How do they make you feel?  The Key Red Flag Question

23 Jul 2019

“What are the Red Flags you should be looking out for if you want to Narcissist-proof your life?” I was asked.  I settled happily into my chair.  This is, after all, one of my favorite questions since my whole mission is about educating women to safeguard them against repeating painful relationship mistakes.

“Intuition, intuition, INTUITION”, I began happily.  “The most important indication is that gut feeling when you meet someone and the message just pops into your brain, “Do not go there.” The person  I was talking to looked pained.

The Narcissist checklist

“But what about the characteristics of the Narcissist?” she asked.  “What about the standard Narcissist checklist of

  • Grandiosity
  • Fantasies around success and talent
  • Belief in their unique specialness
  • Requiring excessive admiration and attention
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Manipulative behaviour
  • Lack of empathy
  • Preoccupation with jealousy
  • Arrogance and
  • Demeaning and intimidating behaviors”?

What about those characteristics, indeed?  They are toxic and should undoubtedly ring LOUD warning bells.

Differences between Narcissists and abusers

Now, you could argue that there are differences between Narcissists and  abusers.  “Narcissist” is a buzz word right now. Narcissists, allegedly, have more glamour about them because of their perceived charisma. But, for me, the bottom line is that

1) Narcissists abuse their victims (aka “supply”) .

2) There is a significant overlap between the two categories, inasmuch as both groups shred their victims’ sense of self-worth.

3) We all know – to our cost – how difficult it is to walk away from a toxic person.  If calling them a Narcissist helps you to create the necessary line in the sand, then it is a useful label.  This is not about defaming a toxic loved one (which, incidentally, would be a huge and pointless challenge).  This is purely about finding something that will work for you.

The problem with the Narcissist checklist

The problem with the Narcissist checklist is the point at which it becomes relevant.  Abusers  rarely burst into your life proudly displaying their toxic ways.

Before that happens, one way or another, they will sweep a girl off her feet.  Mostly, these toxic people will present as Prince Charming – although some will opt for a Poor Wounded Soul routine, appealing to your overactive Empath to the Rescue reflex.  (No judgement implied. My Empath to the Rescue reflex naturally goes from 0 to 220 miles per hour in about 3 seconds.)

That being the case, the chances of you stepping back, early on, and running the Narcissist checklist successfully are not great. Then, once you to start to engage emotionally, the chances of you running the Narcissist checklist decline to zilch. It will, likely, take you a lot of pain before you wake up to what is actually going on.

So, as I see it, these things are not helpful as red flags. Much more important is to focus your attention back to yourself and register  what is going on for you.

Intuition, intuition, INTUITION

Intuition is the very first – and best – signal that something is amiss. Intuition will annoy the hell out of you because it may well give you the one piece of information that you were not looking for.  If someone looks the part, sounds the part and appears to be the best thing that has happened your way for a while, intuition can seem like the ultimate party-pooper.

“What do you mean, No?”  you may be tempted to scream at it.  “What is wrong with you? Won’t you even give the guy a fair chance? Are you trying to cheat me of what could be only hope of happiness?”

Intuition won’t deign to answer. Intuition doesn’t respond to emotional blackmail. Plus, it won’t enter into a negotiation with you any more than an ATM does.

Responsibility lies with you

Responsibility lies with you.  You are free to ignore your intuition, or attempt to prove it wrong.  Who knows?  You may even have a good run with a “wrong’un” for a short while. Until you are invested in the relationship.

But then there will be a high price to pay.

In an ideal world, anyone who has been through an abusive relationship would present a potential partner, on date #1, with a 10 page questionnaire together with a powerful  truth serum cocktail.

In the real world, for any number of good reasons, that is not going to happen.

Focus on your feelings

So you can’t rely on a prospective partner to safeguard your best interests and tell you the truth about their shadow side. That means that it is down to you to do the best job that you can with your own feelings.  You do that by carefully processing  them (of which more in a moment).  Nobody is suggesting that that is very much fun –anymore than housetraining a puppy is fun.  Still, some things just need to be done to protect your own quality of life.

The Red Flags worth considering

Once again, in an ideal world, your emotions would take a sabbatical until your rational brain had carefully sifted through all the available evidence. But in the real world, you likely have all sorts of crazy narratives going on in your own head based on the “This Could Be The One” theme.

What this means is that the only Red Flags worth considering are the ones that you stand a good chance of identifying.  Here are some key pointers that will stand you in good stead.

Red Flag #1 Do you feel comfortable with the pace the relationship is going at or do you feel that things are moving a tad fast for your liking?

Red Flag #2  Are you feeling pressured?

Red Flag #3 Do you feel that you are equally in charge of where and how fast the relationship is going? Or do things seem to be mostly on the other person’s terms?

Red Flag #4 Do you feel listened to? Or do you feel that the conversation is a tad more intimate  -even intrusive  – than you would like?

Red Flag #5 Do you feel this person is special? Or are you getting messages – from this person – about how special they are?

Red Flag #6 Do you feel comfortable saying “No” or saying, “That won’t work for me.  I would prefer to do this.”

Red Flag #7 re you getting the time and space you need for yourself to spend time with friends, family, and pursuing your own interests? Or is the relationship expanding to occupy every moment of your free time and every thought in your head.

Red Flag #8  Do you feel that expectations on you from this person to be, dress or act in any particular way?

Red Flag #9 Have you experienced the odd “off” remark or behaviour that troubled you?

10 ) Red Flag #10  Do you feel that you need to make some kind of trade because he has so much to offer that it “makes sense” to overlook something that you don’t particularly like?

Red Flag #11 Does his behaviour around other people trouble you at all? This covers a multitude of potential evils from rudeness to leering at other women?

Red Flag #12 Do you ever feel you need to explain to him the principles of good, considerate behaviour?

Red Flag #14 How does the way that he talks about other people make you feel?

Red Flag #14 Is he sucking you into a Two of Us Against the World scenario?

Red Flag #15  Is he reliable?  Does he text, ring, turn up when he says he will?

Red Flag #16  Have you caught him out in any lies?

These issues all make a first – albeit timid – appearance early on in a relationship.  Any one of them that you find troubling is a so-called red flag.

What do you do about Red Flags

The final important question is, what do you do about Red Flags?

The short answer is… a question – how much do you want to suffer?

Red flags are not things that you want to enter meticulously into a spreadsheet until you have a full set. As I see it, red flags are more like red traffic lights. While I have not attempted to substantiate this scientifically, I say with certainty that far more women routinely stop at red lights than stop at red flags.  Most of us stop at red lights because it is both illegal and dangerous to proceed.   We wait until the lights show us that it is safe to proceed.

Sadly, that is where the analogy breaks down.  Red lights generally change.  Red flags, on the other hand, are forever.  The danger that they point to will surely happen to you if you stick around.  Those red flags point to 100% certainty of toxic, destructive behavior up ahead.

If you don’t feel ready to identify and take appropriate action on spotting a Red Flag, or two,, then you are not currently safe to date. If you need help in building the self-belief that will make you relationship roadworthy, get in touch.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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