4 Overlooked Relationship Red Flags

In my twenties, I started dating a man I really liked – although in retrospect, I’m not sure if I really liked him or I just liked that he really liked me. (Of course, that was the first ignored red flag.) As I got to know this young man – let’s call him Fred – I asked him about some of his past relationships. He told me a story about his previous girlfriend that went something to the tune of: she’d cheated on him but had felt so guilty that she tearfully confessed her misdeeds to him. Fred didn’t break up with her but expressed his extreme hurt, anger and mistrust throughout the rest of the relationship. His ongoing hurt and mistrust was genuine, but what he failed to tell his then-girlfriend is that he had also cheated on her.


Do You Choose Your Roles, or Does it Choose You?


Are you the superhero, caretaker, scapegoat, always agreeable/never upset? What is your role in your relationship? What was your role in your family of origin?

No matter how you define your family, and whether you mean to or not, you play a role in it. The same is true of relationships: we all play roles. Every person in the family or relationship contributes to the identity of the system. Here’s the confusing part: these roles make a family what it is, but not every role is obviously helpful. How can being the “troublemaker” or “black sheep” in the family be helpful?


How To Tell if Your Relationship Expectations are Realistic

We all long for a sense of love and acceptance. We want to know that our existence has meaning and value to another person. When we were young, we depended on our caregivers for this sense of being loved unconditionally and also learned from our caregivers how to process our feelings.

But, of course, many of us didn't get all of the things we needed to progress emotionally.  When there are vital things missing from the parenting we received, we tend to – sometimes without even knowing it – look to our romantic partners to make up for these losses. Or, on the other side of this need, sometimes we  attempt to make up for our own unmet needs by trying to be the “care taker” of our partner.

Relying on your romantic partner to make up for gaps in your parenting, or trying to emotionally provide for your partner’s deficient parenting is a mistake that marriage and family therapists agree is ultimately damaging and undermining to relationships.

Here are two of the traps I see most often.


Response to a Reader: Overcoming Your Past With Mom to Shape Current Relationship Decisions

After my previous two posts about how relationships with our dads or other early caregivers affect our current romantic relationships, many of you asked questions and shared your experiences. In particular, one email exchange offered a beautiful illustration of what I’ve been trying to capture in these posts. The reader who emailed agreed to let me rewrite and publish a condensed and edited version of our exchange.  (Some details have been changed to protect confidentiality.)


How a Dad Shapes His Daughter’s Romantic Relationships: Part 2


Once upon a time or maybe last week, I wrote a post titled, How a Dad Shapes His Daughter's Romantic Relationships. In response, many of you wrote to me with the same question: “How do we break the unwanted relationship patterns we imprinted early in our lives?” I decided the best way to answer this complex question would be in small pieces over the course of a couple posts. It’s not the perfect solution, but I hope it will start the conversation. In the next six billion posts I will attempt to cover the What, Why, How, and What Now aspects of breaking unwanted relational patterns.

So, let’s get this party started!


How a Dad Shapes His Daughter’s Romantic Relationships

I remember many years ago, sitting with my family in the lobby of a restaurant while we waited for a table.  Out of nowhere, a very little girl toddled around the corner and walked straight up to my six-foot-five, 325 lb.  dad and laughed and babbled at him. It was a scene straight from the movie Monsters Inc.

Within seconds, a young man equal in size and stature to my dad rounded the corner and in a very deep, kind voice said to the toddler, “Rachel, where did you go?” Rachel laughed and her dad picked her up high in the air, nodded an acknowledgment to my dad and walked out of the restaurant.

Body Image

How and Why You Unconsciously Play the Flirting Game

Are you a woman who has trouble keeping female friends? Maybe it's because you're letting your unconscious play the game of seduction.

It's time to be honest with yourself: have any of the following phrases ever come out of your mouth? “I can’t be friends with other women because they get too jealous and competitive,” or, “I know my friend had a crush on him, but he and I started platonic and now it accidentally turned into more – it's not my fault he didn’t like her,” or, “I can’t help it if guys are always asking for my number.”


Study: Sexual Identity and Consequences of Non-Identity Sexual Experiences

How do you label your sexuality? Do you consider yourself lesbian, heterosexual, gay, bisexual? A study published in the June issue of The Archives of Sexual Behavior shows that while most people pick one label to describe their sexual preference, they may still behave in ways contrary to this identity: "A man might identify as heterosexual but still experience some attraction to men; a woman might identify as lesbian yet enter into a romantic relationship with a man," write UCLA authors Mariana Preciado and Kerri Johnson.

What are the consequences of these experiments outside the dominant label? To find out, Preciado and Johnson sampled 283 participants they recruited through Facebook and through the UCLA psychology program, whom they pointed to a questionnaire at the site