happy couple
Photo credit: Timo Stern

Question: What are some “green flags” in dating and relationships? How can I know if my new relationship will be healthy?

Answer: You might want to read the article Red Flags in Relationships and make sure everything is the other way around. Jokes aside, the essential “green flags” i.e. personal traits one needs to have to be a good partner are: 1) empathy, 2) responsibility, 3) respectful and considerate communication, 4) emotional awareness, 5) healthy self esteem. I wrote more about this in the article Love Lasts 3 Years?

People can show these traits early on by being punctual, consistent, actively listening, checking if you agree with their suggestions, respecting your boundaries, being emotionally open, expressing disagreements respectfully, and appearing genuine and natural.

However, many people present themselves positively at first. They may intuitively sense what you want to see and hear, and communicate accordingly. If you’re eager to see “green flags,” you might see them too early. Early on, during the so-called ‘honeymoon phase,’ both our hopes and our hormones can enhance our confirmation bias and cause us to diminish potential problems. Some people report not noticing their spouses’ bad habits and traits until after marriage. You probably don’t want to spend so much time in vain. So how to get an accurate impression of someone relatively quickly?

Gather impressions

On early dates, avoid directly asking confrontational and sensitive questions. Focus on “listening between the lines.” While your date talks about random topics, notice the underlying emotions, attitudes, and beliefs they seem to communicate. Notice if they align with your values and your personality.

Listen to their stories and anecdotes, and pay attention to how much empathy, responsibility, emotional balance, and maturity they show:

  • Do they indicate responsible behavior in other areas of their lives (job, money, health, other relationships)?
  • What kind of emotions do they frequently express?
  • Do they show interest in others’ feelings?
  • What do they spend their time, energy, and money on?
  • Do they treat people unimportant to them respectfully?
  • Are they thoughtful? Do they express a complex perspective, rather than oversimplified thinking?
  • Are they supportive of your interests and dreams?
  • Do they recognize the long-term consequences of their behavior for themselves and others?
  • Are they independent of their parents and respectful of your boundaries?
  • Do they self-reflect and question their emotions and behavior objectively?

You can gather impressions by giving them space to talk and asking about their family, hobbies, and interests. Note their reactions when you discuss your life, feelings and values. Do they show understanding, acceptance and empathy, or not? At first, avoid direct arguments to avoid them starting to hide their true self.

“Red” and “green flags” balance

Avoid emotional attachment too early. Check the article 20+ Essential Lessons About Falling In Love and pay attention to potential “traps”. Make sure you like and feel comfortable with who your date is now, rather than falling in love with their potential.

Besides noticing the green flags, consider any red flags carefully, especially if they appear early on. Once you feel you’ve learned enough, respectfully discuss potential red flags and ask your date for their opinion. Observe their response: do they become defensive, dismissive, or aggressive? Or do they see your point of view and show interest in cooperation without glossing over issues?

Empathy, emotional awareness, and responsibility can help resolve some behavioral or communication problems. However, if any of these qualities are missing, problems are likely to worsen over time. Therefore, it’s important to look for the green flags too, not only the red ones.

Read more:

Red Flags in Relationships

Falling In Love With “Bad Guys” (And Girls)

Prepare For Marriage Or Living Together

All articles 

Online coaching 

More questions and answers

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Kosjenka Muk

I’m an Integrative Systemic Coaching trainer and special education teacher. I taught workshops and gave lectures in 10 countries, and helped hundreds of people in 20+ countries on 5 continents (on- and offline) find solutions for their emotional patterns. I wrote the book “Emotional Maturity In Everyday Life” and a related series of workbooks.

Some people ask me if I do bodywork such as massage too – sadly, the only type of massage I can do is rubbing salt into wounds.  😉

Just kidding. I’m actually very gentle. Most of the time.

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