Surviving Divorce: Red Flags

Female hand emerging from crumpled paper pile holding a red flag

Red flags are something that can be taken serious, or ignored. When in a relationship, and they are ignored, it can lead down a path of heartache, abuse, depression, and much more. People tend to ignore red flags, because they are somewhat happy with the other things, or because they just don’t value themselves enough. I think for me, I was so young and naive, and trying to follow in my family’s footsteps – getting married young, having a house and children young – that when I did start to notice them, I thought it was too late.

How wrong I was. It is never too late. When those flags start flying, no matter how much time you’ve put into your relationship, you can get out. This is something near to my heart, as I really did ignore so many and have had a few really crushing years trying to pick up the pieces and move on. The choices I made, the ignoring I did, has caused trauma and a lot of healing steps to take.

I thought that maybe if you are reading this and have been ignoring your own red flags, maybe you won’t anymore. Maybe you will face them, and take the steps needed to live more authentically. Maybe reading this will save you from seventeen years with someone that controls, abuses, lies, cheats, and smothers your growth. Maybe reading this will give you the courage to walk away and start again. Maybe you will find comfort in knowing that you are not the only one out there suffering.

Although I have a very long list I could put out there, I will try to stick to some of the bigger ones, for the sake of keeping your interest. I apologize for the long post, but I feel it is important. If you can relate to any of these, I urge you to take a longer look at your life and where it is headed. I urge you to consider taking these red flags serious and finding the help that is out there for you to change your path. Maybe you will see yourself in some of my red flags.

I was young when I met my ex, just sixteen. Still a baby. Sometimes I wish someone had pulled me aside and warned me. But then I remember, that the path I walked with him was supposed to happen. It gave me my four beautiful children that have shown me purpose and meaning. So I walked the path I was supposed to walk with him, and when it became apparent that he did not want me to grow in any way, I knew our path ended, and it was time for me to go left, and him to go right. And in this new path, I have been able to look back and realize the red flags I ignored.

If the person you are dating openly tells you that they used their last girlfriend for “rides and blowjobs”….red flag. If you start ignoring your friends and spend all of your time with that person and they don’t encourage you to keep your friends and have a life outside of them….red flag. If he is jealous of you having guy friends…red flag. If he swerves to hit animals (like raccoons) on the road…red flag. When he comes from a ‘Christian’ family that sits around and gossips about everyone…red flag. If your sister has to bring you and your first born home from the hospital because he decides to go to work…red flag (especially if he is his own boss). When you are the one that does everything to keep the house running and kids taken care of, and he is always making sure to tell everyone that he is the breadwinner and you just ‘play’…RED FLAG. When he doesn’t allow you any access to the finances, and you have to ask to borrow grocery money…red flag. When  you have heart surgery, and he decides to go hunting for a week during this time…RED FLAG. (I had to phone him to let him know I made it out, then check out after 24 hours to go home and take care of four babies, while he finished his week of hunting). If money and having shiny things is one of the most important things to him…red flag. If you are offered no support or help from him or his family when something tragic happens (my mom died)…red flag. If his family treats you lower than dirt and excludes you and your children from all of the family functions because a princess in the family has decided she doesn’t like you, and he tells you to just turn the other cheek….red flag. If your other half does not stand up for you when you are treated poorly by family members, this is something you should not ignore. The abuse I suffered from his immediate family was devastating, but the relief I now feel from not having to be near any of them is tremendous.

If you go to marriage counseling for almost five years, he tells the therapist what she wants to hear yet changes nothing…red flag. If he sexually abuses you and his excuse is, you’re a sexual sleeper or you’re my wife so I can do what I want….RED FLAG. RED FLAG. RED FLAG. If every time you try to address your issues and his response is always, why can’t you just appreciate everything I give you…red flag. If he is drinking every night and his excuse is he has to because he’s not happy with you…red flag. If he spends many evenings at the neighbors house while you are home with the kids, and always comes home drunk at 3am…red flag. If he is caught with a female doing things a husband shouldn’t be doing, and then blames everything on her…RED FLAG. If he is abusive to you in any way…red flag.

If you feel empty, or suffocated and you start to wonder what you are doing with this person…red flag. If they try to blame everything on you and take no accountability for anything…red flag. If they make big purchases without talking to you because it is ‘their money’…red flag. If you have been with somebody for seventeen years and you can count on one hand how many evenings were spent cuddling on the couch talking and enjoying each other…red flag.

Now, there is another part to this. If you are dating someone that is divorced, there are red flags you should also take notice of. I know I am above cautious with this now, since I ignored so many before. Women, pay attention to how he treats his ex, because if he is telling everyone she is ‘crazy and stealing all of his money’, that’s a big RED FLAG. Remember, how he treats her is how he will one day treat you. When a man goes on about how horrible and crazy his ex was, look a little deeper. Especially if she was the one that filed for divorce, not him. If she was so crazy and nasty and just out for his money, then why didn’t he divorce her? Especially if he is the one that has the domestic charge against him and can’t come a certain distance from his ex.

If he tries to say he isn’t working so he can get out of child support payments…RED FLAG. A man that doesn’t want to take care of his children when he has the means to, is a deadbeat. If you are introduced to his children as the girlfriend by getting into his truck for the family trip…RED FLAG. If he doesn’t think about how this will affect his children, or frankly doesn’t care, you should be weary. And if you are the one telling the children that they really should tell their mom ‘you and your dad are dating because it isn’t a secret’…red flag. Children should not be the messenger in this case, their dad should be. If the guy you are dating kicks down his ex’s door because she told him to stop ransacking the house of it’s belongings before the divorce was settled…RED FLAG. If he then tries to say he was just angry and broke the door…RED FLAG. A man that has enough anger, that breaks down a door to get at a woman standing behind it, is a dangerous man. If the man you are dating won’t pay his part of his kids medical expenses…red flag. If the man you are dating won’t sign the papers so his kids can receive counselling to help them through the divorce…red flag. If you are dating a man in his late thirties that has kids and lives with his parents (when he can afford a place of his own) so his mom can take care of the kids, and you sleep over on his daughters floor, like a dog…RED FLAG. A man/family that lies to look like they uphold a Christian lifestyle is a red flag all on it’s own.

If he makes an instagram account under a name such as Yogaqueen87 to try and sneak onto his ex’s account…red flag. If he then changes it back to his name and starts following you even though he doesn’t actually use his account to post photos…red flag. If you delete guys that were your friends from your facebook and instagram account after he starts following you…red flag. If his children are afraid to stand up for themselves because of how he or grandma will treat them…red flag. If he drives a 20 hour drive without his children buckled because there are too many people in the vehicle for seatbelts…red flag.  If he takes his children’s birthday and Christmas money that is given to them and tells them he will decide what he’s going to spend it on…red flag.

Ignore these red flags, and you will be in my shoes, trying to decide to continue on this path or take a left. For the most part, people don’t change. They are who they are. They treat you the same as they treat others. If you are dating someone and things just don’t feel right, or those close to you are trying to get you to see the red flags, listen to your gut and to those around you. If you are dating a man that treats the mother of his children like dirt – that goes to church on sundays and bible study on mondays but tells her he will do whatever necessary to get out of support payments after he already lied so much about finances in the divorce – realize that one day he will treat you the same way.

I didn’t see a lot of red flags until I turned left. Even then I didn’t see them all. It wasn’t until my close friends started pointing things out, starting telling me they never understood what I saw in him, that I started to look deeper. It wasn’t until I started dating someone that was the exact opposite that I realized how much I ignored. And the worst part about it? I tried to find red flags because I was scared to make the same mistakes. But if being with someone that honks the horn at squirrels to get them off the road; that dotes on you with hand and head massages; that brings you your favorite treat from the little bakery by his work; that you can sit and talk with for hours and hours; that talks to your kids in funny accents to make them laugh; that worries about your kids emotional wellbeing and took a full year just being a friend and letting the kids get to know him first so they could slowly adjust; that takes an afternoon off work when you are sick to come and bring you soup, clean and vacuum your house and bring you groceries; that absolutely refuses to raise his voice to you and will not discuss things until emotions are level so nothing is said out of anger; who’s main goal in life is balance and happiness; that is proud that you are artistic and a photographer and constantly tells you how talented you are and brags about you to others….if these are red flags, then I guess I missed them again.

My point is, if you are ignoring these red flags because you think this is the best you can have, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Coming from someone that ignored the signs for so long because I thought there was no other option….well there is. Get out. Run. You are far better off without this person causing you pain and sorrow. It won’t be easy. It will be absolutely exhausting and draining. But keep going. Take a left. Find the path without the red flags, it will be worth it, I promise.

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