I was sitting at a table in a busy little restaurant when I felt that feeling settle in once again.
My partner at that time and I were preparing to order and I was toggling between studying my menu and watching the couples who were drinking their blue drinks at the tiki bar on the side of the room.
As I noticed our server approaching, I saw that the man I was with was texting on his phone, practically under the table.
The server greeted us happily and introduced herself as I placed my order before both she and I watched my partner continue to text. I smiled somewhat nervously and asked the man that I was with if he was ready to order yet.
After taking a few seconds to finish his message, he hurriedly put his phone down, grabbed the menu and ordered the first entrée that he saw.
I later found out who he had been texting but the details of that story are irrelevant here. At that time, part of me knew something that the decision-making part of myself was not yet ready to address.
Texting may not seem like a huge issue to you—after all, we practically work from our phones these days, and I am not implying that you should suspect that something is wrong if your partner is communicating through their phone too much. One person’s affair which practically takes place 90 percent via phone or email can be another’s innocent communication.
It sometimes is not the actions, but the feeling that we have when we see these actions and our ability to discern between paranoia and intuition, which is not easy. I have found that if we are in touch with ourselves enough to recognize fear, we can more easily figure this out, but this comes with practice and a certain level of self-awareness.
There are likely signs which may appear as early as the first date, likely for sure within a couple of months that something is very wrong.
If you opened this article expecting a list of potential red flags to look for, you may be disappointed. Rather, I want to instill in you the belief that you always know danger when it is there.
It will likely begin as a subtle feeling, extremely subtle. It won’t be blinking in bright neon letters, but rather it will gently tug on you—like a child would gently tug on your pant leg in order to get your attention.
It can present as the feeling that you just know something is not right but you cannot specifically place it, and once the actions of the other begin to sprinkle their way across the timeline of your relationship, you may or may not choose to be able to directly look at what is happening.
We have all likely been in a relationship where, in hindsight, we can look back and maybe or maybe not be able to admit that on some level we knew.
We had seen the red flags for what they were.
Other times we practically walk with blinders. We will look directly at what we like about this person and continue to romanticize a beautiful future with them, but we keep these red flags in our peripheral vision and choose on some level never to look straight at them.
There was even a time when I did not want to even read an article about red flags, because I knew on some level that it could trigger feelings that I was not ready to address. Perhaps you can relate—but if you are reading this you are ahead of where I was at then.
So what do we do?
Some say that we will continue to do this until we are ready to stop the pattern, that we will continue to bounce from toxic relationship to toxic relationship until we love ourselves enough to do better.
I believe that we all have a “system override” to these patterns. If a record is skipping, playing the same segment of a song over and over, we have the option to just shut it down. I know that this may seem to a lot of you as over-simplification, but I believe that with a certain amount of both strength and awareness, it can be as simple as making a choice.
We can see it and with our grit and free will choose to press the button.
We know that we do this, we know that we choose to see the good in one another and ignore the patterns and behaviors that can be so terribly toxic moving forward.
Until we get to a point where we truly believe on a deep level that we deserve better in a relationship, we can get around our inability to deal with these red flags.
If we are stuck in the place where we know in the back of our minds that this is happening, we must appeal to the part of us that is still capable of making a rational decision.
When we are faced with the decision of whether or not to continue in a relationship, we can try to shift our focus off of the other person because they are still appealing to us. We can shift our focus instead to the dynamic.
We can ask ourselves: Is this an interdependent relationship or does it look like it has the potential to be something different?
We can allow the decision-making part of ourselves to make an intelligent choice about the dynamic, rather than allowing our minds and relationship patterns to keep us in something that is not healthy.
If you do not believe that you deserve a healthy, balanced dynamic in your life—believe it, because that is true.
We all deserve this—every single one of us.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Renée P.
Image: Jhaymesisviphotography at Flickr