A while back, I wrote an article to help people spot red flags within kink-based dynamics. We’ve all heard of red flags before, right? They’re things that signify a warning in a relationship that we should look out for and be aware of. But has anyone ever sat down and analyzed the green flags in their relationship? That is, the things that show progress, connection, and compassion. In addition to looking out for signs of abuse or problematic behavior, we should all spend some time noting the green flags in our relationships as well.
My original article on red flags was specific to a kink-based dynamic, but a lot of the concepts can be applied to couples who don’t practice BDSM. In fact, these ideas don’t have to be discussed as something strictly within a romantic or sexual relationship. Lots of our relationships with peers and family members can be examined with the same criteria in order to help spot red or green flags. None of the information here will require a sexual dynamic to be applicable, but most people will probably use these concepts to examine their relationship with their partner(s).
What is a “green flag?”
In short, a green flag is any signifier that the relationship is beneficial or has a positive impact on the people involved. It can be something that shows compassion or understanding for the feelings of others or illustrates a healthy attitude on growth and compromise. Green flags can be big or small, and they may vary from person to person based on the needs of the people within the relationship.
The same way that red flags don’t always mean a person is inherently bad, a green flag doesn’t always mean they’re inherently good. These flags are merely things to think about when you analyze the quality of the overall relationship and may serve as clues on what to change to improve the dynamic.
Being able to identify these flags can help facilitate important conversations to gather more information about something you’re either concerned about or happy about in the relationship. Talking about these notable traits, actions, or ideas can help build trust and understanding, and strengthen the connection between two (or more) people.
What are some green flags to look out for?
Green flags won’t look the same for everyone’s relationship. Since people have differing needs, desires, and dynamics, these example indicators won’t always apply to everyone. That’s okay! The best way to figure out what works best for you is to make your own list of green flags. By writing down what aspects of a relationship are important to you, you can begin to take steps to improve your connections with others. Consider the following ideas when making your own list.
Has a Healthy Understanding of Consent
Does this person respect your limits? Do they immediately stop a behavior (sexual or not) when asked to? Do they ask how you feel about doing things before jumping into it?
Someone with a healthy understanding of consent will always ask permission before taking an action that will affect you. This doesn’t always mean in a sexual situation. It can be as simple as asking what you’d like to do before making commitments for you or involving you in choices like where to eat or what to watch on TV. Having a healthy understanding of consent simply shows that this person cares about your feelings and comfort level.
Strives for Improvement
We can’t all be perfect–that much is easy. A big green flag in a relationship is the conscious motivation to always do better. Instead of having the same arguments or issues within the relationship, people who strive to improve will show signs of effort in communicating and understanding others’ points of view. They will take past conversations into consideration when old issues arise and will work at using new approaches or coping strategies to improve the situation. If there are severe issues, they will consider professional help.
Shows Genuine Interest
It’s not always easy to hear about your partner’s day at work or listen to them vent about that same jackass who used their favorite coffee mug for the tenth time this week, but it’s what you’ve signed on for. If you care about someone, you care about their day and how they feel. If your partner or friends never let you talk about what matters to you, what does that say about how they see you? Even if you don’t share the same interests, listening to someone you care about is important. They don’t even have to fake an interest, but they should be able to be happy that you’re happy. Feeling like you can talk to someone about anything and they’ll focus and engage in the discussion is a major green flag that something is going right.
Apologizes for Wrong-Doings
Intent is sometimes irrelevant in how we react to things someone else says or does. Even if the other person didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, it’s important that they understand that they did. Being able to apologize for hurting others is an important green flag, but it needs to be done with sincerity and compassion. Sometimes we have to have a discussion about why our feelings were hurt in order for the other person to understand. However, being willing to have that conversation and make amends is a great indicator of them valuing the relationship.
“The Little Things”
We can’t always define them, but we know it when we see it: the little things. The small gestures that show a deeper level of connection. Not always as obvious as buying you flowers or writing you notes of appreciation. Sometimes, it’s doing all the chores when they know you’ve had a hard day at work, or bringing home fast food when you’re both too tired to cook. It doesn’t necessarily cost money and it isn’t a form of apology—it’s just something that shows they care.
Look for Both Green and Red Flags
All the green flags in the world shouldn’t make you ignore the red ones. Both are important and have to be considered with the others in mind. If you or someone you love is in a relationship with lots of red flags, don’t overlook them because they also do nice things. These “green flags” are meant to be indicators of things that are working within a relationship, but they by no means should excuse neglect or abuse. We must consider both sides to truly understand if our relationships are healthy or not.
I hope these examples served as a guide for your own list or got you thinking about green flags you’ve spotted in your own relationships. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your partner from time to time to discuss how everything is going. Make sure your needs are being met and that everyone is content with the relationship. Only by analyzing our needs and discussing them can we really get what we want out of a relationship.