To say my view on marriage has changed over the years seems like an understatement. I used to believe marriage was a non-negotiable requirement for any intimate act — even a peck on the lips. I also used to believe marriage was only legit between a man and a woman.
I’m happy to say this ex-homophobic prude (in theory only) has thrown all that out the window and embraced a more…relaxed view on the fanfare of marriage: marry, don’t marry, it doesn’t matter. This is coming from someone married to a perfect gentleman for the past six years. What does matter is cultivating the constant presence of other-centered love.
One opinion or advice I stand by despite my shifting views on romantic relationships is when choosing a life partner (marriage or no marriage), especially a life partner to rear children with, never ignore red flags.
Love isn’t blind. Love is actually an X-Ray machine that can penetrate through layers of a person to expose what they’re really about. Red flags spring up through actions or speech to reveal unaddressed, toxic character traits. They serve as a warning to either stop and turn the other way or at least proceed with caution. Although the internet and magazines from GQ to Psychology Today are riddled with comprehensive lists of what red flags look like, I think it’s as simple as…you know when you know. Ignoring them is denial.
In a world of dysfunctional humans sometimes oblivious to our priceless worth, I’d venture to say a majority of us have ignored red flags for the sake of acceptance in a relationship. I’m talking about the type of ignoring where we don’t even proceed with caution but dive headfirst into the shallow waters. I’m guilty as charged.
Here’s where I would say, “as long as ignoring red flags is not patterned behavior and you eventually learn from your mistake.” However, I can’t quite do that. See, it dawned on me recently that that gentleman I referred to earlier, the one I said I’m married to as my life partner — he displayed some red flags that I…ignored.
There was the time he flirted with me while he had a girlfriend.
For this one, I’ll split the red flag 50/50 between him and I. We met as freshmen in college. He had a girlfriend that was a senior in high school. We let the friendship play on even as it got dangerously close to something more. Although he didn’t make a move to act on his attraction until a few hours after calling it off with his girlfriend, he still cheated and I still home-wrecked.
There was the time he flipped a chessboard.
My little cousins taught me how to play chess. They were in fifth and second grade at the time. I wouldn’t call my self a master or anything but I really enjoyed playing…and beating my boyfriend at it repeatedly.
His male ego, however, had a big problem with that so he made the move to end my winning streak: he went to the library. This dude (forgive me for the New York in me coming out) deadass skipped the internet and Google and went to the library to borrow a book on Chess — just so he could beat me.
Turns out a library book couldn’t beat me. The day he decides to put his newfound skills to the test, I have him in checkmate within ten minutes. Next thing I know, pawns are flying in the air and he’s storming off in a show of fragile masculinity.
There was the time he told me he loved me then called me a bitch.
At this point, we were about two years into the relationship. I didn’t register the fact that I was in what some would consider a “serious relationship.” I was apparently in the kind of relationship where “I love yous” are typically exchanged but I didn’t understand what this “love” business was about.
The day my boyfriend says “I love you,” I’m on duty in the Resident Assistants office filling out paperwork and rambling about some nonsense. I heard the words but carried on with my rambling, attempting to remain unphased. “You bitch,” I hear him say while throwing himself back on the couch in a show of toxic masculinity.
There was the time he cheated on me.
It turns out the other bitch, Karma, was lurking around the corner because the circumstances that brought us together foreshadowed this. At this point, we were four years into the relationship with an emotional breakup included in there. I choose him as my life partner. I was all the way committed. There were talks of marriage and only one semester of school keeping us from planning our life of holy matrimony.
That semester also added about 1,200 miles of distance between us as he studied abroad in Italy. Love letters filled with sweet nothings and lip gloss prints and cologne sprays were exchanged. No inkling of betrayal.
Then he tells me he kissed a girl while drunk. Okay, that stung. I don’t remember exactly how I processed the news but I forgave him and we moved on. The semester ends and we also moved on to a new phase of our lives as adults. Little did I know he was scheming in the background planning a proposal. However, that was put on hold because a painful truth needed to be revealed.
A letter in the mail from him would reveal that he also had sex with the same woman he kissed. I was just hoping for sweet nothings. It stung. But this time, the pain paralyzed me.
Now that I sufficiently aired his dirty laundry, threw him under the bus, and drug him in the dirt, I feel like a complete hypocrite. I ignored red flags, dove into a relationship where I ended up marrying a cheating jerk.
Except he’s not.
My husband — the same boyfriend from a few paragraphs ago — is a perfect human being in my eyes. I strive to be like him every day. He is kind, gentle, compassionate, caring, respectful, supportive, and faithful. Behind all those red flags, that is what he was all along.
Now I’m struggling with how to reconcile the sage advice with my personal experience. Maybe I just lucked out or maybe I should be waiting for the other shoe to drop. The one thing I know for certain is that God was, and still is the game-changer in all of this. If it wasn’t for his creative finesse in making all things, even red flags, work for our good, my story would be very different.
Red flags taught us love.
That day my husband called me a bitch because I didn’t verbally reciprocate his love profession, I honestly didn’t know what love was. Apparently neither did he because love is patient and kind. Love is not rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable. That was courtesy of 1 Corinthians 13:4–5 NLT.
Love addressed those toxic views on masculinity that my husband held by affirming his identity as God’s beloved.
Red flags taught us wisdom.
For instance, we decided it was wise to stay clear of chess games. But on a more serious note, God taught us the wisdom in preparing for committing to life-partnership. That ironically includes being aware of red flags. Also, we learned to seek wisdom from others that have done it before us.
The conclusion I’ve come to is I can never judge anyone for dismissing the advice on red flags. I won’t dare underestimate that incredibly intense tie between two souls. It’s rarely as simple as “just break up already!” Those toxic relationships I see where its red flags galore and the two can’t stay broken up for the life them, I can’t judge that. That woman or man that thinks maybe they can change those character flaws in due time, I can’t judge that either.
All I’ll aim to do is be understanding and hope they both come to a revelation of their priceless worth.