I’ve always been one to ignore red flags; it’s a terrible habit of denial that I’ve held onto through most of my life.
Like many women, I bought into every fairy tale I was ever told, especially ones that included princes and pumpkins. I had lived enough life and seen enough life to know it was all bullshit, but I still loved love, anyway.
I wanted things to be a certain way so I ignored, compromised, excused, and betrayed my intuition constantly. As I grew up, I spent many years discovering who I was – what was important to me and what were my deal breakers. It took time to get comfortable being alone, understanding what I had to offer, and learning the difference between infatuation and intimacy (the real way to build on honesty and chemistry and accept another who is flawed – as we all are). When I decided to date again, I made a very tight list – I’m great at lists. This list consisted of things that were unacceptable to me in a relationship: my deal breakers.
They included the obvious – no cheating , no lying, no disrespect, and finding someone like-minded (as I believe life is hard and the more commonalities with your partner, the easier the road).
Of course, some things on the list were more pliable as flexibility is key (especially at my age or so I’ve been reminded many times). Things like kids and jobs and schedules: if he was worth it, I could bend – right?
So out into the wild I went with a half-full canteen and a lot of beef jerky—-the struggle is real and here is what I learned:
1) Bending is really breaking – it’s breaking your word to yourself.
2) People have a tendency to show you who they really are early on and you have to believe them – a small red flag today could eventually erupt into a huge volcano tomorrow. Things just don’t disappear, even if you want them to – so cut bait quickly and with grace and no backsies.
3) Although I 100% believe in pixie dust when it comes to changing another person (bibbidi bobbidi boo!), it doesn’t work!!
4) Really knowing someone takes time – you need to see them in their element, in your element, during crisis and grief, in joy, and in spontaneous risk. You have to know them well enough to sometimes not like them but to love them anyway and you can only reach this kind of intimacy after the infancy of a relationship. You cant evolve out of infancy if you feel unheard, dismissed, placated, or patronized.
5) If you’re not feeling right, there’s a reason. If there is a nagging pull in the bottom of your stomach begging you to pay attention or telling you to listen because something doesn’t feel right, that’s enough. You don’t need proof or endurance. We know, on some level we already know, and when we realize we know that it is the time to act, to honor our voice, our truth, our feelings . It doesn’t make the other person in the dance a bad dancer; it just makes you aware you don’t share the same rhythm.
6) Do not fear dancing alone – I’m in my own world when I’m dancing anyway. I do not fear living alone; I fear living with compromise, living outside my character, and living as if I don’t deserve to feel safe, loved, and honored. I am the only one who can define what that means for me as you are the only one who can define it for yourself.
It’s not all bad: it’s like school – your’e not gonna like all your teachers, but you try and learn as much as you can anyway. Pocket the lessons and apply them to the next episode.