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Friday, August 3, 2012

Are You Ignoring the Early Warning Signs in Your New Relationship?

It's very easy to ignore the early warning signs in a new relationship.  Often, in hindsight, people recognize that there were glaring warning signs early on of problems that they chose to ignore.  If you've never done this yourself, and most of us have at one point or another, you might wonder why anyone would choose to ignore these warning signs of problems to come.

Are You Ignoring the Early Warning Signs in Your New Relationship?

One common reason is that when you really like someone during the early stage of a relationship, you might have blinders on without even realizing it.  Other people, who are not involved in the relationship, might be able to see these early warning signs a lot faster.  They might be more objective than you, especially if you're really smitten with this new person.  Another reason is that it's easy to have romantic fantasies about someone you really like before you really know him or her very well.

You might not see the early warning signs in your new relationship because you're wearing blinders.
The following fictionalized vignette is an example of how easy it is to ignore the early warning signs of problems in a relationship:

Gina:
The first time that Gina went out with Ray, she thought she detected alcohol on his breath.  It was early afternoon and she wondered about this, but she dismissed these nagging thoughts, telling herself that he often entertained clients, and he might have met a client for brunch, including drinks, before he came to see her.  Rather than focus on her doubts, she chose to focus on having a good time with Ray.  She really liked him and she thought he might have all the qualities that she wanted in a man.  She was hoping that they would eventually be in a relationship.  She often had secret fantasies about how it might be to be in a committed relationship with him.  Maybe they'd get married.  She didn't want anything to get in the way of a serious relationship developing between them.

When she went out with him for a fifth date, he took a call from someone and placed a bet on a football game.  Gina noticed how happy and excited he became as he placed the bet.  It was like he was experiencing "a rush." After he got off the phone, he turned to her and said, somewhat sheepishly, "I hope you don't mind that I took that call from my bookie.  There's the potential to make big money on this bet."  Gina, who was a little naive about these things, had never known anyone who had a bookie. She wondered about this, but she quickly brushed it off.  Her feelings for Ray were getting deeper, and she didn't want to spoil the evening.

As they continued to see each other, Gina found herself thinking about Ray nearly all the time.  One day, when they went out to dinner, Gina noticed that Ray wasn't his usual dynamic, optimistic, charismatic self.  He seemed distracted and somewhat down in the dumps.  When she asked him about it, he told her that he lost a lot of money in a poker game.  Then, he seemed to shrug it off and brighten up, saying he would recoup his money in the next poker game.

A few days later, when he came to see her, Ray was noticeably drunk.  He was slurring his words and he was a little unsteady on his feet.  Realizing that Gina could see that he was drunk, he suggested that they stay at her apartment rather than go out.  He said he didn't want to risk getting pulled over by the police.  Gina was concerned at this point and asked Ray about his drinking.  Ray responded that he was   having "a cycle of bad luck," he lost more money at poker, and he had a few drinks to calm his nerves.  He assured her that he didn't have a drinking problem.  Gina wondered about this, but then she told herself that Ray had a very responsible and successful career.  If he was really an alcoholic, she thought to herself, he wouldn't be so successful.  She told herself that he was probably going through a rough patch and she shouldn't worry about it.

Then, several months later, a few days went by and Gina didn't hear from Ray.  This was unusual because he usually called her every day.  She tried to reach him, leaving messages on his voicemail, but he didn't call her back.  She began to worry and wonder if something happened to him.  Since she had the key to his apartment, she went over, rang the doorbell, and when he didn't answer, she let herself in.  What she saw shocked her.  She froze at the threshold.  The apartment, which was a beautiful, luxury apartment in a doorman building, was a wreck.  Whenever she had been there in the past, it was always so well maintained.  But on that day, there were liquor bottles strewn all over the floor and the whole place looked like it had been turned upside down.

When Gina recovered enough to walk into the bedroom, her mouth dropped open when she saw Ray in bed with two scantly dressed women, and all of them were snorting cocaine.  When he saw Gina standing there, he shouted at her to get out.  Gina had never seen Ray like this before.  She was so shocked by what she saw that she felt frozen on the spot for what seemed like a long time.  When Ray got out of bed and lunged at her, Gina ran out in tears.

For a few weeks after that, Gina refused to take Ray's calls.  She felt like a fool.  He left several messages apologizing for his behavior, he sent apologetic emails, and sent her flowers.  He was relentless in pursuing her.  She began to feel harassed by him.  Finally, she sent him an email and told him never to contact her again, and he never did.

Gina was very upset with Ray, but she was even more upset with herself.  She realized that, all along, there had been signs that Ray had an addictive personality, but she chose to ignore these early signs.  Now, in hindsight, she realized that she kept making excuses for his behavior.  As she talked about what happened to her best friend, she realized that she had done this several times before with other men.  At that point, she recognized that she had a propensity to ignore some obvious "red flags" with men she was interested in, and she no longer trusted her judgment.  At that point, she decided to start therapy to break this pattern.  She never wanted to go through anything like this again.

Learning from Experience
Hindsight is 20-20
As the saying goes, "Hindsight is always 20-20."  When we look back and reflect on it, it's so much easier to see our mistakes than when we're in the situation.  Rather than beating yourself up about it, it's much better to learn from these experiences and to stop making the same mistakes.


Learn From Prior Experiences in Relationships


Sometimes, people can learn to overcome these errors in judgment on our own.  For other people, who continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, it's often worthwhile to seek professional help from a licensed mental health practitioner.

Getting Help
If you continually find yourself ignoring the early warning signs in one relationship after the next, you owe it to yourself to get professional help.  When you learn to stop ignoring the signs that there are serious problems, it's possible for you to make better choices and enhance the quality of your life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist  

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Photo Credits: Photo Pin




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