This post has been sitting my drafts for WEEKS and weeks and weeks. Because it was hard to write and (clearly) even harder to publish. But – in an attempt to be truly authentic and transparent (and all of the other buzz words), AND to honor your requests from my many feedback polls in which you have stated loud and clear that you want me to cover relationships, mental health, and the hard stuff that makes us who we are, I want to start covering some grittier topics among all of the morning routines and gorgeous couples in front of my lens.
So, here are the 7 relationship red flags I ignored, (and hope you won’t).
Maybe you’ll love it – but you might not! Either way, that’s ok. If one person reads something that resonates with them, all of the soul-bearing is worth it. So, without further adieu, let’s get this slightly weird and almost traumatic party started! (Kidding…kind of).
A Disclaimer of Sorts
It would be totally unlike me to bypass any opportunity to stand on a digital rooftop and shout to the world my love and adoration for my husband. Justin is truly the best human being I’ve ever known. Calling him the love of my life feels like a gross understatement, and I spend a large portion of my time truly wondering how I got so lucky. While I won’t be revealing the identities of the lucky lads the below red flags pertain to, it’s important to note that not a single one of them applies to J. He is the exception to every red flag. His existence made all of the red flags distant memories, and all of the terrible, traumatic, horrible relationships fade to gray because his presence in my life was and is so vivid.
Nope, none of this is about him. And I hope you’re all so lucky, if you want to pursue a relationship, to find yourself someone with who turns the red flags and all that comes with them to gray.
With that said, let’s jump right in!
#1 – Keeping you a secret.
So here’s the thing. We all have varying levels of publicly proclaiming our business that we’re comfortable with. I will happily use this platform right here to talk about pretty much anything if I think it’s worth reading and might help someone. But put me at a dinner table with a large group of people and ask me to say EXACTLY what I say here? No thanks. Bye. So I get that sometimes opening up about feelings in front of other people or making it “facebook official” (is that still a thing?) and otherwise defining and proclaiming the relationship isn’t an exact science, and looks different on everyone.
But – if you’re in a relationship with someone. A fully defined, “You Are My Romantic Person” relationship (or really any kind of relationship but that’s another post for another time) – YOU SHOULD NOT BE KEPT A SECRET.
I went through months and months (and maybe years? I’m honestly not even sure) of being totally unsure who knew I existed and who knew I was in the picture and in what context. This particular relationship was very long-distance so dates were never an issue – nobody we knew was ever at the places we went. Super easy to keep me under wraps.
The thing was – I knew this was happening. I knew it. And I went along with it because I thought it was the best I was going to get. Don’t be like me. If you feel like you’re being kept a secret, have a chat about it. Figure out where you both are. And if you’re not in agreement that you’re a total badass who deserves a prominent place in someone’s life? Huge red flag. GTFO.
#2 – Lying.
I know, this sounds like a no-brainer. But it can be super hard to detect, and once you DO detect it, it can be super easy to excuse. I won’t go into much detail about this one because it looks different everywhere, but…trust your intuition. If you feel like something is off, don’t ignore it. Even if you wind up being totally wrong, trust that there’s a reason you feel this way, and it’s worth pursuing.
#3 – Constant fighting.
Again, I know this sounds obvious. But I spent a lot of time constantly bristled and ready for an attack. I never knew where a fight would be coming from or on which topic they would land. This was stressful in a way I don’t even know how to quantify.
It largely goes hand in hand with the next red flag of having wildly different values, but there is a way to handle differences without escalating into an angry, mud-slinging argument.
#4 – Wildly different values.
I spent years with someone who, from a values perspective, could not have been more my opposite. If you lined up our values side by side, we would have looked like enemies, but instead, we were faking our way (badly) through a relationship.
I’m not saying you have to agree on everything (in fact, please don’t – that would be super boring), but there should be some alignment when it comes to those core values you hold near and dear.
What do I mean by that? Think about the things in life that are most important to you. Maybe it’s family. Maybe it’s advancing your career? It might be kindness, making sure others are taken care of and feel loved. Maybe it’s social justice. Whatever it is, make sure your person doesn’t disrespect the things you value most.
#5 – Money weirdness.
Yikes, this is a tricky one. Mostly because I am SO BAD AT MONEY. Like, I’m in debt, and I’ve made horrible financial decisions. But – I own it. I know I’m bad at money. I’ve always been upfront in relationships that I have a LOT going for me, but my ability to earn money (hi, I’m a full-time nonprofit fundraiser and a part-time photographer/writer. I’m not making money, ever.) and my ability to manage money, are not among those things.
I’ve had the misfortune of not being on the receiving end of that kind of honesty. It led to me paying for things when really it should have been a 50/50 split, spending money I didn’t have because they “forgot their wallet,” etc., but that’s the least of it. I was totally on board with aligning my life with someone who was lying to me about their financial situation. Not being honest and telling me – hey, if we continue down this path, you should know our money situation is going to SUCK. I would have been fine with that. It’s the lying, the letting me believe things were different than what they really were when I was being fully honest. That’s the red flag.
#6 – Telling you to change your body.
I’m seeing red as I type this. Just, inexplicable levels of rage.
I cannot BELIEVE I let someone tell me I was unworthy of love because of my appearance and the number on the scale. That I might be worth loving once my appearance more closely matched theirs. That we would be tabling any further conversations about next steps in a relationship until I met their physical requirement. That I could be so pretty if I just lost weight.
Checking in on my progress. Guilting me when I didn’t meet their expectations. Guys – are you hearing how completely messed up this is? Because I wasn’t. I agreed with him.
It wasn’t until I changed the narrative that I was telling myself that I started to think that maybe he was out of line. When I got angry. When I started wondering if I actually thought I looked bad or deserved to be mistreated because of my body and realized…I didn’t. I was happy with the way I looked, and no part of my body determined my value as a person — especially how worthy I was of the attention and affection of this human I was trusting with my very loving heart.
Somehow I mustered up the courage to end things with them when they brought it up AGAIN in the form of requesting a timeline. Essentially “when do you think you’ll be thin enough for me to not be ashamed of you?” and I ended it right then and there. Not just the romantic relationship. The whole thing. Done. Canceled. Years of investment into another human vanished in a series of texts. And you know what? It was among the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Hear me loud and clear: if someone is doing this to you, it is a form of abuse. You don’t deserve it, and you need to get out. Abuse looks like a lot of different things, and this is one of them. I wish I had been honest with my friends about what was happening. I wish I had listened to my friends who told me I was making a horrible mistake. And while I can’t get those years back, maybe I can help you reclaim yours. Reach out to your friends and family and tell them what’s going on, and develop a plan to get yourself out. And as always, you can reach out to me.
#7 – Gaslighting.
Whew – ok last one. Gaslighting. I’ll keep this short and sweet because that last one was a doozy, but if someone tries to make you feel crazy? Like you’re too…anything? Not ok. You’re not crazy, you deserve to be heard and for your concerns to be taken seriously. You’re not too anything. Don’t let anyone try to make you shrink or feel diminished so they can feel bigger and take up more space. Take up all the space you need and want. It’s yours, and you don’t have to ask for permission.
Bonus! # 8 – You don’t want to see them.
I couldn’t end the post without covering this one. If you find yourself dreading spending time with them, that is a HUGE red flag. Like…the biggest of all the flags. I don’t mean situations where you’d rather have some alone time, or you want to take yourself to a movie, or you’d prefer to do xyz with friends because time with friends is critical and important and healthy, as is alone time. BUT…once I was planning a trip to visit my then-boyfriend and I was getting ready to pack and got my suitcase out and sat down on the bed and just started sobbing. Because I didn’t want to go, because I didn’t want to see him, because I didn’t like him. And y’all, we stayed together for a long time after that! Why???!!
All of this boils down to a few points:
- know you deserve respect and love and care
- listen to your intuition
- take action when things are bad
The points are simple, but they can be hard as hell to implement. If you’re trying? You’re doing a great job.
Now I want to hear your red flags. Has life taught you any important lessons you’d be willing to share?
As always, I’d love to hear.