"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." ~Maya Angelou
I remember first hearing these words in my early twenties. I heard them. I just didn't follow them. Hence, I brought myself a whole lot of painful lessons and needless suffering because I always wanted to give people a second chance, and a third, and a fourth … You get the picture.
I was the girl who always saw the "potential" in people. The person they "could" be, with a little love and nurturing from yours truly. I considered myself to be one of the most loving, loyal, and big-hearted people out there. And besides, there were very few things I truly wanted that I went after and didn't get.
I suffered many disappointments and even more heartbreaks because of this, both in friendships and romantic relationships.
I expected people to change just because I thought they should be or feel a certain way. But at that point in my spiritual journey, I hadn't yet learned that everyone is on their own path, and sometimes their soul just isn't in alignment with yours.
When I fell for some guy and had it made up in my mind that he was "it," I made a lot of excuses for his behavior, which was never in alignment with what I was looking for. Well-meaning friends would warn me in the beginning: "He doesn't sound like a good match for you. His behavior seems a little sketchy." Did I listen?
No. My ego was way too big. Sure, I saw the behavior. I even saw the red flags. But I thought I was "different." I was so special that I felt I could change that person… just by being wonderful, amazing me.
NOTE TO SELF: When people show you who they are, believe them the first time!
I married someone after seeing all the red flags in the very beginning. Behavior that didn't add up to what I was being told, behavior in past relationships that was not filled with integrity. But there was so much about him that was good and pure, and the love and passion we had for each other was real and intense.
I truly believed that people could change. And they can. But more importantly I believed I was different, and that behavior would never exist again now that he was with me.
It should be no surprise that the marriage ended and was the most devastating and painful loss of my life. But that was the moment I started to live by Maya Angelou's mantra.
The dating world after divorce is a lot of things—exciting, fun, scary, sometimes horrible, but most of all, a test. How much have you learned from your previous relationships? And what are you going to do differently this time around?
For me, I learned a lot, but I have blind spots. And comfort zones I fall into. I keep gravitating toward men that feel "like home," except that home never made me feel good or secure in it and it was definitely a place I shouldn't consider settling in long term.
Some warning signs I've finally learned to look for and walk away from:
- Lack of commitment to anything especially in relationships
- Not a great communicator
- Not being emotive with feelings
- History of cheating in past relationships
- Always looking for the "next best thing"
These are my red flags. Someone else's may be completely different. But they are things I know just won't work for me and will eventually lead to heartbreak.
What I tell friends when I see them falling into the same trap I often do is to ask themselves some key questions and to be rigorously honest:
- Is this person someone who embodies all the things that are important to you, or are you convincing yourself that you can change them? You can never change someone. Walk away.
- Are you attracting the same type of person you always do (the one who never works out for you and always leads to heartbreak)? If so, walk away.
- Does this person have all of the things that are on your "Essentials" List? Those are the things that are your "must haves" and are non-negotiable. For me, those are trustworthy, spiritual, a great communicator, and someone who is affectionate, loving, and expressive with their emotions. If this person doesn't have your essentials, walk away.
The best advice I got just this week was from a friend who knows my journey well. He said, "You know what. Just recognize that you are finally learning what your heart truly wants and moving closer to that every day. You're walking away from people who aren't in alignment with your core values anymore."
So yes, I'm learning. And I still have a ways to go. But I trust that the right one, the one who steals my heart for good, will show me how amazing he is for me…. the first time.
Quarreling couple image via Shutterstock
About Dina Strada
Dina Strada, an Event Planner, writer, and intuitive counselor and coach, is passionate about expanding consciousness and helping others discover and live their life's purpose. She's a graduate of Boston College and Coach U, a corporate and personal coach training program. To learn more about Dina, visit her website Essential Balance Healing.
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