Yes, they can!! Let me say that again – RED FLAGS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE! The color red is often used and interpreted as a ‘warning’ color; be aware, be on your toes, be on the lookout – ALARM, ALARM! Well, yes. Red is a ‘take notice, take action’ color. Red flags waving on the beach will indicate dangerous rip tides, dangerous currents from which to STAY AWAY!! In relationships, it is no different. Red Flags can and will save your heart, your sanity, your calm and content life – if we JUST LISTEN TO THEM, AND ACT UPON THEM. Sadly, many of us don’t do this!
“For a variety of reasons, people cast aside relationship ‘Red Flags’. Perhaps we think the good outweighs the bad, perhaps we want to see if it is ‘really all that bad’, or even consider if we are making too much out of something. Red Flags are our survival instincts letting us know to TAKE NOTICE, BE ON ALERT, AND TAKE ACTION. Red flags too often, are cast aside – to our PERIL.” L.A. Gilliam
Let’s take a look at what ‘red flags’ are, where they come from, and what to do about them.
- Red Flags simply stated, are the warning signals and alarms set off by our internal survival systems, the very basic instincts we all have that are meant to prolong life, keep us secure, and ensure safety. Red Flags are part of our internal warning systems, there to KEEP US ALIVE. Our minds, our psyches, our autonomic nervous systems KNOW when something we experience, something we see or hear, causes an ‘ALARM’, and our instincts go on ‘high alert’. We know it when this alarm is set off, but all too often, we DISMISS this alarm in haste and to our peril, in relationships.
- As our systems, psyches, bodies, and hearts recognize a Red Flag, that awareness climbs into our consciousness. I believe initially the Red Flag is felt and recognized subconsciously, the way our brain would recognize touching a hot stove burner BEFORE WE FEEL THE PAIN. The communication, the RED FLAG as it were, of the tissue destruction happening to our fingers as we touch a hot burner must travel from the fingers, to the brain, and back again. As the ‘alarm communication’ gets returned to us on a conscious level (from the subconscious), we feel pain, quickly removing our fingers from the stove. Now – this all happens nearly INSTANTANEOUSLY – thankfully, when it comes to PHYSICAL PAIN. Unfortunately, we are much MUCH slower to react, and literally get in our own way, when it comes to the Red Flag alarms regarding possible and incoming emotional pain from relationships. Be honest; how often have you felt that buzzing, slightly odd feeling as a Red Flag comes to your awareness as you deal with someone new, or even someone you’ve known for a while? That buzzing, slightly odd feeling, that feeling of “Hmmm, I wonder what THIS is all about” is a RED FLAG! Your instincts are indeed sending signals all throughout your body, your mind, your heart, to pay attention – ALARM, ALARM!!
- Typically, more than one Red Flag is required for us to act, and sometimes, many many Red Flags are ignored prior to our taking action. There are many reasons for this, of course. Perhaps we have unrealistic hopes placed upon someone, our OWN HOPES for someone (instead of allowing them to show us who they really are) get in the way. They sure did for me, and perhaps for you too. My HOPE for the person in my last relationship OVERRODE all Red Flags – and boy, there were many of them. Did I listen and react to the ALARM? Nope. Had I listened to my internal alarm system – these Red Flags – I would have saved myself months and months of narcissist abuse, as well as the ongoing, unsolicited, unwanted contact (going on three years now and yes, the police have been contacted). My HOPES got in the way, I dismissed those Red Flags for weeks and months, because my HOPE for this person took priority. I ignored what I was experiencing, I ignored the Red Flags, because I wanted the relationship. I let what I wanted overshadow every Red Flag I experienced. This is a huge mistake that I will never make again. I gave my own HOPE for this person first place; any Red Flags seen and felt were ignored, to my own peril.
- What we WANT often makes us dismissive of the Red Flags. We WANT the relationship. We WANT the ‘love’ (genuine love, real love, is not possible with a narcissist). We WANT a quality, healthy, and happy future with whomever. Therefore, we let the Red Flag warnings go. We squash them. We simply don’t listen, we DON’T ACT, because what we WANT takes priority. This is a HUGE MISTAKE. Don’t do this.
- Red Flags can be simple and not so obvious, but this does not lessen their importance. My first Red Flag came just a few weeks into the relationship as I questioned my partner about the addict family members living in the house. I was told ‘they are just visiting’, when in fact, they (at that time) were permanent residents within the home. Lies, lies, lies. Narcissists LIE. Knowing that having addicts in my life was a DEAL BREAKER (forget about a Red Flag, that was a DEAL BREAKER!), ‘visiting’ compared to ‘living there’ would have made a huge difference. Yes, I was lied to about the addicts ‘just visiting’. Upon my question about them however, I was also told “It is always about YOU, isn’t it….?” This statement came from the mouth of the person I was seeing, and this was the VERY FIRST THING I BROUGHT UP TO DISCUSS IN THE RELATIONSHIP. “Always?” What “always?” I had NEVER even brought up anything before!! This was the first time I had brought up anything at all yet, I was accused of “it always being about YOU”. This is important – narcissists will PROJECT onto their partners WHAT THEY THEMSELVES THINK AND LIVE. So in essence, I was being told right then and there by my partner, “It is really all about ME”. I of course, didn’t know that at the time, but still – a HUGE RED FLAG. Did I listen? Nope. I wanted the relationship. Don’t do this!!
So, this is a snapshot of what Red Flags are, where they come from, what they mean, and what we typically do (or don’t do) about them, much to our own peril. Red Flags are our very important internal regulatory alarm systems! We need to listen and proactively consider our next steps carefully! Red flags can and will save your heart, your sanity, your calm and content life – if we JUST LISTEN TO THEM, AND ACT UPON THEM. Sadly, many of us don’t do this! Time to change our dismissal and lack of action in response to our Red Flags. Time for US to change how and when we react to these important Red Flags – time to LISTEN, then make better (and often difficult, unpleasant) choices regarding the person whom these Red Flags come from. Red Flags are not to be ignored. Don’t make the same mistakes as I made, as so many of us make, in abusive relationships. Had I listen to the Red Flags early, and ACTED UPON THEM BY REMOVING MYSELF FROM THE RELATIONSHIP, I would have saved myself months of narcissist emotional abuse, and now years of harassment. Listen, then ACT. Best, L.A.