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Why Hunting for Red Flags Won't Keep Away the Bad Guys.

Red Flags Are the Red Herring of Social Media Dating Advice.

In my line of work, I get asked a LOT about “red flags” — how to spot them, how to avoid them, and what makes something a “red flag” vs. just a garden-variety “ick” or incompatibility.

I also see a LOT of tips for spotting, avoiding, and navigating “red flags” when I’m scrolling through popular dating advice posts on social media.

I can understand why — many of us come from dangerous or harmful past relationships — and we want to learn how to avoid these relationships in the future. When we’re retraining ourselves to recognise what a solid, secure adult partnership looks like, it's normal to want to grab onto the small things because we don’t want to put ourselves at risk for ignoring the bigger things.

That’s all normal and understandable. But I’m here to suggest something else.

What I’m going to suggest is that, for those of us who regularly try to protect ourselves in dating by anticipating “red flags,” we may want to consider that a preoccupation with spotting and avoiding red flags can be an indicator that we’re keeping people at arm’s length so that we don’t need to fully lean into the vulnerability that all new relationships — even the healthiest and the safest! — involve.

Here’s the deal.

Protecting ourselves against every tiny perceived slight in dating isn’t “powerful.”

It’s defensiveness.

And defensiveness is a brittle position. It keeps us stuck and prevents our growth.

(We can't dodge flying shrapnel when we're rigid.)

When we’re training ourselves to spot and to avoid “red flags,” what we’re actually doing is trying to keep ourselves safe.

The reality is that no one "red flag," in isolation, is ever going to tell us all that we need to know about a person to keep us safe.

To an extent, when we put our energy into being able to identify and spot red flags, we're putting our energy into a band-aid solution.

The truth is — dating ISN'T "safe." Dating is vulnerable. And, paradoxically — the way to make dating the MOST "safe" is to accept and to lean into that vulnerability — and to set boundaries accordingly.

What's REALLY going to keep us safe in dating is learning how to get in tune with and to trust OURSELVES to keep us safe — our intuitions, our boundaries, and our ability to say "no."

When we’re able to hold strong, firm boundaries, when we understand how to let people in little by little, and to trust them gradually, over time, and when we learn how to deeply lean into what truly feels good and what doesn't feel good for us — we’ll find that we don't need to trust other people quite as much anymore — because we trust OURSELVES.

In short — the only thing that’s really going to keep you “safe” in dating is YOU. Not nexting Ted from Tinder because he didn't open a car door for you or bypassing Henry from Hinge because he didn't text you to set up a date within 48 hours of you matching on the app.

And the way that you keep yourself safe is getting to really, deeply know yourself, and to trust that when you allow your inner knowing to guide you, you’ll be able to lead yourself safely through love.

Dating always points us towards our own growth and our self-discovery. Our agency lies in our willingness to be brave enough to slow down, to look inward, and to walk our path one step at a time.


PS. Of course, as much as I would like to, I can’t teach you everything in a blog post, (EVEN IF I REALLY wish I could!). 

This is a sliver of the deep inner work I do with my private coaching clients inside of my 1:1 coaching program.

The things we talked about in this article — dating pacing, boundaries, self-trust, and learning to tolerate uncertainty, even when it feels scary — are relationship SKILLS, and they can’t be learned by reading: they need to be learned by DOING, an through guidance with an experienced mentor.

If you’re ready to learn these relationship skills, and to take this work deeper and to learn the “how-to”:  I’d love to invite you to apply to work with me 1:1.

You can apply here.


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