When we go dating, we look for someone we can connect with. Perhaps someone we're attracted to, or that excites us. How often do we consider how they might make us feel further down the line?
After my second abusive relationship ended, I knew things had to change. I had become conditioned to expect abusive traits, and I knew I had to prevent a harmful hat trick.
I needed to upgrade my habits to make sure I avoided the abusive cycle I had been conditioned to expect from my past trauma.
One of the ways I did this was by seeking therapy. I had CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to re-train my mind to cope with the anxiety that PTSD was causing me, and to re-align my thinking about relationships.
I also did a lot of self healing. It involved crying, writing in endless notebooks, and yet more crying. I had just moved to Birmingham where I didn’t really know anyone. I spent time by myself while I adjusted, which was nurturing. I learned to be OK on my own - which was new!
Another way I healed was by testing the waters of the relationship game by going dating. I went on dates - lots of them!
Occasionally, I saw someone more than the once. But often one date was enough to discover I had (yet again) chosen the same ‘type’. I was choosing men with big characters and dominating charm, along with a dose of narcissism.
One date actually stopped driving at a green light to hold up traffic, stating he wouldn’t drive on until I kissed him. This sort of behaviour used to sweep me off my feet. But in that exact moment (when I got out and walked home) I realised I was getting stronger. For the first time, I was able to spot the warning signs before I got involved.
I found my voice through dating. I discovered who I wanted, and who I didn’t. I practiced checking in with myself after a date, to see how I was feeling. I began to seek the characteristics I valued in my friends.
I don't believe we should date fearfully. I believe we should be able to date freely, while keeping our wellbeing a priority!
Here are the 5 red flags you need to know about:
1. They’re intense from the start. Sometimes you will be able to tell if someone is a toxic from the way they first communicate with you. Is the person you’re dating double texting you if you don’t reply fast enough? Or are they ‘love bombing’ you, forcing too much too soon? Take this person out of that driving seat, and fast.
2. They’re ordering for you. It's common for someone with a narcissistic personality to take over a date, convincing you their preferences are superior. Don't be taken in - this is a clear sign that this person is favouring their own needs over yours, which is unacceptable.
3. They keep switching stories. Didn’t they say they lived in the city for 5 years, not 10? If someone cannot be honest from the outset then they’re not someone to invest in. We all say silly things and make errors when we are nervous, but blatant deception is a no go.
4. They tell you all their exes were ‘psychos’. The classic, right? All their exes were ‘crazy’ and none of the (often many) break ups were their fault. Perhaps they really have had a hard time. But bad mouthing their exes on a first date? No thanks.
5. Your gut is talking to you. We are issued with instincts designed to protect us from harm. Attraction often clouds our better judgement. If you feel unsure or uncomfortable during a date then this is a huge red flag. Nerves are normal. Feeling uncomfortable is not. Listen to your gut.
My dating ventures taught me valuable lessons in what - and who - I didn’t want in my life. It also taught my powerful lessons of self love and the boundaries I learned I had.
The process ultimately (eventually!) lead to meeting the love of my life. Richard has brought sunlight into my life in a way I never knew was possible. He has every quality of kindness and acceptance that I never knew I needed.
Never lose sight of what’s right for you. Go beyond any need to find ‘the one’ or pressure from others to do so.
Take your time to enjoy the journey, resting when you need to. You deserve the best life has to offer you, I promise.
Happy, healthy dating!
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