Being in a pretty great relationship now, it’s fairly easy to look back and see what issues should have shone a bright red flag on previous ones. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. A lot of times, red flags might be overlooked in a dating relationship because there are lovey feelings, a sense of duty to work things out, or because none of the issues alone seem major enough to cause a fuss about. Here are a few things I should have seen in past relationships and maybe can help someone else to do a needed double take as well.
1. Do you feel completely at ease and able to be yourself in their presence?
Sometimes things are awkward for a short period of time, like when I feel like there’s something we need to talk about but neither of us quite knows what’s wrong or how to start a conversation. Those times will come and go, but when you regularly feel uneasy or that you have to hold back on yourself around your SO, it may be time for a second look at the relationship.
An intimate relationship should be the place where you are most free to be yourself, to not have to worry about appearances or good impressions. A place of comfort. If your relationship feels like a roller coaster all the time, that could be a sign that you just aren’t good for each other.
2. Are there things you can’t talk about because you are anxious or unsure about how your SO will react?
Some topics are difficult to discuss, like when my husband tells me that my tone in certain conversations makes him feel like I’m being patronizing, or when I tell him that an elongated silence during a deep conversation makes me feel like he’s not listening. Those can be hard conversations to start and work through, because the initial emotional reaction to being told you’re doing something wrong is often defensive and irritated (at least for me!).
However, one way we try to make sure it doesn’t turn into a mudslinging match is by sticking to an agreement we’ve made that when one person brings up a concern or needs to talk through feeling a certain way, the other person will listen without judgement or jumping on the defense. If we didn’t have any sort of similar reassurance in our relationship, our communication would be greatly hindered. If you are afraid to bring up any concerns you have because your SO will turn it into a conversation about YOUR shortcomings, or fly into a ragey rant, or just be so defensive that you can’t really discuss what the issues are, then that may be a sign that either you both need clear communication “rules”, or perhaps they are not really the right person for you.
Relationtip: “When one person brings up a concern or needs to talk through feeling a certain way, the other person will listen without judgement or jumping on the defense.”
A good relationship needs open, honest communication, and open communication requires that both partners recognize the necessity of being told when something is not right, or their SO feels unloved in any way. The hard discussions are a necessity in any intimate relationship, and it is definitely worth some consideration if those discussions are never actually resolved.
3. Are you invested in each other’s interests, talents, and goals?
Now, this isn’t meaning that if your SO enjoys watching basketball, but you are bored to tears just thinking about it, that you have to sit through every game they want to watch and pretend to like it. I am more referring to an attitude of dismissing or putting down your partner’s interests, or expressing boredom any time they want to talk about what they enjoy.
As it happens, my husband does love basketball, whereas the basic rules of the game are still kinda hazy for me, and I have never enjoyed watching or playing any team sports. I do enjoy listening to him talk about it with me, though, even if I don’t always understand the details. I enjoy taking part in his excitement, and it is meaningful that he wants to share that with me.
Taking part in one another’s interests (to whatever degree works best for your relationship) is meaningful, but supporting and encouraging each other’s goals is necessary. In a previous relationship, there was a noted lack of support when it came to my art. Disinterest, really. It’s not that he wanted me to stop being an artist, but more that he wasn’t interested in it overall. I contrast that with my husband, who is always the first person I go to when I’m excited about a new idea, who pushes me to my limits to help me be the best I can be, who is my biggest fan and best critic. The fact that he is so invested in my dreams and goals means so much to me, and I strive every day to reciprocate!
4. Are their core values different from yours?
This is the most important of the 4, in my opinion. Do you want 3 kids and your SO wants none? Is religion a huge part of their life, but only mildly present or nonexistent in yours? You can be deeply attracted to someone, fall in love with them, even, but have vastly different life goals, values, or worldviews.
A difference in life goals, values, or worldview may not necessarily be a dealbreaker, but should be taken in serious consideration. Being in love with a person does not erase the effects that those may have. I was in love once with a man who was very similar to me in life goals, values, and religion. We were a great match on a personality level and had a great friendship.
Relationtip: “Being in love does not erase the effects that having different life goals, values, or worldview may have on a relationship.”
However, we had completely opposing views on male/female roles in general, but in regards to the marital relationship in particular. It was a large enough issue that I knew it would affect any relationship we attempted to maintain with each other. It would affect how he treated me, which would have been different from how I expected to be treated in a marriage. It would likely cause hurt and offense for the entirety of a marriage.
So, eventually we decided not to pursue a relationship. Looking back, that was a very painful decision, but absolutely the best one for us. Instead of trying to work out a relationship that was in the hole from the start, I was able to seek out a man with the same life goals, values, and worldview as me.