How To Spot the Red Flags

After being on the dating scene for over five years, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about how to spot the ‘red flags’ a mile away.  I’d like to say that I am pretty good at seeing through a person’s bullshit in the early stages of dating and was able to see the writing on the wall before I got in too deep. I always listened to my gut and let my instincts tell me whether this person was good for me or not. Now looking back, I realize that I was protecting myself from being hurt again, so I was dissecting every possible flaw they had as a reason to push them away. A good friend of mine says I’m cynical when it comes to love and relationships and perhaps there is some truth to that statement. I’m trying really hard to be more open to a person who may not seem like the love of my life on the surface but could have the potential of making me happy.

So how do you decipher between good instincts and the hard protective wall you’ve built up over the years?  How do you know if you’re just trying to avoid feeling the devastation of betrayal or fear of rejection again? Well the simple answer is…you don’t. It took me years of countless dates to realize that I was being too critical, because I’d be damned if anyone was going to fool me again.  I would find the slightest little things to convince myself that he wasn’t my type or he was a little shady—I even thought about running background checks on them after I stalked them on social media.

Granted I was right about most of them, but there were a few that now, in hind sight, I’m kicking myself for letting them slip away.  If you follow my blog, you know that I only wrote about the complete disaster stories, but there were ones in between that I should have given a chance. Unfortunately, I was a little too gun shy to let my guard down and way too cynical.  I still consider myself as having good judgement when it comes to spotting scum bags, but its’ the good ones that make me question my bias against men.

One example is the guy I dated a few years ago who was a middle school teacher in a town about 30 miles away from me.  Looking back, I can see that he was probably a really nice guy, but if I’m honest I really didn’t give him a chance. On our first date he was a complete gentleman and took me out to dinner. He was funny, smart and a good family man, so I knew he had potential. The second date was dinner and a movie, but the third date he invited me out with his friends to watch an MMA fight at the casino. Now, at the time I thought it was too soon to be introduced to his friends and didn’t think an MMA fight was very romantic, but he knew I was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, so I guess he thought it would be something I was interested in. It turned out we had a great time and all his friends were great, but he kept making comments that I was “too classy for him and his friends”.   I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a complement or a judgement.

Sure, his friends were a little rough around the edges, but I would never judge anyone based on socio-economic status alone…I genuinely thought they were great people. He didn’t need to have a fancy house and booshie friends to impress me. I just want a good person to spend the rest of my life with.

We continued to talk, but on the fourth date, he invited me over to cook dinner and wanted me to watch his basketball game at the local rec center.  He was a decent cook and an even better ball player, but he blindsided me by not telling me that his family might come to the game to meet me.  I was sooo uncomfortable!  I barely knew this guy and felt that he was moving way too fast for me. He didn’t even introduce us until after the game, so the woman that was sitting next to me making small talk was actually his sister. I was so embarrassed and slightly annoyed.

I quickly let it go, but this is when the red flags started to wave. We went to a local dive bar where his team hung out after the game and had some laughs about how his sister and niece approved of me even though I thought they were strangers at the time. The guys on the team started in on him for putting me in that situation, but I could tell he was genuinely surprised they had shown up. As it turns out, his sister was just being nosy and tends to be protective of her little brother.

As the night went on, I found myself doing what I always do and analyzed everything he said. He told me stories about his father being a drug addict and exposing him and his sister to a lifestyle that no child should ever see. I found compassion for him, but I had to admit that I wondered if we just came from two different worlds. It began to snow pretty hard that night as we left the bar and because the drive was long he offered to have me spend the night.  Normally I would have taken my chances with driving into a ditch rather than stay at a guy’s house so soon, but I trusted this guy because I could tell he was very sweet despite being brought up in a dysfunctional home.  He gave me his room and he slept in his daughter’s room.  The next morning he brought me breakfast in bed and told me how beautiful I was– even with bed head and no make-up on. (I knew he was full of shit.)

I left later that afternoon after he cleared his driveway for me and I knew that this relationship wasn’t going to last. Why, you ask? He was too good to be true.  Even though I trust my instincts and knew he was probably a genuine guy, I kept thinking he was trying too hard.  That was the red flag.  A man that tries too hard to impress you usually has hidden skeletons in his closet that he doesn’t want to reveal. They will come out eventually, but they will have a spin on them that he only sees from his perspective.

We went out a few more times (okay maybe once more) but ultimately I was right. He had done things to disrespect women in his past that I would never tolerate. He was a good father, but resented the fact that he had to pay his ex-wife child support. When I argued that it’s his responsibility to help support his girls financially, all he could see was the resentment for his ex-wife.  That my friend does not fly with me and shows me that he lacked integrity. As a single mother myself raising three kids on my own, I felt like he wasn’t a good man if he felt like he didn’t have any obligation to support his children. I broke it off shortly after that conversation.

As women, we want to see the good in the men we are dating that we often overlook the glaring red flags. You can tell a lot about a man by how he talks about his past lovers. (One of the tricks I’ve learned along the way). My advice to all women is let the walls down enough to be open to love, but really listen to what a man says.  More importantly, pay attention to their actions.  At first they want to wine you and dine you, but as time goes by, you need to start peeling back the layers to see beyond the sweet talk. People are very good at telling you what you want to hear and boosting your ego, but the real truth is shown when you read between the lines. There are 5 things you should ask someone you’re dating to avoid the pitfalls of falling for the wrong person:

  1. Ask them how they feel about their past relationships.
  2. Ask them what they are you looking for in a relationship. What are your turn-ons? What are your turn offs?
  3. Ask them about their relationship with their kids and/or family.
  4. Ask them if they’ve ever cheated in their relationships.
  5. Ask them where they see themselves in 5 years.

Now, the important thing to know is to not only to listen to what they are telling you, but listen to what they’re not telling you.  Listen to the tone of the conversation. Are they willing to share openly or are they negative and defensive? This is how you can spot the red flags. A person who is honest and trustworthy will be reflective of mistakes they might have made in the past and take responsibility for their own choices. If they don’t ‘own it’ then that means that they haven’t learned from it.  A person who lacks emotional intelligence will place blame on everyone else and deflect any responsibility of their own. Always listen to your gut. If your intuition is telling you something is wrong or you don’t like the way they treat you—get out now! Yes, people can change, but only if they’ve done the work and take responsibility their mistakes, so that they can break the pattern.  If they treated other people badly in the past and justify their behavior they will do the same to you. Always remember my favorite quote:

“When someone shows you who they are….believe them.”

                                                                                                                                ~Maya Angelou

 Yes, I may be a tad mistrusting and slightly cynical, but I’d rather be that way then end up in another shitty relationship with someone that doesn’t treat me the way I deserve. It’s not being cynical it’s being smart. It’s not being closed off it’s knowing my self-worth. Call me a cynical bitch if you want to, but I know that someone who’s kind and good will see beyond that tough exterior and love me despite my deeply afflicted soul. (At least I hope so).

With Hope, Faith and Love,

~Teresa

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