As thinking humans, we tend to enjoy better outcomes when we make informed decisions. Although the heart and mind may be at odds with one another from time to time, it’s ideal when we bring both love and reason into relationships.
A new relationship is a time of discovery, and it’s helpful to consider it so, at least in part. Even the most experienced of us can get caught up in attraction and romance to the point that they forget to make sound assessments of the new person in their life. Why evaluate your new relationship carefully? Because, ultimately, you may want to be able to decide, “is this person right for me.”
It’s never wise to ignore any red flags. Someone with anger issues or a tendency toward violence may be downright dangerous. Someone who is married to their work, while admirable, may not be the type of person that’s ideal for you.
There are also red flags associated with addiction that a person should be aware of. While someone who is in successful recovery from addiction may be a good match, someone who isn’t managing this condition may not be. Before committing your heart, it’s important to assess any red flags that pop up in the early period of your relationship. You might uncover “deal breakers” or you might choose to proceed, but slowly. The following information can help you spot important red flags that should not be dismissed.
Spotting the Signs of Addiction
Many people try to put their “best face forward” when it comes to new relationships. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for them to attempt to hide aspects of their life that they fear others will find less than attractive. That isn’t to say people are dishonest, but they may not be forthright about their health, and, of course, everyone is entitled to their privacy. Even so, falling for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol could mean major life changes that may not be good for your health and that you may not feel prepared to face.
Some people are more comfortable about making direct requests for information. Others may choose to rely on their powers of observation to spot substance abuse. How you choose to identify and address red flags is up to you, but the key to a healthy relationship is not to ignore them. It can be all too easy to look the other way when red flags pop up in a new relationship, but do your own mental health and wellbeing a favor; don’t look the other way.
Relationships, Addiction, and Stigma
Substance addiction and mental health are not conditions we want to stigmatize. However, when someone is not managing their condition effectively or at all, it can be extremely destructive to those around them. Always remember that entering a relationship isn’t a one-way street. Based on the signs around you, you may wish to turn back because of how the relationship landscape begins to affect you. Choosing not to enter a romantic relationship may be a matter of your own wellbeing.
What Are the Signs or “Red Flags” to Watch Out for?
If you’re entering a new romantic relationship, you should be mindful about listening and observing carefully. Again, a red flag isn’t necessarily a deal breaker but it is something that demands consideration and, in some cases, further investigation before you can proceed further into the relationship. Here are some important red flags you don’t want to miss:
Asking You for Money
Someone with a substance addiction may seek out people likely to enable them. Giving someone addicted to drugs money is an enabling behavior. Of course, they may not tell you that the money is for cocaine or other drugs; they may tell you that it’s for a car repair or rent. If someone asks you for money in the beginning of a relationship, consider it a red flag.
Money isn’t the only thing a person might need from an enabler. If you date someone and they begin to display excessive neediness, you may consider it a red flag. If they need you to be available more than you’re comfortable with, need a place to stay, need your attention, or need something else from you, it’s important to reflect on the level of need they are displaying. Can you comfortably fulfill these needs? Do you want to? Are your needs being met? These are questions for your head and heart to consider together.
A person actively addicted to drugs or alcohol may exhibit inconsistent behaviors. Trying to read these behaviors and cope with them may feel akin to riding a roller coaster. When their inconsistent behavior appears to be consistent, consider it a red flag.
Family problems can occur for all sorts of reasons, but if your new love interest isn’t on speaking terms with their family, it’s important to find out why. Substance abuse can cause the type of rift that causes family members to cut one another off.
Everyone experiences good and bad moods. Even so, if you’re dating someone who exhibits mood swings and appears unable to manage them, it could indicate an untreated mental illness or substance abuse issues. A person who abuses drugs can exhibit mood swings. These highs and lows can be difficult for a partner to deal with. You may begin to feel as though you are on ‘pins and needles’ or walking on eggshells around them. This is a red flag.
A lie at the beginning of a relationship or any point in a relationship is a red flag. If you catch someone in a lie, proceed with caution. Whether they become angry or offer a heartfelt apology is irrelevant; remember the lie. It’s a red flag that you should not overlook.
Have you spotted your new love interest driving after they’ve had too much to drink? Do they binge drink? Do they take recreational drugs? Have they suggested having sex without protection? Do they behave impulsively? High-risk behaviors can be signs of both addiction and untreated mental health disorders.
People live all sorts of different ways. If you’re going to commit to a relationship, it’s important to gauge the other person’s lifestyle to determine if you’re a good match. A person with a drug addiction or untreated mental illness may not exhibit a healthy lifestyle. They may seem apathetic— uncaring about their appearance or hygiene. They may have rotting food in their refrigerator. They may miss work for minor reasons.
Someone who is verbally or physically abusive may or may not have an addiction or a mental illness. This is a red flag that should never be overlooked. An abusive person is unqualified to be in a relationship until they seek help for their behavior and enter treatment.
If you spot red flags, proceed slowly and with caution in the relationship. Your suspicions may or may not be confirmed. If you choose to end a relationship based on the red flags you uncover, you are entitled to make decisions that protect your own wellbeing.
If you choose to proceed, at least you can do so with your eyes wide open. You may feel inclined to help them, and they may certainly be worthy of the help. Just keep in mind that someone with an untreated addiction or mental illness needs to focus on getting well; they may find it difficult to prioritize a new relationship and treatment at the same time.
In these cases, proceeding slowly makes sense. You may be able to help them achieve stability, which is a much better foundation for beginning a romantic relationship. If you’re worried about red flags, talk to a counselor or therapist at FHE Health. Sometimes it can be helpful to obtain professional insight when it comes to making major life decisions.