For years, I was notorious for choosing the wrong men. A stream of Mr. Wrongs rolled through my life with the regularity of trains passing through a station. Ignoring my gut instincts got me off track and it wouldn’t take long for my newfound relationships to get derailed. Sometimes it was a major crash and burn, and those are always ugly.
In Psychology Today, Marty Nemko, Ph.D. has had plenty of clients like me who didn’t know when to cut their losses and employ damage control. He recommends people consider certain questions when deciding whether to move forward with a potential romantic partner.
Has this person been reasonably responsive?
I met Jake during the intermission of a circus. He rushed to get my number and go back to his seat. Jake was a truck driver with an erratic schedule. He would call at odd hours and was usually unavailable when I called him. Sometimes he didn’t respond to my text messages for days. Red flags were waving, but I covered my eyes like the monkey who saw no evil.
For weeks we played phone tag or had rushed conversations. We hadn’t seen each other since the night we met because of his work commitments. Turns out, I learned from a friend, Jake had other commitments as well. Namely, a wife and kids. Seems the clown was having trouble figuring out how to juggle me and his family.
I should have known Jake was a snake. He slithered away when I called him out on his lies. Luckily, I cut the head off that relationship before it really began.
Does the person seem kind?
I stay away from uncompassionate people, so it took me by surprise when the always-smiling-and-polite airline pilot, Aaron, made scathing remarks about his sister. She was pregnant. Again. With yet another father. I let him vent, thinking he just needed to decompress. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when, months later, he flew off the handle. This time his scornful words landed on me. If I would’ve paid attention earlier, I wouldn’t have waited so long to send him packing.
Is the person inappropriately forward?
Sitting at a table with some girlfriends, a man came up and whispered something incredibly naughty in my ear. My jaw dropped and my cheeks glowed hot. When I turned to watch him walk away, he looked over his shoulder and winked. The rest of the night I felt a giddy excitement from the attention. When our ladies-night-out party broke up, the man asked me to join him at the bar.
He bought me a drink and suggested hitting the nearby hotel. I laughed, assuming he was joking. When I went out with him the next weekend, Mr. Handsy was all over me. I never liked a wrestling match and ended up calling a taxi. Had I been more discerning, I would have fingered him for a loser from the beginning.
Does the person have a too-serious incompatibility with you?
When two people’s goals or interests are too far apart, it can cause problems. What if only one wants to be married, or have kids, or live abroad? These are life-changing decisions you may not want to compromise on.
I dated Steve for four months before realizing we didn’t have a future. It wasn’t Steve. Steve was a great guy who made me laugh. His fourteen-year-old son was the problem. Frankly, he creeped me out. He was always lurking around, spying on me. I caught him peeking through the pool fence at me and a couple of my friends as we were stretched out on lounge chairs. Steve admitted his son was a little “different,” but didn’t seem pressed to investigate the root of the problem. When I suggested a therapist, Steve was offended, and I backed off.
It doesn’t take a detective to deduce the fact I walked away. Truth be told, I ran.
Listen to your gut
We have instincts for a reason and need to pay attention to them. I could have saved a lot of time, heartache, and frustration if I would have trusted myself. When you have that feeling of, “Something’s just not quite right,” it probably isn’t.
If you’ve ignored alarm bells in a relationship, I’d love to hear your story in the comments!
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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