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Ashley Kelsch On Turning Red Flags Into Red Roses

Austin dating coach talks about approaching negative experiences with clarity and acceptance

Ashley Kelsch is Austin’s top certified, professional dating and relationship coach and former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, the lingerie boutique on 2nd Street that she ran for a decade. She offers one-on-one life-coaching programs to help clients acknowledge and understand limiting beliefs, to set boundaries and to learn how to change mindsets so they can get what they want in their romantic lives and feel empowered. Ashley helps men and women of all ages, single and married. She has a weekly podcast called Modern Renegadesand you can follow her on Instagram @AshleyMKelschRead more of her Tribeza columns here.

I was scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago and saw this meme. It was an illustration of a woman with her hands out and a man on his knee holding a bouquet of red flags with the title “A Dozen Red Flags?! I Love Them!”

There’s an endless amount of memes with a similar sentiment, like, “He Has Over 5 Red Flags, But I’m A Six Flags Season Pass Holder — Weeee!” that could provide me with endless entertainment. This sort of self-deprecation, for most of us, is necessary: if we can’t laugh at what we often see ourselves doing, we might cry ourselves to sleep every night or never date again.

The term ‘red flag’ comes up in a conversation with my clients on a weekly basis.

“I should have seen this from the beginning…I knew this was a red flag.”

“I’ve met someone new and am noticing a few things…some red flags.”

“We went out and this happened…do you think it’s a red flag?”

The thing is, your brain is designed to look for red flags. Literally. It’s designed to protect you, so it judges everything in front of it as good or bad. And when it comes to an unknown, somewhat vulnerable space, you can bet it’s going to be at fever pitch in protection mode. What your brain doesn’t understand is that you’re dating and getting to know people, not actually leaving a cave to find food for survival. But in modern times, your brain treats dating as a life-or-death situation.

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He didn’t text back within an hour. I’m pretty sure he’s talking to other people. What should I do? She told me last night he doesn’t want to rush into anything. Is she going to waste my time? Should I keep talking to her? They left flirty comments on someone else’s Instagram but didn’t even follow me back. That’s weird. I’m going to stop engaging with them.

In an effort to protect ourselves and stay safe, we analyze every move being made by the other person and look for potential ways they might hurt us in the future. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be mindful of someone else’s behavior but I will say this; if you are practicing healthy boundaries and honor yourself while dating, it’s possible that we could interpret these red flags as roses.

The truth is, there is no way of actually knowing if something is a red flag or not for you until you know.

The truth is, there is no way of actually knowing if something is a red flag or not for you until you know. You can do an endless amount of investigative work, analyzing and quite literally losing yourself for hours but you won’t know until you know. And isn’t that what dating is? Getting to know someone. Which takes time, listening and learning. Not searching, stalking and scrutinizing.

But here’s the thing…

When we spend our time focused on the other person and watching their every move, we abandon ourselves and lose sight of how we feel, what we think and what we want. We aren’t paying attention to our own experience, thus letting our every move and decision bank on theirs.

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What if, instead of looking for red flags, we approach dating with clarity and acceptance and turn that information into roses to us, from us. Meaning, look at what’s happening factually and separate that from what we think is happening. Then we should ask ourselves, “how does that make me feel?” and accept that emotion. You with me?

For example, when someone doesn’t follow through with plans you might find yourself looking for ways that they’ve already shown you that this is how they behave, or will behave in the future.

If they will flake on me now, what will they do later? Remember when they said they would call me right back and I didn’t hear from them until later that night?

The brain immediately goes to work gathering evidence to prove you right, and the emotions you are experiencing are guarded, protective, anxious and so on.

Those are your thoughts, but the truth is, you don’t know why they haven’t followed through. It could be one of many reasons–reasons you won’t know until they tell you.

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But if we distill this down, stop looking for red flags and keep our minds clear in what we do know (clarity), we can accept that it hurts when someone doesn’t follow through with plans. That we feel rejected. Disappointed. Let down.

And we can honor those feelings. Later we can communicate on behalf of ourselves. This is what I mean by giving ourselves a dozen roses instead of looking for red flags. It’s a much cleaner process emotionally which benefits you.

Of course, there are those instances where you know there are red flags popping up left and right and to that I say, “thank you for revealing that to me. I’ll be going now.” Because those red flags have nothing to do with me or you, but them.

Again, turning those red flags into red roses.