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Red Flag/Green Flag: What to Look for When You’re Dating

It’s fantastic to get to know someone you genuinely like. You have the impression that you could conquer the world. You stay up all night getting to know the other person and fantasising about the possibility of seeing them again. There’s a valid explanation behind this.  We are wired to connect with other people. When we date, our brains release oxytocin. This aids in our bonding. When we are in the presence of our person, dopamine is released, making us feel pleased and elated.

As a result, you may not be able to see clearly. You have a tendency to minimise the bad while emphasising the good. When you see something that doesn’t feel right or a trait you don’t like, you may rationalise or explain it away. This is why it is difficult to spot red signals in the start of a relationship. Your body, on the other hand, does not want you to.

Fortunately, The Gottman Institute has conducted extensive research into what makes certain couples relationships “masters” and others relationships “disasters.” I believe you may utilise this study as early as the first date to determine whether or not you want to continue your relationship with the other person.

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So, what qualifies a relationship as a “disaster”? One of the most important forecasters is the use of what Dr. John Gottman named “The Four Horsemen,” which is a play on the mythological four horsemen of the apocalypse appearing to mark the end of times.

The Four Horsemen are as follows:

Criticism entails describing your partner’s shortcomings in character.
Defensiveness – Failure to accept responsibility for your actions.
Contempt entails belittling and assuming a superior position.
Stonewalling – Isolating yourself from your partner/shutting down
Even in the early phases of a relationship, you might begin to notice whether or not these are there. What might this entail?

If the person you’re seeing constantly criticises you or others, you may notice them using terms like “always” or “never.” For instance, “you’re always late!” or “you never think about me at night!”

Counter-criticizing, over-explaining, rationalising behaviours, or playing the victim are all signs of defensiveness. If you are dating and bring up a concern, and the other person replies defensively, it is something to be aware of. It could appear as someone stating, “I know I’m often late, but I have a tremendously hectic work.” Why don’t you understand that?”


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Stonewalling is frequently caused by physiological overwhelm. This suggests that the person who is stonewalling is most likely suffering from a racing heart and a flow of stress chemicals. When you’re with someone who is stonewalling, it will appear as if the other person has zoned out or doesn’t care what you’re saying. This could happen during the initial conflict. Perhaps the other individual goes “offline” and is no longer responsive.

This is a very crucial factor to consider. The most dangerous of the horsemen is contemptuous. When someone assumes a position of superiority, contempt manifests itself. It could come across as sarcasm or put-downs. Other manifestations of contempt include laughing at you (rather than with you! ), disparaging your interests or job, or claiming to be superior than you in some way. When someone expresses contempt in the early days of dating, this is a huge red sign.

So, now that we’ve covered what you should avoid, let’s move on to what you should look for!

Fortunately, Dr. Gottman did not stop researching relationship disasters. He was also curious about what the masters did differently. During his research, he discovered the antidotes to the Four Horsemen, which are antidotal behaviours for each of the above. Look for them when getting to know someone. It’s a good sign that they can handle conflict and respect you even when you disagree.

Launching Slowly
Rather than being critical, relationship masters share their problems and complaints by beginning the conversation gently. When explaining what is upsetting them, they also tend to use a formula of “I noticed X, I feel X, I need X” rather than accusatory language. “You always do X, you should do X, why don’t you…“

Taking on Responsibility
Instead of becoming defensive, you should accept responsibility for your part. This means that you are responsible for even the smallest part of the problem if it exists. People who take responsibility listen to their partner’s concerns, validate the concerns, and wait before responding. This could be seen as one partner saying, “Hey, I’ve observed that when we go out with your buddies, I’m left alone in the corner.” In certain situations, I feel quite uneasy. I need you to stick by my side for a little while longer till I get to know them” (a gentle start-up). In turn, the other person says, non-defensively, “You’re right. I shouldn’t abandon you like that. I can think it’s awkward when you don’t know everyone.”

We’re all upset. It is natural to experience overpowering emotions from time to time. Those who do well in relationships, on the other hand, take responsibility for soothing themselves and have partners who are prepared to give them the time they need to self-soothe. This means that when one person needs a break, they take one, and the other person gives them space.

To overcome disdain, the person expressing it must first recognise and communicate their own feelings. They will very certainly need to look at the prior experiences that are causing them to be angry and hostile towards their partner. Instead of expressing disdain and saying, “I can’t believe you’re late. “You disgust me,” a partner who can express themselves adequately would say, “When you are late, I am so angry.”

The first few months of a relationship are filled with pleasant hormones that want you to bond (and mate) with your new sweetheart. Recognizing the indicators of a healthy companion can allow you to override some of those hormones and see more clearly. People who are critical, defensive, withdrawn, or disdainful should be avoided. The employment of these behaviours does not preclude you from being in a relationship with them, but it does need that you become curious about how they respond when you create limits around those habits.

Finally, we want partners who are kind to us (especially when they are upset), capable of accepting responsibility for their actions (even when it is difficult), collaborate with us to calm our nervous systems, and own their past sorrow and resentment so that they do not impose it on us.

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