Getting into a relationship and/or getting sexually intimate with someone is one of the most vulnerable things you can do. It requires vulnerability in ways that aren’t very obvious. On the one hand, you need to be vulnerable to yourself, your emotions, and your own needs. On the other hand, you need to be vulnerable to others, their emotions, and their needs. A strong awareness of what is going on emotionally and an empathetic sensitivity to all of those around you is required for successfully operating in a relationship.
However, this sort of sensitivity needs to be coupled with vigilance and reason. And this is for the very reason that you might be quite wrong about the person you are engaging with. It might be the case that when they are around you, they are projecting an ideal image to you, but in reality, this is merely a projection; it would be a facsimile of what is truly worth pursuing intimately/romantically. We need to be aware of these things. And there are ways in which we can see through the ideal and see the true facsimile and clear view.
At the first stage of getting to know someone, there are some things you should look out for as red flags. Simply enumeration them will suffice the following point: if these red flags pop up, you should seriously consider walking away from this person. Below essentially are interpersonal, emotional, and sexual instances whereby you should put your guard up.
- They are rude to food service people: Picture being out on a first date. The person you are out with is kind, charming, and interesting. They also seem to be very sweet. When the waiter comes out and gives you your food, the person with who you are out on a date with’s food comes out burnt. They call over the waiter and begin screaming and berating them. This is a sign to cut and run. If they are willing to act that way in public to a stranger, who knows what they would be willing to do to you in private. It is a sign of disrespect, entitlement, and at bottom, narcissism. These are the last attributes you want from someone you are thinking about getting intimate with.
- They don’t take no for an answer: This is usually very subtle and hard to catch. Yet sadly, it happens in the worst possible contexts for it to happen in. Let’s say that you meet someone at a bar and they begin talking about sex. For some, this might be a good open invitation to have sex. For others, it might come across as too quick to judge. You might wish to shift the conversation elsewhere without explicitly saying “no” to the sexual conversations. If they keep on taking it back to sexual conversations even after your efforts to do the exact opposite, you should cut and run. They aren’t respecting your clear uncomfortably with sexual matters. This can translate over to some dangerous and scary sexual situations that you do not want to get yourself wrapped up in. It would be asking to be constantly coerced, or worse.
- They’re disengaged: Sometimes, we are very desperate for others to like us. We simply want things to work, even if it is clearly the case that they’re not working. Imagine going on a date and trying to muster up a conversation, only to be met with one-liner responses or to have the conversation shift over to mundane small-talk. Especially if you are interested in romance, you cannot allow such a person in, no matter how lonely you feel or how much you wish to make things work. Forcing things will not work and it will only serve to make everyone involved less happy.
- They’re not telling you about other partners: Let’s say you begin seeing someone new. All is going well. One day, maybe you are sitting next to them on the couch and you see them texting someone else. You notice that the text chat is full of heart and kissy-face emojis. You confront them on this and they deny it. Firstly, this proves that they are willing to lie to you. Secondly, it proves that they are willing to hide important information from you. How could you trust such a person. You can’t and if you say you do, you are very likely lying to yourself. The reason to walk away in that instance is that no relationship –even an open relationship, where there are no strings attached– can work unless there is trust. Never allow a lier to get intimate or romantic with you.
Now, let’s move on to when you are actually in an open relationship or a polyamorous relationship. In either case, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases amongst non-monogamous individuals. Whenever you are having sexual relations with multiple partners, research shows that this exponentially increases your odds of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. In light of this, if you want to protect yourself in your polyamorous or open relationship, you really need to be using condoms. Indeed, another red flag is that if one of your partners knows about all of your sexual partners and they themselves have many, yet they refuse to use a condom, you should probably walk away from that person.
In following these warning signs, you can better protect yourself from potential partners who might hurt you. We need to take seriously the possibility that we can get wrapped up in very bad people. Look at r/relationshipadvice on Reddit: so many people are in such toxic relationships. The possibility is very real and there are ways we can avoid it: do not ignore the red flags –deal with them when you come across them and if needed, leave the person who produced these red flags. Life is too short to be with someone who could be the absolute end to you, your emotional well-being, and your healthy sexual life.