Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Relationship "Red Flags": Spot them before the Altar

The recent news about Shaq and Shaunie O’Neal got me to thinking about that hairy, discouraging number we call a divorce rate. The divorce rate continues to hover between 45-50% per capita according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with the average length of marriages between 5-7 years. With the rate being so high, it begs the question, were there any signs or “red flags”, as I like to call them, that could help couples avoid entering into marriage before they’re ready? Likewise, what are some ways you can begin to explore your relationship to determine if you’ve got some red flags looming in the background? Whether you’re single, in a relationship or in a marriage, try some of these tips to help you avoid being part of that dreaded 45-50%:

  • Gut check!: If my friends got a dollar for every time they heard me say “we need to rely on our emotional intelligence more” they’d be rich (and I’d be a willing dependent!). But it’s true people! If your “gut” is telling you something isn’t right, trust it and explore it further! Our emotional intelligence is a lot more informed than we give it credit for.

  • 20 Questions: Warning, this tip could easily drive your partner nuts if you handle it like the Spanish inquisition. So go easy on them. It’s important to ask questions on a variety of topics to get a sense of what areas you’re in agreement on and what topics you’re going to need to work through to get to agreement. Check out Dr. Robin Smith’s book “Lies at the Altar” pg. 159-183 for an exhaustive (and I do mean exhaustive) list of potential questions. Cosmo also featured a shorter list of good questions to ask in their July 2007 issue.

  • Communicate: If something comes up as a “red flag”, don’t be afraid to communicate that to your partner. You may find that it’s easily resolved. Avoiding conversation about a “red flag” only breeds more “red flags”. So take a deep breath and go for it.

  • Will the real you please stand up!: Be authentic in your relationship. It’s natural to want to put your best foot forward when starting a relationship or even when trying to maintain one. But be sure that the foot you put forward is indeed yours and not some manicured replica of someone else’s! Meaning, there shouldn’t be a gapping disconnect between your “best foot” and your “normal, slightly callused, could use a pumice stone” foot. Showcasing the real you can help avoid creating that doozy of a red flag called, dishonesty.