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  • Nicole Sherwin

Why We Pick Red Flags. Everytime.

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Why do we choose the serial cheater responsible for three new strains of chlamydia over an educated, charity running engineer?

No red flags here. Source: 5why

*Content Warning

-This article may contain content that some readers will find triggering. Please call lifeline on 13 11 14 if you need assistance with your individual situation.-

Humans and bulls have something in common: we go wild for a red flag. But unlike bulls, we’re colour blind as fuck, because we do not see that flag. A potential mate could come on a date in a suit made outta red flags and we’d still just see a well-dressed thirst trap.

As many of you know, I’ve been in a rel longer than Prince Phillip has been a propped-up corpse, but I have friends who make some real bad choices, so I don’t feel completely removed from the topic. And really, I felt the podcast was missing some relationship bants.

Why are red flags so attractive?

"I love that suit, let's be together forever." Source: GQ

First up, let's think of the most recent Red Flagger we've all been watching on TV. Like, whyyyyy oh whyyyyyy would every girl in Bachelor in Paradise be attracted to a misogynistic cheat responsible for three new strains of chlamydia, when there was an educated, charity running, home-owning, engineer right in front of them?!

One answer could be what is known as the cheerleader effect. The ‘underlying dark traits’ that cause the red flags are generally accompanied by some very attractive friends that distract us. According to an aptly titled study ‘How Alluring Are Dark Personalities?' Jauk et al. studied the appeal of what they called the ‘dark triad’ of traits. Me, I’d call them the flagpoles, flying the three red flags to RUN from: narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy:

o Narcissism: self-admiration and grandiosity

o Machiavellianism: cynical thinking and detached effect and coldness

o Psychopathy: callousness, manipulativeness, and antisocial behaviour

Even just writing them out, I’ve got about 2323 fuck bois I can think of to easily assign to each of those descriptions.

We all start around at least 4 on the crazy scale, let's be real...Source: Reddit

The researchers found that machiavellianism brings grand gestures and interpersonal manipulation. Narcissism is generally linked in both men and women with extroverted tendencies and physical beauty, where psychopathy is also linked to the physically appealing (see, Ted Bundy). Of course, we know this is true - you all know the hot/crazy scale (above) is an official form of mathematical measurement. You can’t be hot without being equally crazy. I think the first two episodes of Bachie have really cemented this theory.

RED flag just got a whole new meaning...Source: Channel 10

Not only do the dark traits bring their hot friends to the party, but they’re also masters of disguise themselves. Basically, like The Witches in the Roald Dahl book. They look really good on the outside, then the masks come off and they’re scary af:

All hotties gotta have a bitta cray to round this out. It's basic science. Source: Apsari

For instance, like when you’re on a date and they send your parma back for not having sufficient cheese coverage on your behalf. At first, that might seem assertive, but later down the track, it could reveal itself to be controlling or aggressive, and suddenly you’re not allowed to see your friends any more.

This could help explain on Bachelor in Paradise why none of the girls could see that Ciarran only bought along a suitcase of red flags, because they were disguised as funny avocado budgie smugglers and Hawaiian shirts. It makes sense, like, a serial killer isn’t going to reveal his motives straight away, he needs to offer you those tasty, tasty lollies to get you in his white van first.

Your shirt isn't fooling anyone hun. Source: Channel 10

Look for the disguise, not the flag.

"A dozen red flags? Thanks, I love them!" Source: nrl.

I’ve consulted another PhD tittle to help you outwit, outsmart and outplay the red flags, by looking for the disguise at the start of the relationship, not the red flag. Dr Bockarova PhD teaches Psychology at the University of Toronto and she suggests you put your glasses on and look for the following:

1. They profess their love for you very early on

Abort. This isn’t The Titanic, you’re not going to fall in love with someone in three days. Dr Bockarova says not always, but that, “This sort of behaviour is quite common in controlling abusive or narcissistic relationships.” It might feel flattering at first, but the problem is that they actually don’t know you, so when they get to know you and aren’t so fond of your obsession with fantasy football or habit of keeping a very tidy house, you’re deviating from their perfect perception of you. Then the mask comes off and you could be met with aggression or coldness…or worse...

2. They overshare on the first date

A d&m on the first date, def a good sign. But if they start talking about the ex they walked in on banging their best friend, who now is so remorseful they sit outside their house all day and send presents and they accidentally hooked up, leave. Wait, what, they're still hanging out? RUN. The only drama you need in your life is other people’s.

3. They want to talk you and be with you all the time

Source: GiPHY

Nobody likes a fuckboi or girl who takes four days to send a message after the first date. I mean, okay we kind of do because we want what we can’t have, but a great ‘Would you rather?’ query is 'Would you rather four days, or the total opposite?' Theoretically, it’s super flattering if someone’s like, “I just can’t get enough of you, I want to profess my love from the top of the mountain.” And you're all, “Thanks, I know, I’m a total snack.” But in practice flaggers can be needy AF. They need to message you all day long, they need you to reply back immediately, and if you don’t reply, they’ll make you feel guilty about it, even if you turned your phone off because you were at your grandpa’s funeral. They need to spend every single night with you, which Dr Bockarova says can become toxic and unhealthy, because at this point you can become pressured or made to feel guilty when you want to spend time on interests or without people who aren’t the partner. Like, if they say you can’t go to the gym, or work past 6pm, or see your friends - baaaai!

4. They’re super protective of you

Firstly, I don’t need no man to take care of me. But also, again this one starts off nice in theory - “I love you so much, I can’t imagine not being with you.” But then it slides into the old, “I trust you, I just don’t trust other people.” Jealously is a normal response to a real threat in the relationship, but irrational jealousy can be a sign your partner is controlling, says Dr Bockarova. If you have to defend commenting on your friends IG pic with a kiss face, abort. If you have to change the password on your phone so they don’t check your messages, abort. If you have to defend your sexual history, abort. If you can’t wear the clothes you want to wear in public because they say other people might look at you sexually, abort.

5. They make sweeping, grandiose promises

If they say to you, “I can’t wait to buy a house with you on the beach, and take you around the world, and buy you a real Louis Vuitton wallet,” while still living in their parent’s home driving a 1994 Ford Fiesta, it’s unlikely this will eventuate. Dr Bockarova says here that “It’s best to pay attention to people’s actions and values before latching on to their words."

Even when we see all these signs, we like to pretend we don’t. We don’t want to admit we’re wrong, we don’t want to be alone, we make excuses for them, but when we follow our denial, it never turns out well for us.

The 'CBF even finding a disguise' red flags

"Even though I can clearly see this is a box of red flags, I'm still gonna date it for six months." Source: Unknown.

Of course, then there are just the red flags that are such pieces of shit they don’t even try to hide it! These ones you definitely see, sometimes you just need to be told, LOUDLY:

1. They don’t want to commit

They either want to be with you, or they don’t. ‘Casual’ is just an excuse to keep their Hinge account active.

2. They’re still seeing their ex

And I guarantee they are not ‘just friends.’

3. They don’t want to introduce you to their friends

Because they’re embarrassed about you and are using you for sex. They already have a girlfriend or boyfriend and child that their friends know about. This is also the reason you can’t put any pictures of you together on socials.

4. They don’t have time for you

They can pencil you in next Tuesday for a 15-minute coffee. NO thanks, they’re not into you and are just too much of a pansy to tell you.

5. They only ask to see you after they’ve been drinking

You are a booty call. That’s all.

6. They make you feel bad about yourself

Your partner should be your biggest fan, unless you're famous and even then, they should still be up there.

How to deal when you FINALLY see red.

That's better. Source: Unknown.

Counsellor Kira Lynne has these nifty tips to deal with the red flags, which are very easy to write down, but sometimes not as easy to action:

1. Acknowledge it

They blamed you for losing their job because that one time they took a day off to drive you home from the hospital after you had surgery, even though you know they also got caught stealing from work. That’s gaslighting, and a huge red flag.

2. Be honest about the size of the flag

Some flags are small enough to fly on a toothpick in your Cosmopolitan, like his Xbox obsession, but some flags you could see flying from the moon - like they delete phone numbers from your phone. Nexxtt.

3. Talk to someone

We’ve already established you’re probably going to need some help accepting the flags. So, as Kira says, talk to a friend or a professional*. Therapy is like wearing a mask. Everyone’s doing it and it’s beneficial to your health.

4. Listen

Well, as Kira says, it's good to listen and trust your intuition, but I feel like our intuition really gets a solid F when it comes to red flags, so LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU. Your friends are not blinded. Your therapist is definitely not blinded, so when they’re telling you to run, it’s probably because you absolutely should.

5. Address with the partner

If it’s solvable, like reducing the Xbox hours, have a chat.

Thirsty for more? Listen to a new ep of the Large Almond Latte Pod, every Tuesday.


*If you are experiencing some serious red flags or found this segment triggering, please give Lifeline a call on 13 11 14.


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