Red Flags and Our Relationship Blind Spots
How can we have a better chance of noticing ‘red flags’– be it in the form of personality conflicts or day-to-day incompatibility – indicating potential marital friction?
Most couples will walk down the aisle oblivious to all the opportunities for friction that await them. The carrying of the bride over the front door threshold ominously bodes the beginning of countless squabbles to come. Unfortunately, only in hindsight can we recognise that these niggling ‘red flags’ revealed themselves early on in the relationship and this knowledge, too late, can come at a terrible cost.
Browbeating questions like ‘How could we have not realised what those squabbles were actually about?’ and ‘How could I have been so blind to and so dismissive of those red flags?’ may haunt us for years, if not decades. Whilst the questions we taunt ourselves with may have merit, the expectation placed on us to recognise these points of future marital friction are unfair – especially given we now know that the feeling of being in love is the equivalent to being high on cocaine. ‘Love is blind,’ so the saying goes, over and over again.
So, is there hope for the love-sick?
A resounding maybe is heard clanging from the church bell tower.
‘Maybe’ is as certain as we can be – though we remain hopeful for greater success – given the powerful currents of love’s brash river that we must contend with. Understanding our habits in forming attachments, for instance, could serve us exceptionally well, equipping us to see the raging rapids and insidious waterfalls ahead of us, and even assisting us in paddling or swimming to the safe shore. However, a great deal depends on our upbringing, past experiences and early learnings in forging connection. If we have been fortunate enough to experience instructional, perhaps even inspiring, models of relationships then we stand a terrific chance in being able to see, notice and address ‘red flags’ in our relationships.
Because there is more than one person in the romantic relationship, each partner’s personality type can also bear a strong influence on how the couple sees and deals with their relationship blind spots. Partners with strong personality traits and a sustained conscientiousness stand a better chance of noticing, sizing up and remedying relationship blind spots before they cause too much conflict. Partners who exemplify resilience, positivity and flexibility – the kind of people who don’t allow trifles and difficulties to waver their faith and trust, and who have a level of enthusiasm that inoculates them from oversensitivity to annoyances – are generously coated with emotional sunscreen to weather the harsh rays.
Those that are introverted have a tendency to reflect more than their extroverted counterparts, habitually putting their life, relationship and their partner’s behaviours under the microscope in a way that easily alerts them to ‘red flags’. Then it is a matter of courage: are they prepared to address these ‘red flags’ with their partner as it comes to their attention or will they rely on hope that the couple can effectively deal with the ‘red flag’ once it has presented itself in conflict.
Having a strong social network that loves, values and supports us can assist us to see, notice and call out red flags early on. Outsider remarks based on observations like ‘he interrupts you a lot’ or ‘her family are very often in each other’s business’ can act as warning sirens, alerting us of imminent and critical danger. With our support system who often become the eyes at the back of our heads, providing us with timely and accurate analyses – the responsibility falls to the person who has been informed of their own blind spots on whether they will listen, believe and heed the warnings or concerns of those closest to them. Being honest with those most important to us is the truest act of love. Regretful divorcees have been known to lament their folly in dismissing a seemingly paranoid sibling or close friend.
An important note: not everything raised by your support network will prove damaging enough to capsize your relationship, as not everything is a deal-breaker. For most people, deal-breaker conditions or behaviours can be counted on one hand. Dealbreakers such as infidelity, deceipt and violence topping most lists. Nevertheless, it pays to be forewarned and forearmed when navigating couple disputes and dispositions.
Pre-marital counselling with someone who has an impartial perspective and a detached point of view can also prove very helpful. A therapist can help ‘shake the relationship tree’ to reveal any hidden nasties for the partners to observe, analyse and address. In facing these ‘red flags’ and relationship blind spots, a couple can resolve and dissolve tensions before they are allowed to deteriorate into full-blown conflict that can damage your budding life as a married couple.
Not too long ago, brides would do their own hair and makeup for the wedding while grooms would drive their own car to the venue. These rituals, like so many others, have changed for the better and taking up pre-marital counselling can prove profoundly useful. Splashing your love-struck face with some sobering reality can become another part of the wedding preparation that ultimately strengthens the bonds of your relationships and can provide peace, safety and longevity after your nuptials take place.
Emanuel Perdis is a Couples Counsellor who administers therapeutic counselling for couples as well as individuals. His key specialties for counselling are Relationships, Trauma, Anger and Anxiety. All therapy is delivered online, via Zoom, and enquiries are taken via https://www.emanuelperdis.com/let-s-talk or directly to cell phone on 0412 288 081 (+61 412 288 081).