I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve been in where I saw red flags in someone’s behavior but looked the other way because, “I loved them,” or, “I know they’re trying…” Not good enough, turns out. I want to be in relationships with people who are mentally and emotionally healthy. At my age and time in life, I have no patience for anything else. So, if that’s where you are in life, here’s what to do.

Learn the signs, recognize the behavior and learn to make difference choices

I understand that one can ignore the red flags when you want a love connection or friendship to work. You may be waiting too long to accept a negative reality, hoping that your gut feelings are wrong about what’s really going on. You may have wishful thinking that the person you so want to love may change, or be different at heart. You may be really insecure about your own attractiveness. But, none of that is any real reason to accept less than what you are worth. If someone makes you feel bad or jealous or insecure, there’s a problem.

Relationship red flags may hide out under the surface, but can you accept them?

Everything may seem okay in a relationship, but secretly you have niggling feelings that you are not being treated with respect, or worse: someone is really hurting you. Sure, I know some couples (and families) who seem totally enlightened, supportive of each other, attractive, loving, living their best life, but what about the rest of us? How can we accept the truth about our relationships? This goes for all the relationships in our lives: our family, our co-workers and bosses, even our friends. Two big relationship red flags come with narcissists and toxic people. Who doesn’t have some of those in our lives?

What are some red flags in relationships

Maybe we’re divorced and hunting. Maybe we’ve never met the right one. Maybe we’ve found relationships, but they’re far from perfect. Or maybe we’re in and out of relationships. Whatever the case, healthy relationships take work. They don’t fall into your lap, and they don’t flourish if you don’t nourish them. This is especially important for people who are recovering from substance or alcohol use disorder (addiction) or coping with mental illness. If you’re a people pleaser, you may give too much. If you’re a child of an alcoholic, you may have serious trust issues, and constantly run run away? What do you really need for a healthy relationship?

For myself, a person in recovery, there are all kinds of added issues in relationships. If I’m having a totally honest moment, I’ll admit that serious, committed relationships can sometimes make me feel uncomfortable. So, I work at it.

Here are some questions I’ve learned to ask myself along the way that today help me determine if I’m with the right person and if the relationship has sustainability.

1. Am I able to be myself with this person?

This is also known as, who am I bringing to the table in this relationship? The best version of myself? The grown-up who is smart, stable and responsible. Or, am I showing up as a different version of myself? And, if so, why? These are super important things to determine quickly because I’ve had relationships in the past where I knew I didn’t have to show up as my best self. Looking back I know why I did that and my motives were not solid. It’s critical to sort my motives out early so I don’t find myself playing a part I’ll resent later.

2.  Are there things about the person I’m keeping a secret?

Sometimes it seems like the path of least resistance to keep something about the person you’re dating secret from friends, relatives, and sponsors because it may concern them, but you don’t think it’s a problem. I’ll speak for myself—I was dating someone a while back who had one business venture in a drug business. I neglected to mention this because I knew my friends and family would frown. Turns out, it did make me uncomfortable, and after the relationship ended, I was relieved to not see drugs around the house. If I’m keeping something a secret about the person I’m dating, it’s a huge relationship red flag.

3. Does this person help me stay on the beam, or make me feel like I’m going to fall off?

This is a tough one because sometimes the people we fall for aren’t the best for us. Someone once told me that real, sustainable loves happens with people you feel totally comfortable with—it’s easy from the start, it feels safe, and they don’t make you crazy. I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve fallen for the exciting, intoxicating kind of love, but it never lasts. Love at first fight, lust, whatever you want to call it rarely translates into a healthy, long-term relationship. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. There are always exceptions to the rule. My experience has shown me that people who are exciting or intoxicating might be fun but rarely show up as the dependable partners we really need for a committed, long-term relationship. Shoot for people who help you stay on the beam, who understand and respect a recovery lifestyle and NEVER make you feel like you want to act out in a destructive, or self-destructive way to manage unmanageable feelings. People who truly love you won’t make you feel awful.

4.  Am I people-pleasing too soon?

The people-pleaser in me LOVES to accommodate. I sometimes find myself suggesting something that I don’t want to do before the sentence is even finished coming out of my mouth just because I think it will make the other person happy. Why do I do it? I don’t know!! But, I have to catch myself and step back. A friend recently told me, “You can always change your mind.” Great advice. When I find myself agreeing to plans that put me out, or I know I REALLY don’t want to do, I need to think about what’s going on with my decision making. This is all about being authentic – with myself and the people I get involved with. That’s not to say we don’t do things for other people or go out of our way for the people we love. I’m talking about something totally different here that involves doing things that don’t make sense because we may think they’ll come with some slap of approval.

Those are the big ones for me. If I’ve missed something you struggle with, please feel free to let me know!

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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