Meeting and getting involved with a new person that we like is amazing. It's special and you feel like you can conquer the world. Everything is finally aligning, and we are living our own fairytale. We stay up all night talking to each other, we daydream about it and we spend the rest of the time counting the minutes left to see it again.
Human beings are biologically programmed to connect with other human beings. And when that happens, oxytocin is released in our brain. There is also a greater release of dopamine which makes us feel happier. For these reasons, we tend to minimize the negative aspects and maximize the positive aspects. But it is also at this stage that we should be aware of what we call the "red flags".
At a time when we are talking more openly about abusive behaviors in love relationships, there is nothing better than being attentive from the start. Be aware that in the first phase of a relationship, it will be more difficult to find and recognize behaviors that in the long term may prove to be abusive.
The quality of our relationships has a great impact on our quality of life and well-being. When we talk about relationships, we need to understand that there is a spectrum that varies between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive. Healthy relationships are ones where we feel connected, safe, appreciated, valued, and empowered. Unhealthy relationships are unpredictable and based on co-dependence. In these we feel misunderstood, insecure, and unappreciated. Abusive relationships are dangerous and damage us. They make us feel extremely isolated and worthless.
So, if we start to identify red flags early on, we can understand whether or not it is worth insisting on a relationship that may or may not be healthy for us. What are red flags? Red flags are warning signs. These signals can appear as an intuitive "feeling" that something is not right. Sometimes these "alerts” may be less extreme and others may evolve over time. They can range from "don't go there!" to "run away now!" depending on the severity of the behaviors.
Red flags to watch out for:
- Violent behavior: if the person you are engaging with demonstrates any kind of violent behavior towards you, another person or animals, this is a serious red flag. It could indicate that this person is unable to express their emotions in a healthy way.
- Constant lying: if you perceive that your partner is being dishonest with you, this is not a good sign. We all tell "white lies", but if you notice that your partner is constantly lying on you, it is a wake-up call. Feeling like we're constantly being cheated on makes it hard to build a solid relationship.
- You feel demeaned constantly: A partner who frequently criticizes us or demeans us, even if it is in a subtle way, can affect our self-esteem. It is a form of psychological abuse. (Psychological abuse is as or more harmful than physical abuse!!!).
- Resistance to compromise: If your partner is unwilling to compromise, even on the smallest things in your daily life, watch out. Being in a relationship with someone in a one-sided relationship can lead to us developing feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction. Do we want a relationship like this?
- Tendency to run away from serious conversations: If your partner tends to avoid discussing issues which are central, if he/she avoids rationally discussing emotional issues which have affected you, it could mean that the does not have the same emotional maturity and, therefore, it will be difficult to maintain a relationship without communication.
- Controlling attitude and excessive jealousy: If your partner is very jealous, it can lead to him or her presenting a controlling attitude in the future. A jealous partner can make you feel suffocated with calls and text messages. It can also lead to you withdrawing from your friends and family.
- Inconsistency: A healthy relationship should make you feel secure and consistent, not like you're living on a rollercoaster. Inconsistent behavior can be an indicator that this new person may not be a partner we can trust.
Relationships are complicated. Period. They require commitment, work, honesty, vulnerability and above all, communication. Of course, all relationships are different since we all have different needs. But hardly a relationship will be healthy if there are no solid pillars in place from the beginning.
Pay attention to what your gut is telling you. "Will this work?". If your answer is "no", then get out of that relationship. Don't force yourself to be in a relationship where you don't feel safe.
If you're still not quite sure how you feel in this relationship, try to think rationally: assess your own patterns of behavior and the type of relationships you are usually involved in; define for yourself what boundaries can be negotiated or those you are not willing to accept; define for yourself what you need to feel safe and valued. Share your doubts with your support system, their insight can help you create some distance and see things from another perspective.
Finally, note that not all red flags are indications that the relationship won't work, but defining and understanding what boundaries you are not willing to cross can help you develop better relationships for yourself. Be sure to ask yourself "Do I feel safe in this relationship?" If the answer is "no", then run away!