Green flags, as the name suggests, are the inverse of red flags when it comes to dating. Where red flags indicate things that we should watch out for, or are signs of something might be unhealthy or incompatible for us, green flags are concrete indicators from someone that we’re dating that shows us they might be a healthy and compatible partner for us, based on our wants, needs and lifestyle.
How do I know what my green flags are?
One way to think about it is that your green flags can be reverse engineered by working backwards from the kind of relationship and the kind of life that you want. So for instance, if your dream relationship involves the two of you reading in bed for hours every weekend morning, then a green flag might be somebody with an active library card and full bookshelves. If family and children are an important priority to you, then a green flag might be somebody who actively wants children in the future, as well as maintaining strong, healthy, and engaged relationships with other children in their life like nieces or nephews.
Some green flags are likely to be, if not universal, broadly true across the board — for instance, someone consistently doing what they say that they’re going to do and giving you heads up if that won’t be possible is a pretty solid basic green flag. However, some things will be specific to you and the relationships that you uniquely desire – for instance, if you know that you want a non monogamous or poly relationship, then somebody who has a previous history of other healthy partnerships with that relationship structure, and who has maintained the health and integrity of their relationships alongside other partners, would be a green flag for you — whereas for monogamous people that would be a red flag (not a sign that the person is harmful or bad, just that they might not be the right fit!).
What’s the difference between a green flag and just something I like in a person?
This is a common question. One key thing to keep in mind is that while we may like all kinds of characteristics of a person, green flags specifically are usually things that are concrete or material indicators in a person’s life, rather than just qualities or characteristics they have (which can be more subjective). Green flags are how we determine whether the qualities that we like about someone, or are attracted to about them, are consistently and fundamentally true about them.
For example, a quality that you like in a new date might be that they appear to be a good listener; a green flag for this quality being reliably true as a part of their character might be that this person consistently puts their phone away or turns it off when they’re with you, concretely indicating that they are focused on you and giving you their undivided attention. You can think about green flags almost like scientific experiments — they answer the question, how do we know this is true about someone? Green flags should be things that you can tell soon upon meeting someone, rather than things that become clear after you get to know them.
How do I know my green flags aren’t wishful thinking?
We all know from experience that it’s possible (and even easy sometimes!) to ignore things that we know are red flags, and in retrospect wish we hadn’t. Similarly we might wonder whether we’re imagining green flags or turning things into signs that someone is compatible for us when we want it to be true. This is always possible – we’re only human, and there’s no way to guarantee that our perceptions of people are accurate or that our desires and emotions never caught our judgment.
One way to mitigate this as much as possible is to do the personal work of developing your green flags before you meet somebody. Developing a sense of what green flags you’re looking for before you start going on dates and before you get attached to people or develop strong feelings for them helps you evaluate whether any individual person you meet is a good potential fit or not before you dive in headfirst. Deciding on green flags to look for before you start going on dates is also a great strategy for curating those states themselves — you’d be surprised how often you might meet somebody or see them on a dating app and react to their attractiveness or a turn of phrase before looking at their entire profile and realizing that they’re not offering any of the things that you’ve decided are important to you in a partner.
How do I use green flags while dating?
Sit down and take some time to consider the kinds of relationships and romantic connections you’re looking for, and what your life would look like with a healthy positive relationship in it. What kinds of qualities, skill sets, experiences or lifestyle choices would a partner have to have to look that way? Make a list of everything you can think of — remember to focus on the concrete manifestation of these things: so, “owns a home and is actively working on paying down any debt” rather than just “financially stable.” That said, it’s OK to prioritize some things or order things by their significance to you. A partner cooking for themselves most nights of the week might be nice but ultimately a low-priority green flag, something that doesn’t make a strong case for someone who isn’t compatible with you in other ways. But if you’re someone for whom international travel and a jetset lifestyle are a huge priority, then a partner who keeps a current passport might be a much bigger deal.
Remember that this isn’t a checklist of requirements — green flags are things that are positive if you end up seeing them. When you’re dating — whether that’s on an app, matchmaking, or out in the wild — notice the people that you tend towards being attracted to or feeling drawn to. Do you see your green flag qualities as visible elements in their life? Are there people that you wouldn’t think of yourself as dating or don’t feel immediately attracted to, but do have all of these qualities? Remember that it’s easy to limit ourselves in dating — doing a green flag exercise might be a good way to open your horizons and remind you that your dating pool is larger than you might think.