Sometimes I think the answer to this question changes over time. What was great when you were 18 years old and single may not be so great when you are 23 and married with two kids and a house.
I’ve heard from people who have said they are still in a bad situation after 25 years or more. And the reason for staying in something that is not working can be as simple as it is easier to do so than to go through the unpleasantness of acknowledging that it isn’t working and have to feel vulnerable and alone.
When I worked at the Diocese, it was my job to help people get married. And I loved what I did. And time after time, I would see people with four and five marriages having to be cleared behind them and they were in a terrific rush to get the paperwork through so they could get married yet again that coming weekend. And of course, the ceremony itself had to be perfect. The church had to bless the union and doves had to be released in an outdoor setting…which required further approval from the bishop….not for the doves but for a non-church setting which would include a priest.
And being the one who had to do searches for hidden ceremonies and contact parishes where they used to live and whatnot, I one day asked the question that tripped off something in my priest/boss. I asked, “Why is it that people put so much effort into the wedding instead of the marriage?” He wanted to know why I was asking. Um. It’s what we do here.
And I would guess it’s because the marriage is the epitome of your love. The bigger the deal and the more detail going into the day, the greater is the love for the world to see. I remember going to a wedding ten years ago where it was totally over the top. Limos. Champagne at the door for all the guests. Open bar. Two main courses after table upon table of hors devours. That and then more and more courses being served at the table before the prime rib and lobster or whatever it was. And then the honeymoon in Mexico or wherever. I believe the total came to over $50,000. A wedding to remember.
Ten years later, they are going through a bitter divorce. Bitter. I’m talking about videos being sent of possessions being burned and worse. (Use your imagination on that one). Bad. Ugly.
I think the ideal situation would be to know when to call it quits, which sounds a whole lot easier than it is in reality.
We don’t always see the red flags. So I am here to share some of them for you. Some of these are personal. Some are from friends. Some are the ones we have always heard about. Here goes. Again, not telling anyone what to do. Not saying that the nicest person in the word won’t cross a line or two but some people show their colors in subtle ways while you are still in denial. Here are some red flags to look out for in friends, partners and family….
You are thrilled to see someone and they seem equally as thrilled to see you. But your encounters are sporadic and you find that you are the one giving and sacrificing and paying for the encounter while the other person is not around during those times when you actually need a friend…..they are only there for the fun times.
You are not enough as you are and they try to improve you. This is seen often and done in many ways, including making you feel bad about yourself. They could make you feel bad about your weight….not by saying you need to lose weight, but by going through your things and saying they needed to check your size to buy you something, basically violating personal space if they know this is a sensitive subject. Or I don’t mind at all if you smoke a cigarette outside of course not…I would never tell you what to do. It will be an underhanded dig… Oh, the lovely smell of smoke you leave when you pass by. They won’t tell you to change directly but they will make you feel bad about being yourself or not being what they want you to be.
Trying to get a commitment from you or trying to control you by withholding giving or sharing things with you or by being cold or distant or withholding affection.
Always showing up late for things after you have already paid by the time they get there. Never having money for anything and either manipulating you into paying for them or agreeing to help out and then suddenly not being able to. Especially horrendous when they are the ones suggesting dinners and activities that they know they will stick you with.
Being too rough sexually and hurting you. Being sexually selfish or making you feel inadequate for not pleasing them.
Getting caught in lies.
When you ask them why they love you and all they can come up with is what you have done for them or what you have given them and not about the beautiful soul that you are or asking what they can do to make you happy.
Giving you an STD and then saying that it wasn’t them….must have been you with someone else even though you know there was nobody else.
Coercing you into doing something and then telling everyone what you have done to shame you.
Creating an emergency that is not a real emergency in order to jeopardize your job by making you take time off or by taking up your time on the telephone.
Inciting others to physically attack you, harass you, or threaten your family.
Asking for your advice and then using what you said as a shield when they confront someone so it sounds like you are the person demanding answers instead of them.
Subtly manipulating drama and animosity between people to cause trouble.
Using children to have power in a situation or who believes the child belongs only to them like a possession.
Walking away from their young child or has given their child away because they don’t want to take care of them anymore.
Anytime you feel the need to fix something for someone and you are putting that need to care for that person before your own mental health and well-being.
Anytime you try to set up a boundary and someone tries to make you feel like you are a horrible person for asking for simple respect. And you feel that by asking for respect, you have somehow hurt this person.
Alienating you from your support system. Threatening you in any way. Financially or emotionally destroying you. Physically abusing you or your children or your pets. If they have the need to control everything that goes on. If they deliberately push you beyond your limits of physical or emotional comfort. If someone makes you feel like you are not enough or not as good as someone else. If they only care about working on things or changing in order to pull you back in once you’ve gotten the strength to leave.
Those are some red flags I have collected through the years from myself, from friends, from family and from things I have heard or read about. There’s more, of course. Feel free to share.
Nobody is perfect. But biting your fingernails or snoring or being introverted is not the same as being abusive and controlling or being with someone who may not really care about you as much as you do for them.
In my experience, when someone raises the bar and is basically saying you need to do something or be some way in order to please them….know that the bar is always going to go higher.
If you have tried to work things out with someone and it seems like they have heard what you have said but they just don’t give a damn about your feelings or working with you or trying to appear that they are even attempting to compromise….know that it is not going to change. You will either have to accept the situation or fight about it for the next 50 years. And it will still not change.
It’s normal to be attracted to other people when you are in a relationship for a long time. But if you find yourself getting emotionally attached to someone, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself why. Perhaps you have outgrown the relationship you are in. Or perhaps your relationship is not emotionally healthy for you. Again, just saying perhaps go back to the red flags and see if you have any going on. It’s better to figure that out before pulling someone else into the mix. But not judging. None of us are perfect.
I learned a long time ago that I am not perfect. Or more special than anyone else. But again, there is a difference between “not perfect” and “bad news”. Get to know red flags in both others and yourself. By that I mean, are you seeing an old pattern arise in yourself that brought you pain and suffering in the past? Are you writing a check to someone who you know is using you because they give you companionship in exchange? Are you afraid of the pain you will feel when you let go of someone? Are you telling yourself you are not as good as someone else? Are you trying to help someone or fix an unpleasant situation because that is what comes naturally to you but may end up biting you in the end?
Watch out for those flags. Pay attention. Learn to love yourself and then being alone means being with your best friend.
The poll is back…yippee!
Also, another mom story this week. I took my mom to the doctor. Doctor asked her “Any illicit drug use?” Mom can’t hear so she said “what?” Again the doctor said “Any illicit drug use?” Mom squinted to hear better. “what was that?” So I said….”Mom, do you have a drug dealer?” She heard that. She laughed and said “No.” Later we went to the pharmacy. I waited in the parking lot for her. Very small parking lot. Not a lot of room for maneuvering. When she got back in the car she told me she thought I had moved the car closer to the door. Seems she almost got into someone else’s car. Maybe it was her drug dealer?
Just another day in the life…have a good week.