Opinion

Why we need to shout about ‘green flags’ in relationships as well as red ones

After her Twitter thread on ‘green flags’ went viral, Toni Tone explains how in being so focused on safeguarding ourselves from potential danger, which is a completely natural thing to do, that we don’t actively acknowledge the positives in our relationships. 

As someone who spends a lot of time on social media, one thing I’ve noticed about online discussions surrounding relationships is how easy it can be to talk about the negatives. Heartache and heartbreak have a long-lasting and unforgettable impact on us, so it’s unsurprising that many of us focus on the not so positive aspects of past and current experiences when we’re talking about love. This might be why when people discuss what to look out for in the early stages of dating, ‘red flags’ are often at the forefront of their minds.

Red flags signify danger. When we’re talking about them in the context of a relationship, a red flag signifies that a person may be bad for us. But what about the opposite?

After discovering a Reddit post from last year about ‘green flags’, I began to question why green flags don’t take up more space in online discussions. So, to combat this I started a Twitter thread asking people to share some relationship green flags - i.e. signs that indicate someone would make a good partner.

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I was shocked when my thread went viral, with over 2,000 people commenting on their various, obvious, and not so obvious, green flag examples. A few of my favourite responses included:

Someone who doesn’t insult their exes

Plenty of people have exes they’re not friends with. Maybe they even have exes they despise. However, for someone to be an “ex” to us, that’s indicative of the fact we once cared for them. On that basis alone, many of us don’t bash our exes to current partners. It’s a sign of maturity, respect and can also highlight that a person has moved on and isn’t harbouring strong emotions connected to the past.

Someone who can disagree amicably and handle conflict well

All relationships will involve some type of disagreement at some point. So it’s important for us to be with people who know how to handle conflict well. If your partner is able to disagree with you but does so lovingly, that’s a green flag.

Someone who is clear and consistent about their intentions

Many of us appreciate transparency and consistency when it comes to the intentions of people we allow into our life. Clearness about intentions allows us to make informed decisions and have a good understanding of where we stand with people. Also, consistency highlights commitment. When someone is consistent about their intentions, they show up for us when it counts and they help to build an environment which doesn’t cause us to doubt ourselves. 

I began considering my own experiences of green flags in relationships. Then I saw one tweet that really struck a nerve. It was by a user called @painaukait, who stated: “One for me has always been how someone reacts when you make a silly mistake, like spilling a drink. If they laugh it off, green flag. If they get upset, red flag.”

One week prior to my green flags thread, my boyfriend of six months took me away to Devon to celebrate my birthday. We stayed in a very luxurious hotel, where the cheapest room during summer will take you back £700 a night. While at this hotel, I spilt orange juice on the plush light coloured carpet in the room. My immediate reaction was one of dread. I was worried that my boyfriend would get very annoyed with me. Instead, he apologised for startling me and proceeded to help me clean up the mess I had made – accompanied with a smile on his face and comforting words.

My automatic concern was a product of relationship experiences I’ve had in the past. I’ve made silly mistakes in the presence of previous partners and I’ve had to deal with them getting annoyed, criticising me, or being in a mood – despite the fact that my actions would have been totally accidental. That didn’t happen this time around though. I was supported and I felt like it was him and I versus the problem rather than him versus me for the mistake. I was so touched by his response that later in the day during dinner, I spoke to him about how much I valued the way he handled the situation. For me, that was a very clear green flag. 

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When I reflected on that incident after sharing my Twitter thread, I got to thinking about the impact of dismissing green flags. When we’re too preoccupied with finding or seeing the ‘bad’ in people, it can at times cause us to overlook the good. We can be so focused on safeguarding ourselves from potential danger, which is a completely valid thing to do, that we don’t actively acknowledge positive relationship behaviours in people. As a result of this, we may not appreciate or complement our partners for continuously proving themselves to be a positive addition to our life. Also, an absence of obvious red flags doesn’t automatically make someone a potentially great partner. I think the presence of green flags is actually considerably more important.

So next time you find yourself dating someone new and instinctively start to hunt for red flags, instead of asking yourself whether anything is ‘wrong’ with their behaviour, start asking yourself what they actually do well.  

Image: Getty

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