I am terrible at relationships. This is not a secret. You know how the common reactions to fear are either fight or flight? The anxiety that comes over me in a relationship results in a somewhat spastic combo. I tend to rush things, getting swept up in new feelings that deafen me to the alarm bells going off in the back of my brain. Then when it’s too deep I have maneuvers to push people away that rival a bulldozer. To be honest, I’m a little terrified to get into a relationship and have been for a little over a year now. It’s not that I’m not putting myself out there. But I get to the point where he asks me out and by the time the first date is done, or even before we even get there, I bolt. I definitely don’t trust guys right now, but even more disabling, I’ve stopped trusting my own judgement. I’m also at the point where I am content without a relationship – more content than I have ever been as a couple and not wanting to risk the fulfillment I’ve found on my own – I stay that way. I am also healing, and trauma leaves a mark. It at the very least leaves you sore and it takes more than a few months to heal from. Anyone who has been the recipient of abuse can attest to that. Often after a break up (but not always), the abuser is in a new relationship first having little to nothing to heal from – while the recipient isn’t as eager to get back into a similar situation. They take their time not wanting to make the same mistakes while the abuser doesn’t think they made any mistakes in the first place. Often, too, the abuser will quickly begin a new relationship to ‘prove’ that they weren’t the problem from the last relationship. Those ‘rebound’ relationships usually dissipate as quickly as they escalated with previous issues never being accepted or addressed, resurfacing (though common, it’s not always the case). I digress.
I’m a fixer. I like when there are simple answers to a given problem. (This may or may not be the way to approach my current issues with relationships but this is the way I am going to address them.) If where I went wrong in previous endeavors was ignoring the alarm bells in my head when a partner did or said something suspicious – then I should make tangible and evident markers of those alarms and not dispute them when they appear in the moment. A map of red flags. Here is my map. (This is all from a heterosexual narrative only because I am a heterosexual female and I only have my perspective and view point to go off from. Are there similarities or differences for my LGBTQ readers? Please comment and share! Would love to hear your thoughts!)
Do not date/ stop dating a guy if one or more of the following things occur: (Besides the obvious and usual living with his mother, unemployed etc)
HIS PUBLIC PERSONA IS VASTLY DIFFERENT THAN HIS PRIVATE ONE
Obviously there are things we do and say in private that would not be appropriate in public, there’s such a thing as manners and propriety. What I do mean is if he acts like everyone’s best friend in public and then makes fun of all those people in private. Or if he is somewhat of a spokesperson for a cause – whether it’s environmentalism, feminism, or some kind of faith, etc, etc – but in private consistently says or does contradicts said cause. These are just a couple of examples but this is not merely having appropriate manners in public. If his public persona contradicts his private one than it is either an identity crisis or a conflict of character.
HE LIES TO YOU, AT ALL, ABOUT ANYTHING
Think of the beginning of a relationship as a foundation being laid. Lies in the beginning is like putting a balloon in your foundation instead of a solid brick. (Not that lying later in a relationship is alright, but hopefully with an already solid foundation a relationship can withstand a small deception) It doesn’t matter how big or small the lie is. What he is telling you is that he can’t be trusted, he doesn’t trust you, he doesn’t respect you, thinks you’re too dumb to figure out the truth, and that he’s comfortable lying to you. And take it from me, the lies will grow over time.
HE HAS A FEMALE BEST FRIEND
Can men and women be friends? Yes. But if his absolute best friend is a woman, what does he need you for? They are friends so they do everything but romantically physical stuff. So does he just need you as a slam piece? Bingo! Hear me out. I am a female who has had a guy best friend. I’ve also been a female who has dated 3 guys with a girl best friends. As the girl best friend, out of respect for the fellow female I distanced myself from my guyfriend and made room in our friendship for her instead of making room for myself in their relationship. I also accepted that my friendship with said guy would now go through her and included her in all aspects of our friendship. (My guyfriends were solid guys too and understood what honor meant. They always honored their relationship and girlfriends, now wives, with or without her physical presence and prioritized her above any other female.)
As the new girlfriend to a guy who has a female best friend my experience has not been as successful. The best female friend would be super friendly to me in person but then talk badly about me behind my back – usually to the guy and the rest of his friends. She and I would undoubtedly have a conversation where she would make the point that she knows him better and has been there and will continue being there (with subtle territorial threats). This even happened to me once when I wasn’t even dating a guy, we just started spending time together while he figured out his sexuality. A girl who he used to be friends with in high school, who was engaged at the time to another guy, came up to me and started talking to me about the guy.
“Isn’t it annoying how he never pronounces his k’s?” was one of the odd questions in her interrogation. I told her I guess I hadn’t noticed. “Yeah, we’ve just known each other forever.” she replied without blinking. Not. Even. Once. When I asked the guy if he and this girl ever dated he was surprised at the question and wanted to know where it was coming from. I told him that she and I had a conversation and it seemed very territorial and only then did he admit that she had a huge crush on him in high school and didn’t take his rejection well. She hadn’t talked to him for years and went on to a super serious relationship after super serious relationship and only just started talking to him again …..when he and I started hanging out…..Um. Yeah. Ok. (Girls always know about other girls. Just like guys can only tell with other guys) The girl best friend situation isn’t entirely a deal breaker if the guy is a decent person and doesn’t play both sides- but it is a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.
HE CANNOT HANDLE CONFLICT
First of all, nobody is a fan of conflict. The perfect relationship where the both of you always see eye to eye, never disagree, and are on the same page and in perfect harmony 24/7 and have never had an argument – does not exist. Someone once told me that relationships are never 50/50 as in both of you getting your own way half the time but more so neither of you getting 100% of your way ever – but both doing what’s best for the relationship. (Putting ‘Us’ ahead of ‘Me’) So when you inevitably disagree on something, or someone does something that hurts or offends the other – you both should be team players and work together to fix the problem. If he can’t discuss a conflict openly and honestly with compassion but instead shuts down and treats you as the problem – run for the fucking hills. That’s not a man – that’s a child who only cares about doing what he wants with no regard to you or the relationship. Let him waste his time searching for the perfect nonexistent relationship – don’t waste your time being blamed for all his problems and straining yourself doing all his emotional labor.
HE COMPARES YOU TO OTHERS
Girl, you don’t need that kind of negativity. Run the hell away.
HE DISRESPECTS YOUR TIME
Does he not set aside time for you and get mad when you try to find time with him? Is making plans with him like pulling teeth? Does he bail on you or flake last minute – and sees nothing wrong with it? Does he hint at wanting to spend time on a certain night but on that night goes and does something else and excuses it with “Well, it wasn’t definite.” (or something along those lines) Does he get pissy when you text him when he’s working but has no problem texting you when you’re at work? Can you depend on him to show up on time when you do make plans? A relationship is a two way street and about compromise – if you constantly find yourself having to compromise your schedule to work around his or you won’t see him – don’t.
HE GIVES BAD GIFTS
I don’t mean inexpensive. I mean gifts that are thoughtless and borderline insulting. I dated a guy who was very hard to shop for. He didn’t really have hobbies or interests except he really liked hockey and the Sabres. So being a good and thoughtful girlfriend – I got him Sabre tickets. He got me…..hand soap. ( If you’re a man and reading this, don’t ever buy a woman hand soap especially a woman you’re dating. ) I was living at my parents at the time so didn’t even have a use for it. He might as well have bought me fabric spray or a mop. It wasn’t even a scent I liked. It had nothing to do with the price. He could have made me a card and that would have been more thoughtful. Bad gifts just say he doesn’t really know you, or what you like, and he doesn’t care enough to try.
HE ISN’T UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR WOMAN TROUBLES
As a man, just because he doesn’t understand what menstruation is like, doesn’t mean he can’t be empathetic. If he can’t handle the fact that you have cramps, or not in the mood because of your period, or your feelings, being tired or cranky etc – then feel free to assume he only accepts your body when he can use it to his benefit. And to the men out there who can’t deal when their woman is menstruating……grow up. You like women? Women have vaginas and vaginas operate as vaginas.
HE NEVER APOLOGIZES
Is everything always all your fault? Has he ever made a sincere apology or taken accountability when he makes a mistake? Or maybe he does say “sorry” occasionally but they are always followed with a “but”? Major sign of someone with weak character.
HE MOCKS YOU (Your job, your faith, your hobbies etc.)
Mocking is disrespect. Point blank. You shouldn’t be with someone who doesn’t respect you. About faith- I don’t necessarily think two people need to be of the same faith to have a successful relationship as long your core values line up. But if someone makes fun of you for believing something, that is not a supportive and healthy partnership. Discussions and questions are good even when you do share the same faith. You can disagree with someone on a belief but still respect them. Whether it’s your faith, your job, your hobbies – if he is making jokes at your expense and/or belittling parts that make you who you are – run. You deserve better.
HE USES YOUR RELATIONSHIP AS COLLATERAL
If you’ve ever been with someone who does this then you understand how scary and confusing this can be. If you are in an argument with your guy and he consistently says things along the line of “I can’t be with someone who ….xyz.” or “I don’t want to be in a relationship where….” he is projecting his commitment to you as conditional all while not really addressing the issue. A good partner is someone who wants to grow with you and make you feel safe and secure that they aren’t going anywhere. I have been there on the receiving end of that and it’s hell. All it does is make you feel insecure and like they are always leaving – there’s no security there. Life is way too short to walk on eggshells. If every disagreement or place of tension is a make or break that he is using as an excuse to leave – let him. A man should make you feel safe and like you can depend on him. All this does is break trust. He’s threatening the relationship to keep you in fear of losing him – because if you are afraid of losing him then you will stop doing whatever you’re doing that he disapproves of in order to keep him. He is making it impossible for you to come to him to discuss things when every talk becomes an ultimatum.
HE IS SELFISH IN THE BEDROOM
If he is uncomfortable talking about what you like sexually or doesn’t even bother to ask – guess what? He’s not interested in sharing a fulfilling sexual experience with you but only in using you for his own sexual gratification. Good sex is about sharing the experience and pleasure and if he is only interested in receiving ….run. Even prostitutes get paid. I’m not saying he needs to be some maestro between the sheets and certainly not a mind reader – but if you are continually unsatisfied and he doesn’t seem to notice or care — or isn’t even willing to try what you like even after you bring it up — he’s not interested in your sex life, so remove him from it. (If you can’t talk about sex, then you’re not ready to have it!)
HE’S ONLY EVER AFFECTIONATE ABOUT YOU ONLINE
Girls do this too, for sure. You know the couples – Post after post of cutesy pics with some cliche caption at the bottom. This in itself, though nauseating, is not a red flag. But if he has no problem showing the world that you’re his #1 but when you’re alone together you’re constantly bickering and he can be cold and distant…..who is he trying to convince that he loves you? Because it isn’t you. We all know at least one person who posts and proclaims that they’re head over heels in love, and how their significant other completes them and how lucky they are only to break up a little while later – and then the very next relationship they are in and every relationship they regurgitate and post the exact same thing. If you’re absolutely in love with every and any person you’ve ever dated it just shows you don’t know what love is.
This can also be reversed. If he’s lovey- dovey and super affectionate with you in private but then somewhat hides your relationship and/or his feelings about you infront of friends and family – what is he embarrassed about? Don’t get me wrong – everyone has their own comfort with public displays of affection but if he’s telling you you’re the love of his life but he can’t introduce you as his girlfriend – something is off there.
HIS WORDS AND HIS ACTIONS DO NOT ALIGN
Does he consistently say he’s going to do something and then doesn’t? Does he consistently say he’s going to stop doing something and then keeps doing it? Or worse, does he say nice things but then treats you like crap? Run. Away.
Here’s a more conducive list –
- He has his mother talk to you about issues he has with you (actually happened. Sat us both down in the kitchen while he just stared at his feet. )
- Tells you a story about how he tortured a small animal as a child (Again, no joke. It was a toad.)
- You find a list on his mantel on how to hunt people (I told you I have terrible taste in guys. Live and learn.)
- Needs you to pay any of his bills
- Talks about his ex within the first month
- Actually – if he mentions any other female in the first date (maybe a relative. Once)
- He makes light of something that hurts you
- You don’t feel good after speaking with him or spending time with him
- He isn’t phased by your tears
- He disparages his ex – not over things she has done – but breaks her down as a person
There is no exact science. People are also capable of change. There’s also no guarantees (as much as I may wish there were.) But hopefully by learning by past mistakes I can be a little wiser moving into my future. Have any stories or red flags you’ve learned to identify? Share in the comments!