By: Avery Smith
One of the hardest things after surviving an abusive relationship is learning how to trust your intuition, and deciphering the difference between a red flag and a trauma response. Anytime you feel that gut reaction, it's important to recognize that your intuition is trying to tell you something, but when you're entering into new budding relationships, romantic or platonic, how do you know if what you're feeling is fear of opening up or if you're seeing a valid red flag? Let's talk about how to distinguish that difference, and how you can recognize red and green flags.
If you start to feel that pit in your stomach and begin to question an action, take a step back. Let’s figure out the cause of the knot in your stomach. This can be challenging to do in the moment. I suggest you remove yourself from the situation completely and find a safe space where you can do some digging to see where this sudden knot is coming from. Write about what you’re feeling and what you need, and again, dig deep. Name what you are feeling, and what happened that made you feel that way. Then, list the words and actions of the person you were talking with at the time of the incident.
I used to shake after getting into arguments, whether it was with a friend, boyfriend, parents, siblings. I FEARED that I lost friendships or that people hated me because I defended myself or because I had lost control. Fear. It took me a long time to understand that I was fearful. Going back to figuring out what caused that knot in your stomach, what emotions are you feeling? This can feel uncomfortable because those are uncomfortable emotions to have. Once you start to get in touch with these uncomfortable emotions, you will understand your intuition more. Then, you can analyze from a clear headspace if what you were experiencing was in fact a red flag.
Just as importantly, we must recognize when we see green flags in new relationships. This may be an unfamiliar experience for you if you have been in toxic relationships. So, what are green flags?
You both give the same amount of energy into the relationship, 50/50. Of course, you will have days when one of you needs 60/40, 70/30, sometimes even 95/5. The main focus here is at the end of the day, you both have each other’s back.
They support you no matter what. You may want to start a business, but are nervous whether it will do well or not; they’ll be right by your side. If you are deciding to cut your hair, but your partner likes your hair long, they should still support your decision on that. No matter what it is, your friend or partner should support you with what you want to do with your life.
They listen to you with open ears. If you had a bad day at work and you want to sit down and talk it out, they will sit there with you and support your needs. If you want to blow off steam and get something off your chest, but you don’t want the person to respond, start the conversation with, “I want to tell you something that happened, but I want you to listen and not give me feedback.” They should respect your boundaries and if they start to chime it, remind them that you understand they want to help, but you don’t want their feedback.
They are patient and trustworthy. If you are having a problem, but not wanting to talk about it right now, say that. One thing I learned in therapy is you could remain upset, or you can figure out a solution. But, sometimes you want to just sit in it, you aren’t ready to have the solution. That’s okay. The main idea here is you want to voice it, don’t keep it in. This will allow you and your relationship to build that trust. Start small, you don’t have to give up all your information. This will help you in building steps to fully trust this person.
They are always there for you, even if things get tough. I was in a relationship a few years back and I had a sudden loss in my family. It broke me and took a long time for me to feel okay again. My ex left me because he couldn’t handle me at my weakest. I am a strong believer in the quote by the beautiful Marilyn Monroe: "If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best." I have come to the realization that it was a tough time, but I am thankful because it made me stronger.
Red and Green flags aside, the most important thing in trusting your intuition again is to know your worth. You are amazing and know that every relationship will have its ups and downs, if it didn’t, it would be weird. Remember to voice your feelings and what you are needing at that time. Your friends and partner(s) should be some of your biggest support systems. This all takes practice, but remember, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."