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Pamela Georgette, MFT, ATR Headshot
Todd Sawyer Headshot

What Are The Warning Signs?

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"She's a therapist, he's a comic, and they're a couple."

Hi Pamela and Todd,

I'm wondering how much you can tell from the first fight of the relationship. Depending on what the first fight is about, can you predict the outcome?

When my ex and I started dating she didn't add me as a Facebook friend for a week! She has a smart phone, so I know that she could have. When she finally did I saw on her page that she had left comments on a guy's page. I clicked there, and it said she was "In A Relationship" with him. When I confronted her, she said they broke up a couple months ago and he must not have changed it. Turns out, she broke up with him within a week after I started seeing her.

This was our first fight and it should have been a warning sign that the entire relationship would be made up of jealousy issues and half-truths. What other warning signs should I look out for in a first argument?

I have a new girlfriend now and I think she might be the one. But we have not fought yet and I am dreading the first one, because I feel like it will tell me a lot about our future.

Appreciate the help,
Paranoid and In Love

Dear Paranoid,

I think it would be great if somehow the first fight told you everything you need to know, but most people like to ease you into their web of crazy. Here is a short list of warning signs:

1. If she says, "You should" anything. If she "shoulds" early, she will "should" forever. You should leave. There's nothing worse than being told what to do by someone that isn't signing your paycheck.

2. If she says, "You made me do it." No, you are a grown-up and choose your own behavior and now if you don't mind, I will be leaving...forever.

3. If she throws anything. I got hit with a Popsicle once. I almost lost an eye and she said, "Look what you made me do."

4. If she asks you to go to her therapist with her because when she argues, she blacks out and can't remember all the details of the argument. (That really happened to me. I should've left earlier.)

5. If she brings up your Facebook status. You should throw a frozen treat at her and her therapist and then run and say I made you do it.

Best, Todd

Dear Paranoid and In Love,

It sounds like it was not so much about the fight you had with your ex but rather about the fact that she was lying to you about being in a relationship. As you experienced, this was a huge warning sign or predictor of future behavior.

It is important to pay attention to warning signs that appear early on. It goes back to an article we wrote a while back for the Huffington Post: Trust Your Gut to Pick Your Partner. If someone's behavior in the early stages of a relationship is concerning to you, listen to that intuition.

We often don't want to see those early warning signs because we are hopeful at the start of a relationship. Just remember that people don't change that much, unless they want to. So be careful not to fall in love with someone's potential or your idea of who they are.

Hindsight is 20/20, so of course when it is over we think we should have known all along. The truth is that hopefully you learned what you needed to learn in that relationship and won't repeat the same mistakes.

Also, early arguments are really an opportunity for us to teach each other how we need to be treated in relationships and how we experience and resolve conflict. We can show our partners that we need time to cool down before we talk or maybe we show them that we can't ignore things until later.

Conflict can be a really healthy way of discovering what isn't working and an opportunity to see how our partners respond. Do they play fair? Are they incredibly defensive? Do they hear what we are saying or distort our words because of their own highly charged emotions?

So don't be afraid of the first fight. It could be a really great way to become closer to your partner.

All the best,
Pamela Georgette, LMFT, ATR

If you have a relationship question for Pamela and Todd you can email them at mypickerisbroken@gmail.com. Your email gives permission for your question to be used in an upcoming "Ask Pamela and Todd" post.

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