Health & Wellness

The 1 relationship mistake we all make – and how to avoid it

Love can make us all do crazy things — and no one is immune. Remember when Johnny Depp got that "Winona Forever" tattoo that now reads "Wino Forever"? And let's not forget about Kim Kardashian West's short-lived (72 days, to be exact) marriage to Kris Humphries.

Love, ain't it grand? Most of the time, yes, but it sure can cloud your otherwise reasonable judgment.

That's exactly what a recent Bravo Media and Research Now study found. The poll, meant to explore the themes reflected in Bravo's new scripted series "Imposters," surveyed a sample of 1,500 people, ages 18-54, and had one major finding: 70 percent admitted to ignoring red flags in a past relationship, and realizing it after it was too late.

Here's one more surprising statistic: The study found that 65 percent of participants have dated someone who turned out to be a "very different" person than they had originally thought.

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"What struck us, from a research perspective, was that these numbers were so large," said Dave Kaplan, senior vice president of research and insights at Bravo and Oxygen Media. "That this notion of identity and withholding information from a partner was so pervasive — across every demographic."

"Another surprising finding was that women were more likely to identify red flags," noted Kaplan. "Whereas men are not noticing these things as much."

Top 10 red flags, according to the study:

  • Anger issues
  • Gets caught lying
  • Controlling behavior
  • Not wanting to make your relationship public
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Has cheated in past relationships
  • Has a history of addiction
  • Frequent mood changes
  • Immaturity
  • Has been in trouble with the law

So why do most of us choose to ignore them?

"It has a lot to do with feeling heavy-duty chemistry," said Bela Gandhi, a relationship expert and founder of date coaching service Smart Dating Academy. "Your vision can especially get clouded if you've slept together too early. You're hopped up on feel-good hormones, making you less objective and more likely to ignore the red flags."

RELATED: Relationship red flags: 11 signs there could be problems ahead

How can we avoid getting blinded by love? Gandhi has a few tips to share.

1. Listen to your gut

News flash: Butterflies in your stomach are bad news.

"We're taught to think that butterflies are a good thing — that it signals excitement, but our research has found the opposite," Gandhi explained. "When you're feeling heavy butterflies, your gut has been triggered by fear and anxiety. Your body is actually saying 'DANGER!'"

And if you have a gut feeling that this isn't your person, listen to it and explore it.

RELATED: Could your relationship survive 'The Marriage Test'? Try this experiment to see

2. Know what the red flags are

While all the red flags the study includes are important to be aware of, Gandhi added another one that should send you running for the hills.

"Avoid anyone who plays the victim. They might say things like, 'My ex-wife is crazy, every woman I've dated has been nuts,' or 'My boss has it in for me'," she said, stressing that she tells this to all of her clients.

3. Practice 'sexclusivity'

This is Gandhi's term for waiting to have sex until you're in a committed relationship.

"Which is no sooner than two to three months," she said.

RELATED: 7 ways to put the sexual spark back in your relationship

4. Confront your issues

"It's not going to get better. If you've communicated with your partner about an issue, and they haven't changed their behavior, they're not going to," Gandhi explained. "And you can only change yourself."

5. Don't repeat patterns

"Ninety percent of our clients have had one or two narcissistic parents — and they wind up marrying narcissists. Patterns repeat themselves," Gandhi stressed. "If you feel like your parents' relationship had red flags, you should probably talk to someone so you don't wind up repeating their behavior."

The Bravo series "Imposters" debuts Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Bravo is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company to NBC News.

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