h2>Dating : Why Red Flags Are Ignored in Relationships
“Love Heightens All Senses, Except the Common.” ~Mark Twain
It’s no surprise — or at least it shouldn’t be — when our expectations of Mr. or Ms. Right come crashing down in a relationship. Red flags are usually there from the start, so having expectations can be seen as a red flag in and of itself.
Red flags may be subtle and dim at first, and then in time they started flashing like a neon light telling us to eject now.
Yet, many times we stay…..
You’ve probably been there. I have. Most of us have at one time or another. So why do we dismiss red flags? Or blatantly ignore them by trying to convince ourselves that we didn’t see them, or that we misinterpreted them?
We may even question ourselves that we’re overthinking things.
Until we see the next red flag….
“The Consequences of An Act Affects the Probability of Its Occurring Again.” ~B.F. Skinner
B.F.Skinner (March 20, 1904 — August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, behaviorist and all-around badass. His theory of operant conditioning is from which the field of Applied Behavior Analysis is established, along with shows like “Mindhunter” that profile serial killers using behavior science.
Operant conditioning discusses contingencies of reinforcement. Basically, with regard to relationship red flags, if a red flag is given any type of reinforcement, it can continue.
What does this mean for those involved in an unhealthy relationship? Unless red flags are replaced with healthier green flags, the likelihood of that relationship being healthy is moot.
Red flags require attention to be considered a red flag. Otherwise, they have no power over a relationship. If it’s not a big deal to us, our partner, or the quality and health of our relationship then it’s not a red flag.
Ignoring a red flag once it’s seen won’t get it to go away. And, constantly harping about the red flags can actually backfire.
The Red Flag Spectrum
I write often about behaviors being on a spectrum from least to most. Red flags are included because they’re a behavior. One partner, or both, are doing something that directly affects themselves, their partner and the relationship.
On one end a red flag can be little more than an annoying habit such as squeezing from the middle of the toothpaste. But, if that is enough to irk us and affect our relationships, then it’s a red flag that should be addressed, discussed with our partners and a solution found that’s positive.
The further along the spectrum we go, red flags pass from irritating behavior to more hurtful behavior that can damage self-esteem, self-worth, relationship boundaries, trust, and the overall quality of the relationship.
The further along the spectrum a red flag is, the more potential damage to the relationship.
On the farthest end of the spectrum you find what I call ‘revenge red flags’ where partners begin actively trying to hurt each other by blatantly sabotaging the relationship and themselves.
For example, we may brush off red flags that are mildly annoying because, aside from being irritating, the foundation of the relationship is still usually in tact.
However, bigger red flags like lying, cheating, invalidation, a breakdown in communication, selfishness, emotional unavailability, power imbalances, or knowingly putting ourselves in a toxic situation can affect the foundation of a relationship.
With bigger ‘revenge red flags’, if one or both partners are intentionally doing these, it’s probably time to hit the eject button.
Here’s where things can get interesting…
Human behavior is a fascinating thing. Behavior can create, or it can destroy. It can be modeled, imitated, learned, conditioned, reinforced, maintained, and extincted. Everything we do has the potential to be healthy for ourselves and our relationships, or to sabotage ourselves and our relationships.
Red flags are no different.
Some of us go into relationships actively looking for any and every red flag to support our beliefs that our partner is going to hurt us. And what happens? If you’re looking hard enough, you’ll probably find something.
This cycle can be repeated with friends, family or intimate partners where problems aren’t resolved, only perpetuated.
Others may go into relationships hoping this time things will be different, where a fresh start (and a fresh cycle) are now kicked into gear. If nothing was changed or corrected from the last relationship, it perpetuates.
This cycle of ignoring issues and problems in a relationship and smoothing things over will also continue until the issue can’t be ignored anymore.