When you’re in a new relationship, you’re probably swept up in the delight of it all. And you should be. It’s great to enjoy it. But sometimes, in the effort to put your best foot forward and give the benefit of the doubt, you miss red flags. You know, those are the signs that you know in your gut you should heed. If you would pay attention, you could save yourself from heartbreak. But you’re so happy to be in this relationship that you discount your gut and don’t even hear the warning bells ringing.
It’s easy to turn a blind eye because you want the joy of a relationship. You want to believe your new partner is a great guy, so you minimize or dismiss warning signs. This is known as confirmation bias—you dismiss what doesn’t align with what you already believe or wish to believe.
Or you see and acknowledge a warning sign, but think, “Well, he’s so nice to waiters.” Or, “He’s adorable with his mother.” And this may be so. People who are adept manipulators know how to put on a show for your benefit.
So what red flags should you look for when you’re starting out in a relationship?
- “All my exes were terrible people.” Really? If they were all crazy or unreasonable, what does that say about his judgment? And what will he say about you when you’re gone? When he blames all his exes—when it’s always someone else’s fault—take notice. Because chances are he doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions and that does not bode well for your relationship. When everyone prior to you is a disaster, can you see a pattern here? You are going to be the next disaster.
- “Why do you confront me? I’m not going to talk about it.” Every relationship has issues that must be addressed from time to time. When you’re the adult and bring up a conflict that should be discussed, and she refuses, you’re in trouble. A lot of people hate conflict, but if she shuts down, leaves the room, or throws a tantrum, your conflicts will not get resolved.
- “Oh, c’mon, what are you afraid of? Let’s move this relationship faster.” When he pushes you to go faster than what you’re comfortable with, just put on the brakes. Maybe he wants to have sex before you’re ready. Or maybe he wants to date exclusively. Or to move in. Or get married. Or get joint bank accounts. Whoa! If you’re uncomfortable going so fast, listen to your instincts. There’s a possibility he’s trying to control you.
- “You need to give me more.” When she is needy and you give, give, give—emotionally or physically or monetarily or any other way—watch out. She will take, take, take and leave you feeling spent. There is an imbalance in your relationship that likely can’t be repaired. Because this person feels a sense of entitlement—the world owes her. She may even have narcissistic tendencies. She is using you and doesn’t really care that it hurts you as long as she gets what she wants.
- “I’m not wrong, you are.” He’s never wrong, and if you suggest he is, he’ll turn the tables on you, and insist you are the one who behaved badly. Or he’ll dredge up some past misdeed he accuses you of. Or he’ll demand to know why you’re attacking him. He’ll put you down and then pretend to be joking. And he’ll make all your ‘bad behavior’ toward him seem plausible because he’s a master manipulator. Over time, you will buy this crap because he feeds it to you in a steady, toxic stream. Eventually you will feel alone, begin to doubt your own self-worth and lose your self-confidence.
So listen to your gut, and as soon as you notice a warning sign, have the courage to examine it thoroughly and dispassionately. An abuser will deny and confuse and use and control. But a soul mate will be kind and patient because she or he will want the best for you. Which is what you deserve.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact