We’re all familiar with red flags — those clues that pop up early in a relationship to warn you that you might want to carefully consider whether you should continue getting closer to a person. Common red flags are when someone moves way too fast, is rude to service staff or a bad tipper, hates all of their exes (or says they’re all “crazy”), or tries to push beyond your physical or emotional boundaries.
There are plenty of other red flags, and really anything that makes you do a gut-level doubletake is reason to step back and reevaluate. But, in general, most red flags are rooted in a person’s casual disregard for other people’s feelings and a centering of their own needs.
And, of course, red flags aren’t limited to romantic relationships. Friendships and familial relationships can crash and burn too, and they also come with clues up front as to where they’re headed.
The Opposite Of A Red Flag
So, we talk a lot about what we should be avoiding in relationships. But what about the good stuff? What about the signs that you are involved in a healthy, safe relationship that’s on a trajectory you can feel good about? Nedra Glover Tawwab, licensed therapist and NYT bestselling author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace,” posted a list of what she calls “green flags” on her Instagram profile.
As Tawwab notes, just as with red flags, green flags can be found in any type of relationship. They’re the opposite of red flags — they have to do with a person being able and willing to consider others and communicate clearly and with kindness. Green flags are up-front indicators that you’re in a relationship that’s worth continuing and nurturing. A new relationship full of green flags is a relationship in which you will probably be able to let down your guard and be your truest self.
The Gift Of Green Flags
I consider myself fortunate to deeply relate to Tawwab’s list. I have friends and family who meet many green flag criteria, but it’s my relationship with my partner that astounds me daily with all its green flags. Since the very beginning of my relationship with Amber, I’ve noticed and commented on how kind and thoughtful they are, not just about what’s important to me, but about what’s important to everyone in their life. They even look out for perfect strangers. They are kind and friendly to everyone they meet. They tip generously. Everyone who knows Amber has nothing but positive things to say about them. They are always honest and direct, but never mean. They welcome criticism and have a growth mindset. They tell me exactly what they need from me and check in constantly to make sure I have what I need from them.
I never, ever have to worry that Amber will judge me for some weird thing I say or for something I’m ashamed of from my past. I can tell them every single ugly detail and they will love me anyway, warts and all. On the rare occasion we have a disagreement, I trust that Amber will seek a resolution that will leave us both satisfied and feeling heard. I know with every fiber of my being that Amber’s intentions are always good, never self-centered, never coming from a place of resentment or pettiness. They set boundaries for themself, as they should — they’re no pushover — but their core motive and way of existing in this world is to leave every place, every situation, every being, better than they found it.
I am so grateful to have this level of trust. How can you have a productive disagreement that leads to a forward-moving outcome if you doubt the other person’s motives? How can you come to an agreement, or at least an “agree to disagree” when you don’t fully trust that someone has your well-being in mind just as much as their own?
I trust Amber so deeply that if we disagree, I pause and check myself. In fact, I usually assume I must be wrong, because otherwise why would Amber go to the trouble of voicing their disagreement? They consider their words and actions so thoughtfully that if they’re pushing back on something I’ve said or done, it means I need to take a beat to reevaluate. Occasionally we meet somewhere in the middle, but usually if Amber has disagreed with me about something, they have a very good reason. I have absolute confidence in their judgment.
Green Flags Should Go Both Ways
Not only do I have this level of trust in Amber, but I know they have it in me too. The trust is a two-way street with us — another green flag. Very, very occasionally (because Amber is usually right), I will disagree with Amber about something and push back. I feel safe to do so, and I have complete trust that Amber will hear me out.
I know we will have disagreements in the future, as all couples do. But being able to trust in Amber’s inherent goodness and kindness toward others (not just me, their romantic partner) makes resolving disagreements easier. I never have resentful or contemptuous thoughts about Amber “only thinking of themself” or being oblivious to or not considering my needs.
This deep trust is a precious gift. I wish everyone could have all these green flags in their relationships, romantic and otherwise. It is the coziest, warmest feeling in the world to know that you have a person with whom you can be your truest, most authentic self. From the way I hear some people speak of their significant others or even their family members, I know not everyone is so lucky. I only hope that if you don’t have a person you can trust like this, that you seek them out, and that you find them.