I used to suffer from perpetual optimism. I saw the best in everyone, and with every relationship I saw the potential, rather than the realities.
I would go color blind in my relationships, mistaking all the red flags for green—or simply speeding as fast as I could past the red flags until I made it to the next green flag I could appreciate.
Looking back with a clear mind and an open heart, we always see things we willfully ignored in the past. Once we exit the relationship and heal our hearts, we can see the realities from an outsider’s perspective.
I ignored so many red flags, but I have narrowed them down to the five that I consider to be the brightest and most flamboyant of all.
Here are the five blatantly obvious reasons that I should have known better:
1) I didn’t feel good enough.
There is great potential in being with a man or woman who lights a power in us that makes us want to be a better person. But, that fire is completely different than being made to feel like we are not enough.
I would make excuses that he just wanted me to be a better person, but he wanted me to change the things that make me, me. My goofy sense of humor he found “annoying,” and articles of clothing that I loved were “tacky.” I looked better when I did my hair. I never felt like anything I did was enough, because to him, it never would be.
2) I spent more time being sad than I spent being happy.
And the truly tragic thing about this is that I didn’t realize it until afterwards. I became so accustomed to arguing and feeling like sh*t that I forgot what it was like before. I forgot that the occasional “good days” used to come far more often. When the majority of our relationship is spent arguing or questioning their feelings and intentions, it’s time to leave.
3) My dreams shrunk to something more realistic.
Past partners didn’t push me to my full potential. Instead, they would encourage me to “be more realistic” and to “not waste so much time” on the things that made my heart happy. I chose a major in college that seemed like a realistic and achievable goal—something that could support a family someday. I quit writing stories and poetry. I quit using my imagination, which had been my happy place since before I can even remember. I focused on reality and did what I thought I needed to do—but inside I was dying. I have always liked Ellen Sirleaf’s words, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,” yet I found myself avoiding my big dreams by replacing them with something that my partners deemed “more attainable.”
So, I have made a promise to myself, and I believe everyone else should take this personal oath as well: I will be with someone who wants me to reach my potential. Someone who encourages my dreams and believes in me. Not someone who encourages me to shrink myself or make myself more realistic. I will be a dreamer, with someone who loves that I am a dreamer.
4) I started spending more time at home.
There is nothing more relaxing than a Sunday spent at home tapping away at my computer or scribbling ferociously in my journal. But, when we find ourselves staying in because our partner might get mad if we go somewhere without them, it may be time to let go. Our partners should love experiencing life and love seeing us experience life—even if we occasionally do so without them. It’s healthy to do our own things and have our own group of friends. Not everything in relationships have to be shared.
5) I changed.
The most telling sign of them all. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt forced to pretend to enjoy doing things that I did not like at all, and a constant need to be proper and “politically correct.” I was constantly walking on eggshells in fear that my (sometimes) crude sense of humor might offend. I pinned my hair back, winged my eyeliner and forced a smile at family events where I was always the black sheep trying her best to fit in. I laughed less. I read less. And I wrote less. I started living my life for him—and that is where I lost myself.
Be with someone who loves you exactly the way you are. Someone who wants you to chase your dreams wildly. Someone who supports you and believes in you.
Find a partner who raises you up instead of tearing you down.
Simply put, just be with someone who lets you be yourself, and screw the rest—they aren’t the one.
Author: Emily Cutshaw
Editor: Toby Israel