self-serving. This is not the kind of behaviour we need to subject ourselves to in relationships. Life is simply too short to keep people close who refuse to share our joy and our successes.
It’s necessary when getting to know new people that you listen to your intuition. Sometimes it may feel challenging to pinpoint the moment of alert, or we want to give others the benefit of the doubt that their intentions were in a good place when they’ve done something that raises flags. It’s important to go with your gut instincts as we know that the body often knows what our mind has not yet uncovered through analysis of a situation.Take note of how you feel about yourself with them- are you left confused and questioning, drained or detached from yourself OR are you full of joy, secure when you’re apart, and light in your movements and words around them?
We must trust ourselves and take responsibility to protect ourselves from those who are not bringing good things into our lives. You cannot take risks on the hope that “One Day” a person will be healed enough to treat you right. The unhealed parts of us can play a huge role in how accepting we are of red flags- whether it’s childhood experiences where we lived in homes where unhealthy relationship patterns were modelled for us or the heartaches of a past romantic relationship. Yet when we take the lessons we’ve learned and put them to use by standing firm in our identification of red flags we have an opportunity to write a new and better story for ourselves.
Recognizing red flags does not always require us to ghost/“cut off” a person or send that paragraph long text about why we cannot keep that person in our close circle. When we care for that person we may want to have a calm conversation in which we hash things out, explain our upset and try to mend things. Sometimes in order to protect ourselves we must phase a person out or make clear boundaries for both ourselves and the other person so that they don’t have access to us on an intimate or interpersonal level. In other cases, when someone feels particularly harmful to our safety and our energy, we must draw a hard line in the sand. It’s important that we practice self-love and take the steps necessary to keep our space peaceful.
Finally, remember that the world is a big place and there are people you haven’t met yet who you will bring joy and love to your life.
cover image by Zalmaury Saavedra