The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
By Elisabet Ramirez Bello and José González Drescher
The color red has a variety of meanings, only limited by an individual and how they choose to define it. Some associate red with passion, an intensity so powerful that its everyday manifestations could never go unnoticed. In the words of a certain Miss Taylor Swift, in her song Red, she proclaims that “loving him was red,” this color represents desire and love. But you aren’t supposed to drive past a red light, and if you do, you either get away with murder or face the consequences. The stop signs are there for a reason. When something cuts deep, you bleed red. If anger gets the best of you, it’s as if you see red as you express yourself, succumbing to the flames. This doesn’t stop us from paying attention to red. Even with a thousand warnings, we are attracted to it. So, it would be unfair to think that we all have the strength to resist people that are a walking red flag… or do we? We focus on the passion, the love, the desire and forget that there is a high chance that everything will crash down into toxicity.
All that being said, what do we do when we see a red flag? Is it indeed a sign for us to stop, or do we become color blind and see them as if they were green? No matter how we choose to see it, one red flag could be dismissed, a few can be a sign to be cautious, and too many… well, let’s say that’s just bound to end in heartbreak.
The red flag movement has been all over social media for a while now. Although they have always existed, just with a different name, the new signs or red flag trend has made some of us more in touch with our own toxic traits and with the ones that are non-negotiable to handle while talking to or dating someone. Of course, like any social media trend, there is a joke to be made of how serious or basic some red flags may be. However, just like everything in life, and as mentioned in our introduction, red flags could have a variety of meanings, only limited by personal interpretation. What might be off-putting to an individual, could be something that another person actively desires. That is why red flags will always be fresh, different and confusing.
Before you ask, there is no way we can define every red flag that exists. The definition of what works and what doesn’t in a person that you are pursuing, is solely up to you. Through getting to know ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses, we gain a better understanding of the people that we attract. We also learn about what we want and what we are willing to handle in others. Experiences teach us lessons that we could have never anticipated in our heads. It is our best guide to understand not only what we need, but also what is cost-effective when meeting someone.
Every time you decide to interact with someone new, you will encounter red flags. Every exchange you experience will make you flag any behavior of a past person. Even more so, this new person might not present any of your previously marked red flags, but rather, add new ones to the mix. This last point could be dangerous because this is where we start to think that everything will be perfect. The fact that they don’t present your set out red flags does not mean they won’t eventually create new ones you didn’t see coming.
Maybe our own red flags give us a warped sense of other people and their intentions. Nobody is safe from harboring toxic inclinations. The same energy we give towards calling out others should also be used for personal introspection. This doesn’t mean that we are villainsーthis is just a personal reminder of the fact that we are human and a work in progress. The key is to not allow ourselves to practice the same misconducts that we condemn others for.
The longer we interact with a person that triggers so many warning bells in our mind, the harder it becomes to leave the situation. The red flags slowly tie a pretty bow over our hearts, keeping us as participants in our own emotional demise. Do we stay with them because we think we can change them or because they think that we are willing to put up with them? We tend to ignore the early signs; we might try to paint them as an over-exaggeration. However, it is time to normalize leaving whenever we feel uncomfortable with any early behavior. Just as it is harder to leave with time, it is just as hard to try to fix a problem that could’ve been solved in the early talking stages. We blame our past and our insecurities, wanting to give this person the benefit of the doubt even when our energy is being drained. The reality is that we, indeed, carry a big red flag of ignoring or allowing ourselves to continue to pursue something despite knowing what could go wrong in this scenario.
If it were happening to a friend, our first instinct would be to protect their feelings and reassure them that they deserve better. So, why do we act as heroes for others when we struggle to save ourselves? How are we able to recognize red flags in other relationships, but not our own? Is this because we feel that we deserve to suffer? Isn’t our baggage and what we are willing to handle or not clear red flags? More importantly, how do we essentially stop?
When it comes to how much we can handle, can it be a red flag to try to save a relationship that flatlined a long time ago? How much we are willing to cover up for someone, when we know that we are obviously not compatible with them, harms us, even if we don’t accept it. Sometimes this does not even have to be in terms of relationships. Allowing friendships, family members, or any type of social dynamic to carry on with clear toxic patterns makes us just as much of a danger to ourselves as these individuals. Do we really see potential or do we simply want to prove the warning signs wrong? It’s on occasions like this where we need to set aside any sort of savior complex and think of the possibility that the kindest thing you could do is close this chapter of your life. Goodbyes are rough, but they don’t imply that you gave up; they simply symbolize a new beginning.
Meanwhile, it is possible to understand that we might hold on to someone with numerous red flags because, while size could be an issue, they don’t necessarily define the person. However, the red flags do define how your interaction with said person will be. If this person takes too long to answer messages and that is a red flag you don’t like, no matter how perfect this person could be, the dynamic just won’t work. It is also important to point out that people could create red flags while developing a relationship. Sometimes, words, actions or even reactions could trigger a set of red flags that did not necessarily come with the person. This new set of red flags could be triggered from a past love, making us feel like this person will be exactly like the last one .
However, there’s still hope. Red flags could quickly become green if there is an open conversation about them. Some or even most rise because of stuff we see, hear or feel, but are not necessarily true or correct to the relationship we are engaging in. Therefore, recognizing past traumatic experiences and being willingly verbal about things will allow for a healthy relationship to build. If after talking, they don’t change, that is indeed a red flag, so you must pack your bags and move on. Some red flags are manageable and fixable, but some are non-negotiable. The warning signs we set out for ourselves exist for a reason, and that is to ensure that we don’t fall into a situation we don’t want. People will go as far as you allow them to. When it comes to red flags and their baggage, speeding past a red light will always be the best option. We promise not to snitch.