When You Look at Someone through Rose-Colored Glasses, All the Red Flags Just Look Like Flags

When You Look at Someone through Rose-Colored Glasses, All the Red Flags Just Look Like Flags

? but what they also don?t say is that afterwards, all the flags look like red flags.

? content warning: emotional abuse, toxic/abusive relationships ?

If you don?t know what this quote/the title of this post is referring to, it?s talking about toxic and/or abusive relationships. This wording specifically with the rose-colored glasses and red flags apparently appears first from Bojack Horseman, but the concept of rose-colored glasses has come up from other texts too.

A screencap of the scene from Bojack Horseman where Wanda the owl says the line with the rose-colored glasses and red flags.From Season 2, Episode 10 of Bojack Horseman

I think I first heard this quote way before I even got into my toxic and emotionally abusive relationship. It?s been almost 2 years now that I?ve been out of it, yet remnants and memories still come up often now. I don?t really need to go into much detail again if you don?t know what happened. I could go much more into detail about how awful it was, how I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells, how I was literally reliving toxicity from home by being with him, and how the people whom I tried to reach out to in the same student organization as me and him basically victim-blamed me and minimized my feelings. But we don?t need to go into that. He doesn?t deserve that much attention. Perhaps in another Medium post. All that you need to know is that he was manipulative, insecure, narcissistic trash.


If you don?t know now, I?ve been in a healthy, loving relationship since the beginning of this year in January. It was the first serious, committed relationship I had after leaving the abusive relationship. In my head, I didn?t anticipate much memories or trauma to resurface from the previous relationship in this current one that I?m in. I thought that I basically processed and healed from everything and was ready to move on.

I was very, very wrong.

Before you get alarmed, I reassure you that there?s nothing toxic or wrong with my relationship now. I love my partner very much and I?m very aware of the treatment, respect, and love that I deserve, all of which he gives me. It?s not necessarily the person that?s causing unexpected trauma to resurface. It?s more so unlearning the behaviors, reactions, and trauma from the past.

A few short months into my new relationship, I saw another quote on social media:

A screenshot of a tweet that reads, ?the most challenging relationship is the healthy one after the toxic one.?I saw this shared on Instagram, but original credits for the tweet/quote go to @ImanEurope on Twitter!

And that?s when I realized: I wasn?t completely over my past abusive relationship. Honestly, I was pretty hasty and even naive in thinking that I could 100% be over any past traumatic experiences in my life. And that goes for anything that I?m experiencing right now: my depression, anxiety, and now my PTSD from this relationship. Will I ever be 100% healed from these things?

Probably not. Which is OK. I aim for progress, not for absolution.

I?m writing this because, as much as I absolutely hate it, the toxicity and trauma from the past relationship still comes out in me now.

Now, all the flags look like red flags.

Sometimes it feels like my body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode, when it really doesn?t need to be. Sometimes when it gets really bad, I project onto my current partner too, which I feel even worse about. I still get scared to sleep in the bed alone without my now-partner next to me because my ex-partner used to turn his back to me in bed as punishment for not giving him what he wanted. Does my partner do those things that my abusive ex used to do? No. But the memory still lives on ? more faintly than before, but still so in my body and mind. But I?m learning to recognize that my body is trying to protect itself, while also trying to unlearn these hyperviligant reactions.

It?s really fucking hard though.

One of the biggest parts of healing from a toxic relationship is learning to trust myself again. Honestly, sometimes my instinct reaction is wrong. But how do I know when it?s wrong? How can I tell the difference between trauma resurfacing and a natural reaction of frustration or being upset with my current partner? How do I listen to myself and know what I need when I?m used to that being disregarded in favor of someone else?s insatiable needs?

It?s a process. I?m still learning to find my voice again and uninternalize all the toxicity so I can be myself again.

I talk about it with my friends and I talk about it in therapy. I send my partner resources and stuff to read so that he can better support me. We talk about this pretty often, so often to the point where I actually feel pretty bad (even though I know I shouldn?t) about how much I?ve brought up a past guy who I wish had 0 relevance in my life now but does.

I don?t really know if there?s a straightforward answer. But I?m still learning and trying now.

Image for postSee look nothing to worried about now just me and Duc here (????)?*:??? ?

That?s the thing with trauma though, especially when it resurfaces. It could feel awful when a relapse happens, just when you think everything was going just fine. For me, it had already been over a year since I left that abusive relationship, and there were only a few times in the time that passed during which memories and/or trauma resurfaced. But of course, being in another romantic, committed relationship was familiar ground and space, which makes sense why nothing resurfaced fully until then.

Things that have helped me heal from that relationship and move forward are touching bases with my partner in how he can support me but also how I can help myself still, in parallel processes. As I already said, I talk to my friends and my therapist about it. I read up on it in articles or find community online with other survivors to unpack my thoughts and experiences. Mindfulness exercises and mindful breathing have also helped more than I thought it would, especially in moments where I need to ground myself and distinguish between my perception of the situation versus the actuality of the situation. That last part is not to say that my feelings and reactions are not valid, but they are also not true sometimes (yes, there?s a difference).

It?s an ongoing, nonlinear process. For anyone else who is experiencing the after-effects of or still is in a toxic relationship (god forbid), I hope that this was able to help process and unpack different components of a complicated situation. I mostly wanted to talk about what it?s like after the toxic relationship (because, yes, there is a life and a future afterwards, despite what the toxic relationship convinces you otherwise of) because I think it needs to be talked more about. There is power in reimagining a future after leaving a toxic and/or abusive situation, once you have the capacity to do so.

Image for postThank you Brandon bb for these ~ s o f t ~ pictures of me

The rose-colored glasses are off. And I?m slowly, but surely, starting to see for myself now.


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