Ignoring Relationship Red Flags


We get it. We know he is/was… (insert word of choice here: unavailable, horrible, manipulative, abusive, etc.) His behaviors. His shortcomings. Him. Him. Him. At this point, it has become a broken record.

Yes, we get it; it’s all about him. (Or her.)

At some point, the story needs to shift. You have to focus on how you continually tell the story in the same way every time. You’re reinforcing your own denial and disempowerment when you focus on the wrong part of the story – that is, him or her. Healing comes when you are able to focus on you – your participation and role in a dysfunctional, insecurely attached relationship.

It’s not so much about how he or she hurt you as much as it’s about how you have betrayed yourself. You repeatedly leave that part of the story out. When are you going to look in the mirror?

The part of the story that needs attention is the part when you saw the red flags, yet chose to ignore them – again and again and again. Maybe you are still ignoring them now? This is how we repeatedly get stuck in our own self-deception. We ignore the red flags.

It’s highly important to look at how we override our intuition, our internal warning system. We are quick to justify and rationalize away these warnings. This is an act of self-betrayal. We are betraying ourselves when we overlook the red flags. Have you been betraying yourself?

Another important place to focus attention is your tolerance to endure minimal emotional exchange or connection. This means that you accept the “crumbs” of relating when it comes to emotional responsiveness and engagement, even though you long for more meaningful, deeper connections.

You have a propensity for going without emotional connection. It’s this very tolerance that keeps you stuck in bad relationships with the wrong person or people.

So it doesn’t really matter how much he or she is/was… (insert word of choice here: unavailable, horrible, manipulative, abusive, etc.). It matters that you accept it, put up with it, and tolerate it…again and again and again.

Now at this point in our exploration, we have the makings of a really good chicken-and-egg riddle. Which came first, self-betrayal or tolerance? The more you betray yourself, the more you reinforce your tolerance. Conversely, the more tolerant you are of accepting “crumbs,” the more likely you are to betray yourself again. And round and round you go. It’s this cycle that needs your attention. The cycle is all too common in relationships where love addiction and codependency exist.

In my history of having been caught up in this same cycle, I’ve learned that a misplaced loyalty to both my partner and the relationship creates the glue that binds me to this dysfunctional pattern. My level of loyalty to stay in relationship reinforces my tolerance for bad behaviors and for feeling disappointed. It’s an unwarranted, blind loyalty; it’s undeserved. Again, it’s my ability to over-accommodate another person’s lack of engagement that keeps me stuck.

When I work with clients as their relationship coach, we focus on breaking this cycle. We focus on the original red flags, the ability to ignore red flags, and the tolerance to accept “crumbs.” I encourage clients to go into the uncomfortable feelings of self-betrayal. I help clients transfer their misplaced loyalty from an undeserving partner to themselves.

The takeaway here is to remember the practice of self-loyalty is the antidote to self-betrayal.

So how do you change and break this cycle? There is a simplicity to the answer. What is the opposite of ignoring red flags? We need to practice trusting our intuition and gut instincts; we need to act on that information, not override it. The solution is to be decisive with your internal decision-making, which means enforcing boundaries around how you will be treated.

Can you stop practicing unhealthy tolerance and begin to experiment with healthy intolerance? This is not about being generous, empathizing with the other person's experience, or offering yet again the benefit of the doubt. This is about focusing on yourself. 


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