We were caught off guard by this question in a recent radio interview. We realized that we don’t have a quick and easy response. Our approach and what we speak about in our book is more oriented to the big picture in terms preparation and prevention. We are also much more interested in helping others discover their own truth—what is individually right for them—than in determining what everyone’s “red flags” should be. In other words, these may not be universal for everyone.
First, we did our share of fire jumping and panicked reacting in past unskillful attempts at relationship which then became valuable learning experiences. The most important thing, in the beginning, is to be very clear about what we want. Once we have clarity of intention we are in a better position to mindfully proceed. We talk about this in our book as our “must haves” and “deal breakers.” Steve also stresses that a man needs to know, first, where he is going and, second, who will go with him. Problems can occur when he gets these two questions in the wrong order! Back to the “red flags”–when we identify our “must haves” and “deal breakers” and have the courage to compare those with a potential or current partner, we will discover whether there are essential compatibilities. After all, we each need to know our individual needs to determine whether we can both have our needs met in a relationship with each other. “Red flags” are then whatever is inconsistent with the “must haves” and “deal breakers.”
For example, if I have high financial security needs and my potential partner doesn’t believe in planning ahead for the future, we might have a huge gap to bridge. If I as the
“high security need” person also notice a pattern of what appears to be excessive gambling, that might be a bright red flag for me. If it is important to me to have a child, I of course will want a partner who shares that desire. I can’t just pretend that he or she will be o.k. with that. So, in many instances, “red flags” can be unique to the individual. Some “red flags” might be universal, such as abusive, active criminal activity or chemical dependency, etc. However, we are much more interested in identifying our own red flags– which might not be the same as someone else’s.
The point here is about communication and courage. We are fans of disaster prevention – going into a relationship with conscious intention, already knowing what we want, and having the courage to discuss it with our potential partner. Not being afraid of:
• Admitting what we want (such as, yes, I do want a one on one, long-term committed relationship, fidelity is important to me, etc.)
• Daring to ask for what we want
• Risking rejection if the other person knows what we really want from a relationship.
• Risking “falling out of love” if the “reality” puzzle pieces don’t fit together.
• Standing our ground and knowing when and how to negotiate and compromise.
• Asking ourselves, “Do I really LIKE this person, enough to want to hang out with him or her should the lust diminish?
• Being prepared for the possibility of having the relationship of our dreams with this person, or moving on to be available for someone who is a better match for us, even if it means being alone a while longer.
By Steve and Angie McCord