Sunday, December 30, 2012

Red Flag #7: Definitions

I've been away for a week, hence the lack of posts.  Sorry for that (you loyal 4 or 5 readers).  ;)

Number 7 in our series seems like an obvious one, but I missed it and even though I'm relationship retarded in so many ways, I figure that one or two other people may have missed this red flag too.  The red flag I'm talking about? Defining what you are.

No, I'm not speaking about throwing a label on your relationship after date two, but I am talking about knowing where you stand with your significant other.  And as a testament to my own lack of relationship prowess, I can say that this has happened to me MULTIPLE times... in fact, in nearly every dating relationship I've ever had (should also tell you that my man-picker is broken and in need of some serious tinkering to fix it). As always, I'm going to give you some examples and see if they ring true for you too:

1. Once, I was seeing a guy and took him to a place I frequented and was friends with all the staff.  They asked me who he was (and who he was to me).  When I looked to him for an answer he simply supplied his name to them and dismissed it.  Sure, it was early on but not so early that we couldn't say we were dating each other.

2. Another man I was dating told me in private that he wanted to be exclusive and that he didn't want to see anyone else... and yet, when he met with a friend of mine (he didn't know that she and I were friends... I knew they were meeting... she knew we were dating and was meeting him to figure out the deal - he asked her out to dinner), he told her that I wasn't his girlfriend and that we weren't dating... that I was some psycho who was overly attached... uh... yea...

3. My last serious relationship.  He wasn't shy to tell his friends that I was his girlfriend or anything like that, but almost 2 years into the relationship he still struggled to define what we were, what he wanted and where it was going in his eyes.  He would say things like, "I should get you some jewelry so that everyone knows you are my girl." but hadn't even told his children that we were seriously dating and when it came down to the wire, he freaked out, didn't want to label our relationship and left me hanging with the decision of what to do... guess what I did?  Walked away!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, if the person you are with is unsure about what you are to them, they are unsure about being with you or committing and have no business being in your life.  Of course, I caution that with don't throw a label onto things right away... but you shouldn't ever feel afraid to tell someone else that you are dating.  You shouldn't worry about backlash from your date if you call him a boyfriend or her a girlfriend if you've had several dates. I think our I-can-have-everything society and mentality has messed up how we treat and deal with others.  Date me or don't but if you do, be prepared to be called my boyfriend at some point. ;)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Red Flag #6: Quality Check

That title is a little misleading in the sense that the sixth red flag isn't about checking his qualities.  It's about him asking you to check yours. And you know where this is going, I'm going to site some examples for you and hope that it makes some sense (side note: this blog series is teaching me a LOT about the types of men I've chosen to date... I need to pick better dudes!!).

Example 1: One time (not at band camp... I know a few of your minds said that though and it's okay), I was with my boyfriend at the time.  We were at MY friends' house with a bunch of my co-workers and friends for drinks, snacks and laughs.  We were all having a great time and were a few bottles of vino into the evening.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I am loud at the best of times.  I have THAT voice... you know, the voice that carries a thousand miles away without me even trying (makes for a great coach in a loud gym).  So at one point (and this is such a vivid memory for me) someone said something that made me laugh.  It was an all out belly laugh full of joy and others were laughing too.  My boyfriend laughed too and then looked at me and quietly said: "Why are you so loud?" And there was no humour in his voice.  I was so shocked that I immediately stopped, took another sip of wine and stayed quiet for the rest of the evening.  I was so hurt, it wasn't like he didn't know that I was a loud person.  I'd been loud on the day we met and every day since then.  It was and is still just part of who I am and I'd heard all of my life how loud I was.  I accepted it, coped with it when in a professional setting and embraced it when letting my hair down or out with friends that knew me.  I thought that the man I was in love with would accept that trait as well, turns out he was judging me and making me question how I could change that in myself.  I just remember being so hurt that he didn't like something about me that was just part of who I was/am.

Example 2: Another man I dated and then broke up with because I was moving (um... that was his excuse after dragging me along for weeks of don't go, we are just getting started here, you're my perfect woman, let's find a way to meet and stay together junk.).  After I had moved, he was chatting with me as a friend (or so I thought) and then sent me something that caused me to question that (in order to be above board, of good character, I will not divulge what was sent or said.... just like how I behaved at the time it all happened).  I was left feeling excited and confused.  I mentioned it to a girlfriend or two (without any specifics... no one really knows the specifics except him and I  - although I bet you are curious now - ;) ). They all agreed that he was sending confusing messages and that I needed to discuss it with him.  And I did.  He immediately got angry with me and then told me that we could not even try to be friends because I had a serious character flaw... to this day I don't know what that flaw was.  I just remember questioning myself and over analyzing the situation (hey... I am a woman... that's what we do) for weeks.

Long story short... if a man that you are dating or even in love with calls into question your character or qualities that are integral to who you are... you might need to see that as a red flag.  In both my examples I hadn't done anything wrong.  I was being myself.  And in the first example, the hurt from that judgement caused me to try and alter myself... something you should never feel the need to do when you are in love with someone.  You should be trying to find ways to let their personality and qualities shine and they should be doing the same for you.  Sure, some things they do or say will irritate you and vice versa, but as adults you discuss it... you never humiliate the other person or make them feel like something in themselves isn't good enough.... it was good enough when you met.  I guess it comes down to this: Don't date or form a relationship with someone you feel like you have to change.  It's not worth it... it will end in heartbreak and disaster.  Instead, date someone who is, was and will be someone you are proud to call a partner.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Red Flag #5: Clothes

This mostly stems from one relationship.  It was the last serious relationship I had (pretty much the only one... who am I kidding?!?! hahaha).  One of the best things about the man in that relationship was that he loved to buy me outfits and clothes.  He would often call me and ask my size and then when I would show up at his house, there would be a new outfit on the bed for me to wear out.  Sounds like a fairytale, right?  I felt like it was too, until everything ended.  I began to look at the clothes that he picked out for me and preferred me to wear.  I began to notice that a lot of the clothes weren't things I would ever pick for myself.  I wasn't comfortable in the fit of some of them. I felt like my personal style had changed and I never even noticed it happening.  I've always been the kind of woman who knows her body type and tends to dress to suit it best and suddenly I had all these things that didn't fit me or my body well.  Of course it took me a long time to change back to things that I felt sexy or beautiful in... but I did it eventually and as I prepared to write this series, I noticed that this could be a red flag.  My ex fell for me as I was, but even down to my clothes, he made subtle changes to what he thought I should be.  And now that I look back, that is a red flag.  It's nice that he wanted to buy me things or would see and outfit and could see me in it, but it was a red flag that slowly raised itself so that I didn't even know it was there and maybe that is the scariest kind.
So take a look at your relationship.  Have you changed your style to suit your partner?  Have you noticed that things that made you feel beautiful are no longer in your closet? Do you notice that you dress to suit his style and not your own?  If that's whats happening, it might (MIGHT) be a clue that more is wrong in your relationship... just maybe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Red Flag #4: Private Conversations

I feel like with each entry that I write in this series I need to preface it with an apology or explanation of sorts.  I really am not bitter or setting out to attack the men I've dated in the past.  I am writing these because when I look back with my 20/20 hindsight, I see some red flags that I was too blinded to see at the time.  I started this blog as a place for me to have some therapy for my pain and to laugh about being single in my 30s.
So here the explanation for this post is this:  I'm not against privacy, I'm not against having conversations out of the earshot of your loved one.

Okay, let's get on with the post.

This only happened in 2 relationships that I had and one was more casual so I wasn't sure if it bothered me (until he stated that he had a former/current/who-the-hell-knows fiance in his life and wanted us both... uh... yup, that's a HUGE red flag and so should  have his "private" conversations been).  The time it did get to me most was when I was dating someone quite seriously.  Let me explain:

When we started dating and spending time at each other's homes and he would get a telephone conversation from home (he had children, and they didn't know we were dating... see the entry Red Flags #1: Kids) and he would always step into another room.  When I asked him about it, he explained the sensitive nature of having kids and bringing another person into their lives too early etc.  I understood at the time but further on in our relationship when it continued to happen it was something that niggled at me and I kept putting it to the back of my mind.  I began to notice that it wasn't always with his kids' calls, it was his exes, and sometimes friends.  It even happened with people who knew about me and it just didn't feel comfortable.  I guess perhaps I'm just too open.  Sure, if I'm in a room with my significant other and another person or two and my phone rings and I need to answer, I'll leave the room to have that conversation but I usually return with an explanation about the conversation and why I needed to leave the room.  But I had/have nothing to hide and never felt the need to keep my significant other in the dark (towards other's in my life or towards what's happening in my life).

So if your partner continues to take phone conversations out of your earshot and doesn't have a good explanation for that... it's a RED FLAG.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Relationship Red Flags: Bonus Post - Presents

Please don't think I'm shallow in talking about gifts from a significant other.  I wanted to put this in my original list but was distracted by the other things I needed to get said.  Sure, I thought lots about this in all my relationships and dating situations but I never saw it as a red flag until I was considering this blog series.

It's not that I think the giving of gifts or the lack of giving of gifts is a red flag necessarily.  It's all about the kinds of gifts.  

 If love is truly kind, not proud and not self-seeking then it should be giving, generous, selfless and humble.  And gifts can be a simple indicator.  Let me explain (and the examples from all variety of relationships in my past is pretty much endless, so let me highlight just one):

In one particular relationship, the man I was seeing told me within the first few weeks (when I was talking about how much I loved the flowers etc around) that he would never purchase me flowers because they just die and therefore are a waste of money.  I was shocked and didn't respond but every fiber of my being wanted to scream, "YOU AREN'T BUYING THEM FOR YOU... YOU ARE BUYING THEM FOR ME, AM I NOT WORTH IT?"  I couldn't believe that regardless of my likes or dislikes, his frugality and opinions came first.  Selfish.  And yet I continued to see and fall in love with this man.  Who on our first Valentine's together, called me and said, "I hope you don't celebrate Valentine's Day because I don't. It's just a Hallmark holiday anyway."  Again, I was shocked but blinded by stupidity and love and I readily agreed to appease him.  For our second Valentine's Day together I had told him that it mattered to me, that I wanted to know how he felt.  I stood up for myself and he sent me a food bouquet because at least I could share that with people and it was useful, unlike flowers.  The gift was a double-edged sword.  I was so happy that he acknowledged my need to be acknowledged but hurt because he cared little about my happiness in the gift, it still came down to his needs and wants. This is also the same man that forgot my birthday and bought heartwarming things like electronics etc. But to be fair, he was generous in a lot of ways and I think he gave what he would have wanted to get for the most part (he scored big though when he got me a new Bible that was a study edition because he saw how I took notes in my old tattered one... that was a great gift that was about me and helping me to continue doing what I loved to do).

I'm not saying that gifts are what makes or breaks a relationship, but sometimes listening can.  Only one of my boyfriends ever gave me flowers but it was because he got them from a florist (they were the broken stems from the palace in the country I lived in, made into arrangements so they wouldn't go to waste... not especially for me).  I've had more than one guy tell me that flowers are a waste of their money (hm... really, but what about the joy they give your girlfriend? What about the smile on her face when she gets them?  Not worth it?). I've even told men that I need to feel appreciated by the occasional flower or card or words (words are a gift too), to no avail.  That's where the red flag comes in.

When you are in a relationship, you aren't seeking your own happiness and agenda, you are trying to see the significant other happy and to build a joint agenda for life.  If the woman loves flowers, give her some once in a while.  Let her know that her happiness is worth the $10 for a bundle of grocery store blooms.  I promise that the returns will far outweigh the cost of a few flowers that will eventually die.

Be selfless in your relationships but when the other person is selfish (and it can be seen so clearly and simply in gift giving), then see the red flag and wave your white one.  Get out of there!