Generally speaking, most people recognise and accept that humanity is imperfect. We live in a world marred by sin which affects every facet of our lives; the way we perceive others, how we relate to others, our behaviour, our goals, our very lifestyle. The list is truly endless, but we are all here and have to live the best we can with our imperfect selves on an imperfect earth.
As an ex-victim of an emotionally abusive marriage and reflecting back on that relationship, I misunderstood the red flags and viewed them as flaws. When you think about it, many people are living with a partner whose flaws they recognise and accept but their relationships would never be labelled as abusive. They are just regular folks trying to get on with life with their best friend.
Red flags and flaws have never been interchangeable. They are not synonyms and should never be understood as such either.
What is a flaw? What is a red flag? How do we distinguish between the two? The Cambridge dictionary states:
‘A flaw in someone’s character is an undesirable quality that they have.’The Cambridge Dictionary
In his article ’10-character flaws that can derail good people’ Dr Brunner lists 10-character flaws; enviousness, defensiveness, aloofness, volatility, eccentricity, entitlement, unreliable character, people pleaser, unscrupulous and making destructive comments. I would never be-grudge Dr Brunner or his colleagues who compiled this list, but a number of these so-called flaws are actually toxic behaviours. I guess sometimes you just gotta go with the thoughts and musing of regular people!
Not everyone is a social butterfly, they clam up when they are around other people. They are good communicators within their sphere but wouldn’t know how to communicate with less familiar people. There are individuals who just don’t want to or know how to plan things even if it is important. Their so-called plans seem to always fall apart due to lack of foresight and planning in advance. Many don’t know how to handle money; they over spend on trivial things while bills etc remain unpaid. In some relationships, one may have mood swings (non-violent) which last the entire day. Not knowing how to deal with the emotions of others is another character flaw which can cause issues within a relationship. It can be frustrating to be with
someone who may not be very proactive when it comes to important things. Not being affectionate enough, being disorganised, being too laid back are all common character flaws. These are everyday things which any person would find annoying but in the scheme of things and because of unconditional love and the acceptance that neither you or your partner are perfect, these are undesirable qualities that can be lived with. They will irritate, agitate, displease, exasperate, peeve and vex you, but they will not in and of themselves necessarily harm you.
Toxic behaviours are hard to spot because (1) they come in many different (and often highly attractive packages), (2) the people who deploy them are very good at it and (3) we’re going in with an open heart – not a suspicious one.
There are many red flags to indicate a toxic relationship, and it’s probably easier to spot once you’ve been in one, but this is one time where not learning from a mistake is a much better option. There will be flashes of anger that they find hard to let go of or they get angry for the least offence. Their reaction somehow seems extreme when you evaluate the situation. The emotional display seems way out of proportion. The whole point of dating is to get to know each other. The exchange of
information and asking of questions as well as shared experiences are all part of the process. A toxic person seeks to dig deep, sometimes prematurely. It appears to all intents and purposes that the individual is merely showing an interest. However, their aim is to look for your vulnerabilities and I
can guarantee they will use it against you when the opportunity rises. They may have a general lack of respect for others. They may look down on certain people which will show in their mannerisms for example janitors, waitress or shop workers. A toxic individual may manipulate you into changing your plans or even expect you too just to accommodate them.
Toxic traits will purposefully put you ill at ease and will leave you with a gut feeling that something is wrong, you just can’t identify the issue. Over time you will feel worthless, undervalued and even broken. The negative outweighs anything and everything positive about the relationship . . .
assuming there is anything positive left at all. It will feel as if you do all the giving and they do all the taking. There is unbalance and a lack of empathy and compromise. In and of themselves, these traits will harm you. Know the difference between the normal character flaws which we all have and those destructive toxic traits.
Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious—
don’t get infected. Proverbs 22: 24 & 25 (The Message Bible)