Dr. Marie Land | Washington DC Psychologist | Relationship Therapist

After a few relationships you may have a mental list in your head of the things that you want and don’t want in a relationship. Perhaps they fly out the window when you’re with your guy because you’re just having a good time. But what if you are really attuned to your mental list? For example, let’s assume your ex was not a great communicator and as a result you were blind-sighted by a sudden break-up. You had no clue that things weren't going terrific. You swore off guys that aren’t open and expressive because you don’t want a repeat of last time. This is smart thinking in many ways but categorizing guys with your own subjective list of red flags can be problematic if you jump ship too soon or if you compare your current romantic interest and his behaviors (or lack there of) to those of your ex. Assuming that the “red flags” mean some probable outcome isn’t necessarily the best route.


Remember how your ex didn’t check on you when you were sick that time? Later come to find out that he wasn’t all that compassionate or considerate of your needs. It’s difficult to balance being the right amount of cautious (watching out for red flags likely to bring your relationship down) and living in reality (not assuming that the same behaviors mean the same things as they did in your last relationship - or some other model of a relationship you have).

First, don’t view single behaviors (unless we are talking serious red flags…like his mentioning that he’s been bored with every woman he’s ever dated and caused him to cheat) as meaningful. Look for patterns of behaviors. One comment or action is usually not meaningful because we don’t have the full context (his history, his current mood or his own fears) of what may be influencing his behavior. However, after a handful of consistent repeated actions that raise alerts…now that’s meaningful. So ASK. If you’re about to throw the relationship out based on some concerns you might was well ask about what that behavior means or why he’s doing/saying that thing. Don’t worry about his discomfort with having a real conversation either. If you’re at the point where you’re about to jump ship anyways, you might as well give it one more shot. Modeling the type of relationship you want by holding your own behaviors and actions to the same standards as you want your partner to is essential. We often create space (or lack there of) to be an open communicator or affectionate. Point is, it’s not always totally the other person so be sure to do your part and model the thing you are seeking!