Red Flags

Relationship Warning Signs for Modern Dating

Is that a Cape or a Giant Red Flag?

What is a red flag? According to dating psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree, a red flag can be defined as “something your partner does that indicates a lack of respect, integrity or interest towards the relationship”. Over time, we’ve broadened the definition to include personality traits and behaviors that indicate that someone would not make a good partner, like, lack of drive, addictive qualities, and a history of commitment issues.

By now, we’re all pretty familiar with the existence of red flags. But, sadly, we’re also adept at overlooking or ignoring them.

As a romance author, I have researched and written about all kinds of relationships and one thing that stands out to me is that, no matter the decade, romance books about bad boys are always on the best seller lists. What is it about the bad boy that we find so irresistible? We claim to want loving, loyal, responsible men, but our knees get weak when we fantasize about the rude, crude loner who treats women like toys.

Whatever the draw of the bad boy, it could be our desire to change him that causes us to dismiss so many red flags when we see them.

What about the guy who seems perfect in the beginning? You’ve used your natural gifts as a woman to stalk him better than an NSA agent. His apartment is tidy, his dog is fed, there is an actual bed frame under his mattress and the food in his refrigerator did not expire last year. Do we become complacent in his perfection and blind to the red flags when they appear? Maybe, or maybe because women invest emotionally so quickly, we make ourselves believe that we can love the red flags right out of him because we don’t want to admit that our time and investment were wasted.   

Now, I don’t want to come off as man shaming. As women, we have some red flags, too. Some of us are too needy, some of us have trust issues, some of us are narcissistic; the list goes on. Because we are all imperfect creatures, it is important to know when red flags are real and when we invent them as excuses to disconnect from someone. Sometimes, it’s our red flags that do us in. Our own insecurities and tendency to overthink can have us accusing men of all sorts of horrid things when in actuality, they really did just fall asleep on the couch or get too busy at work to answer your text.

The world can be crazy and, believe me, as a single “cougar” aged woman, I know there’s a lot of pee in the dating pool.

I’ve asked a question to myself, and my girlfriends, more than a handful of times; “Is this a problem, or am I overreacting?” I believe most of us have. If you’ve ever had to question your own sanity because of his audacity, this journey is for you!

I’ll be back with part one of my Red Flag Ramblings soon! Stay tuned!

Tomi

My New Project

I’m excited to be working on my first fantasy/romance trilogy. Developing my own universe has been a great experience! The first installment, The Unlikely Queen, is under way and set for release this month.

Want a sneak peek? I’ll be posting sample chapters here!

The Unlikely Queen

Two Wars

          The first war was the bloodiest war with body counts unsurpassed by any war before or after. There were only four factions then. They were great and robust filled with the masters of many species. There was the Faction of Land who controlled the scaled and furry beasts, the Faction of Sky who controlled all who had wings, the Faction of Sea who ordered the ocean and the Faction of Stream who stood fast in control of the rivers, lakes and bayous that speckled the land.

          The first war depleted the factions. It took so many, it wiped entire species from the planet. Those who were left tried to rebuild and fortify but they’d lost not only spirit animals and soldiers. They’d lost some of their rulers, too. Who would lead the factions, now? Would the Faction of Sky be ruled by the Crow who carried the dead and horded their baubles? Would it be the Hawk or the Eagle or would the Order of Dove take the throne and work with the other factions to restore peace to the planet? After all, the Doves were the leaders of the sky before the first war. The Great Mother placed them in control due to their penchant for peace.

          Each faction felt that it was there turn to rule. Why would any be unworthy? They’d all sacrificed in the first war! They’d lost so much. Didn’t they deserve to be rewarded with the crown?

          The infighting wasn’t exclusive to the Faction of the Sky. All of the four factions, it seemed, were experiencing the same fate. This lack of compromise led to the second war. It wasn’t a war of faction against faction. It was a war between brothers that lasted until the Great Mother came down and demanded that the factions divide. She placed only a sprinkling of factions of land, sea, sky, and stream on each continent using the factions of sea to keep the borders secure.

 This division gave us the Faction of Crow who kept to the mountain. They needed a place to store their treasures. The Faction of the Dove stayed close to the river banks where the sun gently caressed the lush land ensuring a plentiful harvest. The Faction of Coyote, who were cunning and wise watchers in the woods. The Faction of Frog who traveled from brook to bayou making sure the water was pure, and the Faction of Shark who tirelessly guarded the ocean keeping the other Factions in their place.

“Tell me about my people!” the girl with the snowy dove on her shoulder cried.

“Your people were the most powerful leaders of the Faction of the Sky, Ava. They were born to the Order of the Dove but they ruled the sky so justly that they earned the trust and affection of all things with wings,” Columba told her.

“No more tales for the children tonight, sister. The sun is set and they must rest,” Colm interrupted.

          The children pouted and wined but it was Ava who was especially disappointed that story time was cut short. She loved hearing about her family. She wasn’t interested in hearing how powerful they were. She wanted to hear what they looked like; how they moved and what their voices sounded like when they sang to the morning sky. She wanted information that she could use to paint a picture of them in her mind. She’d never met her mother or any of the people in her line. She was longing to know them in some small way so that she could have an identity of her own.

          Orphaned in the second war Ava was being raised by the new King and Queen of Doves who had no children of their own. King Jonah and her real father had been great friends before and during both wars. He said it was his duty to see that Ava survived. He and Queen Sephora loved Ava as if she was their own child providing her with the life that they were incapable of giving to their own little prince or princess.

          At first, there was concern within the faction. The child didn’t share blood with the King and Queen and therefore, was not royal. What would they do to continue the line after King Jonah’s reign? The King addressed the court and reminded them that though the child was not of his blood, she was the descendant of the greatest King who’d ever reigned. If she were to marry and produce an heir to the throne, this next King would have the bloodline of King Collum and an up bringing provided by King Jonah. Could there be a more worthy King?

          “All little birdies get in to your nests!” Calla told the children. “Your mother is waiting young Ava. Do go to your room.”

          Ava flit and floated across the hall holding her arms out to imitate wings. She skipped to her room and placed her spirit guide on her perch, then she leaped in to her bed.

          “Good night, little dove,” Queen Sephora said, kissing her forehead, “May your dream send you soaring above the clouds on a cool Spring breeze.”

          Ava cuddled her pillow and closed her eyes. She envisioned herself soaring as the Queen suggested. She smiled at first feeling the breeze on her skin but it didn’t take long for the sky to darken around her. She tried to drop to a lower altitude but the air was stiff preventing her descent.

          It was dark as night now impairing her vision as she hovered, frozen in the sky. She screamed and tried to retract her arm as something brushed against it in the darkness. Then, something else caught her by the hair flipping her body over pulling her backwards in the midnight sky.

“Let me go! I’m the Princess of Doves and the King will have your head!” she cried.

There was a crack in the darkness and sunlight shone through. She peered at the sky above her and realized that the darkness wasn’t darkness at all. The sky beneath her hadn’t gone stiff. She was laying a top a murder of crows. The sky was filled to its tipping point with the birds of black feathers and she’d been swallowed up by their sky party.

The crows began to disperse leaving her to find her own wings again. She listening to their calls; caw, caw, caw and then, a booming voice from the sky that said, “You are not the Princess of Doves. You are the Queen of Crows!”

Older Women and Younger Men

Older men with younger women somehow seems natural in our society. Men seeking sexy, young, trophy wives and secretly high fiving each other when they catch one. Socially acceptable? That’s debatable. While it seems to be more of a cultural norm than older women with younger men, there are still all those negative cliches and stereotypes that come with this relationship; dirty old man, gold digger, daddy issues, mid-life crisis affair, the list goes on and on. Biologically, there are some explanations for a mans’ attraction to a younger woman. It’s our biological imperative to multiply and younger women are more likely to be fertile and successfully carry and deliver off-spring. But, let’s face it, most relationships aren’t consciously driven by the biological imperative to breed. They are about attraction and, frankly, no one has the right to dictate who another person should be attracted to, (as long as it’s legal!).F

What about older women and younger men?

Let me get personal for a moment – I’ve been married twice. Once to a man my own age and once to a man more than a decade my senior. I was attracted to different things in each of these relationships. When I married my first husband we were both inexperienced in everything. We learned how to navigate adulthood together as equals. It was stressful and bewildering at times but we loved each other and had a great deal of things in common to keep us grounded. Sadly, my first husband and love of my young life was killed while we were in our twenties.

My second marriage was to a man who was my superior at work. He was older and more experienced and had a nurturing tendency that made me feel safe at a time in my life when I felt all alone. I was a newly widowed mother and needed someone to anchor me before I floated away in a cloud of sorrow, fear, and self-doubt. My older man did this for me but our relationship ended when I found my own legs and became independent. He wasn’t capable of allowing me to grow into my own identity so we split.

By the time my second marriage ended, I was a successful professional at a media company. My identity was defined by my tough but fair, logical approach in my dealings with my contemporaries and subordinates. When my work day ended, I went home to be a mother and a creative. The polar opposite of my hard-ass corporate persona. For a long time, I didn’t date or socialize with anyone outside of my small group of life-long friends.

Then, it happened. I was being pursued by an incredibly attractive man at work. He was new to the company and a favorite piece of eye candy for all the girls and he was young! Fifteen years my junior. He would flirt and I would tell myself that he wasn’t really flirting. I talked myself out of the idea that he might be attracted to me. Maybe he was trying to get in good with the boss. Maybe it was just his charm. Either way, why would he want me when every girl his age was falling all over him?

As time progressed, he pursued harder. I guess he thought that I was oblivious to his advances so he moved from verbal flirtation to accidental touches and, eventually, marched up to me and said, “I’m very attracted to you. Would you like to get a drink with me?” I said yes.

Now, this isn’t a love story and it isn’t even about him. It’s an explanation of the attraction between us. So, first of all, the sex was the best I’ve ever had. He was strong and dominant. He was confident and had amazing staying power and he wasn’t afraid of experimentation. When I wanted to close my eyes and drift in to that place of ecstasy and escape, he could bring me there. When I wanted something hot and fast and wild, he could perform at that level, and when I wanted something tender and more controlled, he let me take the lead. Our love making sessions were all night main events but it wasn’t all about the sex.

I loved that I could nurture him. When he had problems, he could talk to me and I had enough life experience to give him advice. It made me feel good to see him succeed at things that he’d asked me to help him with. I couldn’t do this with either of my husbands.

Trust was a non-issue

We both knew that this relationship was not going to lead to marriage. I spent a lot of years building a life for myself and I didn’t want to share. I wasn’t ready to compromise with anyone when it came to my home, my money, and my lifestyle.

He didn’t want to parent my children and we wasn’t ready to settle down.

With none of that “relationship” pressure we were free to explore a completely open and honest dynamic and in time, our feelings grew from lust to a love based on mutual respect and ten years later, though we’ve never been an official couple, we still love each other and would do anything we could for each other. And, though we don’t see each other as frequently as we once did, the sex is still pretty hot!

Though my story hasn’t ended in a traditional relationship, I do understand how older women and younger men fall for each other.

It’s about being open to the idea that love and attraction are possible in unlikely places and partners. It’s about defying the stereotypes and giving in to your own feelings; knowing that sometimes other people will be cruel or say things without thinking; like calling you a cougar or asking if you and your son go out to dinner often.

When this happened to me, my new lover grabbed me and stuck his tongue in mouth. Then, he smiled at the waitress and said, “Mom and I are really close!” while I laughed my ass off. She gave our table to another waitress.

This is not a relationship dynamic for the insecure. If you aren’t confident in yourself, you will forever be looking for judgmental glances and younger girls who want to take your man.

I suppose it’s really not any different than any other relationship. Love is love, right? And… oh, the sex? The experts were right when they determined that women reach their peak later than men do and if you’re lucky enough to come together during those peaks be prepared for fireworks!