Why You Should Never Ignore Red Flags As A Woman

One of my favourite memoirs by a Nigerian woman is On Becoming by Toke Makinwa, a media personality and talk show host.

Toke Makinwa’s On Becoming explores issues like divorce, cheating, dating older men and the emotionally abusive nature of most Nigerian men.

Released in 2016, it is a memoir I occasionally reread when I need a reminder to be intentional about prioritising my peace when it comes to relationships. 

I also admire it for how raw, real and brave it was especially in a country like Nigeria that thrives on the culture of shame and silence.

In reading On Becoming, one gets the constant reminder that red flags are never ever to be ignored. Not just that, there is also the reminder that if red flags are ignored and you allow negative men into your space, it will be much harder to let go of them because you must have already formed a connection with them.

For one, in the memoir, the red flags about Toke Makinwa’s ex husband were there but she kept going back to him because she wanted to live out a fantasy and because she wanted to go back to the first few shows of romance he gave her when he was grooming her for himself. 

Reading On Becoming made me question why many women and this includes me, have ignored red flags from men even when we were well aware that it could blow up later.

If we don’t directly ignore the “little” red flags that blink in front of us, we silence the inner voice, intuition or gut feeling that tells us that something is going to go wrong with the man in question.

What interests me in this conversation about red flags is that most women tend to pay attention to the red flags in every single person except the people we share intimacy with.

To put it simply, when choosing new friends, no matter how lonely we get, women are less likely to go for a friend showing signs of toxicity. We will be careful and may eventually cut the person off.

But in matters of romance and the heart, the nonsense that women cannot take from our friends, work colleagues and heck even children, we take it from men. 

And why is that? Why do women ignore red flags, make excuses for and get with problematic men over and over again?

Speaking with Raks, she says that even if she struggles with ignoring red flags, to her, not ignoring them is a form of self protection.

In her words: “I mean it’s pretty obvious why you shouldn’t ignore them. It’s being proactive and protecting yourself. 

But yeah I am in the bad habit of overlooking red flags and it never turns out well. I think I have been conditioned to give men grace (starting from my dad) and give them room to make mistakes and do better. “Boys will be boys” and all that. And when I like someone, I like them. No matter how terrible they treat me, if I could find something to love and hold on to, I would. And it is hard after a series of bad relationships to believe that there are better people. So I, and I think a lot of women really, get into the habit of looking for the one you can manage and just taking it. In fact, a lot of older women also push this narrative.” 

She went on to say; ‘As for solutions, it has to be self-work. It is good to have people in your life to see these things and let you know that better exists and you can get it. But you need to first know that something is wrong. And you need to build the discipline to walk away from poor treatment as soon as you see it.

I think people give fewer excuses for friends because they believe platonic relationships abound and are replaceable, even if it is a very close long-term friend. But when it comes to love and romance, it’s seemingly less attainable and people are scared to be alone.  At least I know I am. I’m a work in progress and a guilty party to these things. But I’m learning and growing and trying to build a better system of relationships around myself.”

For Loretta*, she explained that ignoring red flags saw her stay with a negative man for nine years.

To quote her: ‘So long story short, we were best friends and we kept dating on and off. Usually I was the one ending it because he wasn’t pulling his weight. I was always doing the calling, texting, caring, gifting and all that. God, love blinded me like crazy and I just kept making excuses for him.  I would date other people and still be doing fwb with this guy hoping he’d come around and we’d have our fairytale love. 😂

2021 I lost my dad and called this guy because I needed a shoulder to cry on. He came around, ordered pizza knowing fully well I don’t eat pizza and then sat down to watch a football match.  Omo it was then I started to clock kpe it’s like this is his character fr.”

She went on to say: “The icing on the cake was when he told me he wants to marry me but he doesn’t know me well enough to spend the rest of his life with me. Like fam, what have we been doing for the past 9 years? 😂😂😂

He had the audacity to be asking me for inheritance money to fund his tech  dreams. Are you fucking mad? 😭😭😭 Anyways , the biggest red flag I ignored was he never ever acknowledged me as his girl. Not by actions or by words. Not even to his friends and family. Meanwhile I carried him on my head like National theatre. 😂”

Speaking with G, she recounted how it was the same red flags she didn’t pay attention to that made her leave him.

In her words: “I thought I had found a love but it appears I was wrong. Everything happened so fast that the things he did that alarmed me were things I just overlooked. For starters, I wasn’t even used to that kind of behaviour and I thought everyone needs a little kindness even though they didn’t treat me well enough.

He said and did things that were out of place and always weirded me out. For starters, he gave me an ultimatum to tell him how I felt about him and a series of unpleasantness which he termed humour. From being “mean” he suddenly liked me and was giving stipulations to get back to him on my feelings. I fell for it.

He also didn’t speak to me nicely in some instances. He said “you’re smart, figure it out” when I asked when he made a foul statement. He also said when I told him that I looked good regardless of a bad hair that it’s “parents and positive affirmations”. He said and did a host of other things which were red flags I painted white just for seeing the best in everyone.

There was a time also when he was being mean and unpleasant that I stopped texting and blocked him everywhere. After awhile, I unblocked him and he said that if the things he says doesn’t rub off on me nicely again and I leave abruptly, he won’t hesitate to delete everything concerning me from him and phone. He also used to give me silent treatment.

He asked me out and I didn’t agree initially because of everything. He tried and tried to persuade me and foolishly, I abandoned my stance and I decided to test the waters.”

She went on to say: “The things I ignored and more continued into our relationship. 

He also violated my trust and reared the whole conversation we had about consent, comfortable options and doing whatever in the future to the background of the first time we ever spent time together. When I brought it up, it was an issue of being too naive and that he didn’t suddenly want to get intimate with me as he found me sexually attractive. 

Sometimes it felt like subtle manipulation and lording over that I just couldn’t realize until recently. I too was dealing with a rough patch with a friend that suddenly stopped talking to me so I was maybe vulnerable and needed that company. 

There was a time he told me to recount my experience, to share them and the impression I had was that he wanted to know more in ways that I was suspecting so he can do likewise.

All the red flags I ignored in the beginning were the things that made me walk away in the end. I could tell he didn’t expect it also.

So, it’s basically better to trust your gut in situations like these no matter what you think your heart wants because sometimes, we have to train our minds to be stronger than our feelings.

The things that happened I regret them especially the part that had to do with him and deciding to touch me without my permission. To other ladies, it’s better to listen to your guts and save yourself the regret later.”

The truth is that more women need to learn to be comfortable being alone and being single.

Even more, more women must realise that ignoring the red flags and warning signs that our minds bring up is to insult our sense of intelligence.

*Name changed to protect identity

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