RED FLAGS Can Seriously Damage Your Relationship

“RED FLAGS Can Seriously Damage Your Relationship”

What to do next…

Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

Let’s face it. All couples have a communication breakdown from time to time. Some more than others.

When it happens, neither partner feels close or connected in the moment.

The sad truth is that far too often couples stay stuck in that moment way too long.


It’s because the focus is on the red flag(s): meaning whatever triggered the upset and not what is really going on beneath the surface of the upset.

The interaction starts out going in one direction and ends in another: way off track.

A “Red Flag” starts with one partner saying or doing something that their mate doesn’t like. In the moment the mate is flooded with negative feelings and has an immediate knee jerk reaction to what they didn’t like.

In the heat of the moment that reaction becomes a “red flag” to the partner and they react. It goes on and onto nowhere.

Mike and Robin Share Their “Red Flag” Story

Mike and Robin are a couple we wrote about in our book: “Mining for Gold in Your Relationship.”

They don’t get into heated arguments but they have a tendency to say or do something that is a “red flag” for the other.

For example, Robin loves socializing, especially dancing and she wants her dance partner to be Mike. It is one way she loves to connect with him.

Here’s the problem:

Dancing is a “red flag” for Mike. He hates it because he is self conscious about his ability to dance and he doesn’t like the spotlight being on him. He has been embarrassed trying to dance in the past more times than he wants to remember.

His favorite way of connecting with Robin is with quiet, private time either at home or out on the town.

Mike’s unwillingness to dance with her publicly was a “red flag” for Robin.

When they tried to have a conversation about this everything seemed to always go downhill.

Robin says: “He’d known me for five years and knew what I did, all the activities I thrived on. It’s like, there is a whole world out there. I want to know it all. I want to do everything, and I want to feel everything.

Mike wasn’t like that. He wasn’t a joiner, and he didn’t have all these groups trailing behind him. His life was orderly. He got up, went to work, and came home. And he did that really well.”

As time passed in our marriage, I noticed how Mike seemed a little distant, so I would come home right after work and watch TV with Mike. Adapting was hard, but in the beginning, I liked it. And Mike seemed to love it.

After a while, though, I started feeling constricted. That feeling got worse and worse. After a couple of years it got so bad that I just decided:

‘I’m not going to sit down on the couch and watch TV any longer.’

I was gaining weight, as much as 10 pounds.

I decided that I didn’t want that penalty. I needed to lose that weight, so I got more active again.

It took me about three years to completely lose those ten pounds, and during those three years, Mike started feeling neglected oncemore.

Initially it was very difficult for me to express my frustration and inner conflict with Mike because he was such a generous caregiver to me. As a matter of fact, in our relationship, the caring probably comes a lot more from him to me, than from me to him.

He takes good care of me in wonderful, basic ways.

So sometimes it was difficult for me to bring up the topic of doing the activities I loved to do away from home.”

Mike says:

“When I would bring up how difficult this was for me Robin could not seem to hear nor understand me. It’s like she concentrates so much on what she wants and ignores what I need, almost as if I were invisible.

My fear shows when I get the feeling of paralysis. Robin calls it stubbornness or resistance.

She doesn’t get it that the thought of dancing recalls all that stuff: embarrassment and humiliation from the past. It’s unbearable!

I know that more than anything, Robin wants me to break through that. And I want to break out of it, more than anything. But it’s a struggle and it will take a safe, step-by-step process to get through it.

We have talked about structuring it in a way that it could feel safe for me. Part of me wants to please Robin by dancing with her.

The other part of me struggles with the possibilities of failure, humiliation, and maybe rejection, from all the other people who are there laughing at my expense. We tried practicing at home, but although we had the best intentions, neither one of us ever really followed through sufficiently to do anything about it.”

So, that is Mike and Robin’s “Red Flag” story?

What is yours?

What things trigger either or both of you that just gets repeated over and over and doesn’t get resolved?

How does it impact your relationship and what can you do about it?

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Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash