Red Flag

She told him not to open the wooden chest. What secret was inside such that she steered her young new husband away?

Red flag.

More than once she warned him not to snoop.

When his curiosity got too great, he lifted the lid. Two certificates from prior marriages were inside. Laura had been married twice before, but he knew that. Evidence of two marriages, but divorce documents from only one.

Red flag.

It was the first spring after their September South Dakota wedding and time to file taxes. Not unlike many, Laura procrastinated about the process. On the forms, she did not indicate they were married.

Huge red flag. This time he stopped. And looked. And investigated.

Turns out Laura was still married to a man she had met in Nebraska and followed to Alaska.

How is it that we ignore the red flags that come waving? That we ignore that wisdom in our gut? That too often we only see clearly when we look back?

The human brain is biologically wired for our survival. Even though our minds are constantly on the lookout for signs of danger, we sometimes are too afraid to even look.

        “All the signs were there. I should have called off the wedding.”

        “I knew she was going to the casino every week, but I never asked to see the credit card         statements.”

        “He said he was too busy to call when he was away on business. I never pressed him about it         because I really didn’t want to know.”

        “I knew something wasn’t right when our son would beg me to not leave him alone with her         on the weekends, but I was afraid to think the worst.”

Countless divorce clients come to consultations revealing that they had long suspected troubles in their marriage that they feared exploring. Hidden debts. Hidden money. Hidden addictions. Hidden fears about the hopelessness of a marriage.

Beneath the fear of the facts is often the fear of what it means for our future. If I tell the truth about my situation, I might be faced with the fears of divorce: Living without my spouse. Not having my children with me each day. Creating a new life as a single person. Being responsible for my own happiness.

Divorce fears often stop a person from even reading a book or investing an hour with a lawyer to get answers to questions about their financial future or possibilities for custody of their children. Our fear of knowing can keep us uninformed, unempowered, and stuck. Being curious means being brave, but it is the only way forward for those seeking to stop living in the dark.

Red flags appear to keep us safe. Sometimes we don’t see them despite their vibrant color and furious furl. Other times we refuse to look.

The cost can be high in life when we fail to pay attention to the warning signs posted on our path. The price of failing to face our fear is high. It can be scary to open the lid and look like Laura’s husband did. But if you remain willing, looking until you see the truth of what is, you are far less likely to remain in the danger zone.

Coach Koenig

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