Red flags have been coming up a lot lately. They started when a friend was cruelly ignored and then dumped by her boyfriend, after they had seemingly overcome their problems and spent the last year or so in a mature, healthy relationship. Well, as with most relationships that come to a close, once it's over the necropsy begins and the dead tissue within the 'healthy' exterior is revealed. My friend began rattling off the various problems he had, not the least of which was his emotional distance and controlling nature. My friend's sister was encouraging her to start dating almost immediately to cleanse her soul of the hurt and betrayal. Whereas I, in my infinite single-woman "wisdom," advised that she needed to take a break. And as she continued to list her ex's shortcomings and crimes against her, I said, "That's all well and good. He may be all those things and may have done all of those things, but what you need to find out is why YOU put up with it. He didn't fail you, you failed yourself." For once I must have said something somewhat intelligent because this little tidbit seemed to stop her in her tracks. So I took a chance on another one, "You need to work on recognizing the red flags. We all see them in the beginning, but most of us brush them aside to be with the person we think is right for us." She and I have now made a game out of recognizing the red flags. Guys are always throwing themselves at her, so we've been getting a lot of practice now that she's single. I'm still slow to see them for myself though. I'm the queen of crushes. I absolutely love them. Even when I know they have no chance of going anywhere, I enjoy the chase, the flirting, and the exhilaration of meeting someone new. Ah, but the red flags! They get in the way of a good crush. I guess that's why we're so quick to fly past them like skiers on a slalom course. So what are the red flags? For each of us I imagine they're different. (Although I think we should all agree on one universal red flag: how someone treats waitstaff is the truest indicator of their character). Outside of that, there are the basic red flags, depending on your wants and needs: employment, education, housing, MARITAL STATUS, children... Then there are the more personal ones. One of my biggest, which I learned far, far, far too late in my last long term relationship is whether someone finds me funny or not or understands my sense of humor. Don't get me? You're off the list. How do you treat your friends? How do you treat your family? What sort of choices do you make for yourself? Are you kind, compassionate? Are you HIGH MAINTENANCE? Are you the center of the universe? These all seem so elementary, but many of us forget. We get so wrapped up in a crush or in feeling great about a person most of the time, or a lot of the time, or enough of the time...that next thing we know, we've compromised ourselves and what we want. And unfortunately for many of us, we don't even realize it until it's over. Or even worse, many people never recognize it and just keep making excuses. So open your eyes, dear readers, and look for the red flags. I'm not suggesting we be rigid in our opinions of prospective mates or that we make snap assessments. Just be aware of your surroundings and don't be so quick to knock down those red flags. Take care of yourselves. Ultimately, you're all that you have.