For most of us, romantic relationships bring on an emotional high so strong that all rational thought is obliterated. From the moment you laid eyes on him to the first date when you were unable to get him out of your mind or even eat, romantic feelings can overpower us in a unique way. While these feelings are natural, they do blind us to some important issues within a relationship.
Red flags are those facts about our significant other that make us feel a little uneasy. Maybe it’s something he says or does that gives you a nagging feeling that something is not right. Whatever it is, when you are deeply infatuated with someone, it’s easy to write off these cues as “reading into things.”
As a psychologist, I can tell you that in reality there are some red flags that feel like no big deal when you are dating but can pose a rip-current danger to your relationship after you have promised a lifetime of commitment.
It can be hard to think about the implications of certain red flags in the future, when you are so happy now. But as a therapist who works with couples, I can say that it’s important to consider red flags from the perspective of your future married self.
To get your imagination going, here are five red flags that are most commonly ignored among women but then come back to haunt couples after they are married.
01. He doesn’t seem to have any realistic ambition.
This guy wants to change the world, but he spends all his time playing video games.
Important question to ask yourself: If he isn’t being realistic now, what are the real chances he will change with time? Forget the financial toll you may face with his foundation-less lifestyle; what about the emotional toll because he seems to not want to grow up? Remember that people rarely change once they get married unless they work very hard at self-improvement.
02. He doesn’t seem to have any ambition at all.
This guy is just “seeing what comes his way” or always talks about how “plans stifle his creativity.”
Important question to ask yourself: If he isn’t willing to play by the rules and see the world for the way it is now, what makes you think he will magically change his ways after the marriage? Being “chill,” may be attractive now, but you may wish he had more ambition when you begin building a life together. Creating shared meaning, a shared sense of purpose that builds intimacy, will be difficult when your goals don’t align—or if he has no goals at all for that matter.
03. He has no consistent identity.
This guy’s true thoughts and feelings are an enigma. He seems to have a different persona depending on who he is with.
Important question to ask yourself: Why does he struggle to simply be himself? If he’s not himself with you, then with whom will he ever be himself? It’s one thing if he’s assuming an appropriate role (e.g. being a demure employee around his boss), but if he lacks a solid self, then we have a problem. If he continues to struggle like this within your marriage, then you will find yourself being married to a teenager rather than an adult.
04. He thinks emotions are useless and should never be talked about.
This guy not only struggles to express his emotions, but he also thinks talking about feelings is a waste of time.
Important question to ask yourself: Conflict and tension are inevitable in a healthy relationship, but we learn to resolve conflict—or seek understanding if there is no solution—and communicate better in the future by listening and trying to understand one another’s point of view. Understanding your partner’s point of view requires empathy, that is, understanding the way your partner is feeling and then expressing that understanding. If your man chooses not to empathize with your feelings or emotions when conflict arises in marriage, will you ever feel understood?
5. He often communicates contempt for you and/or for others.
This guy has a superiority complex.
Important question to ask yourself: Understand this: contempt, according to Dr. John Gottman, is one of the biggest predictors of divorce. While it is one of his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse within communication, it is arguably the most damaging to a relationship. In fact, he calls it the “sulfuric acid of love.” During Gottman’s research he was able to predict which couples would divorce with 90 percent accuracy. If your man is contemptuous toward you (or you toward him), then it’s not a matter of if you’ll divorce, it’s when.
While these five issues are quite significant in terms of how a relationship will eventually meet its demise, it does not have to be the final word. With proper therapy your man can overcome any of these red flags. However, he needs to first see his actions and/or how he thinks as problem. You cannot save people from themselves, and you cannot help people who don’t desire to change. You can encourage him to seek help, but you cannot change him.
You also need to realize that your man will not change with time. To prove this point, Gottman’s research indicated that 80 percent of couples argue about the same issues throughout their marriage. In a word, the time to ask yourself about these red flags is not during the marriage—it is before the beautiful wedding day. When you make a clear decision, which avoids falling into the rip-current of these red flags, you can rest assured that your relationship will have a long and wonderful life.
Photo Credit: Christie Graham