Unhealthy Relationships: Pt. 1 of 3 // Red Flag Awareness // Dating

Healthy, supportive relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health. Yet, not everyone is aware of the importance of only allowing healthy love into one’s life. Growing up in a society obsessed with the idea of romantic love, so many people overlook red flag behaviours in the rush to partner with someone without ever considering the health of their partnership.

Whether you are currently dating or in an unhealthy relationship this three-part series will create awareness regarding unhealthy behaviours so hopefully you can avoid entering into relationships that are deeply damaging or manage your way out of one with specialist support.

The following are three of the most common red flag behaviours I hear in my work as a dating & relationship coach and demonstrates how our attachment to romantic love can lead us into traps;

1. Listen To Your Built-In Red Flag-Alert System: Get familiar with your personal internal monitor for danger and how it generally goes off and respond to it. Call it your whispered warning or a biological sensory response system, become aware of how you receive your warnings. Some people describe a flash of fear, a pinch in their stomach, a pounding heart, etc. Overall, it is generally a feeling of discomfort you cannot explain but you know it exists. Almost all of my clients when they describe the beginnings of their unhealthy relationships mention a sense of knowing something was not quite right but ignoring it. Don’t ignore any of these ‘warnings’ as they can be powerful indicators to protect you from danger.

Romantic love: suggests that your life turns upside down, you can’t eat, sleep etc. If you feel uneasy in the early stages of dating, do not ignore it. Dating in a healthy relationship is characterised by excitement and looking forward to seeing your date rather than a dull sense of uncertainty, second guessing or pressure of any kind.

2. Go slowly: Unhealthy relationships are characterised by speed, intensity and urgency (e.g. incessant texting, desire to spend more and more time together or perhaps demanding you to move where they live under the pretence this is ‘best’ for you). If you ask the person you are dating to slow things down and they don’t, claiming they like you and this is just how people behave when they like someone, be warned. Someone who does not respect your need to take things slowly at the beginning is not only being disrespectful to your needs but is suggesting his/her needs are more important than yours and is unfortunately the theme of unhealthy relationships.

Romantic love: suggests love at first sight, big grand gestures, obsessive love, people can’t get enough of one another. These ideas are damaging and may allow us to overlook unhealthy behaviours in favour of the notion that the person your dating must be mad about you, this must be love and as a result you end up feeling flattered by all the attention and ignore the violation of your personal boundaries.

3. Consciously Date: Be a conscious dater, do not always rush in to see only the positive and ignore the negative. Do not only consider if the person you are dating likes you, ask yourself if you like this person. How do they speak about people, how do they treat people? A fundamental piece of my work as a dating and relationship coach is to empower people to get to know their needs in relationships and understand why for too long they have been accepting unsatisfactory, unhealthy love.

Romantic love: supports the idea that love just happens to people and doesn’t require any conscious effort. This is a damaging myth that can leave people worrying about their implied character defect if love has not ‘just happened’ for them yet.

*Domestic abuse doesn’t always include physical violence but it can be part of the abuse. Contact Women's Aid if you feel unsafe or confused in your relationship. 1800 341 900 National Freephone Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.