How to approach relationship red flags
Red flags can happen in any relationship. At best, they’re a sign that your partner has some serious issues to work through before they can show up as their best self. At worst, they’re an indicator of abusive behavior that can cause you great mental, emotional and even physical harm. Either way, how should you deal with red flags when they come up? Do you confront them? Try to address them passively? Or simply pack your things and leave?
That’s what we’re going to talk about today: how to approach red flags in a relationship. If you haven’t already, you might want to start by reading our crash course on how to spot red flags. Once you’ve digested that (or if you’re ready to skip to the part where we solve all the red flags you’re seeing), feel free to keep reading.
How to approach red flags in a relationship
When you start noticing red flags in your relationship, it’s time to start checking in with yourself. What are you experiencing? What emotional state are you in? How are you thinking about your relationship right now, and how are those thoughts impacting you?
We mentioned this in our previous red flag article, but it’s so important that it bears repeating: at the end of the day, you are smart and competent enough to spot red flags when they happen, and you’re capable enough to know how to move through them without relying on the demands or wishes of others. So, start by foregoing the advice of others — friends, family and, yes, especially your romantic partner — and really dig into your own personal feelings on the state of your relationship.
What do you want? What do you need? What goals do you want to move toward in your life, and is your relationship helping you move in those directions? Start by answering those questions in a journal, and then let’s carry on.
With that out of the way, here’s some practical tips for approaching red flags when they show up in a relationship.
1. Acknowledge your needs
A lot of us tend to sacrifice our own desires for others as we get older. Heck, some of that comes with the roles and responsibilities of life itself — parenting, work commitments; all of it can get in the way of person number one: ourselves. At the end of the day, however, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your base needs for the needs of another person.
When red flags start showing up, one of the first steps you should take is to create a means of self-care that’s dependable and reliable for you. Give yourself chance to take a deep breath, take a break and reflect on what’s important to you. Try de-stressing in whatever way works for you: read, take a bath, go for a walk, start journaling or try cooking a new dish. It might sound trivial, but being kind to yourself will, in turn, boost your self-confidence and give you greater insight about the state of your relationship.
2. Communicate with your partner and others
Communicating is a necessary component of any successful relationship. If you’re not able to really talk through how you’re feeling, it’s impossible to make progress toward your goals as a couple. If you haven’t yet expressed what’s bugging you about your partner’s behavior, it’s worth having an honest, healthy sit-down conversation about it.
If that’s not possible, it may help to turn to others around you. Communities, clubs, therapists, coaches and other means of support are vital lifelines when you’re going through the throes of an unhealthy relationship dynamic.
3. Don’t become overly emotional
Let’s be real: feelings are great, and far too often, we’re told not to express them. But if you’re not in a good place to express your emotions openly without blowing up or shutting down, then your emotions may do more harm than good when trying to address red flags.
Keeping it calm and looking at the possibilities in your relationship (even if one of those possibilities involves the opportunity of a life without your partner) will help you calmly approach the situation at hand with tact and grace. When you’re in the right head space, make time for a truthful yet unemotional conversation with your partner.
4. Get honest with yourself
This goes back to our first piece of advice. Are you being open and honest with yourself about the state of your relationship? When you think about contending with all the red flags you’re dealing with, are you excited about fixing your relationship? Can you genuinely see a future with the person you’re currently involved with? If the answer is yes, then it’s worth working through the red flags at hand. If not, it might be time to call it quits.
Still, you need to do a self-check to make sure. Sometimes we convince ourselves that things are fine, or manageable, when in reality we’re tired and fed up with behavior from a relationship that’s no longer serving us.
5. Seek professional help
Red flags are hard to deal with. Nor should you have to deal with them alone. If you’re finding it increasingly difficult (or unhealthy) to communicate with your partner about your relationship problems, it may be time to consult a professional.
You may want to try approaching different kinds of professionals depending on the severity of the red flags at hand. If your relationship is becoming borderline abusive, it’s time to consult a mental health professional (and potentially even the authorities). However, if your red flags are an annoyance in an otherwise enjoyable relationship, it might be time to start journaling with a coach. Certified coaches can help you improve your relationship, or help you decide when it’s time to walk away.
Alright. That’s it for our red flag management crash course. Now, say it with us: I’m going to make the right decisions about my relationship because I’m smart, competent, capable and utterly awesome.
How does that feel?