Nowadays, we often see social media posts and content about looking out for red flags when you start dating someone new. While it’s definitely important to understand the early relationship red flags, like lovebombing or a lack of respecting your boundaries, we think it’s equally as important to help folks identify green flags in a relationship.
Many folks have experienced some form of hardship in a relationship, especially relationships early on into their dating experience as we’re not typically taught what a truly healthy relationship looks like either by parents, family members, or in traditional education systems.
Beyond not being explicitly taught what a healthy relationship is - other dynamics in someone’s life, such as their parent’s relationship, social status, economic status, friendships, and self-confidence all can impact someone’s ability to build trust both with themselves and with other people when it comes to dating.
That’s why we think it’s equally as important for everyone to be able to not only identify red flags in a relationship, but the green flags of a healthy relationship too. We hope that this piece serves as a tool to help you identify what some top relationship green flags are and what a healthy relationship actually looks like.
Most simply put — a green flag is a good sign when dating someone.
It is used as a tool to help people identify desired character traits and overall compatibility with a partner in a healthy relationship. In contrast, red flags are the warning signs (and oftentimes deal breakers) of an unhealthy relationship.
As described by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the term green flags is used to “highlight positive actions or traits” in relationships that “are usually signs of healthy behaviors”.
While there are some typically universal relationship green flags, we also know that compatibility and desires are deeply personal so you may find that you have your own green flags - which is totally cool!
Looking for green flags early into dating or getting to know someone can help you determine if the relationship is heading in the right direction and if this new partner could be good for you in the long-term.
Remember - we have all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people, so while the green flags below are shared in the dating context, we believe all relationships (such as with your parents, coworkers, and roommates) all have red and green flags.
Everyone has different communication styles, and some are less compatible together than others. Still, a healthy relationship requires you and your partner to be able to talk about the good stuff and the tough stuff. Hiding your feelings or avoiding conversations because you are afraid of how they might respond? It’s time to reevaluate your shared ability to communicate within your relationship.
Healthy and effective communication can be seen through being able to feel comfortable talking about anything with your partner but also not feeling forced to share parts of you that maybe you aren’t ready to yet. It also involves talking about future plans (should you both want that), being able to not feel judged, and being able to state boundaries and have them be respected. Healthy communication takes work but it is the foundation of a truly healthy relationship.
Early into dating someone, healthy communication might look like texting/calling consistently, being able to be clear with intentions and relationships goals, and not pushing you towards a situationship when you desire more (but feel like you can’t communicate that!).
If you and your partner can spend time without each other and maintain your own independence within the relationship, this is a good sign of a healthy dynamic.
While early into a relationship we may be super infatuated and excited to spend time with the person, it’s also important to keep your independence and not go too fast too quickly. Early on, this relationship green flag typically shows up by the other person being excited for you to hang out with friends by yourself, take a class or do something you like, or feeling comfortable with you going on a work trip or traveling with out them.
A healthy relationship requires mutual support and growth, while maintaining your own happiness and health outside of your relationship. If you and your partner feel complete on your own, but you benefit from and enjoy being in each other’s lives, that’s a big green flag!
It can be scary to have conversations about long-term partnerships when you’ve just started dating someone, and we’re definitely not saying you should talk about marriage on the first date!
However, when you’re spending time with your new potential partner, it’s important that you both spend time learning about each other's goals and expectations for the relationship. This includes "defining the relationship" (DTR), but also could cover future plans like whether either or both of you are interested in marriage or where you see yourselves living in the future. If you share similar ideas about what the future might look like for your relationship, congratulations! You've found a green flag.
In today’s more fluid world of relationship dynamics, it’s even more critical to be transparent about feelings and thoughts about relationships - including if you are polyamorous, only want to hook up with them and aren’t looking for anything emotional, or are having sexual relationships with multiple people. While this might be uncomfortable - remember that effective communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship and this is just as much about building trust as it is about also giving someone the ability to make clear and informed choices within the relationship!
This might sound painfully obvious, but you should feel good around your partner.
Sometimes we can put on a false persona without even realizing it to try to please a potential partner. True comfort with another person takes time to develop, but if you feel like you’re walking on egg shells around your partner or you feel on-edge, it’s time to reassess whether or not this person is a good partner and how the relationship is affecting your mental health and well-being.
On the flip side, if the person you’re seeing provides you with a safe space and the validation to be your full self—this is is a great sign. You should feel free to be who you are, say what you feel, and express your full self while also allowing them to do the same!
It's often said that if someone gets upset because you set a boundary, that’s just more evidence that the boundary is needed.
Many people are afraid of setting boundaries because it feels like pushing people away, but the reality is that boundaries are an effort to build and/or continue a relationship with someone. If you and your partner have mutual respect for each other's physical, emotional, social, and digital boundaries, this is a great indicator that you're well on your way to creating a healthy dynamic.
Even on the very first date, you can get to know someone’s boundaries and also ensure they will at least respect your basic boundaries. For example, we always recommend going on a first date in public place in an early hour for a short time period (like Wednesday from 6-8pm) and say that you have plans after (even if you don’t). This can help assess many early relationship boundaries such as them respecting your time, respecting that you have other plans, and respecting that you may not want to dedicate a weekend or other main day to this first date.
Everyone’s boundaries are unique - which is why communicating them early into a relationship is critical. You should feel comfortable enough to express the boundary and confident that the person will respect it!
Again, this might sound obvious, but trust is one of the foundational pieces of a relationship.
When trust is the basis of your relationship, you and your partner can truly open yourselves up to real connection. Keep in mind that trust should be earned on both sides, and it’s something that is developed over time, not after a first or second date. Trust is built through mutual honesty, open communication skills, and fulfilling promises and commitments you make to one another. The early phases of trust include showing up on time for dates, helping each other with small tasks or needs (such as grocery shopping or running an errand for you), and being there for you emotionally.
Trust can be tricky early on in a relationship because you may feel head over heels and deeply fond or excited by this person. You can feel all those things while still ensuring that you aren’t trusting them with too much too quickly. Take your time in trusting anyone with the big stuff.
Yes, every relationship does and even should have disagreements, but having a healthy disagreement is different than yelling or exploding at each other in a way that makes one or both of you feel unsafe. (Reminder: unsafe doesn’t just mean physically unsafe - if your partner uses tactics in arguments or disagreements that make you feel unsafe, this is a major red flag).
If you and your partner are able to navigate disagreements while maintaining mutual respect, this is a major green flag. Typically this is done through asking questions about your opinion or perspective (and vice versa - you also should get to know their perspective!) and discussing the nuances of the perspectives. This healthy way of handling a disagreement should be seen in any type of disagreement - from movies to religion to opinions on the relationship or your needs being met.
If things do get tense, knowing when to walk away, or take a break from a fight, as well as knowing the lines that should not be crossed in the argument are all also indicators that you’re able to disagree in a healthy way. No one is perfect - and we all will say and do things over the course of our lives that we immediately regret or wish we didn’t do - but as long as holistically we’re trying our best and being intentional in listening and also respecting our own perspective, that’s all we can ask for!
Early on, you should feel comfortable expressing your opinions and thoughts - on everything from movies to religion. It’s actually great to get to know someone’s opinions on these big topics - which may be different from yours! You may find that you’re comfortable having different opinions on a book but maybe not on politics or religion - which is totally okay! If someone tries to shame you or make you doubt your opinion or says their opinion is the correct one, especially if their opinion causes harm to you or others, this can be a huge early indicator of harm to come.
Healthy relationships = healthy disagreements!
Long gone are the days of traditional heteronormative relationship responsibilities (i.e. the man provides financially and the woman does...basically everything else).
Relationships take work—but more specifically, they take work from all parties. You and your partner should be contributing equally to the relationship in terms of time, effort, and care required to commit to and maintain a healthy relationship.
If your relationship is collaborative and feels equal on all levels, that’s a big green flag.
Side note: some weeks your partner may be on their A game, while you’re struggling, and other times it may be opposite. This is a great clip about balance in healthy relationships!
Oftentimes, in unhealthy relationships, the pace that things are moving at will feel ‘off’, which can bring up concerns regarding love bombing. There are people who get engaged after three weeks and are happily married for years and there are also undefined situationships that can last years that can be super toxic - that’s why we say the pacing may feel “off” - either too fast or too slow for how you’re truly feeling inside and what you want out of the relationship.
There’s no hard set rules for when you should do what in a relationship, but we recommend starting with checking in with yourself continuously. If the pace feels good and you're comfortable with how quickly (or slowly) things are moving, you've probably found a green flag. If you’re not sure whether things are moving too fast, try talking to a trusted loved one like a family or friend, which brings us to our last green flag.
We also have this blog about relationship milestones which may help you understand where you’re at and what you’re looking for!
We’re not saying that every person in your life needs to adore your new partner, but it can say a lot if they don’t like the person you’re dating. Oftentimes, our friends and family can see the warning signs in a significant other that we can’t see ourselves from inside the relationship. As Wanda Pierce on Bojack Horseman put it: “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”
So if you ask the people in your life for honest feedback, and the majority of them view your partner and your relationship in a positive light, this is green flag. If you are constantly having to validate the other persons’s actions or behavior towards your friends and family or they have expressed genuine concerns about your compatibility or safety with the individual, this is a major red flag that you shouldn’t ignore.
We all come from different backgrounds - which means our friends and family may be very different than our partner’s and vice versa. It’s all about how they give their best effort and put their best foot forward when being around your friends and family and that you feel like your relationship dynamics are healthy in public and private!
Reminder: relationship green flags don’t apply only to romantic relationships. They can be helpful in creating and maintaining any good relationship, whether with your lover or your best friend.
If you can find a relationship that has most (or all) of them, congratulations! You’re on the path to a healthy relationship with someone who can offer you everything a good relationship has to give!
If you feel your relationship is missing a few of these green flags, we recommend taking one of our relationship quizzes to help you better understand your personal situation.
You can also visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) for additional resources and to speak/text/chat with a trained advocate for free, anonymous assistance, information, or advice. They can help you identify signs in your relationship, how to safely leave a relationship (even if just a few dates in but you’re worried about your safety!) and other support across all types of relationships.
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