Are We Too Obsessed With Red Flags to Pay Attention to Green Flags?
Contemporary daters are often fixated on red flags—obsessed even. A red flag has become the colloquial term for habits or personality traits that may initially seem fairly mundane but may ultimately make the person a bad choice for a long-term partner.
References to red flags pop up often on Twitter, for example. "OK, stating that you are sane in your dating app profile is definitely a red flag," one person tweeted. "Is it a red flag [if] the person you're dating takes too many selfies?" tweeted another. Some red flags seem to be founded on more superstitious hang-ups: "Not dating anyone with a biblical name ever again if I can help it. Red flag #1," another tweet read.
The trend has led to countless discussions of common dating red flags, such as dates avoiding featuring you on their social profiles, never taking initiative, keeping secrets or even having a terrible sense of interior design.
It's safe to say we are hyperaware of the pitfalls of modern dating and, in turn, extra cautious about potential red flags in new relationships. We are growing, evolving, straying from "f--- boys" and directing our attention to emotionally mature (and available) people.
With that in mind, what would happen if we placed our attention on positives rather than negatives?
Focus on green rather than red flags
While keeping an eye out for red flags is a great way to avoid dating the wrong person, it might also mean you don't notice when someone has decent qualities.
"Focusing on green flags will allow you to be more mindful and present, while focusing on spotting red flags can lead you to miss out on the positive traits of the person in front of you," said Callisto Adams, a Nevada-based dating and relationship expert and founder of HeTexted. "Focusing on red flags may mean you're looking to find something wrong that might not be there."
"Our brains are naturally wired to see danger in our environment," Rose said. "Humans will see red flags even when there are none out of necessity for survival."
In other words, we might not need to place as much focus on looking for red flags as we think.
"We're no longer living on the savannah and don't need to be on constant alert, yet we still often behave that way," she added. "Focusing on what is right about the other person can balance out the red and the green flags a bit."
Rose explained that many people mistake first-date nerves for a red flag.
"In dating, people are often very self-conscious and forget that the other person is human," Rose said. "Notice the positive attributes that this person has. This will help you feel more at ease, and you'll both enjoy each other more."
What are your green flags?
While everyone has their own unique green flags to spot in a new relationship, keep an eye out for these telltale good signs in a partner:
They make you feel good
If the person you're seeing makes you feel happy, that's probably a good sign.
"One of the best things to look for in someone is how you are around them," Rose said. "Does being with them bring out the best in you? Do you feel stable, calm and clear?"
These people are likely to be good matches in the long term and are less likely to develop into toxic relationships.
They have a 'growth mindset'
People and relationships change and grow with time—your new partner should demonstrate an ability to embrace change.
"Long-term relationships must continue to grow to stay healthy," Rose explained. "If someone isn't evolving as an individual, they won't create an evolving relationship, either."
They make you feel understood
Notice if your new partner is really listening. This is a sign they're capable of being part of a nonjudgmental relationship.
"Understanding and hearing one another minimizes the risk of being judgmental towards one another," Adams said.
They deal with problems maturely
Problems always arise in long-term relationships, so don't write off a new partner because of a disagreement. Instead, take note of how they deal with the conflict.
"Do they 'go dark' and avoid you and the situation, or are they willing to talk about what happened and resolve the conflict? You want someone in your life to have adult conversations and get through hard times together in mature ways," Rose explained.
They respect you and your values
Some people believe having different values is a red flag. While some values in a partner may be nonnegotiable, you might accept someone who is able to respect your values, even if they don't match their own.
"A positive early sign that someone is a good match is if you agree to disagree on things," Adams said. "It shows you're willing to respect each other's ideas without interfering or imposing your idea onto the other."
Ultimately, it's healthy to focus on both the green and red flags that arise during dates. After all, the idea of the perfect match is a myth—most of us demonstrate both red and green flags in the early stages of a relationship. What matters is we weigh both the good and the bad as we go.