Food For Thought

TikTok’s Beige Flags Seem Harmless Enough, But Can They Actually Affect Your Relationship?

Yup, says a relationship expert — but you can head issues off at the pass if you play your cards, er, flags right.

Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

Beige flags are the new red flags when it comes to sussing out your relationship. Unlike the latter, beige flags are typically manageable. It could be that your partner has never watched a movie made after 2005. Maybe it's the way they chew their food. Basically, it's not enough of a pause to end the relationship but just enough for you to say, "Hmmm..."

According to TikTok — the origin of all Gen Z lexicon — a partner's so-called beige flag is neither good nor bad; it's just a habit or a trait that gives you pause.

The meaning of beige flags has evolved from the initial TikTok conception to now, Laurel House, an eharmony relationship expert, tells Scary Mommy. At first, these flags were described as indications that someone is boring, but now they're more of a quirk.

"The thing about quirks is that they are attributes, actions, and attitudes that might start as cute or endearing, and in time they can become annoying and even triggering," House says. "Quirks, now called beige flags, can also be debatable depending on the person you ask. To one, it might be a fun lime green flag ... to another, it is an annoying neon yellow flag."

More than being on a sliding scale of potentially annoying, according to House, these beige flags "can also be reflective of the sliding scale of patience, acceptance, and sense of humor in the person who is the one on the opposite side of the flag" — characteristics that are all too important when it comes to maintaining a relationship.

And what if you are in a relationship? Does that mean you're immune to seeing your partner's beige flags? Nope. Who doesn't groan whenever their partner loads the dishwasher from the top down or rolls their eyes every time they quote something from Anchorman for the millionth time?

Read on for House's tips on how to recognize beige flags in your partner (and how to manage them).

How do beige flags impact a relationship?

While too many people are attracted to the hot passion of chemistry at first, House points out how often the "fire" eventually fizzles and might even end up leaving a red flag in its dust.

"Beige, on the other hand, is quirky, odd, pleasant, neither here nor there, simple, goes with everything, possibly peculiar, and benign," she says. "A beige action, attribute, or attitude is the type of thing that might be mentioned during a non-offensive roast."

All of that being said, House says beige flags, not the fiery red, are the ones that support an enduring relationship.

"While hot relationships can be exciting, they can also be passionate in both the good and bad sense of the word," she explains. "Lasting relationships are calm, easy, connective, and agreeable. They can even, sometimes, be called mundane. Because that's life. It's generally mundane, daily life. It's beige with different colored highlights and lowlights depending on the day, as well as each individual's level of patience, happiness, spunk, sadness, and any other feelings that might come up."

What are examples of beige flags within a relationship?

Maybe your partner sets their alarm and then puts it in the living room at night, meaning the alarm goes off even longer before it finally gets turned off, which can wake up the entire house. Annoying, right? You know it's because once they get up to turn off the alarm, they are up, instead of having the alarm next to the bed where they can hit snooze the alarm over and over and over.

But, still.

If this is the beige flag, House suggests discussing how you can come to an alarm agreement that gets them up without forcing you up too.

Another example is your partner falls asleep every night while watching TV. Meanwhile, you can only fall asleep in complete darkness and silence. "This can create sleeplessness, which is the worst possible time to speak up about your aggravation," House says. "So instead, when you have had ample sleep, have a conversation about why they do that, what you need in order to sleep, and how you can find a solution that allows both of you to fall asleep without affecting the other."

Or perhaps they like to have a conversation with everyone they meet — whether it's the others in the elevator, the server at a restaurant, their taxi driver, or someone standing waiting for the light to change at the street crosswalk. But after a while, you feel like they are ignoring you and giving more attention to someone else when you are together. House recommends talking about it. "Maybe they are having conversations because they are uncomfortable having others serve them, or they like to make sad-looking people feel important and like they matter," she says.

The point is what might start off as funny and interesting can, in time, expand into being aggravating, annoying, and even quickly triggering and angering. House says the key is understanding the why behind the beige flag.

"Why do they do that? What is the reasoning? Once you understand the reason behind the action or attitude, you will have more access to understanding them, as well as likely understanding why they do the thing in the first place."

Be clear about what is a beige flag dealbreaker.

Being head over heels for someone could make it easier for you to dismiss the beige flags. After all, are they the cute quirks you fell in love with? Yes and no. Because what was adorably annoying one day can turn into something aggravating the following year.

"If these beige flags start to become annoyances, as opposed to adorable, that's when you lean in instead of pulling back," House suggests. "Start having conversations about what's bugging you and how you might make some adjustments. Your partner might tell you that they have always been that way, and you used to think it was cute. And while that might be true, in time, it has started to grate on you. Simultaneously, ask them if there are little things you do that annoy them too so both of you are actively working to make little changes in order to become closer and more connected."

The problem with little things that are annoying, says House, is that they can turn into big annoyances that turn you off and shut you down, "and then you end up ending the relationship for seemingly insignificant issues."

As House points out, the truth about daily life is that it is often mundane. "And the majority of life lived together in a long-term, lasting relationship is daily and mundane. And still, we all have our weirdities and quirks, many of which we hide for fear of judgment by others. Beige flags are the display of our boring and quirky sides, and being the example of that being OK."

So, have the conversation with your partner before those beige flags turn into red ones.