Relationships can go smoothly and wonderfully, filling the world with happiness, joie de vivre and cheer, or they can be intensely complicated, filled with hidden pitfalls, arguments and gloom. But even that is not the end of the story as you can hear that a friend has suddenly been dumped or that their previously apparently happy relationship has suddenly turned nasty; leaving neither party happy nor understanding how this happened to them. At the time, you may feel incredibly smug, as though it will never happen to you, even thinking something like, ‘Pshaw, why didn’t they see it coming? I saw it coming, they have no excuse!’ And then one day, it DOES happen to you and you have no idea how or why! The simple answer is that you probably missed some important flags and warning signals. It is easy to see issues and problems from a distance and with hindsight – it is not so easy when you and your emotions are right in the middle of the situation!
Read through the following points and if it has happened to you tick off as many of the following points that apply to you. If you are happily in love, read through the list all the same, and see if there are any warning signs that you should act upon immediately in order to stay that way! (NB, this is written from the point of view of a male reader with a female partner – please feel free to mix and match the pronouns to suit your particular romance!)
1 Is your partner very high maintenance? Is everything wonderful and fine – just so long as you do everything her way, indulging her every whim and putting your life on the back burner? While you may be so deeply in love that you are happy to sacrifice your own wants and needs on the altar of romance, this feeling will not last. All too soon you will begin to resent her selfish and grasping ways and want to do things your way for a change. You will begin to resent her putting herself first and the intense emotion of infatuation will die away leaving smouldering resent and dislike in its place!
2 You should be friendly and civil with her friends – and it should not be an immense struggle to be so! While you are in love with your partner, you will be making allowances for her behaviour, minimising bad traits and ignoring negative points. You are not in love with her friends and those same traits will be very obvious, causing dislike or antipathy – a sign of how you may begin to feel about your partner once the blinkers of passion fall off!
3 Are all her exes really the jerks and bums she claims them to be? There are two possible scenarios here: either they are as bad as she claims, in which case she has bad taste which may be a sign that you are not the nice guy you have imagined yourself to be, or she is unwilling to accept any blame or responsibility for the failure of her previous relationships. If you have the chance to meet one or two of her exes, pay them careful attention and see if you can see any sign of the nastiness or meanness that she has attributed to them. If not, be wary about continuing the relationship. Things are bound to go wrong and she will deny any responsibility, putting everything on your shoulders – not a good way to live even for a short time.
4 Does she keep promises to you? If she constantly lets you down, do not expect things to improve later on; they are more likely to worsen as she begins to think she can get away with it. Tell her that you deserve better treatment and prepare to cut ties if she does not shape up or acknowledge your point.
5 Watch how she treats perceived social ‘inferiors’ like waiters, bus drivers and so on. If she treats them like garbage that is an indication of her arrogance and sense of entitlement: embarrassing for you and unpleasant for everyone else to see and hear and a sign of how she will treat you once familiarity has bred up some contempt! It is also awful for people to be treated badly when all they are doing is trying to earn a living! Empathy, maturity and moral correctness may sound stuffy and dull, but they are parts of life that make the difference between peace and accord in a relationship, rather than acrimony and dislike.
6 While a lively debate is invigorating and a great sign that you can both communicate well, arguing all the time about everything is a bad sign? Some conflict is great and healthy; all good movies and books have some strong conflict going on to maintain interest in the storyline and your life is the same, but you should be able to count at least five happy and peaceful events for every one unhappy one. If there is more anger and upset than that will feel like you are always battling and you will get stressed and miserable and forget why you are together.
7 This one is a big one! Does everything have to revolve around her? Are you banned from going out with the boys for the night or even a weekend because your partner has to be the centre of your world? It has been proven that the best relationships are actually strengthened by the partners spending some time away from each other, pursuing their own interests and hobbies. Apart from anything else, time apart gives you both time to miss each other and helps you to remain interested in each other!
8 Watch how she gets on and interacts with her family. A close and loving family that laughs and communicates well is the best option and bodes well for your future, but a cold or argumentative relationship is a sign that all is not well. Do not rush to judgement on her, her family may deserve to be shunned if they have behaved poorly towards her, so do give her the benefit of the doubt! If your notice that she is frosty to one or more family members, ask her why and take it from there.
9 Flexibility in your partner is important – no, not physical flexibility, that is just more fun! If your partner cannot or will not change plans when unforeseeable problems arise then she is unlikely to be adaptable in later life either.
10 Another fairly big flag – although it does not seem very important at first, while you are still getting to know each other – is if you do not want the same things from life. It really does not matter how great you are in bed together, a long-term relationship will not work if your ideologies are in opposition to each other.
11 Does she appreciate you? Even something small like a cup of tea deserves a thank you, and any gift should be received with pleasure, not as her due like tribute paid to a king of old! You may not mind at first, while you are in a worshipful and infatuated state of mind, but it will eventually turn to resentment and apathy. If she does not appreciate you and your thoughtful gestures early in the relationship, she certainly will not ‘learn’ how to show appreciation later on!
12 Is she violent towards you? Domestic abuse goes both ways and while men tend to be bigger and stronger than women, some women can assault their partners with impunity as few men want to fight back or report being ‘picked on’ by someone so much smaller and ostensibly delicate, despite the constant bruises, black eyes and fear of pain and anger. Even if her blows do not even hurt very much – not even a bruise left – her hitting you is a sign of an unstable and controlling personality with a frightening lack of self-control. If she hits you, leave – it will only get worse and you could end up severely injured or traumatised.
Hopefully, you have cruised down this list, shaking your head and saying a cheerful ‘nope’ to each point. If you have, fantastic, go and let her know how great you are together! If not, perhaps it is time for you to utter those dreaded words, ‘Honey, we need to talk!’ Seeing red flags is neither a sign that your relationship is doomed, nor that there is no hope for you as a couple. Rather, take it as a timely intervention, and the chance to repair your relationship before it is too late – that is, if you want the relationship to succeed and survive!