When I’m really into someone, I become abnormally forgiving, which has caused me to overlook a lot of red flags in relationships. I can remember many distinct moments when I thought “there’s no way this’ll work out” and then stuck around anyway, hoping they’d change or I was wrong. But that never happened. Generally, when I noticed a red flag, I was right about it. And ignoring it only served to undermine my intuition and encourage self-doubt.
Ending relationships really never was my strong suit. I’ve only done it twice, and both times, it took many warning signs for me to make that final choice. The first time, I let my partner talk me out of breaking up with him and spent months with one foot out the door. The second time was with a guy I’d only been on seven dates with. I told him I was having doubts after the third date then backtracked and invited him on a fourth, only to realize my doubts were justified. Then there were all the relationships I stayed in until I got dumped even though I knew they weren’t healthy.
Why did I do this? Well, in all fairness, it’s pretty damn hard to leave someone you have feelings for. Then, there’s the fear that you won’t find something better. And it is easier to postpone a breakup than break up then try to get back together.
But there are some red flags that you simply should not overlook.
1Violating Physical Boundaries
This should seem obvious, but since we’re taught that “boys will be boys” and can't resist temptation, it’s sometimes hard for many people — women who date men especially — to take disregard for consent as seriously as we should.
When I was in college, I told a guy I’d gone on a few dates with that I wasn’t ready to remove any clothing yet. Then, while we were making out, I noticed he’d stopped to stare at my breasts. I looked down and saw he’d managed to unbutton my dress without me knowing. I wanted to kick him out of my room right that moment. Instead, I curled up in the fetal position until he cuddled with me and asked me if I’d ever been abused, as if my reaction required an explanation. I guess it’s me, I thought.
But it wasn’t me. He intentionally touched me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with. And he absolutely could have helped it. When someone doesn’t respect your sexual boundaries, they’re not viewing you as a full human being. Full stop.
2Not Wanting The Same Type Of Relationship
The other distinct “get out of the bed now” moment I remember was with a guy I hooked up with from ages 23-24. He was a perfectly lovely person, but he told me in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. Still, I figured being friends with benefits was better than nothing at all, so I convinced myself I was cool with it. After one of these hookups, as he slept and I lay in bed awake, I thought to myself, “It’s not worth it. Go home.” But I didn’t. I kept with it for over a year, half-hoping it would turn into more, until he confided in me about a love interest of his and I was crushed that it wasn’t me.
These situations won’t magically correct themselves. If you want different things, that difference will likely only become more of a problem as the person who wants more grows increasingly invested.
3Lack Of Physical Attraction
My feelings about this may go against popular opinion, but a great personality isn’t enough to justify a romantic relationship. Because I’d gotten so much advice to forget about looks and give people a chance to grow on me, I let something get romantic that should have remained a friendship all along.
A friend of mine in college really liked me, and I only liked him as a friend. But since we did get along so well, I hoped that maybe I could develop attraction to him. Thus, we entered a strange in-between phase in which we hung out and occasionally cuddled and made out. He took this to mean we were headed somewhere, but for me, feelings never developed.
In hindsight, leaving open the possibility that I could like him romantically was valid, but I should have waited for physical attraction to spring up and then crossed the line from friends to lovers if and only if it did, not put the cart before the horse.
4Incompatible Core Values
My first love was pretty much the polar opposite of me politically, which can work for some couples when it doesn't interfere with your core values. Perhaps most problematically, he was pro-life and I was pro-choice.
I believed our love could trump (heh) all that. I managed to ignore that when it was only an abstract belief, but when he told me pro-choice girls shouldn’t be having sex — implying that it was wrong for me to have sex with him (but somehow not wrong for him to have sex with me, I guess) — it got very real. If I were to get an abortion, I realized, he would judge me. He also didn’t believe in feminism, which felt like a constant insult to my rights. As with most red flags, this one only got worse over time. The constant arguments weren’t enough to get me to leave, but he had enough sense to see it.
In my early 20s, I dated another guy who was perfectly great but very unavailable. He was a medical resident and probably shouldn’t have been dating at all (unless perhaps he dated a coworker). I’d send about two texts for every one he sent, and he constantly canceled plans or just wasn’t able to make them. Eventually, after weeks of him saying we should get together but being unable to tell me when, I got tired of having a relationship essentially over text.
So, I wrote him, “it's been great getting to know you, but it seems like the timing’s not great, am I right?” He admitted he was indeed too busy right now, and we parted on good terms, proving that sometimes, I am actually capable of learning from my mistakes.
If you notice these, I’d recommend ending things or at least talking to your partner, rather than pushing them under the rug and telling yourself they’re no big deal like I did.