Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

What Are Some Relationship Green Flags?

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-9-36-54-amWe’ve talked plenty about red flags in a relationship — you know, like when a person you’ve been dating for several years is still married and still lives with his wife, but he says he has “one foot out the door” — but what about the signs that a person is actually a great potential partner and fit for you? There’s a post over on Reddit about relationship “green flags” — signs that indicate a person is a keeper.

Most people know by now that I met Drew on a blind date over ten years ago when I was visiting NYC one weekend from Chicago. The first date went so well that we ended up spending a big portion of the weekend together. The last night I was in town I was seeing a friend perform at a bar that happened to be across the street from Drew’s apartment (that I eventually moved into with him a year and a half later). I’d already said my good-byes to him, but when I got a text midway through my friend’s performance that Drew was recording one of my favorite shows at the time (“Grey’s Anatomy,” which I can’t believe is still on the air) in case I wanted to come over and watch it later, I was so touched. Sure, it was a pretty obvious ploy to see me again… but isn’t that kind of what you want in a potential love interest — someone who really wants to see you again and is thoughtful about ways to make that happen?

Sometimes I think “green flags” aren’t necessarily signs that’s you’ve found the right match for you, but that they can at least tell you you’ve found a good person. I have an ex-boyfriend I dated for four years (and lived with for three) whom I probably shouldn’t have been with more than a year or so, but he was such a kind and good person who made me feel cared for that it was hard to walk away even when I knew I wasn’t in love anymore. Early on, when we were still just friends and hadn’t started dating yet, I had to make a nine-hour drive from “godforsaken” Springfield, Missouri, where we both lived at the time, to Chicago, to pick up my car that had been in the shop for a few weeks after an accident I’d been in on my last visit. I was nervous about the drive since the last one resulted in said accident and I was especially nervous to make the trip alone. My then-friend offered to come with me, which really touched me, and it made me see him in a new light. He ended up not being the right fit for me, but he did set the bar high for how I wanted and expected to be treated by a significant other, and so. when I met Drew years later, it was easy to recognize that same thoughtfulness and care, but with the added benefit of his being a great fit for me, too.

What are some green flags you’ve seen in relationships, past or present?

29 comments… add one
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    Juliecatharine October 27, 2016, 9:16 am

    The biggest green flag for me with my fiancé is that I respect and admire him. He has flaws but he’s a kind, confident, responsible, and thoughtful man. With him I feel loved, secure in our relationship, and sure that someone has my back come hell or high water. We are a great team when stuff needs to get done and we have fun doing simple things together. ❤️

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    • Kate October 27, 2016, 10:55 am

      I think you nailed it. My hero, Mira Kirshenbaum, author of “Is He Mr. Right,” writes that the five elements of chemistry that you must have (no, 4 doesn’t cut it), are mutual respect, ease in getting close and staying close, fun, trust, and sexual attraction.

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        Juliecatharine October 27, 2016, 12:38 pm

        That’s a great list!

  • Fyodor October 27, 2016, 9:20 am

    Close, healthy relationships with friends and family.

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    • MaggieB October 27, 2016, 12:30 pm

      I think in the majority of cases it’s a green flag, and it’s certainly ideal to be able to share in those close relationships when you become a couple.

      But just to play contrarian devil’s advocate (and speak slightly from experience), people with good and close family relationships often have trouble understanding people who don’t, or abiding the difficulties and compromises people in those situations face.

      My fiancé has the best family ever, and I’m so lucky to be joining it soon. But the biggest cause of friction in our relationship is my weirdo parents. He’s never had to deal with things with his parents that I have: severe ideological differences, religious extremism, conditional love, strictness, judgementalness, narcissism, etc. But they’re my parents, and while I wouldn’t be friends with people who do half those things, they’re my family and I love them, and so while I do try to set sensible boundaries, they do get away with some things. He doesn’t understand how I could put up with that stuff, and because he doesn’t look well on them as people, he doesn’t have any desire whatsoever to have a closer relationship with them. I totally get why he feels that way, but I wish he were able to roll with things the way I do.

      On the other hand, there was a ton wrong with my ex-boyfriend, but he had as weird a family as me, and that aspect of our relationship was so much easier. We both knew what to do to cater to each other’s families, and were both able to be understanding of what the other was facing.

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      • Fyodor October 27, 2016, 3:25 pm

        I didn’t say “people who have nice parents” but rather people who have healthy relationships. It sounds like you do your best to have the best relationship you can with your difficult relations.

    • Gwyneth6 October 27, 2016, 3:05 pm

      Ohh this makes me sad. Not everyone is lucky enough to be born to or raised in a family that is healthy enough for a normal and or close relationship. Although I guess if you have a happy family, and “all happy families are alike” then it’s fair that it’s a personal green flag as you don’t want to be with someone incompatible.

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      • Fyodor October 27, 2016, 3:21 pm

        I didn’t say that people should never marry someone else with bad relations with their families but the way that you carry on your relations with others has some predictive value. The whole point of red or green flags is that they are general early indicators, not that they represent the entirety of a person’s character.

      • Fyodor October 27, 2016, 3:22 pm

        I understand that some people have terrible parents and it’s not their fault that they can’t have good relations. I’m not judging.

      • Gwyneth6 October 28, 2016, 4:55 pm

        Sounds good.. & I agree with you on the friends point. If you don’t know how to have friends a romantic relationship will likely prove challenging.

  • RedRoverRedRover October 27, 2016, 9:26 am

    You can tell their friends respect them. This is one thing I noticed early on with my husband. His friends clearly see him as a moral, upstanding guy.

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  • Gwen Soul October 27, 2016, 9:28 am

    He treated my mom well. We were long distance and he moved to the city I was planning on returning to after college (about 6 months from then) and he spent time with my mom, who I am very close to. They are still friends now 14 years later!

    He also kept telling me to do things and reach higher, really being my cheerleader no matter what. And when things didn’t work out he would work through it with me to see what we could do better next time. It was always a team effort.

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    • Northern Star October 27, 2016, 10:12 am

      Yes, treating loved ones with respect and care is huge. I’ve lost count of the number of times my fiancé has made my friends and family a priority—and I try to do the same for him.

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  • Hannanas October 27, 2016, 9:38 am

    My now husband and I had a (verbal) fight early on in our relationship (can’t even remember what it was about) and he stayed calm, polite and sweet even. I loved that. Still do.

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    • RedRoverRedRover October 27, 2016, 9:42 am

      This is a good one. Fighting fair is a biggie. My husband and I have never even gotten to the point of a real fight. If we snip at each other, one of us always apologizes. Usually it’s because we’re tired or frustrated. Then we both calm down and discuss the real issue, if there is one.

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  • bondgirl October 27, 2016, 9:48 am

    I come off as a very strong woman which basically has intimidated every guy I’ve ever gone out with, worked with, etc. My boyfriend is the first guy I’ve dated who isn’t intimidated by me, and actually loves the fact that I’m so strong willed. He is also the one of the calmest, most level-headed people I’ve ever met. Anytime I’m having a bad day or mood, he always finds a way to build me back up, reminding me of what I’ve accomplished when I feel like a massive failure in life.

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  • Andrea G October 27, 2016, 10:37 am

    Spending quality time with family is a priority for him. This is a green flag for me because I have a very close relationship with my family and visit them fairly regularly so it was important for me to find someone who understands and appreciates that.
    Also, my boyfriend is the COO of his company. The relationship he has with his employees and their feelings towards him was also a big green flag. He’s found the right balance of commanding respect while fostering an environment of trust where people feel comfortable enough to come up and talk to him and be open and candid.

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    kare October 27, 2016, 10:49 am

    I’m obviously not in a serious relationship, but my FWB is a good guy and has set the standard for what I expect from guys from now on. Some of the “green flags”:
    – Happy for my success. This should be a no-brainer, but a lot of guys I’ve dated don’t seem comfortable when I get a promotion or get a bonus at work or something. Sometimes I make more money than him, sometimes he makes more than me, but he never seems uncomfortable either way. I know it sounds simple, but I’ve had so many guys go on and on about how they are feminists that still have this innate distaste for a girl being more successful than them.
    – Charitable acts. My FWB takes care of all of the feral cats in his neighborhood. He fixes his fence so they have a safe place, provides food/water/shelter, and is working on taming the younger ones so we can find them forever homes. I just think it’s a good sign when someone is willing to help others without any sort of obligation.
    – Always makes me laugh. Someone that can make you laugh when you’re having a bad day, or when you’re annoyed, or at any time when you least expect it is someone you should keep in your life.

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  • Eve October 27, 2016, 11:07 am

    Is it sad that I can only think of red flags when it comes to men I have dated ?? 😀

    I am going to bookmark this page and keep referring back to it to keep my standards high when I feel like settling for someone who deep inside I know isn’t worth it (kind of what I am thinking of doing right now ..).
    Normally I do have decent standards as to how I should be treated by guys but lately I’ve been so unlucky I am noticing dropping my standards by the day.
    So this page here will be like a Bible to me hahaha 🙂

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  • csp October 27, 2016, 11:21 am

    I can remember several green flags when dating my husband:
    1.) I love trying new things even if they are weird. I remember asking my now husband if he wanted to try line dancing and he said only if we can wear cowboy hats. He doesn’t say my ideas are lame, he was up for anything.
    2.) He is willing to talk things out when there is conflict and doesn’t hit below the belt when things are tough.
    3.) So much of our beliefs about religion, money, time with family, how to spend free time, and the like just lined up. For example, we are active-ish. So we like to hike or train for a 5k sometimes but we don’t work out daily.
    4.) He was great with kids, waiters, and the general world around him.
    5.) Communication early on was easy. No games.

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  • Vathena October 27, 2016, 11:35 am

    A big green flag for my husband was when I saw his apartment for the first time, I thought, “Wow, a grown-up lives here!” My last relationship before that was with a guy who was…fine, but at 28 still slept on a mattress on the floor. (To be fair, he was a grad student, but IKEA sells bed frames for $100. C’mon dude!) My husband’s place was clean and nice, and didn’t smell like feet. No dirty dishes in the sink. No layer of grime over everything. Clean floors, sheets, and towels. I’m kind of a neat freak too, so we are very compatible in that way, but it was also indicative of a person who Had His Sh*t Together and took responsibility for himself. Ten years later, that’s still true. He takes equal (sometimes greater) responsibility for our home and our child.

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  • for_cutie October 27, 2016, 2:32 pm

    On my second date with my now husband, I was over at his place apartment late, it was cold out and he offered to let me spend the night instead of drive home. I didn’t want to take it that far so he gave me his bed, in his room, and his PJs to sleep in. He slept on the couch in the living room. It was so sweet that he went that far to accommodate my boundaries and smiled about it the whole time. He never once made me question my decision and was so gracious and accommodating.

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  • jamie5015 October 27, 2016, 3:43 pm

    When my husband and I just started dating, I was still dealing with the fallout of my divorce (debt, apartment, etc). He helped me move within the first few weeks of dating – including going out and buying a bunch of plastic tubs and helping me pack, when things were overwhelming.

    He’s always helps people – family, friends, anyone. He’s built decks, moved hot tubs, put in floors, lent money, let people stay in the spare room in the basement – whatever is needed. He likes to help because he has the capacity to help people when they need it.

    He’s well-mannered and respectful. It should be a given, but not everyone is. When it’s raining, he goes and gets the car so I don’t have to walk in the rain. He walks my grandma to the door. Doesn’t complain when I ask him to run errands, help around the house or do little stuff. Just an actual nice guy.

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  • Daisy October 27, 2016, 5:17 pm

    It must have been close to a year into my relationship with my now husband, and we weren’t living together yet but he had a key to my apartment. There was a period when things were crazy at work and I was having to stay really late every night. After complaining to him about how rough things had been, I came home one night to find he’d stopped buy and left a pint of my favorite ice cream in my freezer! Was such a sweet, thoughtful gesture. I doubt he even remembers it now, but for me that sealed the deal.

    For more general green flags, I’d say being kind to animals and tipping waiters well.

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  • anonymousse October 27, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Emotional intelligence. How they treat other people. How they take care of themselves. A sense of humor. Outspoken feminist.

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  • Ange October 27, 2016, 6:28 pm

    Definitely how well he got on with my cat. One of my favourite photos ever is my husband (then boyfriend) lying on the floor on his back looking over at my cat who is doing the same thing right back at him. Just two mates hanging out. We lost her about 6 months later, she would have already had the lung cancer then, and he cried probably more than me. For my next birthday he presented me with a huge frame full of photos of her, it was very special.

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    Portia October 27, 2016, 9:25 pm

    The first green flag for me was how kind and respectful he was to his female friends, and that he had so many good platonic female friendships. And that continues to be the case. A bit into our relationship, so I’m not sure if this could be considered a flag, but it was a green flag just how proud and supportive he was of me. He was there for every award ceremony and celebrated every grad school acceptance. When I ran a conference, he was there cheering me on. And it wasn’t just the successes – when I had an IUD insertion that ended up not working out, he took the afternoon off of work and was there every step of the way.

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  • K October 28, 2016, 2:01 pm

    With my current boyfriend, a green flag was communication that flowed more easily than ever before, right from the start. It’s the first relationship I didn’t obsess over or have anxiety about. He’s close to his family and has good relationships with his siblings and parents. My friends kept telling me how great/nice he was after meeting him. We treat each other with mutual respect.

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