But before you can identify and sort these flags, it's important to introspect about what your personal needs are in a partner and relationship, says Laurel House, a relationship expert at eharmony. Needs, she adds, are different than wants in relationship, because wants aren't necessarily relationship-sustaining. (Basically, it's not an automatic deal-breaker or a red flag if a person doesn't satisfy all of your wants.) Most of us have the same basic needs in a relationship, House adds—like the need to feel safe (emotionally, mentally, and physically), sexy, and seen—but it’s still important to rank those needs to gauge whether the most important ones can be met by a new potential romantic partner.
What are green flags in a relationship?
After identifying your needs (or must-haves), it's time to consider the more general green flags in a relationship, which function as indicators that it’s okay to keep feeling out the person and relationship, says House. “A green flag means this [person] is safe and you should proceed,” she adds.
“A green flag means this [person] is safe and you should proceed.” —Laurel House, relationship expert
Green flags can also serve as signposts to help you determine whether or not you’re interested in getting to know a person better and pursue a romantic relationship. The more green flags in a relationship that you can identify, the likelier you are to want to keep nurturing your potential new connection.
Of course, there are differences between what might constitute a green flag for one individual versus another. This is why introspecting on your personal needs is so crucial. That said, there are certain universal green flags in a relationship that experts say we can all benefit from identifying.
7 green flags in a relationship, according to experts
1. They establish and maintain eye contact
Rest assured that being bad at maintaining eye contact doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lackluster love life. But at the beginning of a new relationship, establishing eye contact is important for letting someone know you care about them, what they’re saying, and what they’re feeling, says certified sex therapist and licensed marriage family therapist Jacqueline Mendez, LMFT.
When two people maintain eye contact, it can also help bust nerves and facilitate connection because they’re focused on each other rather than distracted by other components in their environment. This can, in turn, lead to a more present conversation where both parties can feel seen and listened to.
2. They honor your no
“That's a big one,” says Mendez. “Your ‘no’ is no—no explanation needed, no further negotiation.” For a low-stakes example to illustrate this point, let's say that the person you’re dating asks you to hang out after a long day of work, but you'd rather use that time to recharge solo.
“Your ‘no’ is no—no explanation needed, no further negotiation.” —certified sex therapist Jacqueline Mendez, LMFT
If the person is understanding of your tiredness and simply says, “okay, we can hang out another time,” that's a green flag that they’re honoring your no. If there’s some negotiation or pushiness (like, “It’ll only be for a bit.” or “Are you really that tired?”), that might not be someone who’s likely to honor your wants and needs down the line.
3. They're open to having needs-based conversations
If the person you’re dating seems like they’re trying to avoid conversations about what you need in a relationship, it's not a green flag. In addition to being dismissive of your desires, it could also be indicative of them not knowing their own needs, which might mean that they won’t be able to meet yours.
4. They know themselves well
A person who knows themselves well is likely to more vulnerable, because if you understand yourself, it's easier to be open and honest with others about your life. And if someone is aware of what they need in a romantic relationship, that’s a green flag.
How can you know if someone knows themselves well, though? According to House, a good indicator is being able to note that an individual seems able to take care of themselves. “Maybe they work out, maybe they eat healthy, maybe they make themselves a priority," she says, adding that these behaviors reflect that they're able to be present and comfortable being alone with themselves, which is indicative of a healthy relationship with the self.
5. They communicate that they care about you, even when you’re not spending time together
When you’re first dating, you may well not spend every waking moment with your new romantic interest. It’s possible that you only see this person a couple of times a week, leaving several days between each hangout. If that’s the case, but the person checks in with you in the meantime, Mendez says that's a green flag.
It shows that “they still value you as a human being, even when they're not with you,” Mendez adds. In practice, this could be as simple as sending a text message to let you know that they’re thinking about you.
6. They include you in long-term plans
No one is suggesting that you should book a trip six months in advance with someone you just met (but, also, if that’s your thing, do you!). The point here is that this person sees you in a future that goes beyond the end of your initial dates. Moreover, long-term doesn’t have to be months ahead of time—even asking for a second date would fall into the “green flags in a relationship” category, because it shows that this person is interested in getting to know you.
7. They aren't solely focused on your physical relationship
Getting to know each other is perhaps the most important objective of dating, but you can’t do that if the conversation or focus is skewed toward just the physical connection, which is one of many relationship components. Sure, sex is important to a romantic relationship and our well-being, but having conversations that only revolve around that can be problematic, says Mendez, adding that it's a green flag if they demonstrate that they're authentically "curious about you, not just what they can get out of it."
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