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It Starts with You; Always

6 September 2014

When considering entering in a new romantic relationship with someone, some of the key “Red Flags” to watch out for are:

1. Does this person have self-compassion?

Do they give themselves a break: physically, mentally and spiritually? Or do they continually drive themselves on, and/or give themselves a hard time and beat themselves up for past mistakes, decisions and perceived failures? If the later is their predominant style of behaviour, be very wary and my advice would be: Run, very fast, in the opposite direction. For someone who drives themselves so hard, will, I guarantee it, drive others like that too, including you in many different and subtle ways. 

Why? Well in order to feel real compassion and empathy for others, (i.e. YOU in this situation), a person has to first develop self-compassion. They have to have a handle on that internal predator that runs amok 24/7 if unchecked, continually telling us how crap we are, how we’re not good/pretty/smart/sexy/thin/fit/accomplished/ rich enough, etc.

And they need to be able to feel love for themselves, first and foremost. Anyone who can’t, is I’m afraid, never going to be able to love you in the way you want them to. 

If they exhibit self-destructive behaviours, e.g. addictions: drink, drugs, cigarettes,food, work, exercise, pornography, and so on, then you can be sure any attempts of theirs to be nice, decent, loving and compassionate towards you will be superficial and time-limited. At some point they will run out of this energy to try to be decent towards you, they will run dry and then their contempt for themselves and life in general will start to seep out towards you too, little by little…

And where is that most often and most painfully experiences? In a romantic relationship. 

2. Does this person practise good, healthy self-care? 

Self-care means really taking care of oneself.That is, eating healthily, getting sufficient exercise, having a circle of friends, a good work/life balance and pursuing their soul-food activities. 

If for example, someone can’t feed themselves well with what they eat, then this also symbolises their current inability to feed themselves in all ways. Pay attention to what someone eats. What and how do they cook? What is their attitude to cooking? Do they not value cooking well and often for themselves first and foremost? Do they cook from scratch, using raw, healthy ingredients, or do they take short-cuts? Eating ready meals? Packet sauces? Or do they eat out much more frequently than the average person? Food shows a lot about a person: How much they value themselves, their body,their heart and their energy levels. If all of this is being ignored, overlooked and down-right neglected, this is a major Red Flag; and not one to ignore. 

Likewise also notice: What is their home like? Do they keep it clean, uncluttered, fresh and tidy? What is their garden like? Is it well tended? Is their car clean and tidy? Is it pleasant to take a trip in? What is their attitude towards animals, the natural world, the planet's problems, and life in general? 

Again, if not, if a person’s home is cluttered, dusty, dirty, things piled high, fusty and with a stale, heavy energy, this can tell you a lot about a person and their regard for themselves. To take care of one’s living space, to clean it, like eating, demonstrates a person’s ability to firstly value themselves enough to take care of themselves and create a pleasant, nurturing space to spend their time in. 

This is also a reflection on a person’s psyche and their inability to keep that de-cluttered, fresh, clear and nourished… 

Again, my advice would be to say: “Thanks for the drink”. Pick up your coat, and leave, driving very fast without looking back. If they don’t practise self-care it means that they don’t think they’re worth it, and they will therefore hugely resent others doing so for themselves too. 

 3. Does this person demonstrate the ability to set personal boundaries? 

Can they deal with a pushy colleague or boss? Can they say no to an overly flirtatious female friend? Can they keep a good, healthy distance from their ex’s? Do they respect your boundaries from the outset? 

If there is a hint of criticism towards you, about a lifestyle choice, your behaviour or an innate aspect of yourself, e.g. how you look or or who you are as a person, then treat this as a very large Red Flag. 

Set a boundary immediately and wait to see how they respond to that. Most people test each other’s boundaries to see who far they can go at certain points when getting to know another person, and especially in the beginning of a relationship, so all the more reason to be on guard and set your boundary so they know what you will and won’t tolerate. It's much easier to set them initially and the other person knows where you stand, than to try to re-establish missing boundaries once you're in deeper...

Does the other person apologise and back off, AND not repeat the violation? If so,great, then we can continue. 

If however, they react by: a) justifying their boundary violation! b) telling you you’re being overly sensitive or emotional or that you can’t take a joke (!)  Or, c) Brings up a time when you allegedly over stepped their boundaries, but they didn’t tell you at the time and you can’t recall the details now as it’s passed, making the situation now down-right unfair and based more on tit-for-tat. These are all major Red Flags and not to be ignored.

It's important to always remember with regard to boundaries: Anyone who can’t respect others’ boundaries means that they don’t set healthy boundaries themselves; the two aspects go hand-in-hand. Don't expect someone who can't set their own boundaries to be respectful of yours - becuase they can't. They are not able to feel what you mean, because they themselves are cut-off from their own power and deep sense of self-respect.

4. Does this person rush the initial stages of the relationship?  

Do they speed through the dating stage, initiating situations where you’re spending lots of time together, and probably in one or both of your houses? Do they suggest joint financial ventures very early on? Going away together? Lending money? Committing to things together that involves a financial commitment? Any of this within the first 12 months feels too soon to me. It adds a murky, complex, pressure to the initial “getting to know each other phase”; those heady, early days of a new relationship. It often also confuses people and involves some form of manipulation or influence. 

Some further red flags to look out for might be:

  • Do they refer to you as their girlfriend or partner way too soon? 
  • Do they stop doing the social, leisure or sports activities that they were doing when you met them? 

All of the above raises warning signs for me, and hint towards potentially narcissistic behaviours, and definitely co-dependent tendencies.

Anything that feels like a warning sign, or Red Flag as I call them, is just that.

Trust your gut; literally. It will save you weeks, months or even years of your life and energy that you will expend for in the end, little or no real compassion, love, intimacy and therefore true partnership. 

Be safe, be well and be happy. 

© Angela Dunning, 6 September 2014; revised 10 March 2016

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