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What "The Undoing" teaches us about ignoring red flags in a relationship

Red flags are often easy to spot. It's our disregard for those red flags that become an issue.

What "The Undoing" teaches us about ignoring red flags in a relationship

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in HBO's "The Undoing"

Photo credit: HBO


When I first began watching HBO"s latest series, "The Undoing," I was riddled with so many questions. The primary being, who murdered Elena Alves? But after impatiently devouring each episode, I was introduced to a series of new questions. For one, where did Grace Fraser (played by the incredible Nicole Kidman) purchase all her immaculate coats? Does she have an entire closet catered to coats? But also, why does she have so many coats?

Obviously, these weren't the only thoughts rummaging around my mind. I also wondered how Grace wasn't able to identify her pediatric oncologist husband, Jonathan (played by Hugh Grant), as a full-blown psychopath. Then again, Grace also didn't notice Jonathan had lost his job at the hospital because he was having an affair with Elena (his patient's mother), whom he fathered a child with.

In Grace's mind, she was living the perfect life, in a perfect house (located right across the street from Central Park no doubt), with the perfect family. Little did Grace know, her husband was a murderous psychopath, who bludgeoned Elena to death after having sex with her in her art studio.

All this knowledge would be shocking in itself. However, what makes it more unfathomable is that Grace is a psychologist. This means she's trained to spot psychopath behaviors from miles away. Yet somehow, she was oblivious to everything her husband did.

Including murder.

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Many would argue it's difficult to tell when someone is cheating or differentiate when they're lying in a relationship. Especially when you've put all your trust into that person. We hear it all the time.

I had no idea he was cheating.

How did I not see it?

Was it my fault?

This came from absolutely nowhere.

But I trusted him...

Therein lies the issue. The thing is, red flags are often easy to spot. However, it's our disregard for those red flags that become an issue. Add emotions into the mix, and our inability to spot - or address - those red flags becomes more difficult. So why do we allow ourselves to ignore these red flags in the first place?

One of the biggest reasons we tend to ignore red flags in a relationship is linked to infatuation. You know, that carefree, euphoric feeling you get when you first meet someone you like? This is known as dopamine, a chemical reaction in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter which often clouds our rational judgement, similar to being drunk or high.

In fact, alcohol and drugs release high levels of dopamine in our brain, which often explain why we make irrational decisions when we're drunk or high. These intense chemicals allow us to develop an intense attraction to our partner that's difficult to resist. For lack of a better phrase, these chemicals make us feel good. However, when the high wares off, that's when the pain begins.

Another reason we ignore red flags is because we're stuck wishfully thinking that our partner is the opposite of flawed. We want the relationship to work out so desperately, we convince ourselves our partner is perfect. We ignore everyone who says otherwise, even going as far to distance ourselves from friends and family who don't agree. In theory, the fantasy of the relationship prevents us from seeing the truth, similar to Grace.

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As doors closed and isolation began, reports of all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, began to rise.

Obviously, not everyone is on Jonathan's level of crazy. The guy took the term psychopath to an extreme. But just because someone isn't a murderer, doesn't necessarily make them right for you. Not every red flag is going to be a bold shade of scarlet. There are more subtle forms of red flags that can still lead to issues in a relationship.

Now, I'm in no way, shape or form qualified to be handing out relationship advice. I'm currently going through a difficult breakup, so I'm clearly not the poster child for relationship advice. However, I can bestow some information which has certainly helped me throughout my dating life.

When you have gnawing concerns about your partner's behavior, personality traits, beliefs, and values, odds are something isn't right and you shouldn't ignore that. In my last relationship, I ignored a series of red flags early on. However, I cared for my partner so much, I allowed my feelings to overshadow the reality. Pay close attention to how your partner treats you and others. Not just when they're happy with you, but also when they're upset.

The way someone treats you when they're upset says a lot about their character. It's easy to treat someone with love and affection when you're on good terms with them. The moment you get into an argument, or don't agree on something, pay close attention to how your partner reacts to you. Do they withhold affection? Do they ignore you? Are they passive aggressive?

Also notice how you interact with each other. Are there unhealthy relationship dynamics (such as reoccurring arguments or avoiding important issues)? For example, if you discover voicing your concerns always turn into an argument, that's a huge red flag. It's also a form of psychological manipulation known as gaslighting. Gaslighting is when someone makes another person question their own memory, perception, or judgment; redirecting blame to the other individual.

We witness Jonathan continue gaslighting everyone around him, but more profoundly when he accuses his own wife and son of murdering Elena. The thing is, voicing your concerns in a relationship shouldn't transpire into an argument. In fact, it's healthy to address concerns to your partner. How else are they supposed to know something is wrong if you don't tell them?

However, if you notice speaking your mind always turns into an argument, that's a red flag.

Relationships aren't easy and no relationship is perfect. All relationships require a healthy amount of communication, sacrifice and compromise. You shouldn't find yourself doing all the heavy lifting in a relationship and when you do, maybe it's time to re-evaluate the relationship.

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