The Only Relationship Red Flag Is How You Feel


If you’re single and dating, my guess is you’re also studying and reading about being single and dating. And, if you’re reading and researching about this subject, then you have encountered the ubiquitous flag list in its many incarnations. The red flag list is useful because it spells out the signs that someone is dangerous, unstable, untrustworthy, or all three. The characteristics that make the list often appear obvious.

For example, the list includes things like they speak more than they listen, they’re rude to the waiter, they make obnoxious comments, or they are immediately in love with you and overly attentive. You might wonder why anyone needs to be told that they are flags, much again and again all over the internet, when you see these characteristics and behaviors spelled out on the page.

But we do need to be told. We will need to be told since these behaviors may come together with many lovely and charming qualities and we find ourselves weighing our options. Is the fact that our date has a crass sense of humor so bad when he is also extremely intimate and thoughtful? Using a list of flags that we can objectively turn to can help us gain distance from partners and partners that we make informed and rational decisions about relationships.

Having said that, the red flag lists offer a false premise. We may encounter behavior or characteristics in a date which aren’t on any flag list, because they appear to exhibit a red flag or we may write off someone.

The thing is there’s no check list for picking partners or relationships. If you’re looking for a resource such as a flag list or relationship
diagnostic to help you discover whether or not to go on this date, you could be misled.

The only reliable source of advice for how to proceed in a relationship is how you feel.

I don’t mean how you feel about the person. I mean you are feeling around this individual and about yourself when in your body.

For instance, if you find out you feel tense when around this person, like you just cannot relax and be yourself, that’s a red flag. You may tend to take this feeling onto yourself. Don’t. Tension from the body such as muscles, clenched jaw, or feeling particularly insecure about your own body or body language is a sign that you’re not comfortable with this person, while it’s normal to feel a little nervous about someone new. Why is that? Something which hasn’t registered in your mind is being picked up on by your body. Be curious about this.

What are or what is your spouse doing that you’re feeling this way?

If you find yourself feeling more insecure than usual, bad about yourself, or not able to express your thoughts and opinions, that is another red flag. There may not be any overt criticism or disregard for you, but there may be signs that are subtle. A lack of interest in your point of view. Or, a quick changing of the subject when your accomplishments and you become the focus. Maybe, they make fun of you and your comments and attempt to pass it off. It might be that you notice they are critical or dismissive of others while building you up.

You should feel comfortable and totally safe and it will show up in your body if you do not. There’ll be tension and holding and perhaps
even health difficulties. Your system will be impacted by the strain of not feeling comfortable and safe. Are you in a relationship and end up catching every cold that comes your way? It may be a good idea to check in with how you feel around this person. Not feeling comfortable and completely safe will also show up in your thoughts and emotions, as you’re going to be uncomfortable, insecure and hesitant.

A good way to set a baseline for how you want to feel is to notice who treats you like the person that you’re and how you feel. For me, these folks are family members and my friends. When I consider how I feel around them, I notice that I relaxed. I feel heard and seen. I feel safe. I feel respected. I feel like I could be myself that is full and I know they have my best interest in mind. We allow you to fully be who we are and we certainly have our differences, but we create space for that gap although we might not always agree.

In my body, I feel comfortable and unguarded. I’m not unusually stressed and I don’t feel the need to protect myself.

Who in your life inspires these feelings of love and safety? Bring them to mind and then bring that feeling. If you can’t remember the feeling, that is okay. Make a plan to notice how you feel about those that are close to you. Notice how you feel in your body and what your thoughts and feelings are when you’re with people who are supportive. Bear in mind this feeling and use it as a manual for how you want to feel in relationships.

The next time you are with a new partner, check in with yourself. How do you feel? What are your thoughts? What emotions are up? And can this feeling compare to the way you want to feel? Inquire within if something is off. What’s up? Is the unease coming from you (something unrelated to this person), or is it in response to this individual?

Using what you feel in mind and body as a guide is good. So, you’re frustrated with your first results and if this is new for you, keep at it. Keep noticing. Over time, you’ll become your guide and own the best oracle. The flag lists may still be a source, but you won’t really need anyone to tell you who and what is good for you because you’ll know it by the way you feel.

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