Things are getting hot and heavy, and the room is steaming up. Your hand slides down your new friend’s chest until your finger hooks onto his/her Calvin’s. Only a few heavy moments pass until s/he’s on top of you… emphasis on naked.
And while s/he starts kiss his way from your neck to your pelvis, a question pokes into the back of your mind, evidently not faster than a penis: when was the last time you got tested?
And while one would hope the question is asked first thing, it’s so often shrugged away in the heat of the moment regardless of what we know to be safe — but when you don’t pause the sex party, you risk the lingering concern that haunts until to your next doctor’s visit.
No, no, this isn’t a post about STDs, although admittedly, it was initially meant to be a friendly nudge for you to get tested (there’s your nudge).
My gears shifted after I met with my hometown friend Manny at Wild Living Foods. Among the catch-up chit-chat, we dove into logic, a quirky love topic. Logic, often referring to stability and calculated risk, is present in nearly all of our actions. In math equations, we crunch numbers to fit a pattern — logic. With our bodies, we lay down when we’re exhausted to rest and re-energize — logic. But when we have the hots for Bobby, a Neverland inhabitant, we scrap logic and chase after him anyways.
So, here begs the question: could lack of logic be why we ignore red flags?
During the honeymoon phase, you learn addicting amounts about a lover and invest into a relationship with helpless hope and exhilaration. Your new S.O. has you smiling from morning to night and morning again and feeling slightly obsessed. Like honey, it’s sweet.
But occasionally, you feel a peculiar discomfort. Your gut warns you of your dislike toward their poor manners, lack of listening… and overall dick-ness. Your guiding emotion, which so often proves itself right, sends flares to encourage you to step back.
But uh-uh. Bobby’s hot, different, and like no one you’ve dated before. You validate the red flag, push past the warning signals, and mold yourself to accept their quirk. And their “quirk” may not even be negative either, but instead a quality you know won’t suit you in the long run. Bobby loves to drink Bacardi, and you stick to water. Bobby refuses to go on walks, and you just bought a FitBit. Bobby freaks out when his food touches, and you’re admittedly messy.
It happens to the best of us — I’m guilty. I once went out to EightyTwo with my new lover-of-the-time and, as a social gal, began to non-flirtatiously chop it up with a couple other fellas. That single conversation ruined of our entire night, which turned a DTLA foot-chase as I tried to convince him I wasn’t cheating. Jealously. Red flag, but I carried on.
Fast forward to the day I revealed a past lover to him (it made sense in that situation). That very truth, which was intended to grant him transparency, led to a night’s worth of raging insults and swells of regret repeated endlessly. Jealousy, a trait that does not work with my personality type, had again consumed him. I knew I couldn’t date a jealous person, yet there I was suffering the consequences I could have dodged. We called it quits after that fiasco, tried to stay friends, he got friend-jealous, and we nixed it entirely.
But we’re not crazy for diving in to such insanity! Although our brains seem absent, they’re actively working to release chemicals intended for us to enjoy the stages of love (if you want to read more, most of the info is from Splinter News).
Stage: Oooh, lemme get your number: As your crush for Hot Bobby develops, dopamine, a feel-good hormone and neurotransmitter, surges through your brain. This neurotransmitter sends you into a euphoric state and encourages “the chase”… yep, almost as if you were snorting cocaine. And that “Omg, he’s outside!”-panic before your first date is your noradrenalin. It keeps you on high alert and is the reason your hands clam up.
Stage: I just saw you, but I miss you: Once the addiction sets in, you’re at the whim of your limbic reward system. The rush of adrenaline and dopamine will have you dreaming of Bobby obsessively. Around this time, your friends may start to warn you of their dislike, and you may brush off their opinions. And this disregard for logic is due to your amygdala and judgement having fully dipped out by now.
“I love you, and I want to be with you.”: Winners! You made it through as unshakable companions and are building a life together. While dopamine isn’t surging through you as intensely as day one, you share beautiful, deep intimacy and attachment. Your limbic reward system is probably still kickin’ too.
So when you see those red flags and actively ignore them, it’s truly because your social judgment and critical assessment have completely shut down.
But all this isn’t to say you should let imperfections chase you away. Perfection doesn’t exist, and their imperfections might actually match you perfectly. Small risks are so worthwhile sometimes.
So then, when do we know when the quirk is worth overlooking?
Well, unless there’s immediate danger to your safety or sanity, we won’t ever know. But we can try a few techniques to help us embrace the outcome — good or bad:
Acknowledge It: When you notice a red flag, give it a nod — it’s caught your attention for a valid reason. You don’t need to act on it, but don’t ignore it.
Question It: Then ask yourself “will this red flag make me change? If so, for better or for worse?” Since molding your values to accept their traits may occur, it’s helpful to decide if you would be content with their influence on you. Bobby’s a hermit, and I’m a Bungalow regular — will this hurt my social life? Bobby travels to new countries once a month — will this encourage me to explore?
Run With It: Perhaps you choose to move forward with Bobby, but s… hits the fan. Rather than sitting in regret, remind yourself that you pursued him for a reason. You didn’t purposely trick yourself into a sticky situation — you did what you thought was right. That’s good.
Yeah, we all have our red flags. Just work with them, whatever that looks like. I hope you and Bobby figure it out, or I hope you build strength to walk away. But most importantly, I hope you trust yourself to know you’re making the right decision.