How to spot romantic red flags in Relationship We all have that little voice, that soft internal whisper that tells us when somethings not quite right in the old romance department. The problem is we dont always listen to it, especially when other people are whispering in our ear, interfering with the signal. I was out with a group of friends at a local bistro and there was a man there who was obviously interested in me, says Debbie B., a 45-year-old engineer from Portland, OR. I wasnt the least bit attracted to him, but my girlfriend kept telling me that I needed to be more open to the possibility of something happening. Im sure my two-year hiatus from dating was beginning to concern her. So, Debbie ignored her gut and went on a date with the guy anyway. Unfortunately, within minutes of sitting down together, she was already looking for the door. For starters, he was loud. As in, everybody in the place would turn and give him a dirty look, says Debbie. Then there were his mafia conspiracy theories and his firm conviction that granting women the right to vote was the worst thing that ever happened in American history. I was convinced I was being taped for an episode of Punkd, says Debbie, but I finally excused myself, gave our waitress some money and walked home. From now on, I listen very closely to my inner voice. It has never been wrong. I wish I would have listened to my gut! According to Jennifer Gauvain, a licensed clinical social worker from St. Louis, MO, Debbies experience is fairly common. A lot of people on my couch will say, I wish I would have listened to that little voice. I wish I would have trusted my gut, whether its regarding a new job, a new relationship or a marriage, says Gauvain. We all have that voice within us, that intuition especially women but we dont always pay attention to it. We think, Maybe it will work. Maybe I can make him into the husband I need but it never happens. As coauthor of the book, How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He the One or Should You Run? A Guide for Living Happily Ever After, Gauvain interviewed hundreds of people about their romantic intuition and found that the little voice was inevitably spot-on. We spoke to over 200 different women and they all talked about this inner voice, says Gauvain. For those who went ahead and married when they thought it wouldnt work out, it didnt. None of those marriages succeeded. Depression, internal dialogues and bad dreams Interestingly enough, the voice isnt always a voice. Sometimes it can be a dialogue with yourself, like the angel and devil sitting on your shoulder, explains Gauvain. It can be a nagging feeling you have in the pit of your stomach. It can even be some chronic physical symptom, like an ulcer or migraine. Roger W., a 55-year-old English professor from Charleston, SC says his little voice would often manifest itself as depression or sleeplessness. I would go for days with just a couple of hours of sleep, Roger admits. Or Id get depressed. And people would always tell me I needed medication or antidepressants or something. And Id just think, No, I think I need to just get away from you. Some peoples intuition even speaks to them in their sleep, according to Gauvain: One woman had a dream for six nights straight that she was caught in some natural disaster, either a fire or a hurricane or an earthquake. But after each disaster, she was fine. What she took from that was that breaking up with her boyfriend might be a mess at first, but eventually she would be OK. So she broke up with him and the dreams stopped. Shes now happily married to someone else and doesnt have those kinds of dreams anymore. Gauvain says that while the little voice can take a variety of shapes, its purpose is always the same. I tell people that the voice is their warning system, she says. It lets you know when things arent quite right. You dont have to overreact to the gut feeling, just pay attention to it. Give it some thought. Give it the awareness that it needs. Spotting the warning signs gets easier over time Dale Koppel, author of The Intelligent Womans Guide to Online Dating, says she found it was actually possible to hone her instincts to the point where she could tell whether someone was right for her just by reading the emails she received or the tone of their initial phone conversation. Its practice makes perfect, says Koppel. I dated hundreds of men over a three-year period, and Im happy to say I developed confidence in my gut. If a man said My ex-wife is such an idiot! during our first phone conversation, my little voice would say, This is a man who carries a grudge, cant let go and is too negative. Next! Unfortunately, for every date that immediately raises a red flag, theres another who trickily evades triggering your early warning systems. Misty B., a 40-year-old business developer from Los Angeles, says she definitely had misgivings during her six-month relationship with one man (case in point: he once forgot her name after theyd been dating steadily for four months!), but he always seemed to have an easy explanation for everything that triggered a red flag for her. I felt that something wasnt right, but he was so smooth and had a quick answer for everything, recalls Misty. When he forgot my name, he said that it was because he was really stressed out. And when I found a pink razor in the shower, he said his daughter had just come to visit. And when I asked why he wasnt close with his family, he said it was because of his crazy ex-wife. He was just so charming and quick to offer excuses. After six months, though, Mistys gut went on high alert. My mother died suddenly and he was really sweet about it, telling me to call him any time even at two in the morning while I was back at home, Misty says. But whenever I called him, it went directly to his voicemail. So I finally listened to my gut and realized something was really wrong. Misty started making phone calls and surfing around, and soon, she learned that her fabulous boyfriend had a gambling problem, had been involved in several shady business deals and even proposed to another woman while they were still seeing each other. Now, Misty says that she listens to her gut earlier on and isnt swayed by charmers who offer easy explanations: Ive decided that before I get really invested in someone, Im going to run a background check on my date. Also,really check out each persons family and friends. Employ your backup systems Whats more, Misty says shes going to tap her family and friends for their gut feelings, too. Theres always one person in the family for me, its my uncle and hes going to be my gut-check person now, Misty says. He never liked the excuses guy, but he never told me that. So I told him, the next time I bring someone around, I want your honest opinion. Bottom line: The next time youre dating someone and your gut says that something is off, trust your instincts. If youre not sure whether youre just being paranoid, get a second (or even third!) opinion from trusted friends and family. If your backup systems impression of someone matches your own instincts, listen up; it just might make the difference between regret and romance.