Early relationships are often based on projected material. We gravitate to people who let us do what we know how to do. The early patterns of interactions that we learned with our opposite-sex parent might lead us to the same patterns again, that which we know how to do: our comfort zone. And even though we would prefer different experiences, we gravitate to the familiar, thinking that we can handle that. So, for example, if your opposite-sex parent was dominating or controlling, you may find yourself in a relationship in which your partner is dominating, controlling, or both.
You might go along, to get along because you feel that you can handle it, after all, you have for most of your life. However, under the radar you are maturing and growing even if you never go to therapy. And at some point, you do not want to be dominated or controlled any longer. Therefore, to know yourself, is to be armed with skills and tools that can help you acknowledge and recognize similar patterns in relationship, and avoid them. This is your red flag. Though still compelled to move in that direction, the familiar patterns from your family of origin, you can choose to deliberately override the compulsion, through conscious awareness and that big red flag. If you do this, then you make room for the right relationship to enter. Because you have changed, you attract a different person, a better person.
Some of the signs to look for and be aware of include:
- An overly intense person who exhibits characteristics of dominance and control–someone with a temper, someone who pouts, withdraws and has to have his or her way.
- Narcissism is a big red flag yet hard to detect.
- Narcissists are great at hiding their self-interests. They are the perfect chameleons—highly tuned to your wants and needs. Nevertheless, everything for the narcissist directs back to self-interest.
- Their agenda is to pursue you, and they will do anything it takes to achieve their goal. So pay attention. Listen and watch for the signs. If you date long enough, the narcissist will reveal their need to have it their way, to see things from their perspective, their demanding behavior. And finally, further into the relationship you may notice that narcissists are punishers and if you don’t do things that fulfill their ideal, they become upset and withdraw. Narcissists are manipulative and will do anything possible to accomplish their goal.
- Another red flag to look for is a person who is so focused on themselves that there is really no room for you. You can identify this person very early in the relationship. You may notice that for example, all the conversations are directed towards them. They may not even ask you about your interests or experiences, never mind your feelings.
- Then there’s the person who is so badly damaged from their own childhood wounding, there is no way that they can be in a healthy relationship, without serious therapy. Many times the caretaking child becomes the caretaking adult and gravitates to this kind of person. It is extremely important to be aware and recognize this and override the impulse to think that you can make a difference in this person’s life. Rescuing is an addiction in itself, and can only lead to serious problems later on in the relationship.
- Another sign to look for is a person lacking in empathy. Empathy can be taught, but if it’s missing in an adult, it requires a lot of therapy for rehabilitation.
- Next, there is the older person syndrome—people who continue to date others that are several generations older than they are. 10 or 15 years is doable. But when you are looking at 20 or 30 year differences, the relationship is doomed to fail. In the beginning, the relationship may work, but when a 40-year-old is married to a 70-year-old, you can see the problems that might emerge: your time of life is different, your frame of reference is different, and you are of different generations, facing different problems, at different times, in their lives. These problems include both emotional issues as well as physical issues. For example, a 40-year-old, will look at sex differently than a 70-year-old. Their energy level is different. Their needs and desires for social activities are different, etc.
- Also, listen and pay attention to conversations that arise while dating. Was the individual married? How does he or she speak about his or her ex-spouse? Does he or she have children? How does he or she feel about his or her children? Was he or she involved in a custody situation? If you recognize anger and hostility, as well as, revenge in your conversations, see the red flag and run.
- Notice if the person is open to new experiences, including learning about intimacy. Look for addiction. Is this person addicted to drugs or alcohol? Learn to recognize and be sensitive to honesty. Is this person telling the truth? Does he or she pepper the conversation with little white lies, which can easily become big lies and ultimately, betrayal?
- See who this person hangs out with. Get to know his or her family and close social ties. Most importantly, is this a controlling and possessive person? Does he or she react negatively to your relationship with others?
- Finally, does this person share your values? In reality, you can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t.