Today’s Love and Learn lesson: Pay attention to signs in a relationship, and figure out what they are telling you before it’s too late. It’s simple in theory but difficult in practice because love (or even deep intense crushes) is blind (or at least a little visually impaired!). When you’re in love you give the object of your affection the benefit of the doubt. You’re often able to see the charm and cuteness in ordinary things that might annoy you later in the relationship. This is the magic of the haze of love (or deep crush). Sometimes it’s only when you look at the situation with the 20/20 vision of hindsight that you see how things really are.
The ability to give a situation that has passed an objective look and come to conclusions you couldn’t reach while in the situation is 20/20 hindsight. It is not an excuse to trash someone because you’re unhappy with their decision to no longer date you, nor should you lie to yourself about how things were in your relationship to make yourself feel better. If you were dating a nice person but the problem is they no longer want to date you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you dated a bad person and you should have seen signs. If this nice person dumped you in a rude or disrespectful way, that’s another matter.
The other thing is usually the signs were there all the time, but they weren’t being perceived properly (or at all). For example, I’ve heard women whose husbands were cheating on them say they had a feeling it was happening but they didn’t want to believe it.
How to get 20/20 vision (and possibly save your relationship)
- Don’t ignore that ‘off’ feeling that you might have gotten before but dismissed as silly. It could be God speaking to you through your intuition or gut and you know how they say your gut is never wrong! Instead of dismissing it as silly, explore your intuition a bit and see where it takes you. If you’re like me and don’t think your intuition is very strong, then you need to cultivate it…for me I try to do that by praying more.
- Think of a few non-negotiable qualities that you want in a partner and see how the object of your affection measures up. Height (as much as it pains me to say it) is probably negotiable. For some however, a personal relationship with God or a positive or negative answer to the question “Do you want children?” is not negotiable. Because love-haze is thick, you may need to ask someone you trust to help: a good friend will call you out if you say something like “Well, he doesn’t want kids but maybe he’d change his mind if it was our kids.” Forgive the overly simplistic example but my point is you may need a second opinion with the ‘objective look’ exercise. If those few fundamentally important things to you can’t be found in this person, this may be a sign to move on or at least ask more questions.
- Get to know as much as possible the friends and family of the person you are dating. They can be a great source of information to you, not because you can interrogate them but because they’re usually the people your partner feels most comfortable around. If someone who is affectionate and warm with you is cold with friends or family, that could be a sign of what may happen between you. But don’t jump to conclusions: always keep situations in their proper context (maybe a heated debate is the cause of what you perceive as coldness, and things will be fine shortly). When in doubt, ask direct questions.
- Which leads to the most important element: communicate often and clearly in your relationship. Good communication should make it easier to recognize when things aren’t as they usually are, so that you can be prompted to ask questions sooner rather than later. Without regular communication, it’ll be hard to recognize something as being unusual or “off”.
When I first started talking to the guy, we shared our similar values about families with each other. When we met in person I saw how close he was to his family, how much his mother and siblings respected him, and how much his niece and nephew adored him. Eight months later, a huge family issue had divided his family. I encouraged reconciliation, but I didn’t really know the nitty gritty of the issues so my suggestion so maybe that’s why he told me he didn’t agree with my suggestion. As time went on it became clear that a reconciliation would not be coming any time soon. In fact things seemed to get worse.
But one of my non-negotiables is someone who is family-oriented, and although I knew he loved his family very much, his ability to almost completely cease contact with them for so long (over a year and counting) was worrisome to me, because despite epic fights in my family, avoiding contact for a long period of time is not how we deal with things. To be fair, families are different and I did not know how deep his family issue went, so I cannot say his decision was wrong. I did ask but I respect the fact that he couldn’t share everything.
When he and I dealt with the disappointing embassy response, I thought it would bring us closer together but instead he cut off contact with me. I couldn’t help but connect the two: he and I were not family, but we were working on building something here and I was worried about how he dealt with disappointment, and how easy it appeared for him to disengage for weeks, despite efforts to encourage communication between us. I shared my concerns with him and he listened, and although his reply wasn’t what I hoped for, at least I knew better what I could expect from him in similar situations in the future, and I could decide if I could handle it. Communication is key.
Signs do not always mean it’s over
Although I now see several signs that may have hinted that things would not last, this isn’t always the case. Seeing a sign does not always mean that things are doomed; sometimes a sign is a warning to address something before it becomes a bigger, more divisive issue. Sometimes you can work through an issue that presented itself as a sign and actually strengthen the relationship as a result. That was the case with other things in the relationship.
What signs have you ignored in a relationship and what were the repercussions of ignoring the sign?
Missed the other entries in the Love and Learn series? Catch them here: