A relationship green flag is a sign that a relationship may be a healthy and interdependent one based on mutuality and reciprocity. I’d posit that the more we focus our minds and hearts on seeing the good and believing the good is out there and the more we can cultivate a relationship to ourselves to be a loving one, the more we can connect with other humans who are available for what we want to grow and build in the world.
Mutually beneficial relationships built on respect and kindness above all.
I’m going to be citing some examples from my own dating life and those of my clients who I recently polled on this topic.
As you read about these green flags, I want to invite you to see what resonates for you, mind, body, and spirit, and to not just ask yourself if your dates or your friends are bringing these energies to your connection, I’ll invite you to see if you are showing up with the energies you want from others in a relationship. And to ask yourself why or why not.
A spiritual teacher of mine once told me to write down everything I wanted in a partner. And then told me to do the work to become those things that I was seeking externally. As I go through these green flags, notice the things that you’re looking for someone else to bring to your life so you can become those things for yourself.
And that reminds me of that Gandhi quote:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change around him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and a source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
So beautiful. And if you’re in a relationship or if you’re not in a relationship and you’re not dating and you’re applying the following to friendships and you’re like, well, I love all these green flags and my relationship has few or none of these, then I’ll invite you to get curious about whether your current relationships serve you if they don’t feature what you consider to be green flags for you.
I know now why I stayed in painful relationships, why I got out, and why I have the relationship values I have now.
This is a great opportunity for you to get real about your romantic, friend, and other relationships and to ask if you’re getting and giving what you want and need, and if you’re being your own best friend in your life and in all of your relationships.
Top of the heap for me is kindness, which encompasses so many other beautiful green flags. I value kindness deeply. And I’m not super into someone just being nice. Operating from conditioned responses, choosing politeness over honesty. That’s not a turn on for me.
Folded into being truly kind for me is being honest, direct with a gentleness, thoughtful, thinking about themselves and their needs, and also those of the other beings in their world. And if you want to learn more about the difference between being kind and being nice, I’ll invite you to click here.
This includes the baseline green flags of being respectful and thoughtful, not raising their voice, lifting me and others up, versus putting folks down, being real about challenging feelings without disparaging others, not talking smack about their exes while also not glamorizing past relationships or holding them up as perfect.
Next is having chemistry, a spark, you can laugh and enjoy yourselves. It’s not a struggle to get through a conversation, or to find what to connect around. That energetic spark is what I’m talking about.
Not just sexual chemistry here because remember, we can apply these green flags to our friendships, our work partnerships that we get to choose, et cetera, et cetera.
All of our relationships and even in romantic relationships, feeling that energetic spark of connection is a sign from my intuition to proceed. That I feel safe enough in my nervous system to be myself. My authentic self, real and honest, open and vulnerable, to speak up and to say my truth, even if they may not like it.
Recognizing, of course, that how much we feel safe to open up has a lot to do with us and our own growth, and how comfortable we are being open in general. And there’s an interplay there with the energetics of the connection. It’s co-created for sure.
This is when we check in with our gut, with our inner children, and we ask ourselves, am I able to show up as my authentic self with this person to the best of my current ability or do I feel that urge to show up in ways that are less than truthful, to not rock the boat here, to people please, in the hopes of making them like me?
Do I feel that pull of perfectionism, people pleasing, or can I just be myself as much as I’m currently able to at this point in my growth and development?
Likewise, it’s a green flag when a date or a new friend can show me their real, authentic, weird self, can share about their past, their present, and their hopes for the future without dumping or oversharing, which is a really common stand-in for true intimacy.
And it goes like, “Well, I told you all my traumas, we must be so close now,” which is not how real intimacy works. So that’s less than a green flag.
The green flag is when someone can show up authentically in a balanced way, and when they can read the room and can check in, which can sound like, “Hey, I want to share some stories from my childhood, do you have room for that right now?” Or “Let me know when you want to hear about x, y, z from my life, I’m excited to share with you, and I’m excited to hear about you.”
When someone is ready, willing, and able to show up with and from their full open heart, with empathy and open, direct communication, that is a vital green flag for me.
And when they want to know about me in equal measure with how much they want to share and be heard, that’s a glorious thing.
When they ask curious questions and want to know me, my intentions, my thoughts, hey, why did you say that thing? What’s going on for you? And they want me to know them. Green flags all over the place.
Next is when you want the same thing from a relationship.
This is important from jump because fantasy thinking is such a common habit for us from our codependent habits.
We have this sneaky belief that we can change people if we just love them hard enough, if we badger them enough to change, and it’s just not based in reality. And it’s such a quick way to get hurt.
So if you’re looking for marriage and kids, a serious partnership, pause before you start daydreaming about swiping right on someone who clearly says, “Just looking for casual fun,” and vice versa.
Green flag is when they clearly state what they want and act in a way that supports that statement and you do the same.
And it’s important to say it’s okay if you connect with someone and you just want casual fun and that evolves over time as long as there’s clear communication. But that evolution feels so different than someone saying they want one thing and acting in a way totally counter to that.
Next is that you have some overlap in your interests and are aligned in your values.
So I’m not looking for every date, every friend, everyone I hang out with to have a one for one overlap with my interests. But rather, to care about the things that matter deeply to me, my core values, and to have alignment in those values and some overlap in our interests.
And our interest doesn’t have to be the same, meaning it doesn’t have to be the same music or art or poetry, but valuing creative expression. So for example, if someone doesn’t value honesty, that’s a red flag for me. That’s not going to work out.
And what’s really important is that I’m not out here to change who I am or what I want in a relationship, what I want for my life, and what I’m into to make someone fit into my life.
Likewise, I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who wants to change their core interests or values so I will be into a false version of them. Not interested.
And green flag-y as it is to have similar or overlapping interests, it’s a beautiful green flag when they have interests and skills and knowledge that’s different from yours and wants to share that with you because it provides a space for you both to engage with what matters to you on your own.
A green flag for me is not just being in the teacher or the learner role in a relationship all the time but having a healthy give and take that supports mutual growth.
And when that other person is super into you both growing and supporting you both becoming your favorite versions of yourself, that is a wonderful green flag in my eyes that is so important to me.
The concept that you grow through your work and I grow through mine and that we then come together and that makes us the third party in any relationship, the relationship itself stronger. That is a really important thing in my world, rather than that old urge to merge.
I think it’s particularly lovely and for sure a green flag when a date or a new friend cares about what you care about because it’s what you care about.
And getting to know you and what matters to you matters to them because you matter to them. The truth of who you are matters to them. They show up to meet you with more than words, taking action towards creating and cultivating deep connection.
Someone can show you in various ways, not just tell you, that you hold similar values, that you move through the world in ways that are simpatico, that foster interdependence and reciprocity in daily life.
A life with someone is made up not of the shiny bright things alone but of the quotidian bullshit that makes up a life together. Those daily things that really are our worlds.
And a dedication to reciprocity in quotidian everyday life is so key for me. For example, this can look like an attitude of, well, if you cook, I will clean. A desire to meet me domestically. And if someone was like, I don’t clean, that’s not something I’m available to do, then these days, I’m just not interested in that relationship.
That brings me to the adjacent green flag of willingness to do emotional labor.
Another task that tends to fall on humans socialized as girls and women, on the shoulders of femmes.
When someone is doing their emotional work, is filling their own cup, and is here for doing their share of the emotional labor, that is just so damn sexy to me. And this ties back to values.
When someone can be alone with themselves, if they are able to validate themselves for themselves, versus chronically seeking external validation, that too is a beautiful green flag and can be a sign of secure attachment, which allows us to be present with ourselves without grasping for others to fill the self-void in our lives.
It’s also a green flag when their opinion matters to you, but not more than your own does.
And your opinion matters to them, but not more than their own does. When there’s mutuality there too.
It is super hot to me when a date takes care of themselves.
When they’re a fully grown adult who manages their mind, their life, their exercise, their nutrition, their self-care, their finances, keeps their shoes shined.
And it can be super fun and enriching when those categories of self-care overlap, and when you can give each other space to do your self-care on your own.
Another green flag is respecting and honoring your boundaries and their own.
I only want to be in relationship with folks who recognize the importance of limits, boundaries, and how important it is to state those clearly. And folks who see that clearly stated boundaries are self-care and community care, because clearly stated boundaries are resentment prevention.
And while having a date or a friend honor my stated boundaries is vital, we all make mistakes. And apologizing for stepping over a boundary is a green flag. Owning their mistake and speaking to how it made me feel is a green flag. Making a bid for reconnection and a sincere apology, green flag. And changed behavior is the biggest green flag.
When we are grounded, we don’t write lousy behavior off, we don’t dream of changing the person, of fixing them.
We remember people don’t change if they don’t want to change. No matter how much you want to believe that you’ll be the one to shift a lifetime of thought habits for them, you’re unlikely to be, my darling.
People will be who and how they want to be, regardless of what you want for them. And so for me, the key to holding that middle ground is not allowing myself to date or to be in a friendship from a place of fantasy and dreams of what could be when this person changed, but rather to stay super present to what is. Intentional living 101, right?
And that brings me to self-responsibility and the capacity to name and own their mess ups, to properly apologize versus doing one of those I’m sorry you felt that way halfway apologies.
In my dating life, my friendships, my business relationships, on and on, I am no longer available for folks who can’t say I messed up, for folks who cannot apologize.
And I’m not here to be made the problem when I’m not. I’m here for self- responsibility, to own it when I mess up, and to be in relationship, all kinds of relationship, with people who are equally dedicated to self-awareness and owning what’s real versus blaming, shaming, and guilting.
Next green flag is when our friends like our person.
So a green flag for me now is that my most beloved and trusted confidants get a good gut feeling about someone I’m dating.
And so I actively seek out their opinion because they matter to me. Not more than my own do, but the opinions of the people I truly trust truly matter, especially early on in dating when I’m awash in the chemicals of early connection, all that magical and vision-clouding feel-good oxytocin and dopamine, and frankly, it’s when we can’t see the trees for the proverbial forest.
Finally, I want to invite you to allow your own intuition to be the biggest green or red flag ever.
Pay attention to how you feel in your body around the people you’re dating and making friend connections with and make note of internal calm versus internal anxiety. Remembering that intuition is that calm, quiet, loving voice within. Not the frantic, frenetic voice of anxiety or worry, but that deeply chill voice that says go with this, my beauty, or you know, I’m just not into them for you.
The more attuned you are to your own attachment style, your habitual thoughts, you can put the intuitive signals from your body into context. And so the more you can understand and honor what your body is telling you about a possible connection so you can take honest stock of the green flags and the red and can make decisions that truly honor you, your life, your desires, your big and loving open heart.
Make a list of the things you see as green flags. See if they are present in your relationships. Why or why not? Does that work for you or not?
I’ll invite you to see the things that you most want in a partner, in a friend, in all kinds of relationships, and to ask yourself, how can I live into this for me? How can I be this? How can I be a person who respects me, who honors me, who really takes stock of my boundaries, my limits, and believes they’re really important? How can I be this for me?
And then look outside of yourself. Try it on. It’s pretty magical. And if you’re like, “This all feels too good to be true,” I want to assure you that it is not. After so many years of really painful relationships where I was not showing up for myself and I was getting met with more red flags than green, I want to tell you it is really possible to be in relationships that feel loving and kind and caring and to show up for yourself in these ways too.
If you want this for you, I want to remind you that it all starts from within.
And when we do our work and do the activities we enjoy on our own, when we learn to cultivate love for ourselves, then the energy around us is different and we don’t attract what we did when we were hurting.