10 Red & Green Flags in Relationships

By Kelsey Phalen, MA, PLPC

It seems like it should be obvious what red flags and green flags are in relationships, right? However, it often isn’t! Of course, there are always obvious red flags and obvious green flags, but if these flags are so obvious, how come so many people end up toxic or abusive relationships?  The truth is many red flags are very subtle, tricky to detect, and occur or are revealed over a span of time. What makes these red flags subtle is how easily we are able to logically or rationally explain them away. They leave us more vulnerable to manipulation by a malicious or toxic person. What do these more subtle, insidious red flags look like? Below is a list of some red and green flags to look for in relationships and ways you vanish protect yourself from ending up in a toxic relationship in the future.

10 Red Flags in Relationships: 

  • Their actions don’t match their words
  • Not being able to speak your mind or “walking on eggshells” 
  • Family or friends being concerned about your relationship, which may lead to an “us against the world” mentality where you are not allowed to see or talk to them
  • Partner gets mad when you go out with ANYONE they deem “doesn’t like them”
  • Openly mocking you for the things that bring you joy
  • Everything is “all about them”
  • Not being allowed to go out with your family or friends without them
  • You stop doing  things you love for them
  • Never apologizing or take accountability for their behavior or blaming you for their bad behavior
  • Discouraging individual goals/dreams if they don’t benefit them

10 Green Flags in Relationships

  • You feel safe with them
  • You can be yourself with them
  • They encourage and support your individual goals 
  • You are able to communicate your feelings without fear of retribution or retaliation
  • They take accountability for their actions
  • They listen when you address a concern or set a boundary
  • You can hang out with your friends with or without your partner
  • They make an effort to do the things you like to do
  • They are open and honestly communicate their needs
  • They demonstrate respect ALL the time; even during an argument 

If you find yourself or a loved one in a relationship with more red flags than green flags, here are some actions you can take to protect yourself:

  • Actions speak louder than words. Pay attention to how they behave more than what they say. 
  • Listen to your gut. If something about them feels off, believe yourself! 
  • Be yourself, not who you think they want you to be.
  • Define YOUR dealbreakers/values/goals: when you know who you are before you start dating, you are less likely to give up parts of yourself.
  • If someone asks you to stop doing a self care activity /something you love, RUN. Examples might include: going to the gym, girls/guys nights, cooking class, running, knitting, etc.
  • Don’t rationalize poor behavior. 
  • Prioritize relationships with mutual effort. For example, if they don’t respond to your text/call in a timely manner, walk away. 
  • Respect yourself. Ask yourself: would I be ok with my best friend/sister/brother/daughter/son being treated like this?

When you’re in a relationship with a lot of red flags, it can be impossible to imagine a relationship without them. You deserve to be in a relationship with ALL green flags, and it is possible! Realistically assessing the health of your relationship is the first step in changing unwanted behaviors/thought patterns. By using this information to make better choices about your current or future relationships, you are ensuring that you build a healthier, more aligned life for yourself and those your love.

Kelsey is a therapist at The Center for Mindfulness & CBT. Kelsey believes a dynamic and multifaceted approach empowers clients to overcome adversity, achieve their life and mental health goals, and regain a sense of autonomy. She believes everyone, regardless of circumstance, is capable of positive behavioral change and accomplishing their goals when their desire for change is greater than their desire to stay the same. She specializes in couples/relationships, adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and survivors of trauma. Kelsey is currently accepting new clients. To learn more about Kelsey or to inquire about working with her, click here.

If you believe you are in a domestic violence situation, please call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233 for confidential support.