Michelle Young may not have received the final rose from Matt James on his season of The Bachelor earlier this year, but America did fall in love with her in the process. The fifth-grade teacher from Minnesota is nothing short of genuine, kind, fun, and authentic. She brings light-hearted energy to the show that will make this season so much fun to watch. (Related: The 6 Relationship Lessons You Can Learn from 'Bachelor in Paradise')
Despite Michelle's genuine vibe, her season is no exception to drama — thanks (right now) to contestant Ryan. If you didn't catch Tuesday's episode (spoiler alert!) on the very first night, Michelle sends a contestant home before the rose ceremony even begins because of the red flags she saw in him. Was her action a tad extreme, or was she properly trusting her gut? What does it even mean to see red flags? How exactly should we define the infamous popular term red flag?
First things first, let's break down the situation that happened Tuesday night for a little *refresher*.
Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams, both past Bachelorettes, and the current hosts, greeted all 30 of Michelle's incoming suitors by visiting their hotel rooms to scope them out and get to know them a bit. This investigation was a new element for the opening episode of the show, perhaps adding a level of emotional investment that helped make this first episode feel less fluffy and more meaningful. There were many charming exchanges, but upon visiting Ryan's room, Kaitlyn and Tayshia were suspicious after finding a folder that seemingly had Ryan's every move planned out. The folder also contained research from past seasons of the show about what to do, what to say, and how to act to progress in the show — definitely suspicious, odd, and unsettling, to say the least.
*Fast forward to the first cocktail party and Ryan meeting Michelle for the first time*
Their first interaction was fine, but if you're like me, you were probably sitting there like, "Um, is anyone going to jump in and let this woman know what the heck this dude is up to?" Thankfully, after Michelle met Ryan, Kaitlyn and Tayshia gave her the rundown of the weird folder they found in his room, what some of the documents said, and warned her to keep an eye on him. And oh, did she! (This is also a great example of friends giving someone information without attachment of what they do with it.)
Michelle put on her game face and approached Ryan immediately. When she didn't find that questioning him satisfied her desire for answers, she asked him to take her to his room so she could look through the folder herself. And so, he took her!
Between Ryan's persistent pleas for Michelle to understand his intentions, she sifted through the suspicious documents. She asked Ryan to leave the room (a moment when she channeled her inner teacher by the looks of it) and read on. It was apparent that Michelle was less than impressed with Ryan and her bulls—t radar turned on immediately.
She joined him in the hallway and told him that when it comes to his behavior, her red flags shot right up. She made a point in saying that hard things will happen in a relationship that are misunderstandings or that need forgiveness, but on the first night of meeting someone, she needed to respect the feeling in her gut. To which we say — YES, MICHELLE.
She then asked him to leave the show after turning down Ryan's last desperate plea for a second chance, and she headed back down to the remaining 29 men.
So, What Is a Red Flag?
A red flag is generally something someone does, says, or indicates that makes a person feel unsafe, unsure, or uncomfortable. My hot take? Red flags don't always have to be bad. They can be great conversation starters, opportunities to deepen relationships, and invitations to get to know people better. Though, in Michelle's situation, this wasn't the case — especially on the first night, when the other 29 suitors didn't exhibit immediate red flags upon meeting her. (See: The Potential Red Flags In a Relationship You Need to Know About)
Red flags are important to pay attention to, but once again, they don't always have to be bad. For example, if you're dating someone and hope to settle down one day, start a family, and this person mentions that they don't want children, this is a red flag for you since it's something you desire. But for someone else, this might not be a red flag. Even though this is something you may disagree on, there is a beautiful opportunity for connection, intimacy, and honest conversations with your partner. (Related: 6 Tips for Healthier (and Less Hurtful) Relationship Arguments)
On the other hand, immediate red flags are 100 percent worth ending new relationships over, causing breakups, and ending relationships in general. For example, a red flag could be that the person you are getting to know treats people in the service industry poorly. This comes off as a red flag because they don't extend kindness to everyone while you see one version of them. Red flags will generally not be a slap in the face (generally), but more little things along the way that feel out of sync with what you align with. (Related: 5 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Sex and Dating, According to a Relationships Therapist)
My point: Often, when a specific term gets popular and overused, its true meaning gets lost in the conversation (or the true meaning can get lost once it becomes a meme fad). A red flag is not just a personality trait that you don't agree with or like — even though that might not be a quality that interests you. A red flag, at its core meaning, is a signal of danger, not feeling safe, or someone who possibly doesn't feel trustworthy (such as someone who has to write out every move they intend to make on the show). Even if Ryan's intentions weren't bad, per se, they made Michelle feel uncomfortable — and that's what matters! Red flags can be big, small, minuscule, or even billboard-sized issues — it truly will depend from person to person.
In Michelle's situation, she truly seemed not to have the time to get into it with Ryan, seeing as it was the first night and she had 29 other men waiting to speak with her. Who's to say what would have happened if this came up later in the season and if she would have entertained him more. Michelle listened to her gut, and this just so happened to be the result.
Honestly, it feels disingenuous to have your every move planned out ahead of time to both Michelle and me. Because even though Ryan is aware that Michelle is the Bachelorette, he doesn't know Michelle on a personal level. To her, it likely set off alarms in her head that this guy might not be the most genuine if he had to plan his every move. And with limited time on the show, she might as well take immediate action. (Related: 6 Ways to Know If You're In an Unhealthy Relationship)
What Does It Mean to Listen to Your Gut?
As woo-woo as this may sound, listening to your gut is often just honoring what your body is feeling. It is generally that simple. Your body is an excellent teacher, but it's common to have difficulty hearing it when you have a potentially over-thinking brain sending you messages that often seem louder than how your body is communicating.
Michelle felt in her gut that Ryan wasn't what she was looking for, and that doesn't have to be a knock at Ryan. The truth is, Michelle knows what she wants, and Ryan wasn't it. Even though that seems personal, it's just the reality. Ryan was most likely doing the best he could at the time with the tools and knowledge he had (or the research he had studied, lol), AND Michelle was doing the best with hers — they didn't align, AND that's okay. (Related: Astrology Says 'Bachelorette' Katie Thurston and Blake Moynes Were Always Meant to Be)
If your gut is speaking to you, it's worth listening to. Maybe it is telling you to be aware of red flags, that a complicated conversation is needed, or that perhaps the situation you're in isn't the best for you at the moment. Remember: red flags and listening to your gut doesn't need to be because inherently bad things happen. Often, they can simply be signs of things you need to pay attention to or meaningful conversations you may need to have in relationships.
Even if what your gut is telling you isn't based on an implicit red flag, it's still worth listening to. If it's a situation where you feel comfortable having a conversation about what you are feeling — have it! If it's a situation where you don't feel comfortable, take the steps you need to take to feel safe. While red flags might appear in places, we feel safe and vise versa, it's always best to listen to what makes you feel the safest and aligns most with what YOU care about—which is exactly what Michelle prioritized on Tuesday's episode.
In short, Michelle is the Bachelorette who is here to find herself a life partner, and she means business. Michelle said it herself — conflicts and disagreements will come up when in relationships, but it is also up to us to decide which things are worth working through and which items aren't for us. Based on Tuesday's episode, I'm excited to continue watching how Michelle navigates her way through being the Bachelorette and, to her hopefully, finding love! (Related: Can the Engaged Couples from 'Bachelor in Paradise' Make It In the Long Run?)
Rachel Wright, M.A., L.M.FT., (she/her) is a licensed psychotherapist, sex educator and relationship expert based in New York City. She's an experienced speaker, group facilitator, and writer. She's worked with thousands of humans worldwide to help them scream less and screw more.