You’ve no doubt heard of the term red flags in a relationship or when you’re dating. But what about green flags? Have you ever heard of the term green flags? They’re not exactly the opposite of a red flag. They have two different definitions and we’re gonna explore both right here, right now.
Green flags. You want them.
Green flags in a relationship are things that you want and look for, and should look for, and that you should learn to recognize. They should be something that you desire, that you are taking notes on. Red flags we all have heard before; if someone is on a date and suddenly their ex-girlfriend shows up and sits down next to them in the booth at the restaurant, that is a red flag.
It means that something is wrong and you should end the date. What’s a green flag then? There are two types of green flags in the therapy circles. Green flags typically refer to acts of love, expressions of love in a relationship that show a healthy sense of affection and mental and emotional well-being.
And this could be anything. It could be a sense of appreciation, a sense of balance is a green flag. Many people in relationships are super obsessed with the relationship and they cut off their friends and their families, and their work suffers. If they are still in university their schooling suffers.
Having a sense of balance in your relationship is a green flag in the classic therapeutic sense. As well as commitment, loyalty, commonality, and conflict resolution. These are elements that make a healthy couple.
They know how to resolve their conflicts. They share values and are honest with each other. A big red flag is if you catch your partner or potential partner lying to you. The opposite of that is if they’re always honest, even to a fault, to the point where you know it might hurt you, but they want to have a completely transparent relationship. That’s a green flag.
There are ways to soften difficult truths if you need to expose certain difficult truths to your partner. That’s a whole different topic. But being able to empathize, in the classic sense, and listen, and put yourself in your partner’s shoes while keeping your sense of independence is a very big green flag.
Co-dependence is not a good thing for relationships. You want to have a sense of independence in your relationship. You want to be able to exist on your own, but also be a productive part of a twosome, of a couple. That self-confidence, and having a sense of safety in the relationship. These are all green flags.
Green Flags are Personal Worth Markers
The other type of green flag that we don’t always talk about but is important in new relationships are the things that tell you what a person is worth. If you are pursuing a romantic relationship or dating someone as a potential serious partner, or if you are just at the beginning of a romantic relationship, you should look for the green flags.
These are the things that let you know this person is someone you want to invest your time and effort. Another situation is if you’re getting back together with an ex, you should be looking for these green flags too. The little signals that say: “Hey, this is serious. This can go the distance.” And the third scenario in which you should be looking for green flags is if you’re married (or in a long-term, healthy relationship) but your friends and your family are dating other people.
Your Job as a Friend
It becomes your job. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is your job to keep an eye out for them. For a long time when I was in my teens and early twenties, I had the horrible habit of dating crazy people. My family helped me by telling me when I was dating someone who was nuts and I really appreciated it. Not necessarily at the time.
Sometimes it causes friction. But when the relationship inevitably implodes, you look back at the people who were honest with you and you say: “You know what? I really valued that they didn’t sugarcoat it.”
You want to look for green and red flags in people. Partners who you actually care. Now, if they’re just a casual friend, I am of the opinion that you don’t offer your 2 cents on their partner unless explicitly asked.
But if the person is your brother, your son, or daughter, or a cousin that you’re very close with, or even your best friend, and you see them turning into someone you don’t like or with someone who treats them poorly, I do feel you should bring it up.
Tell them that there are no green flags in the relationship and that you are concerned. I’ve had to do that many times. There was a friend who was about to get married to somebody, and I knew the direction it was headed.
I took a very hard stance and said: “You know, I can’t be at that wedding”. And it broke the relationship between one of my best friends and me for a couple of years. But the relationship inevitably imploded. And one thing that he learned was that he could trust me to be honest. Now, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have gone to that.
I think it was a bit extreme. There are ways to do it softly, and at the end of the day, if your best friend is making a mistake and you’ve warned them and they’re still going to make the mistake, you usually still have to be their best friend. You don’t want to alienate them, because sometimes they’re gonna need a shoulder to cry on.
I wanted to use that story as an example of how extreme you can get with this.
Big Green Flag 1: You Enjoy Their Friends
What are the green flags when a relationship is starting? Well, I have three that I want to mention. The first one is when you enjoy being around the friends of the person you are dating, (or the friends of the person that you love is dating).
If you are dating somebody or you see somebody dating somebody new, and their friends are of a much lower caliber type of people than you’re used to, that’s a big problem. And the opposite is true. If you’re dating somebody and they introduce you to your friends and you think: “Wow, that’s a cool person! I wouldn’t mind hanging out with them”, that’s a great sign.
Because people tend to keep in their social circle people that have a lot of similarities and shared values. This does change based on your age. If you’re in your early twenties, many times there are what I call leftover friends, people that you just didn’t cut ties with from high school yet.
Or from university, and maybe they were great friends for the dorms, but now that you’re on a career path and a lifestyle path, they’ve veered off in a very different direction. There’s a moment when you realize: ”We’re in a different stage of our lives now and we need to cut it off”. That is very common. Usually, by your thirties, you figured out who you wanna spend time with.
If you’re in your thirties (and definitely in your forties), and you’re going out with somebody and you think they’re great, upstanding, ambitious, business oriented, and then you meet their friends and they’re all unemployed people who get drunk three nights a week and live in rundown apartments, something is very wrong.
The person has either completely pulled one over on you and is pretending to be something they’re not, or they haven’t figured out that their friends are in a different place, and you need to explore that more. There can be legitimate reasons. If that person is a veteran and their crew is from a unit in the military, there’s PTSD to consider, there might be a sense of compassion for their fellow veterans.
There are different explanations. Family is also another one. If their social circles are made up of cousins and brothers, well, you don’t get to choose your family, but generally speaking, if it’s friends they’ve chosen and you don’t enjoy being around them, that’s not so great.
If, on the other hand, you meet these friends and you’re like: “Wow, this person’s friends are just like him in their own individual way. I like his friends”. That’s a green flag. When you like someone’s friends it’s a great sign that you’re probably with the right person. It’s a big green flag. Put that in the win column.
Big Green Flag 2: They Openly Speak About the Future
Number two, they openly speak about the future. If you are dating somebody and they don’t talk
about if they want to get married, or if they want kids, or what kind of house they have. It’s not necessarily a red flag. They might be quiet, and they might not have figured out exactly what they want, but the opposite is a green flag.
If you are with either a man or a woman who talks very openly about how they can’t wait to be a parent or the opposite, that they don’t want to have kids, when you start talking about your goals, your desires, your values, and then the partner you’re with openly talks about those things, it’s a sign that they want to see if they’re on the same page as you. With big issues, very big issues, like having kids, where you want to live, what your expectations are.
If they start talking about how they like to take vacations every so often, if they have kids or want kids, whether they intend to send them to private school or public school, etc. And not just pie in the sky: “I want to live in a mansion and have 20 kids and all of them will go to private school.” Everybody can make a dream list of a great life where everything is just hunky-dory.
Real practical considerations based on who they are as a person, that’s a green flag. Someone who talks openly about what they want is looking to connect, they are doing their due diligence, if you will, on whether you can work with them and make this life that they want happen with them. That’s a huge green flag.
My experience in this world has shown me that someone who talks openly about this won’t just stop with you. They’ll often talk about what they want for the future in front of your parents, in front of your friends, in front of your family. They’re excited. They’re excited to start that life with you.
Big Green Flag 3: They Like to Play House
And the last green flag I’ll talk about is that they like to play house. A story I tell quite often is how I knew my wife was falling in love with me and how I knew I was head over heels, just dunski. She got me.
Very soon after we started talking about going up to Tahoe, she was already planning a trip to see some friends that invited me to come along. It was already a big thing. And I, born and raised in Los Angeles, do not own warm clothes, and she’s like: “Oh, that’s not gonna do”.
And instead of telling me I should buy this or do this or get this, she took it upon herself to go to the store and buy me long underwear. That got me because I was like: “This is someone who just wants to take care of me and has that maternal instinct and is really sweet in that way.”
It was a huge green flag because she was essentially playing house. She was acting like my wife long before she ever was my wife.
My own brother, I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m sharing this, but my own brother met his wife during COVID. And one of their first dates, if not their very first in-person date, partly because restaurants were closed, but partly because this is how they clicked into each other was at Home Depot.
They went and they picked blinds for his now wife’s apartment, a mundane activity. Anyone can fall in love with another person if they have a hot air balloon ride over the Grand Canyon, that just inspires romance. The real test is if the person’s going to buy you underwear.
If you can fall in love with someone at Home Depot buying a plunger, you got a winner because that means that there’s room for passion in the mundane activities that happen on a day-to-day basis.
If You Find Joy in the Mundane
When you can love someone just walking down the street or paying a bill or stopping by the ATM or picking up a bag of rubber bands for their office, or fixing their stapler. If those moments still allow you to connect and grow your intimacy, that’s a huge green flag.
Playing house, normal things, if that is exciting, and you fall into that naturally as partners, just doing the mundane stuff, and not always worrying about wowing them with the latest romantic gesture. That’s a green flag because guess what?
If you fall in love with someone who’s just one big romantic gesture after another, what happens three months into the relationship when they’re out of money? Or they’re bored? Or they just want to watch a movie, or do something simple; the pressure to do the next grand thing is gone. And maybe there’s no real relationship there.
In conclusion, if you’re the kind of people who can go and buy groceries together and actually make it enjoyable, and you can enjoy spending time with each other playing house. That is a great sign that there are some wonderful things in store for you in that relationship.
If you need help identifying both green and red flags in your relationships, contact me for professional counseling at mrspirituality.com. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you next time.