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Dating Red Flags

Recently my friend Ava went on a date that quickly went sideways.

And not Sideways like the fun movie about wine tasting. Later, she couldn’t help but ask herself, “Where were the red flags? Or were they there and I just chose to ignore them?” But I don’t think it’s always that simple. In auto racing, they don’t just wave a red flag and then leave you on your own; there’s a black flag to wave you into the pit, there’s a red and yellow flag to warn you of an oil slick ahead, and there’s a light blue flag to signal that you’re about to be overtaken.

So maybe in dating the red flags are apparent, but without the green flags waving just as obviously to run in the other direction, it’s hard to know what to do. In other words, how do we know the difference between red flags and acceptable human imperfections?

Ava was sitting in Starbucks when this cute guy—I’ll call him Dick—approached her and asked her out. He was polite, well-spoken, and not pushy in the least. Flattered, she said yes, and he promised to call her that Thursday to arrange for a date on Friday. Though she wondered if he would, he did indeed call as promised, and plans were made for the following night.

She waited for him outside a movie theater.

She was in a busy part of town, and when he showed up twenty minutes late, he offered no apology and no explanation. And to top it off, he was dressed in casual jeans and sneakers, even though they were going to an upscale restaurant. Still, she gave him the benefit of the doubt.

In the restaurant she started to notice his distinct lack of conversation skills. He seemed secretive about offering any information about himself, and decidedly uninterested in hearing anything about her. The friendly waiter asked if they’d like to start with drinks, and Dick’s one-word answer—“juice”—made the waiter do a double-take. When asked to be more specific, Dick said, without looking at him, “It doesn’t matter. Just juice!”

By now Ava was feeling a familiar sensation on the back of her neck. For some it’s a prickle on the nape, for some it’s a clench in the stomach, for some it’s a recurring thought that flashes through the mind, but they are all signs of one thing: intuition. Something’s wrong here, she thought. I have to leave.

But society has done a damn fine job of talking us out of listening to our intuition.

Leave a date just as it’s getting started? God forbid we come across as crazy—or worse, rude. Ava doubted her intuition because the alternative was to feel like a cold-hearted bitch. So we wind up staying in situations that are annoying at best, and dangerous at worst.

She did end up leaving the date before they’d even ordered, and he reacted the way we all fear: “What? You’re leaving the date? Do you know how rejected you’re making me feel? This is because I’m Mexican, isn’t it? Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re doing this!” For the next twelve hours, Dick sent her harassing and hateful texts. She finally changed her phone number when he texted her, “You don’t know who you’re dealing with, you bitch.”

When she looked back over that first encounter in Starbucks, she tried to see the warning signs. Maybe they were there, maybe they weren’t, but the most important thing is that she followed her intuition, even at the risk of coming across as rude, crazy or a bitch.

As Gavin de Becker, personal security expert and author of The Gift of Fear, reminds us: “You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.”

And hell, I’d rather be bitchy and alive than polite and dead.

Read more posts by Selena Templeton, love and relationship expert. Selena blogs for JenningsWire.