Is it me? Is it him? Did I do something wrong? Why isn’t this working?
If you’ve been in a dating relationship, chances are you’ve asked yourself a few of these questions before. Relationships can be a tough road to navigate. The culture at large provides us with very few models worth following and it can be difficult to know what a healthy relationship looks like. How do we know when we are a part of something that isn’t healthy and life-giving? How do we know when we are walking on dangerous ground? Dating relationships provide us with an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to connect with someone in a meaningful way. However, as the relationship progresses it is important to be watchful and mindful of these five red flags.
A Lack of Balance
There must be a balance of give and take in order for a relationship to be safe in the long term. Balance of give and take doesn’t mean that all of the chores are split exactly in half or that both partners are working equal number of hours per week. On the contrary, there will likely be certain responsibilities that consistently fall on one partner, while the other partner tackles other tasks. There will also likely be seasons of life where one partner is carrying the majority of the load, and seasons of life where the other partner takes most of the responsibilities upon themselves depending on circumstances. Rather, a balance of give and take is an equal commitment, investment, and contribution by both partners, where balance can be seen over a period of time. Without this, the relationship will begin to feel unsafe for one or both parties.
Secrets and Dishonesty
Whoever said, “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them,” was dead wrong. Lies and secrets can derail years’ worth of trust built in a relationship. While getting to know the intricacies of your partner’s personality and history takes time, be careful not to reveal too much of yourself if you are sensing that you may not have the full story. Pay attention to your intuition. If you feel like he knows more about you than you know about him, it is likely time to slow down and ask some questions before proceeding deeper into the relationship. Likewise, while you don’t have to air all of your dirty laundry on the first date, discipline yourself to be open and honest with yourself and your partner about your thoughts and feelings as the relationship progresses. In doing so, you will build a firm foundation of trust.
A wise mentor of mine once said, “Ask me about a man, and I’ll ask you about his friends.” While I can certainly appreciate the value in having a variety of friends and completely understand the benefit of being able to get along with all types of people, it is also important that we all surround ourselves with a solid group of friends that will challenge and encourage us toward growth. We all have minds of our own. However, if your man is constantly surrounded by friends that tempt him, discourage his character, and make poor life choices themselves, it will be very difficult for him to make choices that are healthy for himself personally as well as your relationship. If this is the case for your guy, ask him questions about what is important to him in a friendship and ask about what he might like for his friendships in the future. If you commit to your relationship for the long haul, you’ll want people in your life who will be a source of strength and encouragement for both of you individually and your relationship together.
While there are certainly red flags to look out for in your partner while dating, there are also things we need to watch for in ourselves. One of the most important red flags to look out for is whether or not we are placing too much of our identity and value in being connected to the other person. Do you find yourself struggling to be yourself in the relationship? Do you worry about being abandoned if you expressed your true dreams, goals, likes or dislikes? Do you feel pressure to agree with your guy for fear that he might not love you if you don’t? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it is important to develop your relationship with yourself before proceeding in deepening a romantic relationship with someone else. Chances are you are fearful of being abandoned or unloved by your partner because you rejected yourself a long time ago. We cannot receive love from someone else if we aren’t willing to give it to ourselves. In doing so, we set our partner up for failure and set ourselves up for disappointment.
Expectations of Perfection
Maybe you’ve been hurt in a relationship one too many times before. Or, perhaps you’ve made a promise to yourself that you would never date a guy “like that” again. While we are wise to learn from our past experiences and prudent to not settle for being treated less than we deserve, we will never find a perfect guy who does everything right and expectations otherwise will likely leave us discouraged. Rather than looking for perfect, try looking for a willingness to grow. Relationships are designed to grow each and every one of us. So rather than looking for reasons for why a guy isn’t right, try looking for signs that your partner is aiming toward personal growth and commit to doing the same. It is likely that the situation is providing an opportunity for growth in each of you. An unwillingness to work through challenges and refusing to see opportunities for personal growth create an unloving and unsafe atmosphere in a relationship.
Red flags don’t have to mean the end of a relationship. However, we are wise to use them as warning signs and take heed to what they might be teaching us about ourselves, our partner, and our relationship. Ignoring internal and external warning signs and allowing them to go unaddressed will only disguise the issues for a time and leave you in more danger in the long run. Noticing and addressing these red flags will lay a foundation of love and trust and set the stage for issues to be healthfully resolved in the future.
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