Whether you're concerned about a family or romantic relationship, these 11 red flags are helpful to earmark in case you're having a tough time putting your finger on the issue. Relationships can get complicated quickly because we often choose who to invest our time in depending on how the other person makes us feel. However, feelings are volatile and not entirely based in a "growth-mindset." When you abandon the healthy perspective that helps you connect and grow, instead simply engage in relationships to avoid discomfort, you might find that some of the following exists in your relationships. The good news is that caring for your own needs often points you in the right direction of healthy boundaries and balanced interactions where you feel supported and loved regardless of the day and challenges that come with it. These are the behaviors that get in the way of true, unconditional love:
Have you ever thought to yourself, or even said out loud, "I shouldn't have to say what I want. It's obvious." If this sounds familiar, we are not talking about an inattentive partner here. We are talking about unspoken expectations. Plain and simple. I'll offer you a quick, compassionate reality check here. No matter how many times you might have told your partner what you expect, need, want, or hope for, you might have to say it again. Your partner also has some number of "life things" going on and may miss your hints or even entirely forget a conversation you once had. Not because they don't care but because they only have their own perspective to go on day to day. Do them a favor. Speak your expectations the way you'd like them to speak expectations towards you.
Among the millions of topical reasons that one might avoid communicating or connecting, I dare you to look underneath. "I'm tired" and "I'm busy" are not the reason you're avoiding, if I do say so myself. Go deeper and ask yourself whether you are expecting that communication might make you feel vulnerable? Perhaps you have unspoken resentments that may not be well-received if you voice them. Consider why you're avoiding. Give yourself the space within your own head to own that you are more than likely trying to protect yourself from hurt by avoiding. Nurture that need for protection and gain back your confidence to be direct and connect.
The interesting thing about this one is that your partner will possibly start wondering what they did wrong to make you not want to talk to them or spend time with them. You're drumming up their insecurities too by avoiding. Consider what's fair to yourself and them. Is ongoing avoidance really the healthiest option? If you're seeking connection with a partner and avoidance is the opposite of that, consider the consequences with curiosity and a growth mindset.
Needing to be right
Speaking of vulnerability... if you feel you need to be viewed by others or yourself as the one without fault, might you actually be covering up for your own insecurities? By doing this, you are not only shutting down communication by not allowing yourself to receive new information that might not align with your "right-ness" but you are also sending the message to your partner that you somehow have more authority in the relationship than they do. Is this the message you intend to send? If so, what are you getting out of this behavior? Do you feel more confident, connected, and at peace? Consider that allowing space for equality is much more powerful than being right. Notice what happens when you stop arguing your side and start trying to understand, asking questions, and being more in touch with the imperfect human side of you both.
"Be more like me" mentality
This is a pretty obvious one, but worth mentioning. Similar to the need to be right, if an individual in the relationship believes they have it all figured out, what room is there for growth? Is there a belief within the relationship that one of you is somehow superior because there is a standard within one of you that should be embodied or are you seeing each other with a wider world lens as both learning and growing rather than both "needing improvement."
Reactivity and impatience
Reactivity is defined as actions without mindful intent. When one is simply reacting in a relationship rather than responding or acting mindfully, you are seeing Monkey Mind at its peak. Somewhere along the way, danger was sensed and your Monkey Mind says "There's no time to think, you must get out of emotional danger!" Not much logic there, but a lot of self-preservation. If your partner behaves in such a way that reminds you of a time when you were hurt, your natural human response will be to protect the self. However, you see that this only reads as impatient reactivity. You are not acting thoughtfully or logically. You are not acting with the relationship or the other person in mind. Hurt is inevitable on one or both sides when you are not aware.
Withholding your truth and love
When hurt is harbored inside a relationship, how can one give or receive love freely? I would argue it's nearly impossible because it defies our core impulse for self-preservation. When hurt, why share your thoughts and feelings (otherwise defined as your truth) and give or receive love without conditions? It's far too risky. If one is hurting, that means tolerance for pain is already low. Perhaps a person in the relationship believes they don't deserve love because of past hurts? This can cause so much confusion for the person trying to give love and often results in the belief that their love isn't good enough. Or even worse, they themselves aren't good enough.
Ignoring bids for connection
Much like withholding your truth and love, the result is often ignoring bids for connection. Perhaps one of you believes that the other does in fact need to behave differently before earning a connection with you because of some transgression in the recent or distant path. If this is the position of the offended person in the relationship, this person has set themselves as the highest authority and dictator between the two individuals.
Micro-managing and control
If this power struggle is in play, connection will only be superficial at best and conditional love is at work. Conditional love means "if you _________, then I will give you the connection you desire." This is one of the most toxic behaviors in a relationship. Instead, try sharing your truth and focusing on the behaviors of the other as they are intended rather than how "right" you both are respectively. Again, if one of you is sending the message that the other person isn't "doing it right" and only the other person knows the "right way to do it" all curiosity and growth has been eliminated. The spontaneity you once may have had is gone and will not return until this behavior is extinguished.
Demands rather than invitations
Try this- state the word "demand" out loud. What images come to mind? How does it feel in your body when you say the word? Does it have a negative connotation?
Now, try saying the word "invitation" out loud. How different does that feel? More positive? Any negative associations you might need to be aware of that don't belong in your relationship?
Now that you have compared the two, see which you feel is more appropriate to a growth mindset. "Demands" indicates that there is some bar to hit. "Invitations" indicate that there is no judgment, just connection and presence. Keep this in mind during your next interaction. It may change the language you use and the emotional posture you have entering into the conversation.
Betrayals of trust
As much as I believe in the concept of couples and family therapy, any good therapist will also tell you that the one situation in which therapy won't work is when there is deception actively being used in a relationship. Betrayals of trust is different than active deception. Be careful to not get the two confused. Betrayal of trust means that one has hurt another in the relationship through prior deception, misrepresentation, or outright hurt. This can be treated if the one who did the betraying (if not both individuals) is willing to identify why they have the need to deceive. Likely it has to do with self-image/ identity issues and less to do with the other person.
Active deception is different than betrayal of trust and is much more difficult, if not impossible to treat because active deception indicates that the one (if not both) doing the deceiving is not addressing the underlying issue. Recovering from betrayal of trust does take time but be careful that you enter into trust restoration with a growth mindset, knowing that mistakes may be made because there is a bigger issue underneath. Trust is not simple, but it can be a beautiful thing when communication is safe in a relationship.
Lastly, and most appropriate after discussing trust, one must be mindful of keeping score in a relationship, especially when hurt has been involved. If either individual is keeping track of what the other has done wrong, how much it hurt, or how many times it happened, the growth mindset has been abandoned and the relationship is living only in hurt. Neither will be able to move forward if this is the focus. There again, the individuals are not seeing themselves as equally flawed human beings. In this case, one of you is the "right" or "good" one and the other is "not good." This can be a trap where the one keeping score receives a sense of instant gratification out of being right, but this dopamine rush will not last long and will be much less satisfying in the long run than helping your partner to see that you have no control over them, only support.
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