Red flags? Knowing when to stay and when to move on
You're dating someone new and all the red flags are flying high... Here’s how to identify what they mean, and whether you should stay.
You’ve just met. The chemistry’s there. You want to melt when you look at each other. He’s right on point, pays for the meal, and heavens, asks to see you again!
You go, in fact, you go a few times. You’re thrilled by the calls you get and the messages, and the possibility of the dawn of a new love!
Then without being able to put your finger on why, you notice a change in the rhythm of things. He says he’ll call you later and he doesn’t. So you call him and he doesn’t pick up, and you end the day wondering what’s going on.
Does this sound familiar? This is your instinct calling out to you, your gut. Something you can feel but can’t name - listen to it!
So, what do we call these people who unbalance you, and will they be interested in your inner experience or be unable to do so?
When calling them out, you feel you might 'tip the boat' in the direction of their disinterest, and consequently, where you might be heading together. In a hoped-for relationship that feels like you have someone in your life, finally.
Basically, what is beginning to feel complicated here, in fact, is really simple. When you can put some vocabulary around it, the complication is your emotional response. That l can address in another article.
When someone you are keen on starts to say things, but not do them - even if they are small things like, “I'll call you later” and they don’t - your trust in them alters, as well as your trust in where 'this' between you is going, or maybe not, as it goes.
So, you have that kind of sinking feeling of potential disappointment, he didn’t call. You take that into the next day and if he messages you, your instinct is to make him wait for a reply. You begin to mirror his lack of response with yours. This dilutes the initial connection, and it feels uneasy, and less spontaneous, because you are not being authentic, by calling out his lack of follow-through which he promised, but didn’t deliver.
This is no man’s land in relationship territory.
You are kept waiting and wondering, waiting for his next move, and wondering whether he’s still interested or he’s not. It’s not comfortable, is it? This nagging questioning that's in the background of your mind, and challenges your focus and plays with your emotions.
So let’s put options and clarity around it.
Are you entering the playground of a narcissist, a sociopath, or neither, but someone who is just very self-absorbed, which frankly isn’t great either, or maybe someone who is wanting intimacy and love, but is afraid?
To define, simplify and narrow it down as much is written out there...
A person with narcissistic traits will inflict hurt through uncertainty to protect their pride or ego. They have little capacity for listening, caring or understanding, leaving them without true intimacy and you feeling invisible and irrelevant. Your needs and feelings will be less important than a need to garner your attention. For them, a need for an emotionally intimate connection is seen as weak and fundamentally incomprehensible.
A person with sociopathic traits tends to be more self-righteous. This is similar to narcissistic traits, however, their underlying status is more aggressive and devious and about deriving actual pleasure producing pain in another, without any sense of right or wrong. They lack neuro-moral architecture in the brain.
I have experienced this dynamic personally and it has a chilling feeling about it, which, if you really pay attention, stands out and is different to the effect of narcissistic traits. It feels more sinister, especially if the sociopath operates through the veil of passive aggression to confound and ensure they uphold their own necessary myth of the charm they use initially to get you.
To defer slightly from clarifying the meaning of various 'felt' red flags in a new relationship, understanding their possible origins also helps enormously.
Herein, if no consequences are felt by overstepping boundaries or breaking rules early in early childhood, accountability will not be either understood or recognised. This helps to know.
If this continued lack of follow-through is due to fear rather than behaviour traits, then talking it through together by calling it out can bring you closer because you will both feel far more understood.
Calling out someone’s behaviour that makes you uncomfortable from the get-go, from the start, is really important. It ensures that you are being authentic, rather than mirroring the other person's behaviour merely to hold onto them at any cost, and trust me, it will end up being at your cost if you don’t.
If they respond well to this, any potential relationship you might have together will have a real quality about it.
But what if they take it all on board and then just carry on saying one thing and doing another? What if the incongruity of their words and deeds prevails?
Here’s what you do.
Firstly, recognise that this behaviour shows a lack of integrity, and for someone who basically doesn’t care about breaking your trust whatever their reasons are, it is neither healthy nor is it acceptable.
This is the truth. The truth is simple.
As l said earlier, it is your emotions around it that make it feel complex, as well as a fear of losing someone if you dare to call it out. But what have you got if you don’t? Question what you will actually be losing.
You will have laid the ground for someone to do this again and again to you, and this makes a relationship unsustainable. It is not so much the why are they doing it, but more why would you want to be in it, that you need to address here.
This discrepancy between what they say and what they do breaks trust, and the bedrock of any healthy relationship is trust and also respect for one another. This behavioural incongruity will lead to constant disappointment for you.
If someone you care about is ambivalent by way of words that are not followed through with and by deeds, then your own feelings of worth and importance to them will be low and can trigger doubt in your own value.
It is always worth calling poor-quality behaviour out.
Better done in the beginning, so that you can either move forward in a way that adds true value to your life and theirs in a good relationship.
If this feels risky and a bit scary, the calling out of something that someone is doing that bothers you, remember that it is far better to risk losing someone who will carry on undervaluing you. If you are truly important to someone, they will care about how you feel not disregard it.
Emotional coaching, which is what l teach, is such a valuable investment in yourself and your future happiness.