It’s easy to ignore red flags when we’re falling for someone. But our heart pays the price.
When you’re really attracted to someone, you can talk yourself out of acting on your concerns. You may pursue someone who doesn’t want a relationship in the hope of changing them, or prioritize someone else’s needs over your own because of your feelings of admiration.
For today’s video, I’ve gathered some of my best advice over the years on spotting and acting on red flags . . . so you can move on faster and avoid the pain of heartbreak with someone who just isn’t ready.
If someone tells you, “I’m not sure I’m ready,” then you have to do some calculations. You have to say, “Okay, I like this person. They’re saying they’re not sure they’re ready. That’s an immediate giant red flag.”
It’s not them saying, “By the way, I’m not sure I know you well enough yet.” That’s fine. Let’s get to know each other better then.
But if they’re saying, “I’m not sure I’m ready for a relationship,” that is a giant red flag. They are telling you today, “In case you didn’t hear, I am going to hurt you.” They’re telling you to your face that you are going to get your heart broken.
So you have to make a decision with that: Do I want to continue to invest in someone who says they’re not sure they’re ready for a relationship? Do you really want to do that? Now, if you’re 25 and you’re thinking, “I’m just gonna have fun and we’ll see where this goes,” there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not judging that. But if you find yourself at a stage in your life where you know you are ready for something real, and you’re excited about that, and you’ve got someone in front of you who isn’t just assessing whether you’re right for them, but is assessing whether a relationship is even exciting to them, why get into that situation? Why bother? Why spend the time?
When someone says, “I’m in,” that’s a green light. When we find that the more energy we put into someone, the more we get back, that’s a green light. And too often, what I’ve seen over 15 years of doing this now in people’s love lives is that they persist on a red light.
These days, I’ve really started to see it more in terms of just flow: I’m like this river that’s just moving, right? I’m always just moving forward. And along the way, I sometimes hit a rock, and instead of “personalizing” the rock and what the rock thinks of the water, I instead just see it as a rock. I might actually just say, “Well, okay, this is representing a stop right now. I’m going to move around this.”
That distinction, although it’s a very, very simple one when you hear it, is one that a lot of us aren’t making emotionally. We’re not making it in our behaviors. We are exhausting ourselves trying to move on a red light.
In the process, we end up resenting the person. We end up resenting how much time we’re losing, how much energy was wasted, and how much pain was created. When someone says that they’re not ready for a relationship, that’s not just a red flag about that person; it’s a green light in another direction. It’s a signal that you should take your persistence, take your energy, take the drive, to find a love that is worthy of your investment and direct that in more productive ways to people who actually have potential.
Because the difference between different types of women who are successful or not successful in dating is not that one group avoids dating all of the wrong men, and the other one dates only bad men. Everyone dates the wrong men, right? Anyone is capable of going on a bad date.
The difference is the successful people cut them off early. The moment they see a red flag, they’re out of there. But that requires a significant level of internal confidence, because you’ve got to know your worth more than that.
I once heard a phrase, “Relationships often end the way they began,” meaning whatever ends a relationship, you could have seen in week one if you were paying attention, but you chose to ignore it.[Speaking to a woman in the audience] I think you’re a smart woman and I don’t believe for one second that those men became the devil six months into the relationship. I think you saw the stuff that was wrong early on and chose to ignore it.
So I don’t think your problem is with finding great men. The next time you meet a guy who is bad for you, you have to be strong enough to not start investing more in that guy just because it’s the devil you know, and it’s harder to go out and meet someone new. Does that make sense?
Sorry to interrupt the video, but if you’re watching this and your love life is a priority for you this year, and you want to meet your person, I have a free training called Dating With Results that is going to help you do that and you can watch it right now. All you need to do to sign up is go to datingwithresults.com. I’ll see you over there, and now let’s get back to the video.
There is a quite well-known Maya Angelou quote that struck me as being extraordinarily important when it comes to relationships. She was once speaking to Oprah and she said, “When people show you who they are, believe them. They know themselves much better than you do.”
And she was referring to those moments where people say, “I’m a selfish person. I’m not a kind person. I don’t think of other people a lot. I’m a mean person.”
When people say those things, and we shrug them off . . .
I’ve had that on first dates. I’ve had people go, “I’m just really mean. I can be so nasty.”
When someone tells us, “I’m a mean person, I’m selfish, I’m unkind, I don’t think of other people, I’m not looking for something . . .”
When we ignore that, it’s at our own peril, because they’re telling us something about themselves. And we have to assume they have no reason to lie to us right now.
So if someone says they’re jealous, they don’t surprise you by never being jealous, like, “You said you were jealous, but you’ve never done it.”
Right. They know themselves much better than you do.
So when people say things like that, what’s going on that we don’t heed their warning? Why don’t we take that at face value?
It’s this idea that our job, when we feel something intensely for somebody, is to just keep loving them. But you don’t just have one job in life. Loving someone or showing love—giving love in life—is only one of our jobs. The other job is to protect ourselves.
In a boxing ring, what does the ref say at the beginning of every fight? There’s the same line that gets said from every boxing referee in every fight that ever happens. He looks at both boxers and says, “Protect yourself all times.”
When at a certain point in a fight, a referee determines that one of the fighters is no longer capable of protecting themselves because they’re punch-drunk—they’re not putting their arms up anymore, they’re not guarding punches, they are just taking a beating that’s putting them in genuine peril, genuine danger, and could be causing serious long-term harm—the referee stops the fight. Protect yourself at all times. And when the fighter can no longer protect themselves, they stop the fight.
The problem in love is that there is no referee who comes along and stops the fight if you’re no longer protecting yourself. Your job is to be that referee. Your job is to be both the fighter and the referee in that fight, and if you get to a point where you can no longer protect yourself—if you get to a point where you realize, “I’m just taking a beating emotionally and spiritually . . . my soul is taking a beating in this relationship,” your job is to stop the fight and remove yourself from the ring.
If you want to know someone’s intentions, watch their actions, not their words, unless what they’re telling you is difficult for them to say. When we’re trying to make any kind of a “sale” in life, we want to say all of the things that are going to help us make that sale.
If, in the course of a sales presentation, someone tells you something undesirable or unwelcome—something that could cost them the sale—what they’re saying in that moment should be given particular attention.
In that case, we shouldn’t be blindly looking at their actions and what they invest in us. We should be paying attention to the small print. I think of it like a pharmaceutical ad where someone is trying to sell you on a pill that’s going to take away some pain or ailment that you have. And it shows you this bright meadow and happy people, and after all of that powerful, emotional good feeling, it reads you as quickly as possible the small print of how this drug is going to make you want to kill yourself.
I think of what someone’s selling you when they tell you they don’t want a relationship as being like that. It’s like a commercial for a relationship where someone is walking you through the scenes: Here’s us going to a movie. Here’s us in a park having a picnic. Here’s a moment where I confide in you with something vulnerable. And aren’t we connected in this moment?
Then after all of these relationship-esque scenes that make you feel so invested comes the small print when someone says: “Warning. This romance comes without a title. I will never call you ‘girlfriend.’ I’m just not ready for a relationship and not looking for anything serious right now.”
That’s the small print. Because when somebody is telling you, “I don’t want anything serious,” amidst doing all of the right things, or they’re telling you, “I don’t want a relationship,” even though they’re behaving as if you’re already in a relationship, what they’re saying requires effort to say. It may sabotage the very attention they are trying to get.
That means it was inconvenient for them to say, and if it was inconvenient for them to say, if it was something that could cost them the sale, then it’s something that should be given extra attention over and above their actions.
Last week, Jameson and I had a little dalliance with the Fifty Shades Darker trailer.
We spoofed it, and Christina commented: “I absolutely adore everything you do, Matthew Hussey, but let us women have our fantasies. What’s so wrong with that?”
Well, Christina, nothing, actually. But I think it’s worth addressing that there are two fantasies going on in this movie. One is the transgressive BDSM out-of-the-ordinary sexual acts that many of us don’t vocalize in our everyday life, or maybe even fantasies that we don’t talk about with our partner, which is equally sad I think.
The second fantasy is one that is potentially more harmful in real life and in the context of what we talk about every week, I think it’s worth indulging. And that fantasy is the fantasy of changing somebody.
This relationship that is depicted in Fifty Shades is one between a woman who wants something the guy is not prepared to give, and is going out of her way to invest her time and energy into changing him. Yes, she may be curious about the sexual acts that he’s offering. But her curiosity about transgressive sex is his obsession. It’s not her obsession, and the reason she indulges it to the extent that she does is that she wants more with him.
There is literally a moment in the first movie where Christian has talked about all of the things he won’t do: He won’t sleep in the same bed as her, he won’t go on dates with her, he won’t have a normal romantic relationship. And she justifiably says to him,
“Well, what do I get out of this?”
To which he replies, “You get me.”
It’s perhaps one of the most narcissistic responses someone can possibly give: saying on one hand, “I will meet none of your needs,” and on the other hand, “I want you to meet all of my needs and demands.”
I don’t want to seem like on the other side, I’m siding with all of the people who suggest that this kind of sex is wrong, because if two people go into that thinking, “This is horny, this is fun,” whatever. I don’t care about that.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that if she didn’t want to do any of that stuff with him, she would be the wrong person for him.
See, a great relationship is one where Christian Grey meets Anastasia and says, “Hey, I’m into lots of weird, kinky shit. Are you up for it?”
And she says, “Yeah, I am. By the way, I’m into romance and going to see movies and sleeping in the same bed and having an intimate emotional relationship. Are you okay with that?”
And he says, “Yeah, that sounds great,” and they have an amazing relationship where they meet each other’s needs. If either one of them can’t meet that criteria for each other, they’re probably the wrong person. And this isn’t me bashing Fifty Shades. It’s entertainment. What I’m concerned about is the real-life version of this that people play out—men and women alike.
They go into things compromising on their deepest needs and desires and standards just because they want the person in front of them.
So for Anastasia, this entire relationship is predicated on her fantasy that this man will change to become what she wants, which is just about the most dangerous bet anyone can make in a relationship. I call this bet the “one-day wager.” The one-day wager is trading in your time, energy, emotions, and intimacy in the hope that the person you’re giving it to will one day become what you want them to be.
I’m not saying that the one-day wager is wrong, but it is really, really, really risky. Everybody has a story of somebody they know who held out for someone to change—change a trait about themselves or make a bigger commitment, marry them, suddenly want kids, whatever it might be—who are now in despair, depression, really tumultuous places internally, because they feel like they gave so much time to somebody who never changed. And they realize that if they’d have paid attention to the warning signs along the way, they could have seen that for themselves.
Now this isn’t to say that people never change, because they do. I know that people change because I watch them change all the time as a result of the advice we give—as a result of the inspiration that people draw from our material. I see these changes day in, day out. But that’s somebody who is motivated internally to change. That’s somebody who’s made a decision that they want to change. There is a difference between having the motivation to change, and the person we’re with making a decision and having the motivation to change.
And I’m going to leave you with a line right now that is going to sum up that distinction: “Consider how hard it is to change yourself, and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” —Jacob M. Braude
That is a profoundly damning quote when it comes to hoping that the person we are in a relationship with will change just because we think it’s important that they change.
Now, it’s a different thing if someone we love recognizes that we really want them to change, and as a result of their love for us, decides fundamentally that it is paramount to them that they change.
But until it becomes paramount to them and not just paramount to you, that change will only be momentary. It will not last if it comes at all. Now, if you’re with someone right now, and you want to make that bet—you want to make the one-day wager—my promise to you is that you will never ever have any judgment from me. When it comes to my own life, it is just as hard for me to make those difficult decisions as it is for you. So please never think that I’m coming from a righteous place. I’ll never judge you for it.
But if you decide, maybe as a result of watching this video, that the risk is too high and that you need to take the other path, then I would like to encourage you down that other path so you can start making progress to a world of more choice—where you realize that that bet—that wager—is not the only game in town. It is not your only option.
There are many other options—wonderful options, better options—down this path, where the stakes will be so much lower, and the payoff so much higher.
Dating is hard, isn’t it? It’s confusing. It can be stressful, it can be exhausting. It can be fruitless and lead to burnout.
Well, I want to fix those things for you, because finding love is a beautiful thing, and it’s a deeply human need we have that is not going away regardless of how frustrated we get with the dating process.
So if you want to escape the horrible dramas of modern-day dating and actually just find the love you’re looking for, I have a free training called Dating With Results, where you can just give me one hour of your time. It’s completely free.
I will show you the roadmap for finding love in your life today. You can find it right now for free at datingwithresults.com. I’ll see you over there.