16 Green Flags To Look For In A New Relationship, From A Dating Coach
These days, many of us are quick to call out red flags in potential partners and in the relationships we see unfolding around us. Green flags, on the other hand, tend to get a lot less attention.
A red flag in dating refers to an early sign of an unhealthy relationship or problematic partner, whereas a green flag is a behavior or personal quality that indicates the person you're with will likely approach relationships in healthy, mature, and generally desirable ways in the future. The terms come simply from the idea that green means good to go, while red means stop and watch out. Red flags call attention to issues; green flags signal that you're safe to proceed.
Knowing what to be wary of in relationships can be important in helping us avoid harmful situations. At the same time, it's just as important for us to be able to recognize what healthy relationships look like, too. That way, we can start to move toward people who display those healthy qualities from the get-go and be more likely to find ourselves in the kind of relationships that actually feel good.
So, let's talk about some green flags in relationships—i.e., signs that you're with someone who will probably make for a great partner:
They listen well.
Pay attention if your partner really puts in effort to hear and understand you. If they ask thoughtful questions, make space for you in the conversation, and seek to get to know your inner world well, those are all big green flags.
Active listening is a necessity for relationships to last in the long term. "When used in close relationships, active listening can foster an even deeper level of emotional intimacy," licensed marriage and family therapist Tiana Leeds, M.A., LMFT, recently told mbg. "Essentially, it provides the speaker with the space and attunement to be able to be vulnerable, which can enhance relationships both in times of peace as well as conflict."
It's inevitable that couples will disagree and unintentionally hurt each other from time to time, and being able to listen well and really make an effort to understand your partner's perspective is key to healthy conflict resolution. So, a date who shows the ability to listen well early on is not only showing that they're going to take the time to understand you deeply; they're also showing that they'll be able to hear you out in moments of conflict and really try to understand your side of the story.
They're comfortable talking about their feelings.
Being able to go deep and get emotional is another green flag in a potential romantic partner. A healthy relationship requires two people who can recognize their own emotions, where they stem from, and what they need in a given moment, and who are then able to share those emotions and needs with each other. A person who can tap into and talk about their emotions with ease is demonstrating important relational skills.
They have high self-awareness.
Likewise, it's a green flag if a person demonstrates overall self-awareness, including being aware of their emotions, behaviors, hopes, dreams, fears, and patterns, as well as how their actions may affect others. A person who spends time reflecting on their experiences and trying to better understand themselves is more likely to be intentional about how they behave in relationships and more likely to be able to identify issues in the relationship as they come up. Self-awareness also means they'll be able to recognize and admit when they're the one contributing to the issues.
They have empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to another person's emotions, or even share them. A good partner is able to recognize not only their own emotions but also yours. They might feel sad when you're sad, or they can at least understand when and why you're experiencing sadness, show compassion in such moments, and make you feel validated in what you're going through. They can also identify how a person might emotionally respond to a certain situation, and they act in ways that prevent potential harm and support opportunities for joy.
They're engaged in the relationship.
They make plans, they text you back consistently, and they generally show an active interest in you and nurturing the relationship. They're not afraid to make it clear they like you. Being engaged is particularly vital to new relationships, but it continues to matter even for couples who've been together for years.
"The critical component is that both people are invested in [the relationship] and in a similar way," relationship coach Shula Melamed recently told mbg. "Attendance is mandatory in a serious relationship—you need to show up every damn day. This is the first glimpse of that commitment."
Relationships will always require active effort and equal give-and-take from both parties. And fortunately, that's a quality you can actually suss out fairly early on in a relationship.
The relationship moves at a comfortable pace.
At the same time, a healthy relationship moves at a pace that feels good for both people and allows both people to think, process, have fun, and develop feelings for each other gradually. It's a green flag when a new partner is willing to give you space and let you take your time, even if their feelings or readiness for commitment might be a little further along than yours are. There's never any pressure or attempts to forcibly escalate the intensity of the relationship before you're ready. (That's known as love-bombing, by the way, and it's known to be a common antecedent to abuse.)
They're willing to be vulnerable.
A person who's able to form secure attachments with others is willing to emotionally open up, be vulnerable with another person, and become close to others. Rather than holding their cards close to their chest, they are willing to be candid about how they feel about you, to be openly caring and affectionate, and to let you in.
Relationships require this type of vulnerability in order for real intimacy to develop; people need to be willing to take emotional risks and open themselves up to the possibility of love (or rejection). A person who's emotionally unavailable or afraid of intimacy is often trying to protect themselves from those risks—which doesn't at all make them a bad person, but it does mean they're preventing this particular relationship from deepening.
They know what they want.
Clarity is always a good thing in dating. Whether they know they're looking for something serious or they're only interested in casual dating right now, the point is that this person is clear about it. They also care about what you want from the relationship, ask about it, and are not afraid to have frank discussions about where the relationship is (or isn't) going.
In comparison, it's a red flag if a person you're seeing keeps you in the dark about their intentions for the relationship. A caring, mature partner doesn't play games.
They care about your feelings and well-being, and they put in the effort to treat you well. Importantly, this kindness isn't selectively given—they're equally as kind when you need to cancel plans as they are when they know they're going home with you. They're even caring and gentle when you two are in conflict.
They treat others well, too.
They also extend that care and consideration to everyone in their lives—their mom, their friends, the waiter, even their exes. How they treat the other people in their lives is a reflection of how they'll eventually treat you once the two of you are more established in your relationship. No one is perfect 100% of the time, but in general, you want to be with a person who is consistent in trying to do right by other people.
They have stability.
It's a green flag when the person you're interested in dating is stable. Meaning, you can trust that they'll be consistent in how they treat you and how they approach various situations in life. Volatility and unpredictability, on the other hand, can be red flags—if you don't know how your partner will generally behave from moment to moment, you'll struggle to feel safe in your relationship. Roller-coaster romance makes for interesting movies, but in real life, comfort and balance are needed for healthy love to flourish.
They're easy to be around.
You feel like you can just be yourself around this person, without worrying too much about trying to impress them or walking on eggshells not to upset them. You can be honest and speak your mind. Feeling at ease with someone is always a green flag—it's an internal signal that you feel safe with this person—a core building block of trust.
They take active steps toward becoming better.
Truly no one is perfect when it comes to relationships, and it's important for a romantic partner to be able to recognize their own shortcomings and the areas where they still need to grow—both as a partner and as a person. It's a green flag when someone can take feedback without getting defensive, take responsibility for their actions and issues, and then actually take steps toward change. Values and words should translate into actions.
They accommodate your needs.
Even an all-around great person still needs to take time to learn what it means to be a great partner to you, specifically. They take the time to understand what it is you need from the relationship, and they put forth their best effort to deliver and accommodate you. Likewise, they can recognize when they're not able to fully give you what you need, and they can communicate their boundaries and limits without making you feel "needy," dramatic, or unreasonable.
You both have your own lives.
In a healthy relationship, partners don't feel the need to be attached at the hip at every second—in fact, they ought to value and encourage individuality and independence. Couples who over-rely on each other run this risk of becoming codependent, which can put a strain on both people and their relationship. (Here's a deep dive on finding the balance between independence and connection in relationships.)
"To give up the journey of self-discovery—at least some of which needs to occur during alone time—is to give up one of the richest dimensions of our lives. And our partnership will suffer, as we will," psychotherapist Ken Page, LCSW, recently told mbg.
So, it's definitely a green flag if your partner supports your personal growth, hobbies, friendships, and general life outside your relationship. They give you space to nurture the other parts of your life that don't involve them, and they're happy to cheer you on as you pursue your personal goals and pleasures.
Likewise, it's a good sign if your partner has strong, long-standing relationships, hobbies, and goals outside of you. That makes them less likely to rely on you and your relationship for their happiness—which is a good thing! That's too much responsibility for a person to have to be responsible for someone else's feelings of wholeness, no matter how in love you are.
You feel good around them.
At the end of the day, relationships should feel good.
According to research by psychologists John Gottman, Ph.D., and Robert Levenson, Ph.D., what sets happy couples apart from unhappy couples is that happy couples generally have a ratio of five positive interactions for every one negative interaction.
So, if you two generally enjoy being around each other and bring out the best in each other, and the vast majority of your time together feels positive and pleasurable, that's a good sign for the relationship overall.
Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter