Red Flag Personalities
I talk a lot about red flags. I talk about them in my sessions, with my friends, with guys and in fact, with anyone who shows an interest in them. And we all need to watch out for those red flags. So what is a red flag? They are, at their root, indicators that something needs to be questioned or otherwise validated. Often, they provide great clues that something may be trouble in the future. Although I can talk about red flags extensively from a theoretical perspective, it took years for my own personal comfort with calling out them out to emerge. Now I’m tuned into those things due to my own personal misadventures, I guess you might call me a self-proclaimed expert in red flags.
And so it was that during a conversation over the weekend, I decided to use my own misadventures in love for the greater good. I decided to use my own experiences of certain personality types to fashion a rough guide on the traits that you may wish to consider as red flags. Dating is a learning curve and some might say that the heart wants what it wants. However, we are not powerless in this. At times, we may fare better when we pay more attention to our brains.
Spoiler Alert: I use the masculine pronoun because my illustrations are based on my experiences. However, by no means are these flags only applicable to men – red flags are not gender specific! Now we have that covered, let’s dive in:
Red Flag: The Passive Guy
This guy is riddled with inertia; no self activation or self actualisation. You’ve been together for six months and things are great. You get along well and you’re happy… most of the time. So just what is it that is niggling you? When you stop to think, you realise that in the six months together and still no job, not going to school/training, no hobbies or interests, hasn’t read a book in years and prefacing answers to questions about his future plans or job prospects with, “Yes but…” The passivity is palpable and he is spending his life in neutral. There is no drive, no ambition, no meaningful effort to do anything and yet they expect to be catered to in return. Yes they are surviving (by taking advantage of the kindness of others), but they are not growing. There are no new thoughts, no risks or efforts to try new things.
There is no movement to elevate themselves or anything besides steering the proverbial car in the same direction while coasting on the fumes. This type is not interested in change because change requires effort. Don’t believe the empty talk. Whilst they maybe be a mostly functional adult, sticking with this type will eventually suck all of the life out of you. The longer you stay, the more likely you’ll both end up floating along listlessly in life. When you inevitably ditch him, he’ll be so indifferent, it may just feel as though you were never there in the first place.
Red Flag: The Man Child
It took me a long time to learn my lesson on this one. You know those mistakes that you to make 9 or 10 times before you get it? Yes, this was mine and it would go something like this: I’d blindly interpret blatant signs of immaturity as a signal for me to swoop in, play Rescuer and “fix” things. If you’d ask me, I’d of happily told you that I love a good project. A man child doesn’t have to be younger than you to fall into this category. The red flag is more the displays of inexperience, ignorance, naivety or immaturity. Often, he will regale you with tales of his glory days of bygone years because he has no new stories to tell. Why does he have no new stories? Because he is not out there living life and progressing. He is content to be looked after whilst you’re busy being an adult, and feels entitled that you bridge the gap.
Why did this take so long for me to learn my lesson? Well, I was bamboozled by the optimistic and bright-eyed visions of this type. The man child energy is someone who likes to dream big and live fast, without any responsibility or accountability. Typically, these relationships started fast, exploding like a firework, only to fizzle out just as quickly when I stopped playing Mum and enabling them. If you’re starting out a relationship with someone who isn’t on the same volume, never mind the same page, it may be time to close the book and move along.
Red Flag: Narcissus
I attract a lot of narcissists both personally and in practice because I myself have narcissistic traits. Whilst I understand and own these aspects of myself, I am also more than aware that my own traits contribute to the attraction. So what is wrong with good old Narcissus? Well they have a hard time loving you because they are so in love with themselves. Many moons ago, one of my boyfriends professed his love for me. So far so good, but with one small issue… he knew nothing about me. We had only gone out a few times and I knew a lot about him — only because all he ever wanted to talk about was himself! I chalked this up to nerves, but by month four, I had begun to count the number of questions he asked me. Everyone has a tale or two about someone high up on the narcissist scale, but interacting first-hand is an experience that says with you for a long time.
I remember one evening we were sat in a bar and he was talking about how great he was. Throughout the one-sided conversation, he gazed lovingly across at his reflection. It was like watching the ancient myth of Narcissus play out in real time and it was an incredibly sobering and unnerving experience. He might be smart, good looking and seem extremely confident. Don’t mistake confidence for arrogance. He thinks he’s better than you and in fact, better than everyone. His best friend is the guy in the mirror. He has no true friends, just superficial acquaintances. He’s a know-it-all who also has to one up every story you tell because, well, he’s better than you. The red flag here is that you’ll always come in second; not for another woman, but to his ego.
Red Flag: The User
Being used is never a good feeling. Sometimes it is hard to work out if you are being used but if it looks like a duck and quacks like one…you know how this story ends. If it’s all about them and never about you, that’s a red flag and often a solid sign that they might have just bagged yourself a user. If you only see him on his terms and schedule, in addition to being unfair, it is a red flag. If he only wants to hang out when it’s convenient for him, like 6pm on a Tuesday and always disappears over a weekend or when you try to make plans, there’s a problem. Do you feel like a back up option; only being contacted at the last minute when he has exhausted all other options? Does his sweet behaviour always seem to be followed up by a request? You know where this is going…You know this type of guy. When you first met, he was charm personified. Why did he change? He didn’t. He just showed you who he really is. He will stay around as long as you’re providing what is that he needs and you are content to receive little or nothing in return.
The thing with a user is that this is never reciprocal. You may start out paying for little things like because you like him and “oh it’s nothing”, then it’ll be paying for every dinner, all drinks at a bar and every date night as he is always short on cash or he’ll peddle the “I got you next time” type crap. All very beta male. You give and he takes. Constantly. Perhaps worst of all, he always has money for and caters to what he wants. It could be something as simple as asking him to bring you something to eat when he wants to come over. He says he’s doesn’t have the money or he “forgets” but then goes out with a fresh haircut, clothes and money enough to be dancing around a club, bottle of champagne in hand. All you two ever talk about is him; his troubles, his accomplishments, his failures and he only sees you as an addition to him. Unless you like being used as an ego prop, it is time to bounce. You really can’t turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse, no matter how much you throw at it.
So what isn’t a red flag?
We each have our own issues. The key thing to reconcile and understand is that with which you can live. I learned that if you go into a relationship expecting to change someone, you’ll always end up disappointed. The Passive Guy never turned into a “go-getter” and I could never salvage anything with The User. So a good question to ask is “If nothing changed, would I still want to be in this relationship?”. The answers to these questions are, without doubt, different for everyone. We each have different needs and different elements that to us are non negotiable. I’m aware that making a list of red flags types may seem harsh, and I’m mature enough to realise that I probably made someone’s Do Not Date list. I could well be a few ex-boyfriend’s definition of what to avoid in a woman and I have no doubt that I’ve been the villain of a few stories. Perhaps I’m even one guy’s “Thank God I Dodged That Bullet.” I wasn’t their kind of imperfect and that’s okay.
I guess that the important thing to remember is that when you ignore red flags in a relationship, you stand to get burned. Red flags are like smoke signals; indicating that you need to act. The trick is to learn what our cues are before we start to see smoke. For those of us who know what that leads to, are you brave enough to yell “Fire!”?