University is a place where you can make relationships that span a lifetime. It’s also a place where you can find out the bad, the very bad and the ugly about people. It’s time to take off the rose-tinted glasses and learn to read the red flags that are often literally shoved right under your nose.
In racing, a red flag indicates conditions that are too dangerous to proceed. In the case of one red flag after another, I consider that a situation in which you should get out of as quickly as possible. It’s easy for me to sit here though and lecture about red flags, when most of us -myself included sometimes - are awful at identifying one when we see it. Thus, this is my guide to red flags that you may identify in both platonic and romantic relationships.
Red Flag 1
They’re not willing to admit they did anything wrong. Some people are stubborn and need some guidance to admit that they’ve made a mistake. Others will do everything in their power, to the point of rewriting history, to drive home the point that they’ve never done anything wrong in their lives. The latter tend to be a big problem. These people will completely resist ever taking responsibility for the mistakes they make and if you challenge them on it, they’ll either explode in anger or melt down in tears in order to make you drop the subject. If somebody is unwilling to back down at any point, it may be time to part ways.
Red Flag 2
They have no problems manipulating and guilt tripping you into doing or believing what they want. This one is tricky, because there are so many ways it can be done. If you bring up an issue with someone and they immediately try to intimidate you into backing down, get upset and make you feel guilty for speaking, or use phrases like, “but what about everything I’ve done for you?” – it’s time to run. They might spend money on you, but then in the future they have leverage to tell you to be quiet. In a more extreme scenario, they may threaten to harm themselves if you don’t do what they want. In which case, you contact your local crisis team for them, then run.
Red Flag 3
They cannot keep a secret. I’ll admit, sometimes things slip out. If it’s small and inconsequential, it may be better just to get annoyed for a moment and then let it go. If it’s a personal topic that you specifically told the person you didn’t want shared however, that’s a whole other can of worms. That shows that a person is more than comfortable violating your trust. That shows a person is willing to give other people ammunition against you by sharing something that could potentially really hurt you if you didn’t want it to be public knowledge. Don’t invest your time in these kinds of people.
Red Flag 4
They don’t treat your problems and worries as valid. It can be helpful for somebody to talk about things that have shaken them or share experiences they have had in order to process them. If a friend or partner overrides these conversations by talking about their “worse” experience, or dismiss the subject and change the topic, this can lead to resentment building up in the relationship. Sometimes people do this unintentionally, so talking about it can help. However, if they’re not willing to be more considerate of your feelings, it might be time to cut them loose.
Red Flag 5
They draw sides in every argument or disagreement in their life. Sometimes, people disagree, and this can cause some unrest for a while. Beware the person who forces everyone to choose a side and gets angry with people when they don’t resolutely back one person or another in an argument. This is an early warning sign of a control problem and means that it won’t take much for them to label you as an enemy and to treat you as such. These people will turn on you the second you don’t agree with them, so it’s best not to give them the opportunity to do so.
A relationship in the end, is like driving a car on a road trip. Red flags, as previously noted, let you know that a dangerous situation is up ahead. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is calmly turn back in the direction you came from and just accept that it is what it is. Sometimes you must throw yourself out of the moving vehicle while screaming and make a break for it as soon as you land. Regardless, it’s time to address the problem or for your own health and safety, simply walk away.