The Difference Between a Warning Sign and a Red Flag

Making the distinction, setting boundaries, and knowing your limits.

Photo by Matt Artz via Unsplash

After many trials and many errors, I started seeing patterns. This is a huge clue to us that whatever hard work we are doing on ourselves is paying off.

What I’ve realized is that warning signs are real and we owe it to ourselves to let those register in our brains. We hold them there and work to figure out if the warning is an annoyance, pet peeve, prejudice or whether it will grow into a full-blown red flag.

Warning Sign: They’re messy.

I’m not a neat freak, but I like my house to look nice and be clean. I have a hard time with messy people. I think the time limit for how long a dish goes unwashed is 24 hours. Dating someone who lives with a pile of clothes permanently located on his bed is not a deal-breaker. It’s just annoying. Tossing a perfectly decent man or woman, who treats you kindly and with respect, back in the ocean because they hate to pair socks together seems harsh.

Red Flag: They’re incapable of adulting.

Being messy is one thing. Not understanding that we, as adults, have certain responsibilities, is another. If the disorganization is limited to the folding of laundry, okay. If the disorganization spills over into things like forgetting to pay bills, going 18 months without an oil change, or not going to see a doctor when you’re supposed to, there is a responsibility issue. There’s a lack of adulting happening and that’s going to continue to manifest itself all over your relationship.

You can always treat symptoms. Minus a disease, symptoms often go away. A disease can’t always be cured and you’re not a doctor. It’s not your job.

You can encourage someone to be neat. You can’t teach a grown adult to be an adult. That ship has left the harbor.

Warning Sign: They have drama

No one escapes life without having days that are fraught with a bunch of drama we don’t want to deal with but have to. Sometimes, we hit a rough patch. We lose our job. We have a panic attack. One of the kids has to move home. Someone gets sick. This is just life. Life is drama. When we’re in a relationship, we have to understand bad times will happen. They’re followed by good times. Wait for those.

Red Flag: They are drama

If you’re dating someone and the drama never stops. You may have a bigger issue. It’s like the old adage that if you meet one person who is a jerk throughout your day, they are a jerk. If everyone you meet is a jerk, you are the jerk. If the drama happens as a result of their actions and happens often, you will get sucked in. And yes, avoiding action to stave off a reaction will bring just as much drama. Hard pass on that, too.

Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, I won’t stop taking pictures of my drinks. vanessaltorre@gmail.com IG: vanessaltorre

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