Why dating a self-proclaimed ‘freethinker’ might be the red flag you never saw coming

Written by Leah Sinclair

While knowing your own mind is undoubtedly a positive trait, if someone makes a big deal about the fact they are a ‘freethinker’, it might be cause for concern.

When we think of the qualities we look for in someone we’re dating, being a great conversationalist is usually near the top of the list.

There’s nothing like being able to have a conversation that goes on for hours and hours, speaking about everything from television shows to the state of politics – and when the person you’re dating is open to listening and learning new things, that’s even more of a green flag.

But the ability to have these conversations and debates could be changing with the emergence of people taking to dating apps and social media to describe themselves as ‘freethinkers’ – and it’s something that we should all take notice of.

Now, being a freethinker isn’t a bad thing by definition. After all, it’s often described as someone who is curious about other opinions and rejects mantras and ideas that are simply instilled in us without challenge and thinking beyond what we’re told.

However, we’re seeing in real-time how the concept of being a freethinker is transforming into something different – just look on social media and you can see a range of people who use this phrase as a way to push their own ignorance, propel their own superiority complex and, at times, you’ll see men who take on a freethinker persona to speak at and belittle women.

“Someone describing themselves as a freethinker can be a red flag in certain situations,” says dating expert Jessica Alderson.

“While free thinking itself is ultimately a positive trait, if someone makes a big deal about the fact they are a freethinker, it can be cause for concern. It can be a way of them trying to get across that they are more intelligent and superior and there can be a certain arrogance associated with it and it can be condescending.”

Therapy coach Rebecca Lockwood agrees. “Being a freethinker may be a red flag if someone has described themselves this way on a dating website; however, it depends on the individual’s way of free thinking.

“Sometimes people who are freethinkers can limit themselves and the way they think and not be open to learning about others’ opinions based on their freethinking; however, others may be more likely to be open-minded to understand but not necessarily believe in religion themselves. 

“It’s all down to the individual’s perception of what a freethinker is.”

While being a freethinker should be linked to positivity, it’s now becoming more muddled with men such as Kanye West and Andrew Tate being described and heralded as “freethinkers” for their opinions, which are at times ignorant of facts and used to rile up controversy.

This has been highlighted on social media, with people taking to Twitter to share their thoughts on describing celebrities as freethinkers and their concerns with that.

As we continue to see more people label themselves as freethinkers, Alderson says there are certain things to look out for when dating or coming across someone who describes themselves as a self-professed freethinker at any given chance.

“If someone says it in passing once, it isn’t usually a red flag, but if it comes up again and again, it can be a cause for concern,” says Alderson.

“The other behaviour to keep an eye out for is someone using the label of being a freethinker as a way of dismissing your needs. If you express a need but your partner refuses to engage in a real conversation about it because they are a freethinker, it’s definitely a red flag.”

Alderton suggests this could become apparent around Valentine’s Day (or any other special occasion that is important to you) when your partner tells you they won’t celebrate it with you because they’re a freethinker and don’t believe in these concepts.

“This isn’t healthy behaviour and it’s essentially a way of dismissing someone’s needs.”

Dating someone who behaves in this way is not easy – and if you find yourself in a position where you are, Alderson suggests communicating how their actions are impacting you.

“Explain openly and honestly how certain situations made you feel and use specific examples when possible,” she says. 

“You then have to see if they are receptive to your feedback, whether they are willing to change and if change is even possible.”

If change seems impossible or your needs aren’t being met, it may be time to think if it’s a relationship worth continuing.

Image: Getty

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