I’ve talked about abuse on my blog a few times, although it feels like it’s been a while since I talked about it specifically as an article topic. Recently, I’ve had a string of clients where there’s objectively been abuse involved and a lack of knowledge about what a healthy relationship should look like which would help them realise that. Thus, I thought I’d create an article on the relationship green flags, and red flags, to help others become aware of what a healthy relationship is because being in healthy relationships is good for our mental wellbeing.
For the purpose of the article, I’ll be talking as if the relationship contains two or more people to be more inclusive of diverse relationship styles.
What Are Relationship Green Flags And Red Flags?
Relationship green flags are positive behaviours or signs of a healthy relationship. They indicate that the relationship is likely to be supportive, fulfilling, and long-lasting. These relationship green flags are also positive indicators that a relationship is respectful, which you can often see before a relationship becomes serious.
Whereas relationship red flags are warning signs that a relationship may be unhealthy or unsustainable. They can indicate that the relationship is not based on mutual respect, trust, and communication. If you’re experiencing any of these red flags in your relationship, it’s important to take notice and address them.
Relationship Green Flags
Open, honest, and respectful communication where everyone feels heard and understood is a significant green flag. This will mean that those in the relationship feel safe and able to express their thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, even the difficult thoughts and feelings. They’ll also actively listen to each other with respect, understanding, and without judgment, and they’ll be able to resolve conflicts in a constructive and healthy way. Simply put, these relationships should be a safe space.
Everyone in the relationship will support each other’s goals, aspirations, and personal growth without feeling threatened or intimidated. Being able to do this is a big relationship green flag. It’s important that everyone is supportive of each other’s individual growth and development, showing encouragement to each other to pursue their goals and dreams, and to feel proud of each other’s accomplishments.
Healthy relationships involve resolving conflicts through constructive discussions, compromise, and mutual understanding, rather than aggression or manipulation. It’s also important to remember that being aggressive and being assertive are two different things.
Disagreements happen maturely without drama, shouting, or manipulation. Therefore, compromises are mutually fulfilling, and forgiveness flows freely.
Everyone in the relationship should feel comfortable showing up unconditionally as themselves. There’s minimal emotional masking or pretence and maximum vulnerability.
The ability to be emotionally vulnerable and share feelings without fear of judgment is an essential relationship green flag. Everyone in the relationship should be emotionally healthy to be able to manage their own emotions and take responsibility for those emotions. They’ll also be supportive of each other’s emotional wellbeing and be able to express their love and affection for each other in a healthy way.
Effort and commitment
Everyone in the relationship will put consistent work into the relationship with thoughtful gestures, remembering important dates/events, and making quality time together.
Independence and interdependence
Everyone in the relationship should respect each other’s independence while also nurturing interdependence, and maintaining a healthy balance between togetherness and personal space.
Everyone in the relationship should respect each other’s opinions, beliefs, and values. They should also treat each other with kindness and consideration, as well as be able to disagree without becoming disrespectful or hurtful.
It helps to have shared common values, beliefs, and interests, because it creates a strong foundation for a relationship, fostering connection and understanding. However, if the people in the relationship respect each other’s differences, then this relationship’s green flag can be more flexible. As long as you can still enjoy spending time together and doing things you all enjoy.
The ability to compromise and find common ground when their interests differ can help with this, and being happy to engage in the other person’s interests that they might not share.
Mutual respect, trust, and appreciation for each other’s boundaries, opinions, and individuality signify a healthy relationship. This means that everyone in the relationship trusts each other and is honest with each other. They’ll feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and they believe in each other’s loyalty and commitment to the relationship.
Healthy boundaries are the backbone of any healthy relationship and are a very important relationship green flag. It’s important to be able to respect each other’s space, to be able to say no to each other without feeling guilty or resentful, and to be able to communicate their needs and wants to each other in a clear and respectful way.
Everyone in the relationship is comfortable with the level of physical intimacy in the relationship. They communicate about their needs and desires for physical intimacy and they respect each other’s boundaries and don’t pressure each other into doing anything they’re not comfortable with. Consent for physical intimacy is important at every stage of a relationship, regardless of how long you’ve been together or if you’re married.
Humour and playfulness
Laughter, goofiness, amusement, and lightheartedness punctuate daily interactions, cushioning life’s stresses. Everyone in the relationship should feel safe enough to laugh and play around as themselves and not take things too seriously. That’s because humour can help us connect with each other and build intimacy. This is a good example of using microjoys to bolster a healthy relationship.
The people in the relationship should spark creative ideas, motivation, and novel experiences in each other across various facets of life by exposing one another to new perspectives.
Relationship Red Flags
Recognising red flags in a relationship is crucial for maintaining emotional and mental wellbeing. While an occasional red flag could just be poor coping that can improve, recurrent issues display emotional immaturity and unlikely suitability for a healthy long-term relationship.
Any form of physical, emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse is a serious red flag that requires immediate attention and intervention. And to be clear, physical abuse is never acceptable in any relationship. If your partner has ever hit, pushed, or threatened you physically, it’s a dangerous situation that requires immediate attention and support. This can also include hitting walls and throwing things, which are acts of physical intimidation.
A partner who tries to control your behaviour, decisions, or interactions with others is a major red flag. This can manifest in various ways, such as restricting your social life, dictating your appearance, or making all the decisions in the relationship. Therefore, a partner who isolates you from friends, family, or support networks, or who controls your social interactions, is displaying controlling behaviour. This is a form of abuse.
Healthy relationships require open and honest communication. If your partner shuts down during disagreements, doesn’t listen to your feelings, or avoids discussing important issues, it’s a sign of communication problems that could lead to further conflict and resentment. Furthermore, communication breakdowns, constant misunderstandings, or stonewalling can lead to unresolved issues and frustration. These kinds of unresolved issues can make it hard for a relationship to function.
Disrespectful behaviour, such as name-calling, put-downs, or belittling your opinions, is unacceptable in any relationship. There are also attempts to change significant aspects of your identity like religious beliefs, career paths, values, or creative interests rather than showing unconditional support. A partner who consistently disrespects you is not valuing your worth or treating you with the consideration you deserve.
Disregarding boundaries, belittling, insulting, or controlling behaviour indicates a lack of respect, which is detrimental to a healthy relationship. Furthermore, if they disrespect your boundaries by ignoring explicit requests, pressuring you into uncomfortable situations, making major life decisions you aren’t ready for yet, or making major life decisions without your consultation, is a sign of disrespect.
Chronically breaking promises or commitments like being late, failing to follow through reliably on responsibilities, and deception will undermine a relationship. It also shows a lack of respect.
This can fall under communication and disrespect, and as such, I thought it’d work better as a separate relationship red flag. Having someone constantly interrupt you when you try to speak shows a lack of respect for what you’re saying, but also makes it harder for you to express your thoughts and opinions (Ideapod), as well as getting your needs and wants to be heard.
Lack of trust
Trust is the foundation of a strong relationship. If your partner lies to you, breaks promises, or snoops on your personal belongings (i.e. your phone), it indicates a lack of trust. Furthermore, constant suspicion, jealousy, or lack of trust without valid reasons can erode the foundation of a healthy relationship, threatening the stability of the relationship.
Emotional manipulation involves using guilt, fear, or obligation to control your behaviour. This can manifest as making you feel guilty for not complying with their wishes, constantly threatening to break up, or making you feel responsible for their happiness.
Stonewalling behaviours like long silent treatments or emotional withdrawal as a punishment rather than mature engagement is another form of emotional manipulation. Such behaviours prevent true reconciliation, as these kinds of behaviours are designed to manipulate.
Jealousy and possessiveness
Excessive jealousy and possessiveness can be suffocating and controlling. If your partner constantly monitors your whereabouts, questions your interactions with others, or tries to isolate you from your friends and family, it’s a sign of unhealthy attachment. Also, jealousy/possessiveness behaviours, like demanding passwords or guilt-tripping over independent activities, undermine trust.
Negativity and criticism
A partner who constantly criticises you, puts you down, or makes you feel inadequate will damage your self-esteem and self-worth. A healthy relationship should foster support and encouragement, not negativity and constant criticism. It’s also important to know that undermining your self-esteem and self-worth is a way to make you less likely to leave them, no matter how poorly they treat you.
Neglecting your needs
Someone who consistently neglects your emotional, physical, or intellectual needs is not fulfilling their responsibilities in the relationship. If you feel ignored, unheard, or unsupported, it’s a sign that your needs are not being met.
Unwillingness to compromise
Inability or unwillingness to compromise, constantly putting one’s needs above the other’s, leads to imbalance and resentment. A healthy relationship requires the ability to compromise for all involved.
Blaming external forces like work stress, family issues, finances, past relationships, etc. for toxic behaviours rather than owning their actions is a red flag. Deflection like this makes growth impossible.
Fuming/brooding after conflict rather than proactively talking things out civilly makes it hard to resolve problems within the relationship. Furthermore, it’s a potential sign of poor anger management, which might be dangerous long-term.
Substance dependency, or any form of addiction, can significantly impact a relationship, causing problems with communication, trust, and overall wellbeing. If someone within the relationship has an unresolved addiction and it’s affecting your life and they are unwilling to seek help, then this is a serious red flag.
Excessive arguing, recurring conflicts without resolution, or a volatile atmosphere can be damaging to the relationship’s stability and is thus a red flag.
Using manipulative tactics that make one doubt their own feelings, perceptions, or sanity are relationship red flags for emotional abuse.
Relationship green flags are positive indicators that a relationship is healthy, respectful, and supportive. When everyone involved in a relationship is committed to the relationship and wants to make it work, they are willing to work through challenges and make compromises. Meaning they believe in the long-term potential of the relationship. If you see these green flags in your relationship, you can be confident that you’re on the right track to a happy and healthy relationship.
Recognising and addressing red flags early on is crucial because it’s essential to prioritise your emotional wellbeing. If you’re experiencing any of these red flags in your relationship, it’s important to seek help from a trusted friend, family member, domestic abuse charity, or therapist. They can provide you with support and guidance as you navigate the challenges in your relationship and make decisions about your future. Remember, you deserve to be in a healthy, respectful, and fulfilling relationship.
By showing up to a relationship with emotional maturity, dedication, self-awareness, and growth-oriented mindsets, the relationship is likely to thrive for the long haul.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with relationship green flags and relationship red flags in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, click the red bell icon in the bottom right corner to get push notifications for new articles.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Rosenberg, M. B., & Chopra, D. (2015). Nonviolent communication: A language of life: Life-changing tools for healthy relationships. PuddleDancer Press. Retrieved from https://voicebucketvoitto.s3.amazonaws.com/pdf/ingles/[ENG]%20Nonviolent%20Communication%20A%20Language%20of%20Life-%20Marshall%20B.%20Rosenberg.pdf.