We, as humans, are bound by many other kinds of relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, supervisors and many other kinds of bonds that are prone to green flags and red flags. When we are aware of these flags in relationships, we can be aware of our own selves and others in our social circle.
“Dad loves and cares for Mom, but sometimes he gets angry and beats her. But we should pretend that it didn’t happen and go on as normal.” This is just a simple example of a child building his understanding of domestic abuse in a relationship. Even as educated adults, it might take time to recognise and understand that this pattern of behaviour is unhealthy and dangerous. This is why it becomes so easy for children who have witnessed abuse and neglect to grow and fall into dysfunctional relationship patterns.
Since the time we come into existence, we start to form many connections and relationships with significant figures in life. It’s those relationships and bonds that define our personality later on in life. As we grow and embark on our journey of young adulthood, we get into many kinds of friendships and connections which sometimes may or may not turn into intimate relationships. As we grow and experience the many sides and angles of interacting with different people we learn to navigate into our future relationships with people in a much better way.
However, in the process of getting into a committed relationship with a partner, it’s essential for every individual to get to know himself or herself first. Often, individuals get into relationships without having this essential knowledge. Because, how can one learn to know others when they have no idea about their own true selves? And how can one address the needs and desires of another individual if they are disconnected from their own needs and desires?
As obvious as these issues may seem to be, and you may feel you understand them intellectually, it should come as no surprise that what initially seems unimportant or irrelevant may take on greater significance as new insights occur over the course of the relationship. Upon re-examining and introspecting, individuals are often perplexed and confused about their own behaviour patterns and expectations in a relationship.
When we discuss relationships, it’s often through the prism of romance and intimacy. While these kinds of relationships play a significant role in one’s life, they are not the only relationships worth contemplating. We, as humans, are bound by many other kinds of relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, supervisors and many other kinds of bonds that are prone to green flags and red flags. When we are aware of these flags in relationships, we can be aware of our own selves and others in our social circle. If one gets to understand the green flags, one can choose to engage in similar behaviours. They can also learn to look through people and decide which connections offer positive and supportive behaviours in return. Along with having the knowledge of green flags, it’s equally important to know the red flags in a relationship that signal danger and are a warning sign for the individual to get away from toxicity. This way one can also be aware so as to not inflict any kind of negative behaviour on the other person along with identifying and protecting oneself from abuse and dangerous patterns of behaviour.
Respect – Healthy relationships are grounded in feelings of admiration and esteem. Respect is demonstrated when we talk to someone kindly and truthfully and when we act in ways that show we value their time and opinions.
Trust – When we trust someone, we believe that they have good intentions and feel safe with them. They’re dependable, and we know that they’ll act in our best interest, even when we’re apart.
Communication – Good communication means being straightforward, even if it’s uncomfortable, in ways that the other person can absorb and understand. It’s talking frequently, openly, calmly, respectfully, and rationally.
Empathy – It’s important to be able and willing to put yourself in someone else’s position and imagine their perspective, even if you disagree with their opinions.
Appreciations – Noticing someone’s kind actions and then intentionally expressing that gratitude lets people know that they are being seen and valued.
Room for Growth – People grow and change and need room and safety to do that. In a strong relationship, it’s safe to ask questions, take risks, give honest feedback, and make mistakes.
Individuality & Boundaries – It’s also safe to be distinct individuals with separate interests, goals, friends, and hobbies. It’s important that those differences are appreciated and encouraged.
Healthy Conflict Resolution – Even the strongest and healthiest of relationships will have some disagreements. Being able and willing to discuss things that are difficult or upsetting, while at the same time remaining respectful and empathetic, keeps relationships resilient.
“Dad loves and cares for Mom, but sometimes he gets angry and beats her. But we should pretend that it didn’t happen and go on as normal.”
This is just a simple example of a child building his understanding of domestic abuse in a relationship. Even as educated adults, it might take time to recognise and understand that this pattern of behaviour is unhealthy and dangerous. This is why it becomes so easy for children who have witnessed abuse and neglect to grow and fall into dysfunctional relationship patterns. All so because they have learnt to believe negative behaviour to be acceptable and normal.
Some of the red flags that one should look out for in one’s own behaviour and in the behaviour of others:
Contempt: Being sarcastic or condescending towards the other party and cracking insulting and hurtful jokes at the expense of the other. It sends a message that one is in a superior position and the other inferior in a relationship.
Suspicion: This stems from not believing that someone has your best interest at heart. It can show up as attempts to track whereabouts, control behaviours, or limit relationships with other people, even if those relationships are healthy and supportive.
Lack of Communication: Giving silent treatment after an argument or a discussion, getting violent and angry or deliberately changing the topic. It can also be when one engages in a dominating conversation leaving no room for discussion or taking the other person’s opinions of consent.
Dishonesty: It may come across as knowingly being dishonest or not being transparent.
Impatience: It is demonstrated by frequent frustration with the natural ebb & flow of life or having expectations that are unrealistic or inappropriate.
Rigidness: It is being bent on expecting things to be in a specific way regardless of what the situation is. When it is not met accordingly, it is taken to the extreme.
Dependence and Conformity: This is a very dangerous form of a red flag, wherein the dominating partner requires the other to give up their autonomy and be fully dependent on them by following the rigid and tight “rules” set for them. They are also expected to keep the struggles of their relationship a secret, even from their trusted or other supportive figures. Lack of Reciprocity: is when one person insists that their stipulations be met but is unwilling to consider someone else’s needs, asks that rules be broken for them, or rarely contributes to shared work.
Lack of Empathy, Appreciation and Growth: It is shown by refusing to consider another’s perspective and failing to notice the efforts of the other. It also minimises or leaves no room for learning and changing.
Poor Conflict Resolution: It comes with yelling or physical harm, misplaced blame, defensiveness, overgeneralizing, a need to “win,” forgetting to listen to the other person, making unrealistic false assumptions, character assassination, or refusing to discuss problems.
Awareness is the Key
However, it must be noted that not everyone who experienced a family history of trauma and abuse will go on to experience dysfunctional relationships and not every person undergoing difficulties in their adult relationships has experienced childhood trauma, however, there are common factors present. Dysfunction exists in a range of events that occur in life. Most of us can and sometimes do exhibit dysfunctional ways of interacting with people at some point in our lives. But the key aspect is when we are aware of the red and green flags, we learn to work on our unhealthy behaviours and learn to do better. But unfortunately, there are people due to a lack of awareness, who struggle to know what is normal and what is not.
People who have undergone traumatic experiences need to seek out help and address their problems with the help of therapeutic modalities. This will embark them on a journey of self-healing and growth as they get into future relationships.
The key towards a positive transformation is to learn and differentiate between healthy and unhealthy behaviour patterns. It is to know what are red flags and how to identify and work on learning that there is always a brighter beginning. To worry and despair by settling for less and continuing to be unhappy is not a solution. It definitely takes time and patience to work on changing this, but being aware and vigilant is the first step.