My last post on Red Flags seemed to cause a ripple among my readers.
Friends messaged me privately and told me relationship horror stories that could have been avoided if they’d heeded the red flags. Some readers described relationship experiences that they might have seen coming had they opened up their eyes sooner. Other readers said they may have been the red flags, which was enlightening and honest.
One reader, Jim, reminded me that not every situation is dire, and it’s important to see the great people in our lives, too.
This post is for them.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (Anais Nin)
What do you do when you meet someone who’s great?
Someone who seems to fulfill the checklist that you’ve been carrying around for a few years. Conversely, what if that person doesn’t fit the list but you have an amazing connection and you laugh and feel like you’ve known him for ten years (but it’s only been a few weeks)?
What about that person who is honest, loving, attractive, and hilarious? What if he lives in a different town? What if she lives in a different country?
What if you’ve taken yourself off all dating sites in order to regroup and you meet someone spectacular on a magical night out with one of your best friends while watching a comic book inspired burlesque show?
What if you play in a band and your singer introduces you to her new friend and you’re immediately smitten?
What if you spend a week at a retreat in Central America, and after being back home for months, you and he meet up for a reunion and suddenly there are palpable sparks?
What if you start a new job and are attracted to your coworker in your training class and you become friends for two years until you go to happy hour and a kiss occurs?
What if you join Tinder and someone surprises you by wanting to have a real relationship and you end up married exactly a year after your first date?
What if you are breaking up with someone and move to a new city and don’t know many people but you’re introduced to a law school professor who lives in your building? Do you say “no, I’m not ready?” Or, do you jump at the chance? Do you attempt the risk for love?
When is it okay to say YES? How do you know he or she is right for you? Can we ever know? Is there ever someone for you? I can say with certainty that I know when he is a NOPE. The yes, unfortunately, is often more difficult to detect.
Americans (and maybe all humans) walk around with a skewed eye of skepticism as we get older.
We have been jaded and are hard-pressed to accept love. I wonder how the world would turn if we said yes to more experiences, if we listened with our hearts and not only with our heads, if we allowed ourselves to give more and take less. Do you think you’d love your spouse or partner more if you were less stressed about work and time?
When meeting someone new and special, I’m reminded of the sticky, popping sensations in my heart. It’s a braided feeling of crazy, scary, amazing, familiar, and natural all at once. That feeling is wonderful and can’t be replicated; the new secrets and inside jokes, the wonderful cuddling and pillow talk is so awesome.
Getting to know someone is an amazing feeling, something that needs to be cherished and helped along. We can’t take for granted the newness of learning what someone tick. And yet, it’s so scary! Sometimes it sure feels easier to remain distanced than to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Is it worth it?
Online scrolling (dating) often takes the mystery out of love and replaces it with search engines and algorithms. Something remarkable happens when you meet someone and say yes! When you talk on the phone for hours, finally meet for a date, and the feeling is mutual, loving and exciting.
As we get to know someone, our hearts open and we fall (in love) mightily. The feeling can often be once-in-a-lifetime and we must treat that person with respect and kindness. We have to value and protect the love and the person so this new relationship has a chance to blossom.
Green lights are the permission slips to love
We enter into a complicit agreement with another person who wants to make life better with us. Green lights are knowing that we’re taking a risk and entering new territory of trust and faith.
Whether or not we are religious, we must have some faith in love of humanity that we will be taken care of. We start jobs, fall in love, deepen our friendships with green lights.
These green lights are rewarding and risky, exhilarating and frightening, careful and spontaneous. We drive to the intersection of risk and reward with the belief that at any moment, there could be a yellow yield light or a red stopping signal.
Yellow lights serve a purpose of giving us the opportunity to check in with ourselves about our needs. We learn about our needs when we pause and ask ourselves if this is what we really want.
Once we see the bank of lights on the road, we check to determine what will happen. It’s the best feeling to travel down the street and all the green lights are timed perfectly so we glide through each intersection.
But what about that bump in the road? The one that makes you wonder if you’re moving too fast or if this person is really who you’d hoped. I encourage you to keep going! Learn more about the person and determine if this is a real red light (in which case, please do yourself a favor and head the warnings) or if this is a minor blip or misunderstanding (in which case, keep moving forward).
What about the red lights?
Maybe you’re in a long relationship or no relationship. This post applies to you too. The green light can be considered a go-ahead for you to try something new, to love yourself more radically, to keep moving forward. It’s truly only when we love ourselves that we we can recognize the green lights (to say yes) and be alert to the red lights (to say no). It’s crucial that we react with efficient and effective intention.
In the case of red and green lights, when we fall for the red lights and don’t see them, is it really about our own self doubt and trusting others before we trust ourselves and our hearts? Same with the green lights: is this person fulfilling something within ourselves that needs to be improved, or do we truly love ourselves and receive added value from having them in our lives?
My suggestion is to find something in yourself that you adore and want to nourish, cherish, or develop. We can fall in love with ourselves as easily as we can be swept off our feet by another persona and by our dreams.
Photo: Getty Images
This essay originally appeared on Nina Rubin’s afterdefeat blog.
Read Nina Rubin every week here on The Good Men Project!