Why Codependents Ignore Red Flags In Relationships
By Sherry Gaba, LCSW.
First dates and the first few weeks and months of dating are an exercise in being our very best selves. We want to be seen as a great person, a good companion, and someone worthy of the other person’s attention.
For most people, putting their best foot forward is just about elevating how they show up and interact. It is not about a dramatic change in personality or a façade designed to cover up deeper problems and issues.
However, there are people who enter into dating relationships with this false persona of being loving, kind, considerate, and compassionate. Hiding their true narcissism or difficulty with relationships, addictions, compulsive lying, or their inability to commit to a partner is the way they develop the relationship and pull you in before revealing their true personality and nature.
Looking For What We Want To See:
For many people, first impressions create lasting impressions. When we like the person we meet, we have a positive image of who they are as a person. Our mind naturally holds on to that positive image and interprets their behavior in the best possible light based on that positive mental perspective.
Even when obvious issues start to pop up, it is not uncommon for codependents to deny there is a problem. Denial is a coping mechanism that offers self-protection. It is a way to avoid seeing the reality if it is painful and hurtful.
Individuals who have experienced trauma in their past, including in their family, childhood, and previous dating relationships, may use denial to help them ignore the bad behaviors of a partner.
This denial of the red flags is based on beliefs codependents have developed throughout life about relationships and people. People may minimize or ignore the red flags in a relationship if they have learned to be a “fixer” or someone who sees potential in everyone, regardless of how they are behaving at that time.
Codependents may also overlook the red flags and the coexisting inner voice telling them there is an issue if they are afraid of being alone. These individuals may settle for crumbs of attention rather than going with nothing at all. Their need to feel part of a relationship and to have that person in their life overrides their inner voice of reason. In addition, and when there is a history of trauma, listening to the inner voice and seeing the red flags brings up painful reminders of the past.
Tips to Get Better at Listening to Our Inner Voice:
There are strategies that are effective at listening to the inner voice, acknowledging and accepting red flags, and honestly seeing someone who is unworthy of time and attention.
- Be aware – Become aware of the inner voice and listen to the message. Evaluate the information based on the facts of the situation, not what you want to believe or why you hope the other person is doing something that is hurtful or unkind.
- Be mindful – Stay in the moment and focus on what is happening right now, not on what the person has done in the past or your vision of how they will be in the future.
- Consider all options – Take the time to consider more than just the best and the worst.
- Be curious about insights – If you notice the inner voice is accurate in recognizing patterns of behavior, be curious about the message being sent in other issues in the relationship.
- Journaling – Journaling your experiences and feelings and the messages of your inner voice is a way to look back at experiences with the gift of hindsight.
Your inner voice is there to protect you from seeing through rose-colored glasses when getting into a relationship with someone who is not the person you think. Listening to your inner voice helps you choose better partners rather than settling for crumbs of attention from an emotionally abusive person.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach. Join my community, Wake Up Recovery for healing after a codependent or toxic relationship: https://wakeuprecovery.com/. Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love.