In This Post
- The importance of knowing what you want and how this can teach you things about yourself
- 5 examples of green flags in men that you should look out for
What Do You Want?
Knowing what you want in a relationship is the first step to actually having it. Clearly identifying the traits and green flags you look for in a person helps you clarify your own feelings. It can help give you direction on who to look for, and also who to avoid.
Writing down the top 5 or 10 qualities you want in a partner is a fascinating and fun exercise to do. We recommend you do it, whether you are single, in a situationship, or have been married for 20 years. These qualities and characteristics apply specifically to a romantic partner, but you can use them for your friends, colleagues and family too.
What Can You Learn About Yourself?
Doing this highlights not only the qualities you value being around but can also help you identify things within yourself. What do the things you want in someone else say about you? Maybe they highlight that you often feel stressed, anxious and unsettled by the world. Are you looking for someone who can help soothe you and bring you back to feeling grounded?
When you’re writing your own list, consider why you desire those things in someone else. And most importantly, how can you also embody those qualities yourself? If you want someone who is calm, soothing and protective, you have to be someone that a person like that would enjoy being around. How can you be what you are looking for, in order to attract it?
The below examples are some very basic qualities and green flags that most healthy relationships should have. They are only examples, and if you feel that these things are missing from your relationships, there are plenty of ways to work on them. These examples are for male partners, but there is an overlap with women too, so take these suggestions with a pinch of salt!
Green Flag 1: They Make You Feel Safe
Feeling safe is one of the most important intuitive indicators of whether a person is right for you. Feeling safe with someone is often formed on very subconscious, subtle information. It highlights whether they are reliable, consistent and responsible with their words and behaviours. Feeling safe with someone is difficult to actively curate, which is why this kind of intuitive indicator is so useful. It is hard to fake. It is also very easily influenced by negative behaviours such as being blunt, unstable emotionally or aggressive. There are few second chances when it comes to making someone feel safe.
Being able to be completely vulnerable and open with someone is key to developing deeper levels of emotional intimacy. This is something that is only possible in the context of healthy feelings of safety and support. When someone is able to make you feel safe around them, they are showing you that they can treat you well regardless of their emotions. Someone should be able to feel irritated, upset, annoyed and frustrated around you (in a healthy way) without making you feel unsafe. Compromises to your safety (emotional and physical) are not worth tolerating. At all.
Their words and actions might make you feel safe if they do things that are protective and considerate. Maybe that’s texting you to check if you got home safe, or if they walk on the side of the road next to the cars. They might make you feel safe with their physical presence alone. Physical touch and physically being next to someone who we are emotionally close with produces a physiological response of relaxation and calm that helps us feel safe. So, if you immediately feel relaxed upon their arrival, that’s a good sign!
Green Flag 2: Their Actions Speak Louder Than Your Feelings
It is unfortunately not an uncommon thing for people to stay in relationships based on how they feel, rather than how they are being treated. While it is possible to love someone deeply who treats you terribly, you need to be willing to leave based on their treatment, rather than your feelings. Your happiness, health and safety in a relationship are based on their behaviour towards you, not how you feel. Sometimes this is hard to hear, and we are often aware that we stay in situations where we should leave.
Settling for less-than-acceptable levels of treatment is not something we would want our mothers, sisters or friends to do. So, we shouldn’t do it to ourselves. We can sometimes become delusional because of our love for someone which means we overlook treatment that is not appropriate or deserved. We contextualise their behaviours toward us in our relationship and wrap this in our feelings of love for them, rather than seeing it objectively.
It’s cliche, but if you’re struggling to decide whether the way someone is treating you is acceptable, think about how you would feel if it was happening to someone you cared about. How does this change your perspective?
There are ups and downs in every healthy relationship and context is very important. But, remembering to value someone based on their behaviour, rather than your own feelings, is crucial for ensuring you are in a happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship.
Green Flag 3: They Are Emotionally Mature and Communicate Well
Being ‘emotionally mature’ and ‘communicating well’, can sometimes feel like vague concepts. It takes a lot of self-awareness and facing harsh realities to understand whether we meet that criterion ourselves. Emotional maturity and healthy communication may look very different for one person compared to the standards of another. What does it mean for you?
Defining emotional maturity and good communication for yourself is key. As is communicating those boundaries and expectations with the other partner. Not tolerating name-calling, raised voices or being ignored are very basic standards of good communication. What will you tolerate? What won’t you tolerate? A point here is to remember this applies to both parties. Your behaviour needs to be as good as theirs – so keep being as self-aware as you can.
Emotional maturity and the importance of this will depend on how important feeling connected emotionally to your partner is. I would say for most people, a romantic relationship is differentiated from simply friendship by this level of emotional intimacy, emotional support and coregulation. Emotional intimacy and maturity are heavily linked with feeling safe with someone. It is very hard to be vulnerable emotionally with someone if you are afraid of their reaction. Whether that be simply negligent, dismissive or aggressive.
Do you feel safe enough to express yourself?
You should feel like you are able to talk to your partner about anything, without fear of their reaction. It is no use justifying your relationship based on ‘safe topics’. The real test is how they react to you when you raise concerns about difficult things and in times of conflict or challenge.
Complete freedom to express my emotions is one of my personal main conditions for a romantic relationship. Not only is expressing your emotions important but they must be received with respect and treated with kindness. This means you must express them in a respectful way too! For me, this is not only a green flag but a prerequisite. Of course, you shouldn’t be totally reliant on your partner for emotional support and regulation. You should be at a place where you can deal with your emotions yourself. But, it is healthy and normal to use people in your social circle, especially your romantic partner, for support in this area.
Green Flag 4: Things Feel Easy, Natural and Fun
Things feeling easy, natural and fun is also a good intuitive indicator that can be a green flag. Your relationship with someone, especially at the start, should typically feel organic, easy going and things should work out without you having to try too hard or worry too much. If you are worrying too much, or there is frequent conflict at the start of a relationship, it might be a sign that you might be incompatible. Remember that this doesn’t necessarily make either of you a bad person!
Most relationships have a ‘honeymoon’ phase where everything is blissful and perfect. Even if this is based on the proliferation of hormones like oxytocin. It is normal for things to be easy, especially at the start. In my opinion, however, there should be a continued level of ease and assumed reliability for each person. You should feel relaxed and feel that they are reliable and trustworthy. The fun you have together should be frequent, natural and not forced. Trying too much for things that should come naturally might suggest that the person you are with isn’t the best fit for you, or that you need to work on your relationship in some way.
Green Flag 5: Things Are Balanced and Non-transactional
We are often told that relationships involve a lot of compromises. Initially, this may seem like quite a negative and uninspiring thing. But, it can actually be one of the most powerful indicators of whether your relationship is fulfilling and healthy. Doing things for someone else feels good for us because we know what it means to the other person. Going along to your partner’s favourite sporting event, or with your partner while they go shopping might not be something you do because you enjoy it, but because you love and respect your partner’s desires.
Having shared interests is great. And finding shared interests with your partner can be a fun way to build your relationship and spend time together. But, doing things for your partner simply because you care about them is also a way to show that you value them as a person, so much so that you are willing to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do.
Times when this does not apply
Although this point is to be taken contextually. Saying no to doing something unsafe or truly out of your comfort zone for your partner is a sign of healthy boundaries. Coercing someone into doing something they don’t want to to make them prove their love for you is entirely toxic and a red flag itself. Doing things for your partner and sharing with them is only a green flag when it is non-transactional. E.g., they shouldn’t be doing it simply so that they say they did it in order to make you do something for them!
While having balance and doing things for each other is important, it should be because of a shared love and commitment to each other. Not simply as a way to gain something back for yourself. Another condition for this green flag is that they do it with joy, gratitude and shared happiness with you. There’s no point in agreeing to do something for someone else if you’re going to complain throughout the process. If you cannot engage fully and participate in doing something nice for your partner, it would be better to set a boundary and not do it at all. Communication here is key!
A Final Reminder
There were 5 simple green flags you can look for in a partner or a relationship. These can also apply in other social areas in your life. They are important to reflect on to see how your own relationship and you, yourself, match up to these. These are only 5 examples and they are not the only requirements in a relationship. Nor are they necessarily the most important for you and your priorities.
Take time to reflect on these 5 examples. Also, consider reflecting on your own top 5 or top 10 green flags in a relationship. Think about what you desire in someone else, what you can learn about yourself from this, and how you can become what you desire in order to attract it!
To Put it Minimally
- Figuring out what you want from a relationship is essential before you get into one, and you can learn a lot about yourself from doing this
- Looking out for green flags is a good way to check whether someone will be a good partner, and the type of partner you’re looking for will determine what green flags you should hope to find
- Some examples of common green flags include: making you feel safe, you like them because of how they treat you, rather than simply just your emotions, they are emotionally mature and communicate well, things feel easy and fun, there is a balance in the relationship, and you don’t do things out of obligation or in a transactional way