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Author Topic: Red flags and yellow flags. What's the difference?  (Read 625 times)
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« on: February 22, 2019, 04:06:07 PM »

the internet is full of lists like "top 10 red flags in a relationship" or even "100 red flags to beware in a new partner".

some of these examples might be a personal deal breaker, might be something to be cautious about, or they might be pretty normal, every day stuff.

certainly, we want to learn to spot a doomed or dead end relationship (or a truly dangerous one) and not invest in spite of it, but at the same time, as we learn to proceed with confidence in our future relationships, we dont want to go turning over every stone and fleeing from shadows.

lets discuss some of these differences. what are some examples of a  Yellow flag/questionable (click to insert in post) to you? what are some examples of a  Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post)? what differentiates the two in your mind?

example:

i met someone who says she shot her ex husband. i prefer not to be next!  Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post)

i met someone who is pushing for exclusivity with me, and it feels over the top and too soon, im hesitant  Yellow flag/questionable (click to insert in post)

the difference to me is that the above example could signal a real danger to me. the bottom example may indicate immaturity, or inexperience, or maybe our feelings just dont match up, and we arent the best fit.
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2019, 04:29:34 PM »

Here's an example of how someone can think they see a red flag that isn't:

I'm still legally married, separated almost 5 years. It's strictly for financial reasons, but some would believe that means I'm somehow still holding onto the relationship or hoping for reconciliation. I'm not.

For me, most things are yellow flags, and I'll take it as part of the whole picture. Clear red flags are so obvious (like you said, "I shot my ex" or "I've had 8 wives")   
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2019, 06:01:39 PM »

Good question! A red flag means this person is not likely able to have a healthy relationship at this time. A yellow flag is something that I don't necessarily like about the person yet not likely to interfere with having a healthy relationship.
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2019, 10:55:35 PM »

 The hard thing might be differentiating how much of the warning sign is about us or them. 
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2019, 11:56:37 PM »

I am learning that for me, one red flag  Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post) is a person claiming to be a victim of your 'attacks' or 'abuse'. This is especially true if such an accusation comes up over a benign matter. At any rate, I see this as an early indicator of danger, because who needs someone eventually accusing us of a matter which was not really an attack or abuse?  Paragraph header (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2019, 12:15:11 AM »

"You're a bad communicator"  Yellow flag/questionable (click to insert in post) Yet I'll consider it.  

Trying to send me to a couples' communication class by myself,   Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post) "good luck, I hope it helps."

Being sent to,  or encouraged to go to joint therapy then being abandoned,  major  Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post). My BPD mother did that to me when I was 13. I didn't learn. My ex decades later did the same thing. 
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2019, 08:30:58 AM »

once removed   Welcome new member (click to insert in post)

what are some examples of a  Yellow flag/questionable (click to insert in post) to you?
If she has had more than two or more relationships with major issues (physical abuse, threatening behaviour, infidelity, etc.), and can't speak to some understanding of why things were the way they were.  Yellow flag/questionable (click to insert in post)

what are some examples of a  Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post)?
During the dating stage, if the person doesn't show up for a meeting, and doesn't tell me of cancellation in advance--several times.  Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post)  But if she has one of those perpetually on-call jobs and works heaps, then that will change this flag to yellow.  

what differentiates the two in your mind?
Re red flags, I'm with you on real dangers being red flags. For the example above, I expect some value of reciprocity, so if the other person doesn't seem to "get it"--then I feel this person isn't where I'm at in terms of taking the early relationship stages seriously. If this person can't meet you at a given timing, then to me I think that means they (1) aren't that interested, (2) don't have the capacity for an intimate relationship.

Re yellow flags, probably things that indicate deeper issues in things I want. So things that look like character issues are yellow flags. For my yellow flag example above, the person being able to have some introspection and humility to learn from their interpersonal relationships is something I think the dating market offers that I then expect the other person to bring.

I think as the relationship progresses, some things that are yellow or red flags might have a different value. As an example--the partner might be particularly weak at people skills, but might be very strong in practical judgements, so the poor people skills would be offset by 'positives' like the practical judgements. Some flag values also don't change much, I think. E.g., infidelity and physical abuse. The negative value of those to me are so huge that they'll probably stay red.
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2019, 08:51:56 AM »

Good topic!
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2019, 01:21:40 PM »

For me a red flag means that I have a mark against this persons character. For example, they are upset with a friend and trashing that friend to me with very one sided “black painting” language.  That for me goes against my values that I want.  Trashing people, even an ex with BPD to claim how they are a victim of circumstances or such... demos lack of insight on the complexity of the matter, lack of maturity, etc.

So a yellow flag for me is anything that could add up to a red flag after a pattern is observed.  For example, when dating my ex he let his 9 year old up front next to him and I had to go in the back seat or else tell her to move.  I wasn’t sure by that one action if he had poor boundaries or such.  So it was a yellow flag.  When I accumulated enough yellow flags to determine that this man has poor boundaries, ones that are not ok for my sensabilities, then that changes to a red flag for me.  He was ongoing parentifying her... I began to be able to predict accurately that he was going to respond to a situation by overly favoring her and infantilizing her... that is when the flag turned red.

When I see yellow flags...
They will either turn white or red... it is just a matter of time.
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« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2019, 01:34:15 AM »

Hi Everyone,
This is a great topic to address.

Red flags can be complicated because these can represent a combination of questionable behavior by one person and issues that are still unprocessed -- for those of us who are recovering from a BPD ex.
 
Its been about 1year and 6 months that I ended a short relationship with a BP trait man. Now, I have befriended a man that has no drama in his behavior however his past troubles me. He is a sex addict trying to kick the habit. For me, this is a big red flag because of my history of attracting addicts as romantic partners. I made a list of the men in my life that were addicts or had serious emotional issues. It was clear they were the majority. I am the daughter of a Borderline mother so it makes sense.  For me the red flag is not so much this friend's behavior, past and present -- as he is trying to break off a relationship with someone he is sexually addicted to -- but more my interest in him and thus a repetition of the past.

I know that I do not want to be involved with another addict, and that I need to break the cycle. My initial interest was a male companion not a romantic partner and I have told him I want to be just friends. But because of my apparent addiction to addicts I believe I am treading on dangerous waters and the red flag that I see is not about him but about me. 

Thoughts?

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« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2019, 08:34:34 AM »

to me, nothing better illustrates the confusion over this issue than the fact that we are all operating with different definitions of what constitutes a red flag.

most of, if not all of the examples weve given in this thread are examples of really common stuff, things we will encounter a lot of in the dating world. things that i think should give us pause when it comes to how, or if we want to proceed. but should they spook us? and what should we do if we arent quite sure?

i think of a traffic light. a red light means full stop, do not proceed. a yellow light can mean proceed with caution, hurry through, or begin to stop. theres a lot of nuance. you see a lot of yellow lights when youre driving, and how you respond may be different each time.

i think when it comes to the dating world, we are best served being more reflective, and less reactive.

i think that Zen606 has given us a great example to think through and work with. what are everyones thoughts? what would you do in her situation?
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« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2019, 10:13:44 AM »

Thank you Once Removed. This is exactly what I was hoping for. Dialogue on this grey area subject.
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« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2019, 11:21:15 AM »

Zen606,
I too have struggled with being attracted to the wrong kind of men. My mother and two siblings have BPD and NPD. My father had narcissistic traits. I posted several months ago about a man I became infatuated with. This man is not good news and the mad attraction came about when I was under constant siege by all three of my family members with BPD and NPD. Like you, I was aware that I choose the guy and I needed to take a hard look at my participation in this lethal attraction. My therapist recommended that I slow down when in his presence, be mindful, and really observe my feelings and the interactions. I started to do that and slowly came to see him more for who is. I also became aware of the fact that I did not think of myself as worthy of love. My family of origin never has loved me, so why would anybody else? These past few months, I have worked hard on being the kind of person a healthy man would want to go out with. I continue to run into this man that I was so attracted to, and am much less attracted to him than before. We have never gone out. A couple of months ago, he came onto me, out of convenience when he just happened to run into me. His behaviors pretty much demonstrate that he is looking for some quick sex; I saw him pick up my neighbor for a one night stand several months ago. Prior to coming onto me, he had recently been pretty nasty to me. I actually confidently turned him down and I was so proud of myself. What he said to me to try to get me to sleep with him was really romantic and I would have been swept off my feet in the past, being so starved for outside validation that I was indeed worthy of love. I still run into him and feel attracted, though not like before, and I am fully in control of my faculties now and know I would never go out with him. What I am trying to say with this long account, is be patient with yourself. It takes time and presence, being mindful in the moment, and feeling you are worthy of a decent person. You have already taken many steps to change the course. You recognize that being attracted to the wrong kind of men is a problem, and would like to change so you could one day have a healthy relationship. You will get there and so will I, as we are both willing to do what it takes to feel more worthy of a genuine loving reciprocal relationship!
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« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2019, 06:54:08 PM »

Hi Zachira - beautiful name by the way!

Thank you for your comments, and this is why this forum is so important to me, to all of us. We know the pain, the steps, the walk, the path.

The willingness to do what it takes to get to a healthier place is essential for success. There is no magic pill, book to read,  or innovative technique that will propel us to where we want to be. It's the continued hard work that happens in therapy, the awareness, the self-reflection, and the willingness to look squarely in our mind's mirror that will help us on our journey and get us to where we want to be. Reading your words was validating; I'm not alone! 

When I realized my addiction to addicts I was shocked because it was so obvious. Why had it taken me so long to acknowledge it? But you know the process has no time parameters. And, you are correct, I need to be patient with me.

Thank you Zachira.
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2019, 09:09:52 AM »

i think of a traffic light.
I like this analogy. Thanks for sharing once removed.

Zen606 I think you have an honest identification of what you want less in your life of--people with addictions. I think it takes some self control to recognise this kind of thing, see the pattern you may have had before, and take steps in changing it--all the while having those little temptations to go back into the old patterns. I think that self control is a good thing and I'd like to hold that out.   Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

The red flag to you seems to be that he's an addict, and you really don't want to be romantically involved with a person with such things, and I can see how this flag for you could be red rather than yellow. You may have heaps of good reasons to avoid this kind of relationship, and people may not have such reasons, so the decision on whether addiction is yellow or red seems to depend on our preferences.

what would you do in her situation?
But because of my apparent addiction to addicts I believe I am treading on dangerous waters and the red flag that I see is not about him but about me.
I think what Zen606 wants here is a good guide for her to go by. In the long term, she seems to value romantic relationships with people who are not addicts. She believes this situation with this person is not something that will lead to her reaching her long term goal.

Personally, I do think these subconscious patterns lead some of us into the same kind of trancey and unsatisfying relationships--so I'd probably feel quite confused and ambivalent. On one hand, I may feel attracted; but on the other hand, uneasy (because of the knowledge that this person is a close fit to the patterns I'd want to avoid).

So I'd probably engage myself in other areas of my life--work, play, self-care, etc.--and continue to keep myself in the dating world. I'd probably include a lot of what zachira suggested too.
[...] be patient with yourself. It takes time [...] and feeling you are worthy of a decent person.
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2019, 02:54:06 AM »

Hi Gotbushels-
Thank you for your comment. Yes, the self-control is something that I have not applied in the past in these situations, instead I have plunged myself into relationships that were enticing at first but in the end I would have to leave because of behaviors connected to addiction.  And I agree about the preferences and the yellow or red flags.

I was thinking today about the addiction issue - if it were an ex-heroin addict I could accept it, a recovering alcoholic would be acceptable as well, but a sexual addict that is still battling, leads me to think that I am setting myself up for a difficult relationship. As per the literature it is hard for such folks to function in a relationship. This is certainly an issue to discuss with my therapist and I believe I need to discuss this issue with the individual in question as well -- although I will have to think carefully about how to approach him as I don't want to be judgemental. I respect that he has shared with me about his addiction and the depths that he descended into because of it.   And, yes I continue to be open to dating others and the many other things that are in my life.

Last thought, I believe that my experience with the borderline trait ex, left me very wary about anyone with behaviors described in the DSM.

Thank you
Zen606
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« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2019, 08:58:28 AM »

Zen606   Welcome new member (click to insert in post)

Seems like you know how you're going to go forward on this. I'm interested in others' thoughts on your situation.   Smiling (click to insert in post)  I think considering yellow and red flags helps us figure out our preferences in what we're willing to accept and not willing to accept, and maybe see we can do better.

A lot of us jumped into these relationships before we knew what the patterns were. Self compassion and maybe ice cream helps. I support you while you figure this out.   Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2019, 12:50:01 PM »

you describe this person as a friend. is it more than that?

how far into your relationship did he disclose this, and under what circumstances?
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« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2019, 11:46:26 PM »

Hi Got bushels,
Thank you for your support. As I process more,  more comes to the surface, it's a bit tiring but also empowering to have the awareness. Yes ice cream does help, and indulging in a fun. book like clan of the cave bear, or a Downton Abbey marathon.
Thanks again
Zen606

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« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2019, 12:48:07 PM »

Zen606, i think if you have a romantic interest in this person, a sexual addiction is reason for pause, certainly.

as we get older, and the dating field (as well as healthier candidates in it) narrows, at a certain point in the relationship, you are going to hear these kinds of disclosures, and others. we put our best foot forward at first, and as the relationship deepens, we tell more about ourselves, and some of those things may or may not be something to reflect on, as to whether we move further, how, and to what extent.

if you have a romantic interest, there are a host of questions i would ask, like:

  • at what point in the relationship was the disclosure made, and in what context
  • what is he doing to address it
  • if you were to enter a romantic relationship, what would a system of accountability and trust and verify look like

if this is just a friendship, i would not use a term like "red flag" or "yellow flag" to describe it, but a term like "personal disclosure". there is no inherent danger, and i think it need not affect your friendship. for example, one of my best friends describes himself as "probably an alcoholic". i think its an overstatement, but regardless, his drinking has never affected me in any way. if the two of us were hanging out and hed had too much to drink, i would not rely on him for a ride, and thats about the extent of it.

now, if all of my best friends described themselves as alcoholics, i would ask myself some hard questions like "am i one?", or "what am i getting out of these relationships". i might gravitate more toward the friends i had more in common with, but it wouldnt mean that we couldnt have a relationship. wed have a relationship that works for us.

i know youve asked and reflected on some of those questions on this board before. its good to consider. i hope this helps.
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« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2019, 11:51:38 PM »

Hi Once Removed.
I appreciate your post and the questions you pose.  These give me much to think about.
 
So yes, this relationship started as a friendship, this is what I wanted originally. But part of the interest was an attraction to this person. It is this attraction that lead me to contemplate how this person would be as a potential romantic partner, although it did not appear to be a serious consideration.  The contemplation led to the red flag. 

In response to your questions:
He voluntarily disclosed the sexual addiction issue about the third or fourth time we hung out.   

He stated the addiction caused him two marriages but that the end of his third marriage was not connected to the addiction, although his wife had accused him of  "being interested in some girl", which he denied. 

He also described how the addiction took him very low, where he could not get enough of the sexual experience and was sleeping with anyone, having multiple partners, and engaging in drugs.  Personally, I can't see him doing the drugs but if he says so I believe him.

He stated that he had the addiction under control, however at the time of our conversation he was dating a woman, an alcoholic, that he was sexually addicted to. He wanted to end it because of the "drama" she brought with her, e.g., she verbally abusing him 

Since I saw  the relationship as a friendship the sexual liaison he maintained with the woman did not matter to me, because I was not seeing him as a serious potential romantic partner. However, his disclosure about the woman let me know that he still is in the sexual addiction cycle.

Now, as I know him more and like him very much as a person -- he is interesting, educated, intelligent, articulate -- I am starting to care for him and I believe this is where the red flags come in for me.  I cannot have a repeat of a relationship to an addict. I was married for 17 yeas to an alcoholic.

So yes, it is a disclosure that I can live with as long as I don't cross the line. But If I take him seriously as a potential partner the disclosure becomes the red flag.

Zen606
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« Reply #21 on: March 30, 2019, 09:59:04 PM »

Zen606   Welcome new member (click to insert in post)

How is this going for you?

Did you continue in the path with this person, or did you find another path?

I think that once removed suggested that we not use flags for people whom we aren't interested in a romantic relationship with- it makes sense.
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« Reply #22 on: April 02, 2019, 11:17:15 PM »

I think that once removed suggested that we not use flags for people whom we aren't interested in a romantic relationship with

not exactly. i dont know if id befriend the woman that shot her ex husband, either  Smiling (click to insert in post)

im suggesting two things:

1. we have a say in the nature and closeness and relative safety of our relationships.

if a close friend of mine says that hes cheated on every girl he ever dated, thats not going to directly effect me, but it might give me pause. it says some things about him. it may impact the nature of my friendship with him. is it all he ever talks about? does he "cheat" people financially? are there other, significant areas in which hes not trustworthy? if not, we will probably get along okay. we might not be best pals. or perhaps we will be close in other ways.

i cant say id recommend someone date him exclusively. one night stand? a few dates? something superficial with no strings attached? not a lot of risk there. looking for something deeper? look for something deeper.

2. we should assess real risks, but not over react or slap a "danger" label on anything that gives us some pause

i certainly think that the term "red flag" is overused and should have a clear meaning and perspective as opposed to hundreds of lists of ten or a hundred vague ideas that mean different things to different people or dont necessarily mean much at all. my personal definition is something that presents a legitimate danger to me (that can occur within the confines of a friendship or romantic relationship). anything else might give me pause, or even be a personal deal breaker (a term i think is usually more fitting than "red flag") but really needs to be taken into context.

a huge number of lists of "red flags" are things that are really more about us than the other person. so called "love bombing" is on nearly every list you could find. is someone idealizing me (which we all do to various degrees) really a threat? maybe the real threat is how we receive and respond to it. ive probably told every girl ive dated that they were the most beautiful girl in the world. over the top? sure. this wasnt something i approached them and immediately started declaring. every last one of them knew what i meant, that i was showing affection, that i was communicating that i was deeply attracted to them, that i wasnt doing it with any kind of malicious intent or to win something from them. none of them were shocked that after we broke up, i no longer continued to view them that way.

we all have things about us that would give another person pause, or worse. inevitably, as you get closer to a person, you will learn some of these things; they will be disclosed, it is one important way we all bond. if we "run and never look back", we risk missing out on relationships that might enrich our lives.
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« Reply #23 on: April 02, 2019, 11:42:17 PM »

Yeah... That's why I refused a r/s with a friend and former coworker. Notwithstanding the fact that she wanted to cheat on me on her live in Boyfriend at the time (it was his house but he fled her anger), she had pulled a knife on her husband before that.  She ended up getting 5150'd (involuntarily committed) when she battered him when he came back. I moved out of state.  I moved back and met the new BF. Then he was gone.

Then she was temporarily single.  She dropped heavy hints,  then dropped me like a pwBPD does, coldly, even though she had previously told me she loved me (I think she meant it really since she loved that I validated and listened to her for so many years). I knew I could never trust her,  nor be safe if she blew a fuse though she did stop drinking. She was a professional woman and it was 3 years before I even knew she smoked and drank.  She hid it well at work.  Though everyone knew she had a temper.

I found her writing poetry online many years later.  A few poems telegraphed another violent relationship where she was the victim and she received positive affirmations. If only those people knew... Red Flag City!
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« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2019, 01:31:02 PM »

not exactly. i dont know if id befriend the woman that shot her ex husband, either  Smiling (click to insert in post)
Rofl. So true. Great post once removed. Thanks for clarifying and sharing that with us. 

... something that presents a legitimate danger to me (that can occur within the confines of a friendship or romantic relationship). anything else might give me pause, or even be a personal deal breaker (a term i think is usually more fitting than "red flag") ...
Yes! I think that's really well put.

if we "run and never look back", we risk missing out on relationships that might enrich our lives.
I agree. I think once we're out of the relationships with unwell others, it's safer for us to get involved in relationships that may challenge our self's in a healthy way and cause us to grow in healthy ways. When we confuse the discomfort of a growing self in a relationship with red flags- then that too works against us.
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