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What are green flags in relationships and how can you identify them?

December 9, 2022 - 14 min read

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What does “green flag” mean?

What are some relationship green flags?

The value of a red flag

Wave that green flag high

Have you ever needed to send a conversation screenshot to your friends to decode? Your friends might call the conversation — or the need to decode it — a red flag.

Human connection is a vital part of our mental and physical health. We’re wired to connect with others and seek out people who make us feel loved, appreciated, and understood. 

In any relationship, it helps to know what to do if toxic behaviors emerge. But it’s equally important to pay attention to the green flags in relationships to limit unnecessary anxiety or doubt.

A green flag isn’t simply having a great day together or receiving a compliment. These are signs that give us insight into our long-term compatibility with a friend, coworker, or potential new partner.

But what are true green flags, and how do you know what to look for in a relationship? Here’s your guide. 

What does “green flag” mean?

Red flags tell us it might be time to end a relationship, while green flags are positive signals that a relationship will make it through the long haul.

Green flags demonstrate someone’s character, openness, values, and more. Knowing some of the most common red and green flags allows you to be more confident you’re heading in the right direction and take steps to strengthen a budding relationship.

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What are some relationship green flags?

Red flags usually come in the form of toxic traits like aggression or narcissism and manipulative behavior. Green flags, on the other hand, show healthy behavior and opportunities for deeper connections. Let’s look at 11 positive indicators of a good relationship. 

1. You can express and discuss emotions

A partner who feels comfortable talking about their emotions is a major green flag. Despite the short-term discomfort, having difficult conversations with kindness and honesty will strengthen your relationship. Being vulnerable usually indicates that someone is willing to deepen your connection. It might also indicate that you’re creating a space that makes them feel safe to share — which is a green flag, too.

2. You can have difficult conversations about the relationship

Above just communicating your feelings, strong relationships rely on being able to discuss that relationship. Everyone makes mistakes and has disagreements. The difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship is how open both parties feel having uncomfortable conversations. This openness facilitates empathy and lets both parties create solutions that ultimately strengthen the relationship. 

The alternative to this is suppressing emotions and letting them simmer, which could increase feelings of anger and fan the flames of conflict. 

Couple-have-a-serious-talk-on-a-rattan-chair-green-flags-in-relationships

3. They aren’t afraid to apologize

Apologizing is hard. But saying sorry is a crucial communication tool. Pay attention to how your new partner apologizes. Do they deflect or take ownership of their mistake? Can they take constructive criticism about their behavior?

When a partner shrugs off blame and refuses to take accountability, it suggests their ego is more important than the person they hurt. Someone denying their actions and controlling the narrative could be signs of an emotional vampire. Here are some examples of false apologies someone might use to transfer blame:

  • I’m sorry that you feel upset by what happened.
  • I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.
  • I was trying to impress my family. That’s why I said what I said.

When a partner reflects and takes ownership of their actions, it demonstrates mutual respect and their value for your comfort, safety, and security. Here are some examples:

  • I regret not having thought through my actions first.
  • I wish I had considered your feelings before doing what I did.
  • I recognize that I hurt you and wish I could take it back.
  • I realize that my words hurt your feelings. That wasn’t my intention, and I’m very sorry. 

4. They’re your safe space

Self-acceptance is about feeling empowered to step into your authentic self. When we build self-acceptance, it frees us from depending on external sources to find our identity. 

Being with the people most important to you should make you feel at peace. There’s no need to spend time with people who make you feel like you can’t be your authentic self. A good friend’s acceptance will encourage and empower you to express yourself without fear of ridicule or judgment. 

5. They validate your emotions

Someone who constantly invalidates your emotions could exacerbate emotional exhaustion. While you shouldn’t rely on your friends and family to be your main sources of validation, finding those who understand and honor your emotions is crucial. Here are some ways your loved ones might validate your emotions:

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  • Listening. They listen to what you’re saying and demonstrate it with eye contact, verbal cues, touch, and directing their body towards you while you speak. Maybe they stop what they’re doing and give you their undivided attention.
  • Energizing. They match your energy level. When you’re sad, they’re sympathetic. When you’re excited, they’re happy for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a few minutes to sit quietly, they should offer that to you.
  • Normalize. They don’t challenge your feelings — they accept them and assure you that they’re normal. An appropriate response to your feelings lets you know that your reactions are reasonable and valid.

6. Respect your boundaries

Personal boundaries are integral to our physical and mental well-being. In any relationship, it’s essential to let the other person know what you are and aren’t okay with. These boundaries might include the following:

  • Physical boundaries
  • Sexual boundaries
  • Emotional boundaries
  • Economic boundaries
  • Intellectual boundaries

When we set a personal boundary, we’re building a shield to protect our mental health, personal space, and sense of safety and security. Setting boundaries isn’t always easy, but healthy boundaries create healthy relationships based on mutual respect. Boundaries tell us what to expect in a relationship and teach us how to honor each other’s personal space and comfort zones.

7. They’re comfortable talking about the future

Someone interested in making future plans sees you in their life for the long haul. Valuing your relationship and expressing a desire for it to last is a green flag. 

If someone is dodgy when you ask them about a plan for the future, it might mean they don’t appreciate you or aren’t planning on sticking around. 

8. Share the same values

A promising sign of long-term compatibility is if you share the same values with your friends, family, and partner. At the beginning of any relationship, pay attention to whether your priorities align with one another’s. You don’t have to have the same priorities, but you should share a basic worldview that reinforces a sense of mutual understanding. Some common values to look for are:

  • Are they kind and generous with others?
  • Are they honest? Do they give you a sense of trust?
  • What are their ambitions and goals for the future?
  • Do they have strong connections to faith or spirituality?
  • Do politics matter to them?
  • Do they value friendship or family ties?

As you get to know one another, have conversations to gain insight into this person’s value system, worldview, and the future they see for themselves. Do these traits line up with yours? Do you have fundamental differences you just won’t get past? 

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9. They make you want to be your best self

We all have room to grow and learn. A good friend will push you to be the best version of yourself and challenge you to accomplish your goals. When life feels tough, they help you focus and keep moving forward. And it’s important that you feel motivated to do the same for them.

10. There’s consistent communication

In any personal relationship, communication skills are the cornerstone. Do you and your loved ones check in with each other about your relationship and feelings? Are you willing to discuss problems as they arise? 

Keep in mind that good communication doesn’t need to be constant. Sending messages back and forth all day doesn’t indicate meaningful contact. You might only speak to some friends every few weeks, but your willingness to have open and constructive conversations indicates a level of respect that means those relationships will last. 

11. They pay attention to the little details

Daily demonstrations of generosity, gratitude, and compliments are more important to most people than grand gestures of love. Those everyday gestures from the people we care about don’t just make us feel good: small acts that make us feel more loved are connected to stronger mental health, greater feelings of purpose, and an improved outlook on life.

The value of a red flag

Red and green flags both play an essential role in building stronger relationships.

Nobody’s perfect, and we all have room to grow into better people.

Start by asking yourself: What’s my red flag? Here are a few examples of red flags that can have severe consequences in a relationship:

Distressed-woman-at-a-kitchen-table-talking-to-her-partner-green-flags-in-relationships

Pay attention to major warning signs. Your own behaviors might strain relationships, but if you’re willing to work on them, you’re already on the way to offering someone a green flag.

If you fear you have red flags you’d like to work on, consider seeking relationship advice from a mental health professional or relationship coach to find a way forward.

Wave that green flag high

Any relationship is like a road trip to a new place. The territory might be unfamiliar, but you’re capable of recognizing the signs along the way. 

Someone who makes you feel like you can’t be yourself, express yourself, or ask for support likely won’t enrich your life. Instead, invest your energy in people who meet you halfway — and are happy to do it.  

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Published December 9, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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