Looking for the Green Flags in Dating
Most of us at this point are familiar with the concept of a red flags in relationships. You will see posts on social media that will go into depth about the things you don’t want to see in a partner. However, rarely do we focus our energy on identifying the “green flags” when we’re dating – those traits and actions that can inform us when someone could be a great partner for us. It’s important for us in the same way that we reflect on our dealbreakers that we also identify our dealmakers: what do we prioritize in a potential partner? What are signs to look for that show that someone would align well with us?
While green flags can look different for each of us, there are some common signs that a relationship is heading in the right direction. These general green flags can be helpful starting points in reflecting on your own needs and wants in dating relationships.
The cornerstone of a healthy relationship is open and honest communication. Challenges will always arise, be it from within the relationship or outside of it, and they require teamwork between partners to navigate. Direct communication, where thoughts are clearly stated and understood, is definitely a green flag to look out for. You should never have to guess about your partner’s intentions or feelings. A partner should also show interest in understanding your perspectives and actively listen when you speak to them.
Green flags can also be found in the ways that you react towards communication. Do you feel comfortable approaching your partner with a concern? Do you feel heard after a conversation ends? Notice not only the content of what your partner says to you but the way that you feel before and after important conversations, as this can be another helpful indicator of how well communication is going.
Trust & Independence
Long-lasting relationships depend on trust between partners. Early foundations of trust can be a great green flag to notice in your dating relationships. This means being able to believe that partners will act accordingly to what they say and respect the boundaries that have been set. A trusting partner allows for space when needed and does not try to impose their judgements onto others. Trust also goes hand-in-hand with independence. Healthy relationships are about partners growing together, not growing into one another. Having separate interests and friendships helps maintain balance in relationships.
However, independence doesn’t always have to be defined solely by whether or not partners can spend time alone. It can also speak to a person’s ability to emotionally regulate on their own. Self-soothing is a critical skill in partner relationships; when conflicts happen (which they will), partners should be able to take time to process and cope with the heavy emotions that come with a fight. A green flag in self-soothing includes someone that both works on self-soothing as well as gives you space to self-soothe when arguments happen.
Shared Values & Goals
Some green flags don’t depend on traits that are “good” or “bad” but rather how aligned you are with the person you’re dating. Independence and individual interests are important, and it’s also important to have those factors that tie you together. Sharing values allow deeper understanding between partners, especially as it relates to goal setting together for the future.
In terms of the future, compatible goals can lead to more satisfaction for you and your partner. Often times, we think of some of the typical expectations for relationships when it comes to goals, such as parenthood, careers, marriage, living arrangements, etc. While these are all important, shared goals between you and your partner may look different than the typical benchmarks of relationships. Maybe your goals are more specific to travel. Perhaps you and your partner value new experiences. Regardless, shared values and goals not only decrease the need to compromise on what’s important to you but also create a stronger sense of connection.
All of us mess up at some point. You will make mistakes in your relationships inevitably, as will your partner. Perfection is not a green flag, as it’s a completely unattainable flag. The difference between the red and green is not in making the mistake but how you respond to it. Partners should be willing to take responsibility for their part in conflict and be willing to apologize. Mistakes should be thoroughly discussed and learned from.
Responsibility is rarely an “all-or-nothing” situation: in most conflicts between partners, the blame is shared to some degree. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily 50/50, but it does mean that when arguments happen, there’s likely at least one thing that each side can take responsibility for. A green flag in conflict is when a partner can name this nuance; even when you make a mistake, that are also able to name their part in the concerns as opposed to trying to point all fingers at you. They can also receive feedback from their partner when they may not realize their mistakes and do not jump to defensiveness.
At the end of the day, we need to remember that overall relationships should make us feel good. While there will be conflicts and problems to be solved along the way, you should be able to have fun with your partner. Of course, like many things on this list, fun can look a lot of different ways: maybe it’s having an activity you always do together, maybe it’s the sense of humor you share with your partner, or maybe it’s even just being able to feel content in each other’s company.
When we are first entering relationships, it can be tricky to take a critical eye on our situation. We often are swept up in the excitement and feel-good brain chemicals of the new adventure. While we should do what we can to train our eyes for warning signs, it can also be beneficial for us to make note of the positive signs along the way. Beyond this list, we all have our own individual values and hopes for our relationships. Take some time to reflect on what your green flags are, and start paying attention to where your green flags might be popping up!
- The Seven Principles to Making Marriage Work by John Gottman & Nan Silver
- Eight Dates: Essential Conversations For a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman
- Attached by Amir Levine & Rachel S.F Heller
- “How to Know If You Are In a Healthy Relationship” by Kendra Cherry
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