Updated: Mar 5
"Breaking up is so exciting, thrilling, and fulfilling" said no one ever! I cannot think of a single person who enjoys ending relationships of any kind. Sure, there may be a sense of relief and satisfaction after the breakup (if we are the initiator), but the active part of telling someone it's over is no fun.
Whether we are the initiator or recipient of a breakup, the conversation can make us feel awkward, nervous, sad, angry, and confused, and sometimes, it's all at the same time.
The simple fact that it is a relationship implies that we are close to these people. They are our friends and confidants. They are the people we are around. We've shared sweet moments with these people. They are the people we have cared for and have trusted to care for us. Despite all the feels we can experience in relationships, it is extremely important for us to notice when it's times to call it quits.
I have had to call it quits before. Honestly, I should have called it quits long before I officially ended things. Looking back now, I can see lots of red warning flags that were waving in the wind. I wished I had noticed them sooner. The truth is we can be so wrapped up in relationships that we miss the warning signs that are obvious and especially the ones that are subtle. This was the case for me. I cannot begin to list all the red flags, but there are two red flags that I think are essential for all of us to tuck away in our minds.
Red Flag #1: We become someone we are not.
We all know those people who become a completely different person not long after they begin a new relationship. We may look at them and think, “Who is that person…I’ve never met that person.” Maybe we have had close friends or family members where this has been the case. When it happens, we are left feeling confused, frustrated, or even grieved.
It is easy for us to notice a shift in other people, but it is much more difficult for us to see it in ourselves.
When we are in a relationship that leads to a significant shift in our personality, our desires, our dreams, and our interests, we need to check that.
It’s good to ask ourselves these questions:
Has my overall demeanor, character, or personality changed?
Has there been a change in my attitudes and behaviors?
Do I still care about and enjoy the things that have always been important to me (people, activities, interests)?
Are my values still valuable to me?
Are my values valued by my partner?
Why does this qualify as a warning flag? When we become someone we are not, it most often indicates that we are not being truthful on some level. We are lying to ourselves, lying to our partner, or lying to our friends and family about the person we really are. (Pro Tip: trusted friends and family can serve as wonderful eyes and ears in our relationships to see and hear things that we may not be seeing or hearing.) It can also indicate that we are changing ourselves for the sake of the relationship – to be accepted, to receive affection, to get attention. We all want to be accepted, receive affection, and get attention, but it should not be at the expense of becoming someone we are not.
Red Flag #2: We become an option, but our partner must become our priority.
Unfortunately, I have seen this over and over again.
A relationship consists of two individuals choosing to join each other’s lives. But, and it’s a big but, it does not mean that we can no longer remain an individual.
In a healthy relationship, we should still be able to hang out with our friends, go to the gym, go to a concert, or walk to the coffee shop for some alone time. If our partner attempts to control this part of our lives and not give us freedom, he or she doesn’t trust us or respect our individuality. Our partner wants our undivided attention. Our partner wants us to make him/her the priority of our lives. Our partner wants to know how we are utilizing all the seconds and minutes that make up our day.
Why is this a warning flag? It indicates control, and control has no place in a relationship. Control can lead to abuse, manipulation, deception, isolation, depression, anger, and the list could go on. It can also indicate unhealthy expectations that have not yet surfaced in the relationship but may come out in the future. This is more of what it looks like to become someone we are not. If we aren’t seeing this flag quite yet, we should really start to see it waving and flapping when, despite us making him/her our priority, our partner makes us the option. Our partner gets to enjoy freedom. Our partner gets to choose how he/she will spend time and who that time is spent with. Our partner doesn’t have to answer to us. Our partner becomes defensive when we challenge or push back on his/her actions. The priority and option dichotomy indicates a lack of equality in the relationship. It indicates that one of the partners desires or expects a superior role, leaving one of the roles to be inferior.
In a healthy relationship, both people should be trustworthy, and they are equally valuable, equally respected, and equally free. They know how to remain individuals, yet they also successfully have a life together.
Maybe you are in a relationship. Maybe you are not. If you are not, it is highly likely that at some point you will be. One of our hopes at Your Choices Randolph is to see women and men choose healthy relationships, and sometimes that means finding courage and confidence to make tough decisions. Sometimes it requires us to take notice of the red warning flags in our relationships, those that are gently waving (subtle and mild) and those that are vigorously flapping (extreme and loud). It’s our choice to continue a relationship or end it. The breakup isn’t enjoyable for any of us, but it’s my hope that we make the right, healthy choice when it’s time to call it quits.