Alert Levels

As a country, we became familiar with alert levels in travel after 9/11. We felt the apprehension of a code red and perhaps even modified our plans. We grew comfortable with the ever-present code orange, understanding that some level of threat is always present, even while dreaming of a day when all airports operate under a code green.

These alert levels were accepted as prudent. It was not a way of assuming culpability for the attacks nor was it lamented that we shouldn’t have to be alert. Rather, it was simply an acknowledgement that we needed to pay attention and respond to any information coming in.

As someone who faced deception and betrayal in her marriage, I became familiar with alert levels in relationships. And I realized and rectified the mistake the  mistake I made in my first marriage.

Relationship Code Red

There are times when all the sirens should be sounding. This is an appropriate alert level if you discover deception or face abuse. In those cases, proceed cautiously and call for back-up. Often, one or both partners is operating in a code red even when there no triggers within the marriage. This can arise from prior relationships or from insecurity, where fear is sounding a false alarm. A healthy relationship cannot exist under prolonged code red conditions. Get help or get out.

Relationship Code Orange

I think this is a healthy alert state for the infancy of a relationship. It can be all too easy to fall with the heart and leave the brain behind. No matter the attraction, it is important to remember that the person is still largely unknown to you. This is a time to question and verify. In an established relationship, a code orange is sounded when there are perceived significant difficulties – a lack of intimacy or connection, a lie, a breaking of a boundary. It is a reminder to be aware of your partner and your circumstances. It may be a minor blip that can be corrected easily or it may require outside assistance. Prolonged code orange isn’t healthy; it leads to a marriage filled with suspicions and doubts. Listen to the alert. It’s telling you to pay attention.

Relationship Code Yellow

A code yellow is not necessarily cause for alarm. It is an appropriate level during times of change – birth of child, new job, a move. All of these place new demands on the relationship and it is smart to be aware of potential complications. It is a reminder to not put your spouse or your marriage on autopilot, to be present in your relationship. Think of it as a nudge. If ignored, the threat level can easily escalate. But just a little attention can put things back on the right track.

Relationship Code Green

This is the ideal state for a healthy, established relationship that is built on trust. The alert system is on, yet it is reporting no threats.

So the mistake I made? After getting to know my ex husband, I turned off the alert system. I trusted him. I trusted him to remain trustworthy. Now, who knows? Even if my alarm system was fully operational, his brilliant deceptions may still have gone unnoticed. And it’s certainly no excuse for his behavior. But that’s no reason for me not to do my part.

So now my relationship alert system is on and fully operational, humming along at code green.

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