So there are a ton of posts out there – especially from some of our favorite BDSM bloggers – that talk about and list red flags. What they are, what to look for, how to spot them, etc. Lists upon lists. I reblog them often! Knowing what red flags to look for can be helpful and can save someone from lots of pain, damage and heartbreak. There are lots of those red flag posts out there.
This is not one of those posts.
This is not about what red flags to look for. This is not a list of things to avoid. This is not a list of warning signs. This is not about how to spot the red flags. This is a post about what to do if you missed the red flags.
Those who pay attention to my more personal posts may be aware that in the last few months I’ve been working with my therapist to deal with the trauma of being raped last October. (And most of you are probably aware it’s been long, hard, and not really felt like it’s going that well.) Anyway, the long and the short of that point is that the man who raped me was someone I’d been dating for a few months and was someone I thought I could trust, someone I thought I was safe with, someone I thought was a good person.
Or, in other words, I missed all of the red flags.
Me. A person who regularly reads, discusses, and reblogs posts about warning signs and things to look for and red flags to avoid. A person who can rattle the red flags off without even thinking about them. A person who can spot these red flags in someone else’s relationships with no problem. I missed them. I missed the red fucking flags. And I paid for it. And I’m still paying for it.
So what the fuck do you do with that?
Well, I’ll tell you. Don’t blame yourself. Seriously – do. not. blame. yourself. Do not beat yourself up. Don’t sit there and think about how stupid you are. Don’t talk about how this is your fault. Do not do that.
Here’s the thing about red flags. When you’re not the one immediately and emotionally involved in the situation – they seem like the most obvious things in the world. They seem so easy to spot. They seem cut and dry and like giant glaring neon warning signs. You literally sit there and read this shit and think to yourself that stuff like that is so obvious and you’re prepared for anything and there’s no way you could ever possibly miss that. (Despite, in my case, ending up in toxic, abusive relationships more than once.) But when you are the one involved in the relationship? It’s so much messier. It’s so much harder to spot. It’s so much easier to get sucked in and caught up and not know how to get yourself out once the red flags start to seem more obvious.
That’s the thing about abusive people. That’s the thing about abusive partners. That’s the thing about dating and being involved with an abusive person. They are really fucking good at this shit. They are manipulative as can be. They are masters of the mindfuck. They have spent years and years practicing this and mastering this and becoming really fucking good at this. They know how to draw you in. They know how to make you care. They know how to trap you and get you in so deep that you feel like you can’t leave. They know how to make you believe their lies and their bullshit and their complete and utter abusive crap. They know. They know.
So my point? It’s not your fault.
If you’re sitting there going back over and over and over your relationship and parsing it and slicing it and studying it and tearing it apart and wondering what you missed and how you didn’t see it and how you could have done this differently… If you’re sitting there blaming yourself? Don’t. Don’t. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is so easy to see things in hindsight and to go back over the relationship when you’re not in the moment and caught up in all of it and having to interact with the person abusing you and see all of the things that you missed, and all of the things that were wrong, and all of the things that you should have noticed.
I know how that is. I know how that is. But trust me. It’s not your fault. It. Was. Not. Your. Fault.
So you missed the red flags? I know how that is. I know how that feels. I know the shock waves it sends through your life. And you know what you can do about it? Don’t blame yourself. Seriously, stop it. Stop it! Stop blaming yourself. And then when you’re ready? Talk through it with someone you trust and someone who has your best interests at heart. Look at the things you missed. Set up check-ins for the future so that you can have someone else help you look at situations when you’re in them and help call out red flags.
It sucks to miss the red flags. It will haunt you. I know.
It will make you feel like you did something wrong. You didn’t.
You’ll feel like an idiot. You’re not.
You’ll feel like you deserved it. You didn’t.
You’ll think it’s your fault. It is not your fault.
Really, it’s not. It’s not easy to spot these things when you’re living the red flags every single day. You didn’t do anything wrong. So stop blaming yourself.