It is almost a given that each of us, at some time, has had a bad relationship. What is even worse is that many of us saw the signs before they happened but yet we proceeded on with it. Our friends have probably told us that they saw the signs and tried to warn us. Even worse is that these bad relationships can have far reaching effects on us and end up causing us to repeat that pattern. There are even studies that show when we come from unhealthy situations that we seek them out as a coping mechanism.
A quick tour around any bookstore or web search will show you endless options of how to spot those bad types and to avoid them. But, as with many things in our world, we often only treat the symptom without removing the cause or teaching us how to avoid it. Today you will learn how to break that cycle. You will find seven green flags to look out for in You Got The RIght Stuff: A guide to right romantic relationships.
A mind for the negative
I grew up in a household where my parents fought, not everyday but there were some serious bad times. I spent many a fraught night lying in bed till the sun menacingly crawled up over the horizon to start glaring at my tear stained eyes. My father, screaming at my mother that he knows she is cheating on him for this reason or that. Alcohol fueling his inane rages. My mother, who spent her first marriage in an abusive relationship, standing up to his brow beating, verbal assaults and refusing to be demeaned. You would think that this would push me away from toxic situations but no. Quite the contrary, I seemed to be attracted to men who were distant and punished me with their perceived slights by ignoring me completely or telling me how bad of a person I was. I couldn’t understand why I seemed to attract those types.
When I found good men to date, my mind would rush to find problems and if none were found, I didn’t give up. I would overanalyze everything said to me or what my partner did to find just one thing to prove they were not as good as they seemed. Talk about a toxic mindset.
This mindset carried through to all of my relationships. If there was a disagreement, my mind raced to the thoughts that this was the end of the relationship. That is what I was taught was the logical outcome. After all, my parents seemed to be on that trajectory.
There is ample research being done to show that the human mind naturally gravitates towards the negative. Our mind focuses so hard on trying to spot the negative or red flags that we almost seek them out. Is it part of some ancient gene to prevent us from attracting the wrong mate or trying to point out our propensity of getting into danger without thinking?
Even when we seem to be in a good or healthy relationship, our mind often points out perceived issues that will ultimately lead us to a break up and being alone. It seems counterintuitive, our mind naturally flows towards positive situations that only seem to benefit us and make us feel good. However, the mind seems set on being dark.
A change in perspective
Recognizing danger is a trait that is carried over from our more animalistic brain. It is meant to help us identify things that may be life threatening and to avoid them. But it can be addictive to the point that it is all we look for. Identifying those good traits, green flags, can often provide a better, more safe picture of who a person is and how good the relationship may be.
To be able to start to spot these green flags, we have to learn to divest ourselves from only looking for the red ones. That requires work and introspection. Take some time to reflect on what your personal needs are in a relationship and a partner. It is important to state that there is a difference between needs and wants. Simply stated, a need is something that is necessary for a thing to function and grow. Whereas a want is something that can improve the quality of a given thing. A simple comparison would be to say that whipped cream on a sundae is a want, it improves the overall experience of having a sunday. Ice cream is a need in this scenario. A sundae couldn’t exist without it.
Let’s translate that to a relationship situation. Finding a mate who is well-endowed, while may seem necessary to you, is a want. Your relationship could function completely normal with someone who wasn’t well-endowed. It is you that feels your satisfaction from a relationship would depend on what that person could touch inside of you (okay that was a bad pun).
For most of us, our needs are pretty basic. We all want to feel safe (mentally, physically, and emotionally), attractive, and seen. Their importance may change in our lives, but it is the core of all we need. Learning how to rank their importance can show us if our current relationship is meeting them the way that we need.
What are those green flags?
Green means go
Once we have taken some time to prioritize our needs in an order that meets what is most important to us, we can start looking at those general traits that are considered to be a green flag. But what, exactly, are these green flags. At their most basic meaning, they are traits of a person that indicate they are safe and it is someone you can/should proceed to learn more about. They are the signs that a relationship is healthy and conducive to growth and, more importantly, that you both are compatible.
The more green flags you find in a relationship, the more likely you both are to want to keep nurturing your connection. Just remember that the green flags in relationships can be different depending on the emotional needs of you both at that given time. What is good in this relationship may be completely different in another. This is why it is so important to keep checking in with yourself about what your needs are. It can also help you identify your own good or bad relationship habits.
But there are some universal green flags that you can look for in a relationship. Here are 8 Green Flags To Look For In Relationships.
8 Green flags to look for in relationships
8. Sharing similar values
This does not mean that you both have to do the same thing, in your relationship. For instance, just because your partner is career focused doesn’t mean the only way it will work is if you are as dedicated to your job. It’s about the drive. Drive is one of those things that come from the values you have been taught or adopt in your life. It is about the basic worldview and a sense of mutual understanding.
My boyfriend is very career driven. It is where he focuses a lot of his efforts. It is important for him to be able to get to a place where he can retire when he wants and do the things in life that he loves. It is this drive that I respect and one that I adopted in my own way. I took his drive to apply it to my need to improve my health. I approach my well-being with the same intensity he does work. It allows us to have a mutual respect for the type of dedication we have and reflects in how we are dedicated to making our relationship work.
7. Respect for boundaries (NO means No)
Many people feel that when you start a relationship, your boundaries are swapped out for the greater good of the relationship. That is completely untrue, We all need our own personal boundaries of what we will or will not except for our physical and mental well-being. We need to learn to better communicate those to our partners so that they understand that those boundaries are more of a protective shield for our mental and emotional health. You can have separate spaces to get away to so you can decompress, that is perfectly natural.
Boundaries also teach us what to expect in a relationship. They teach us how to honor each other’s personal space and comfort zones. No relationship is perfect, you will argue and have moments where you need quiet solitude. Whether that is mental or an actual physical space and having someone who respects that is a HUGE green flag.
6. They want and are willing to have needs-based conversations
Many of us have learned, along the way, that if something is difficult to talk about it is best to avoid it. Maybe it is because our partner may react negatively to what we say. There are issues with this when it comes to pointing out where needs aren’t being met or if we are acting in a destructive manner. What can be worse is if the other person is dismissive about our needs or desires. This could come from a place where they do not know themselves well enough to articulate their own needs and desires. This ultimately would mean that they cannot meet yours.
Relationships arent perfect and arguments are going to happen. If you believe a healthy relationship is one without conflict of any kind, then it is time to reassess what your needs are, what is important to you, and what you are looking for. Both sides of a relationship need to be open to having those uncomfortable conversations, without fear of judgment. We all are going to make mistakes and we wont agree on everything, but it is important to approach each one with empathy and openness to see their sides.
5. They know themselves
We all grow, continuously, or we should. If we arent growing then we arent learning. That requires taking a self assessment to see what we want, need, and where we are emotionally. Self-reflection is important, not only does it allow us to take inventory of who and what we are, it opens us up to being able to see those values in others and seek them out. It is also the foundation for growth.
The better we know ourselves, the more vulnerable we can be with those we love. This vulnerability allows us to be open and honest about our lives. Knowing what you want means you know how to work for it or at least where to start. That is important for a continued growing and healthy relationship.
How do you know if someone knows who they are? The easiest way is that the person seems fully capable of taking care of themselves. I means they know what it means to be physically healthy, how to make priorities in their lives, and work towards some version of safety. It can also show that they are comfortable with being alone with themselves, that is an earmark of a healthy self relationship.
4. Communication is key
In the beginning of a relationship, you don’t always get to spend a lot of time together. It could be due to distance or maybe its work schedules. Either way, you both still check in with one another. This simple act reinforces that you both see and value each other, even when you aren’t together. Maybe it is just a simple text that says “hi” or “I miss you.” It is those things that warm the cockles of our hearts. It can be what brightens an otherwise dreary day.
On the flipside, this doesn’t mean sending messages back and forth all day long, that isn’t meaningful. That could be indicative of some underlying need of seeking approval or just boredom. It is a fair assumption that your and your Best Judy don’t endlessly text one another all day everyday, in fact you could go weeks between messages. But when you do text there is open dialogue between you, communication that shows respect for each others time and boundaries.
3. They make long-term plans for you both
A person who is comfortable and interested in making future plans with you is someone that sees you in their life for the long haul, with a few exceptions. That doesn’t mean that you or they are planning on getting married, having kids, and spending a month touring Europe on your first date. (That also may not be an immediate red flag) The bigger takeaway is that this person sees a future with you both in it. Maybe that is as simple as planning your second date. It shows there is an interest in learning more about the other person.
If the person seems to avoid talking about the future or quickly changes the subject, it might indicate they aren’t that into you or not seeing this as a long term situation. Maybe it is best to look elsewhere.
2. They aren’t just about sex
Let me first state that sexual health is just as important as mental, physical, and emotional health. Sexual compatibility is also an important consideration and yes it just plain feels good. Getting to know the other person is an important objective in dating, but if every conversation seems to veer towards physical connections, there could be some underlying compatibility issues or a lack of understanding what is important in a healthy relationship.
Having the ability to articulate a conversation that covers more than just sexual needs shows compassion and empathy towards one another. It fosters a fertile ground for growth in a relationship and speaks to the respect you both share for one another. It shows you are curious about one another and not just how good you can make one another feel, physically
1. You are each others safe space
They key component to our lives, as a whole, is needing to feel safe. That is one of the most basic instincts we carry with us from our more primitive ancestors. What safety is has changed, over the course of time. In the beginning it was for us to move in groups to stay safe from predators, having a place we could retreat to for sleep and security – a home, and a place where we didnt always have to stay on guard. Today, that safety has grown to include things like feeling empowered to be your most authentic self around someone. It would seem weird to say that someone who makes us feel safe teaches us to not be dependent on external sources for our validation, but it is true. Having someone around us who lets us be who we are and encourages our growth actually shows us that we have the strength to seek it out all the time.
They are also people you just generally enjoy being around and you work to bring out each other’s best qualities. Most of your interactions are positive and pleasurable, the very signs of a healthy relationship.
That safe space is where you feel the most peace. Why should we ever accept spending time with people that cannot foster those positive things in our lives? Psychologists John Gottma, Phd and Robet Levenson, Ph.D, conducted a study that showed what separates happy couples from unhappy ones is that the happy couple had five positive interactions for every negative one. If you are in a relationship that is opposite of that, it is time for you both to do some introspection on your needs and wants, for yourselves and as a couple. Can they be corrected or are the differences too vast to fix? If the latter, then maybe it’s not the safe space you want.
To thine ownself be true
Red and green flags are essential in our ability to build better and stronger relationships. We need to be able to spot both and to have those deep inner conversations to prioritize our needs, both personally and in relationships. Remember that no one is perfect and we all have room to grow to be better people. Communication is key to establishing that growth and it fosters an environment where it is safe to express our needs and grow without judgment. Someone who won’t allow you to be yourself, express who you really are, or ask for support probably won’t enrich your life. Instead, we need to focus on meeting those people who are willing to meet us halfway and work together to go the rest of the way.
What about you, what are some of your green flags or red flags in a relationship? Do you agree with the importance of those stated above? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below, Life is messy and we sometimes need guidance and help, who knows maybe you have the help someone needs to get out of a bad situation they are in or may you need that push to realize the relationship you are in isn’t giving you what you need most.