by Jennifer Pitman, LCSW
As a culture, sometimes we become obsessed with playing detective in our own lives, searching for clues that will blow the case wide open. Whether streaming the newest true crime podcast or diving head first into articles about relationship “red” flags, we are on the hunt for the negative. “How did she not see that coming?!” and “I knew they couldn’t trust him” are things we love to say. When we’re always on the lookout for the caution sign in relationships, it can sometimes create paranoia and lead us to subconsciously push our partners away. When we seek out the negative, we can miss out on the positive.
What would happen if we stopped hunting for the negative and instead hunted for the positive? How do we look for the “green” flags in our relationships? In this article we’re diving into 10 common “green” flags that signal a healthy relationship. Don’t panic if your relationship doesn’t check all ten boxes – you don’t need ALL of these for a relationship to get the green light. However, if you find that none of these describe your relationship, you may want to re-evaluate whether or not your needs are being met.
1. They are willing to listen and respond to your needs
The rumors are true, communication is key! Sometimes all we need is to feel heard and be taken seriously. Maybe they are unable to meet our needs exactly at the moment we need them to, and that’s okay. As long as they communicate that they have heard you and they are willing to make the effort to meet the needs you have expressed.
2. You support one another’s individual goals and dreams
In a healthy relationship, you want to see your partner succeed and are their biggest cheerleader. My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and they shared that while many things changed throughout their 50 years of marriage, their support of one another’s goals never did. When my mother wanted to go back to college and earn her degree in her 50’s, my father knew that this would put stress on him. He would have to step up and help out with responsibilities that were typically taken on by my mother. But he knew this was important to her and therefore it was important to him. In the end, he never felt resentment, only pride in her pursuit of her dream.
3. You both have connections outside of your relationship
Early in a relationship, it can be easy to spend most of your time with your partner. As you settle into the relationship though, it is important for each person to maintain connections separate from your partner and even build new ones. Without these connections possessiveness and jealousy can seep into the relationship. Go ahead and encourage those nights out with friends or quality time with family.
4. They can accept your emotions
I’m quite sure that your partner contributes to your happiness, but let’s be real, you are not going to be happy all the time. It is important to be able to share uncomfortable feelings with your partner whether your unhappiness has something to do with them, your boss, your mother or if you’re just having a bad day! Phrases like, “You’re too sensitive” or “Just deal with it,” are not supportive. It indicates that your partner is unable to handle your feelings, and possibly, their own.
5. They are not afraid of their own emotions
In order for a relationship to have any chance of survival we need to pay attention to what we are feeling AND feel safe to express it. This means that not only can your partner understand what they are feeling and why they are feeling it, but they are able to share these feelings with you. This self awareness and communication helps to meet each other’s needs while also creating an overall feeling of love and security.
6. They put in the work
As the “honeymoon stage” of a relationship passes, you may come to realize that things are not as easy as they initially were. This is normal! Relationships take focus, care and, honestly, they take work in order to maintain that healthy connection. If one person is not willing to put in that work, resentment can consume the relationship.
7. Your boundaries are respected
Maybe your partner is super affectionate in public and you are not comfortable with that. Maybe they want to talk things out right away and you need some space before you are ready to open up. It requires vulnerability to communicate your boundaries, so when you do it is important for your partner to honor this. If your partner is repeatedly crossing boundaries or unwilling to discuss them, it shows a lack of respect for you and your relationship.
8. You approach one another with interest and curiosity
Taking interest in your partner and asking questions about their thoughts and experiences strengthens your bond and increases connection. When your partner genuinely wants to know about who you are and how you got here it brings up all the warm and fuzzy feelings. As you share more and more with your partner, and they with you, it creates a feeling of safety and security in the relationship.
9. You feel safe to be your authentic self
Early on in a relationship it is very common for people to feel that they have to hide certain aspects of who they are for fear that they will be rejected. Our minds are flooded with questions about the “right” thing to do rather than acting from a genuine place. We attempt to mind read and make assumptions about the other person’s feelings and intentions. “Is it too soon to text?” “Should I pretend I’m busy tonight?” “If it took her an hour to text me back then she must not be into me.” “He already has plans on Friday night? He must be seeing someone else.” It’s exhausting and maddening! Even if this sounds like the early stages of your relationship, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get a “green” flag. But at some point you should move past this stage of overthinking your every move and feel at ease knowing that your partner accepts all aspects of who you are, both the good and the not so good.
10. Don’t forget all the joy!
Bottom line, if your partner brings you joy the majority of the time don’t overthink it! If you are laughing together and don’t always take yourselves so seriously, if you enjoy new experiences together as well as tender moments, and being with them makes you feel good then you can rest assured that you are in the right place, right now.