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#300: My relationship is awesome y/n

semaphore

We’ll figure this shit out.

Hi Captain & Team Awkward,

I’ve been enjoying the site for a while now and have been able to take quite a few pointers from y’all, so thanks!
 
I guess the shortest way to ask my question is this: What are the green flags in any (budding) relationship? 
 
Best wishes -
Looking Forward to More Awesomeness 

Dear Looking Forward,

Sweet Machine on deck. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about good relationships instead of the icy jaws of loneliness! Instead, you’re writing from the skylight car of the Awesome Train and want to make sure you’re going the right direction. High fives all around!

Do you know the famous first line of Anna Karenina?

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Okay, so despite its obvious brilliance as a sentence, I personally think this is bullshit. I think, in most situations, that unhappiness is more universally recognizable than happiness, at least in our culture. Red flags are glaring, at least to people on the outside of a relationship; green flags are more idiosyncratic and have to do with what you want from romance and sex and togetherness. Each happy couple is happy in its own way.

That said, there are certain questions that you can ask yourself as a way of tallying your green flags. I’m going to list some of the ones that I see as important here, and I invite the Awkward Army to suggest more in comments. Let’s call the object of your affections Admiral Sexy, so we can stay gender neutral.

  • Do you feel like yourself when you’re around them? Feeling like you have to hide or suppress parts of your personality = red flag. Feeling like you could say anything = green flag.
  • Sexytimes: Are you having fun? Is everything enthusiastic and consensual? Does Admiral Sexy ask you what you like and listen to what you don’t like? Have you talked openly about safe sex and how to practice it? Yes to these = green flag.
  • Is Admiral Sexy as cool as your friends? Have you met their friends? Even if you don’t become fast friends with the whole circle, does each of you get why the other likes these people? Green flag.
  • Do you have mutual respect? Does Admiral Sexy treat you like a real person, rather than an object of worship or an object of abuse?
  • Most subjective of all, maybe: do you get fluttery feeling in your pants and your brain and your chest when you think of a future together?

I am sure there are a million other green flags, because relationships develop differently and sometimes things you’d never expect give you a sense of what a person is like. The first week I was dating Mr Machine, my beloved grandpa died, and I had to spend the day of our second or third date booking cross-country travel in between sobs. I contacted him to cancel our plans, figuring we didn’t know each other well enough for him to take on my grief and shock out of nowhere. Instead, he asked if I wanted company and offered to come spend all day at my apartment, just doing whatever — which he did. That generosity and respect for my deepest emotions was my big green flag; it told me I could trust this person when things got rough, and still enjoy him as a person even  when I was devastated by life’s bullshit. It’s been green flags ever since.

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150 comments
  1. HOLY SYNCHRONICITY BATMAN. I’m writing a post on this subject right now and I am… rrrgh, totally got beaten to it! But it’s cool, I’ll just put in a link to this post, because you have some good stuff, and I suspect the comments are about to come up with much, much more.

      • JenniferP said:

        Good list! Very good list! You know we heart your work around here, Cliff.

  2. RodeoBob said:

    About that “Anna Karenina” line…

    I read it a little differently I guess (Blame Guns, Germs, and Steel) in that every happy couple has the same basic set of things that work (respect, mutuality, communication) while unhappy couples can be unhappy in an astonishing number of ways for lacking one or more of those elements.

    My go-to standards these days are “safe” and “comfortable”. Do I feel safe with this person, safe going out with them, (or even taking a trip with them) safe talking with them and telling them things, safe being naked and vulnerable and possibly talking about my kinks with them. Do I feel safe taking risks with this person? Do I feel comfortable around this person, with this person when we’re alone or with my friends or their friends or my family or their family. Do I feel comfortable with this person, even if we’re doing something outside of my comfort zone?

    When I need to be supported, is this person good at making me feel like they have my back? When I need to be pushed a little, do they know how to challenge me in a way that’s positive and helpful?

    Not sure how much any of that helps.

  3. Phira said:

    These green flags are definitely excellent ones! I’ve been with my partner for almost a year, and I’ve actually been able to pinpoint a lot of these green flags in our relationship. What’s been somewhat not-great is that often, I only recognize the green flags because of bad relationships I’d been in before meeting my partner, but the past is past right now.

    Part of the respect green flag I’d like to expand on, at least in my opinion, is compromise–do you and your Admiral Sexy compromise? Because as much as you will have things in common, you’ll have plenty of differences. If you’ve been able to compromise respectfully, without one person insisting on having their way (either by refusing to compromise, or agreeing to compromise and not following through) and without keeping score (“You always get your way/we’ve done it your way five times and my way only once”), that’s a green flag.

    I guess that could also go with being able to say anything, but oh well!

    I like this list because every relationship is very, very different, and we all have different needs. What might be a fulfilling, happy relationship for my friend might be an overly cloying, suffocating one for me. What might be a wonderful, forever-and-ever relationship for me might leave a friend of mine feeling lonely and uncared for. Love this list.

    • “I only recognize the green flags because of bad relationships I’d been in before meeting my partner, but the past is past right now.” I SO RELATE.

  4. Alice said:

    My favourite ‘how I knew we were going to be together forever’ story comes from my aunt and uncle. My aunt has super-fine hair, and spent a lot of time hanging out with us all when we were small and nit-infested, as small children tend to be. I’m sure those who’ve done the same can see where this is going…

    My aunt got nits. And she was supposed to be hanging out with this cool new guy she’d been dating only a few months. This did not bode well. Except, instead of being all ‘eew, move away, move away’ he helped her nit-comb her hair and they laughed at the weirdness and counted her disgusting, totally not-sexy nits together. MAJOR GREEN FLAG.

    I guess my point is, when things happen that ought to mean the other person steps backwards (like Sweet Machine’s awesome other half) and that person steps up to the plate and helps count your nits? That’s when you know stuff is going to be just fine.

    • JenniferP said:

      Great how-we-met tale or GREATEST how-we-met tale? Nits.

      • Make a movie of this!

      • Alice said:

        They are the best couple ever. Seriously, this is just one of the many awesome moments in their relationship.

    • Lyla D. said:

      The one circumstance in which having a nitpicking S.O. is a terrific thing. ;)

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        Argh! :D

    • I love it! And it made me think of my moment when I thought “oh, this is not just love, this is a workable support structure” – I was lying in a hospital bed, yea, nigh unto death but getting better, when Mr. Dingo Jones bent down and said, “Hey, your catheter tube is backing up. Let me take that kink out of it.”

      And the future spread out across the horizon, inspired by a tube of pee.

  5. Calypte said:

    “Do you have mutual respect? Does Admiral Sexy treat you like a real person, rather than an object of worship (…)?” THIS. When I got into my first relationship, my ex thought I was AMAZING, and to be honest, I thought this was pretty nice at first (though worrisome, since I was well-aware that I did not quite live up to his idyllic view of me); but inevitably he also figured out I did not quite live up to his idyllic ideas and the relationship devolved into a girlfriend-improvement-project, complete with hours-long lectures, guilt-tripping and weird ‘tests’ to see if I would do the right thing.

    Relatedly, I think it is important that you feel free in the relationship, and bigger rather than smaller: free to pursue your big dreams, to develop different aspects of yourself, to hang out with just your friends rather than with partner sometimes, to do things that make you really happy and supported in that by your partner.

    Also, do the two of you want similar things from the relationship? Or do you want something serious, while zie wants to be casual (or vice versa)? Do you want to be monogamous and zie doesn’t? Etc.

  6. i might add: do you have nonsexy fun together? when everybody’s pants are on and you’re out and about, is it a good time? are there activities you can do together? basically, do you have successful friend time?

    • Grace said:

      Yes! This! Not being able to have fun non-sexy times was the first red flag I ignored when I started dating my personal Darth Vader. And then I ignored all the rest. One thing he did have going for him was he was VERY interested in consent. So that’s my green flag.

  7. alphakitty said:

    Another great sign: when both people feel like they are the lucky one! Not in a self-hating “I don’t deserve to be this happy” sort of way or a “put the other person on some artificial pedestal of perfection” way…. just a “you are so amazing I feel so lucky to be with you” way, while they’re thinking “no, *you* are so amazing *I* am so lucky to be with *you*” sort of way.

    • SkepticalMystic said:

      This this this this this! My #1 most desired quality in a relationship is “When each person feels like they got the better end of the deal.”

    • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

      This! THIS!

  8. Emily said:

    I was going to de-lurk and give some advice in That Thread, but then it became That Thread before I had my thoughts together. So, I’m de-lurking here and saying thanks everyone for making That Thread a great read full of awesomeness.

    Green flag: You ignore the Rules of Dating, like who pays for the date? how long do you wait before calling them after? when do you kiss, have sex, start discussing The Future? It’s not a red flag if that stuff causes a little awkwardness and anxiety, but if those “are we doing this right?” questions never come up because things are just moving right along naturally and idiosyncratically, big green flag!

    Also: does Admiral Sexy treat other people the awesome way they treat you? If you love how they always listen to you respectfully without interrupting, do they also listen to their friends? If they’re super generous and giving with you, do they also tip their bartender well and offer their friends a ride home? If so, they’re not changing anything to impress you, they’re impressing you by being their awesome self.

    • JenniferP said:

      Love it, especially the first one. When people like you, they act like they like you, and when you like them, it’s easy to get through the awkward moments because you help each other out.

    • YES to ignoring the rules. I just met a guy and, while we’re taking it slowly, there have been a lot of green flags. One of my favorites was when he called three hours after I got home from an (afternoon) date because he didn’t want to wait to talk to me again, just as I’d been sitting there trying to figure out who was supposed to call whom next, and when, and getting myself all freaked out about it. During that phone conversation he said, “Yeah, I don’t really know what the rules are,” and I said, “Me neither; I think we get to make them up as we go.”

  9. Do they love themselves and are they happy with their lives? Or (more importantly to me due to my history) are they actively working to reach those two points?

    • Simone Lovelace said:

      Yes yes yes!

  10. Two things that are my personal green flags:

    Admiral Sexy has got their own thing going on, and will not fall to pieces if I am not available (emotionally or otherwise) 24/7. This also ties into being able to provide basic care for themselves, or to be able to ask for help if they can’t. (I had to teach my first real partner how to do his own laundry. I love that guy, but, never again.)

    And – this is way more subjective, granted – I need an Admiral Sexy who, by virtue of being themselves, will get me out of my comfort zones, just a little, who gets me to try new things, who has a “we’re not here to fit, we’re here to grow (together)” mentality.

    • JenniferP said:

      I like your first one especially. But both of these are great.

    • M'fly said:

      Oh that first one is SUCH a big one! I know I have high standards for “adulting ability” because I moved out when I was 15 and figured out a lot of that normal 20-something stuff before I turned 18, but inability to look after oneself is a dealbreaker for me. And in more general terms, I think that someone who reaches adulthood without ever bothering to learn those things is often not really good partner material because they frequently expect their partners to pick up where their mothers left off.

      …Or maybe I’m just projecting all of my baggage from my recent breakup, but anyhoo.

    • j said:

      On the flip side of this, if either party is suddenly going to be less-available than they were? If they don’t communicate this and just kind of do it? Yellow flag.

      If they say “Hey, just so you know, I can’t be there as much as I’ve been there recently” – you know, and recognize the fact that people have expectations of each other, and that sudden shifts are worrying to most people – big ol’ green flag!

  11. JenniferP said:

    Good list(s)!

    I’m in a very happy place love-wise, and it hasn’t been that long, so all these moments still very are still very fresh in my mind. So here are some of the signs that things work from the early stages of a thing:

    – He takes on his share of relationship “work” (planning dates, logistics, grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes) and shows avid appreciation for the stuff that I do. Manners, reliability, and consistency count, and we have that going on.
    – It’s easy to sort things out – whose turn it is to pay, whose turn to make the plans – things feel reciprocal and balanced. It never felt like anyone was chasing anyone else.
    – He introduces me to his people and makes an effort to meet and get to know mine.
    – He communicates – thoughts, dreams, hopes, annoyances, passing jokes. I never spent any days, even at the very beginning, doubting that he wanted to see me again or was interested in me. I mean, I had the “I liiiiiiiike him. I hope he liiiiiiiikes me” butterflies like anyone does, but it wasn’t a source of worry.
    – We can disagree about stuff without all the air getting sucked out of the room.
    – I feel like I can ask for help, comfort, or whatever I need.
    – We don’t take our moods or bad days out on each other. You can be in a bad mood AND kind to the other person.
    – I’m psyched to tell people all about him. There’s no “Things are great! Well…except for…(awkward pause).” Commander Logic can testify.
    – I’m comfortable to have him in my space and feel welcome in his.
    – We’re fans of each other’s work and we tell each other so. (His is here in case you want to become fans of it too).
    – Talking about the future – a trip a few months from now where plane tickets must be purchased, for example – makes me feel happy and excited and not anxious.
    – As my last relationship deteriorated, I found myself making a lot of pro and con lists, being anxious all the time, second-guessing myself, double-checking things with friends or keeping embarrassing things secret from friends so I wouldn’t have to hear all of the “OR YOU COULD JUST BREAK UP NOW” advice I so lovingly share with you before I was ready to hear it. I didn’t gain 30-35% humanity points these last few months (did I?) but I feel less anxious about this than I have about anything ever. I’m happy. Shit is good. I don’t need to fix anyone or anything or myself.
    – Ahem. Pantsfeelings.

    • millefolia said:

      I never spent any days, even at the very beginning, doubting that he wanted to see me again or was interested in me. I mean, I had the “I liiiiiiiike him. I hope he liiiiiiiikes me” butterflies like anyone does, but it wasn’t a source of worry.

      Yeah. I actually have spent tons of time doubting that my sweetie was still interested in me, but I was completely aware the whole time that it was my jerkbrain talking, it was just talking REALLY LOUDLY. So you know what? The last time it was bad, I texted my sweetie to say “depression brain is telling me [specific negative things that boil down to sweetie leaving me]. I could use some reassurance.” And I got a text back saying “Understood. Tell depression brain I said to stfu because it is totally wrong on this one.” Which was just what I needed–and that’s a green flag right there, that I felt comfortable expressing my fear and that my sweetie would reassure me like that.

      • Keely said:

        LOVE.

        (my girlfriend does this sort of thing for me too and it’s amazing)

      • Britt said:

        That is just about the perfect response from your sweetie. Reassuring, sweet, but also treating it like it’s no huge thing that you’re having some insecurities.

        • millefolia said:

          It really, really was!

    • theLaplaceDemon said:

      I never date anyone who won’t increase my humanity by at least 32%. Who wants to be less then 97% of a person? We should demand more from our romantic partners. Also, they need to follow me around with a blowtorch to continuously melt the Ice Hands Of Loneliness.


      (for the people who [understandably] couldn’t stomach all of That Thread: SARCASM).

      • Kaesa said:

        I don’t know, I’m kind of glad I’m single! It’s really hot right now, and the Icy Grasp of Loneliness is letting me reduce my air conditioner usage and saving me so much on electricity bills. Plus, being only 65% human makes it easier to squeeze into a crowded train car every morning!

        • millefolia said:

          YOU WIN THE INTERNETS.

        • theLaplaceDemon said:

          You are my hero.

        • Hazel said:

          It’s true. I’m alone and my bed is definitely not cold at night.

        • Phira said:

          Oh my god, you’re right; if I were single, living in Boston this summer would be SO MUCH EASIER.

        • ladyquirk said:

          And you have just made it infinitely more awesome to be single in a climate changing world.

    • - He takes on his share of relationship “work” (planning dates, logistics, grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes) and shows avid appreciation for the stuff that I do. Manners, reliability, and consistency count, and we have that going on.

      YEAH. I knew, a little bit, that it was my tendency to overreach and be the hostess of the relationship: planning dates, arranging meals, making sure he was comfortable, and so forth. I realized this in a Bad Relationship when my therapist pointed out that it wasn’t reciprocated, and all the work I was doing was making me anxious. (I’d even dream about the things I was supposed to be doing for him; we once laughed together about the time I crashed asleep, woke up just enough to say “Don’t worry, I’ll rub your back” and then crashed asleep again, but it was a very bitter laugh for me and was one of the nudges toward breakup.)

      So I got that, but I didn’t really get it until I started dating someone who actually asks me out. Sure, some plans we make evolve naturally, but five months later he’ll still call me up and ask me out to a movie, or to the Friday night art thing in his neighborhood. And I love it.

      He’s also a recovering Relationship Hostess, so it has been a lovely awakening pleasure to do nice things for each other and know that we are equally delighted and willing to reciprocate.

  12. anewgirl said:

    Hey guys, I’m the LW – thanks Sweet Machine and everyone who has commented so far,
    I’m already feeling 30-35% more awesome! Really though, I agree with everything that has been said so far, and I’m going to print this out to check back for reference.
    Since I did not exactly grow up in surroundings that were conducive to learning about healthy relationships, so I’m still sorting this stuff out for myself. I’ll soon be moving overseas, and that’s a little intimidating, but it’s also a chance to start over and build the relationships I want to have. So I wasn’t thinking of any specific current relationships, but more fine-tuning my general skills – both for a future Admiral Sexy, and a Fleet of Awesome Friends / chosen family.

    tl;dr: Thanks everyone! :)
    (Especially since I was a little hesitant about coming forward due to my own awkwardness – so I’m glad you’re making me feel so welcome!)

    • JenniferP said:

      Subtract Pantsfeelings as a requirement and keep all the stuff about making you feel safe and comfortable and like yourself and this is a good guide to friends, too. Sorry we assumed that relationship meant a romantic relationship. I really need to stop doing that. <3

  13. Jane said:

    Okay so! I do not have any romantic relationships to pull from! BUT. A major green flag for friendships for me (and romantic partners should be friends too? right? maybe?) is if that person has passionate interests that overlap with mine. I like to be able to talk to someone about something I wouldn’t otherwise know or investigate and get caught up in their enthusiasm about it (for instance, organ building! or kung fu movies! or Roman history!) I love people who love stuff. If that makes sense. It makes conversation more fun, and it makes me more comfortable talking about the stuff I love myself.

    • Jane said:

      * (er, ‘successful’ romantic relationships — my single 2.5 month experience was ALL RED FLAGS NO GREEN FLAGS ONLY A FIELD OF SAD-MAKING RED FLAGNESS okay that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the point that it’s not my most useful data point.)

  14. My list would include:

    * Feeling comfortable enough around another person for them to see me not at my best. Sometimes I laugh so hard I snort ridiculously, or I tell a joke that sounds good in my mind but terrible out loud, or I start crying and can’t stop and my face gets all red and snot leaks out of my nose.

    * Having friends and hobbies that my partner isn’t a part of, and vice versa. Being able to talk about the interests we have that aren’t shared, and enjoying the time we spend apart as well as the time we spend together.

    * Having a partner who likes and compliments me without putting me on a pedestal.

    * Laughing a lot and coming up with silly inside jokes with someone.

    * Having a partner who is interested in sexual and non-sexual touch; I am a super-snuggler and I like being able to be snuggly without an automatic assumption that I am in the mood for sex too. Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not, but I need a lot of casual touch to feel like I’m at Peak Relationship Happiness.

    * Enjoying non-sexual time together! I dated someone once who got upset when I said “hey, can we hang out without having sex some time? I just want to spend time with you.” He did not want to see me if we didn’t have sex. That did not last long.

    * (and related to that, being with someone who respects the boundaries I want to establish in my relationship, whether they’re related to sex or free time or family or whatever.)

    * Feeling like my partner will support me in major decisions; they might offer insight or advice but will leave decisions up to me.

  15. statusstories said:

    I started using this as a rule for sexytiems, but I think it’s also a really good general relationship rule — if you feel like you can’t ask for something, it’s a red flag. If you’re totally cool asking for it, it’s a green flag.

    If you or your partner is so deep into “I really want you to like me so I will go along with whatever you say and not ask for anything I really want”? Red flag. “I really like you and I want to do all sorts of things, including X — would you like to do that?” Green flag. Similarly, “Person, I dig you, but this thing you said/did was hurtful/rude/completely full of shit” is a green flag, where “oh, it’s not a big deal, whatever you say/do is fine by me because calling you on it might make you not like me” is a red flag.

    On the subject of how relationships do and don’t work, Tamora Pierce wrote a (spoilery) explanation of how two of her characters view love that I think is really nice: http://www.tamorapierce.com/etc_spoilers.html

  16. This is a slightly different one of “Green flags for someone starting a relationship with you when they know that you’re disabled” since they’re largely the same but some are a bit specific. YMMV, as ever, but I kind of wanted to put these somewhere where people could see them and tell me if I was barking up a weirdly-me-centric tree, or if I had a point.

    – Being willing to trust your boundaries, both upper and lower (An ex of mine used to love to pull out “But my textbook says that people with condition Z shouldn’t do Y!” when I, as a lifelong Z-sufferer, had been doing Y my whole life, using my own set of guidelines to stay safe. Likewise, he used to play “But Z has no effect on B!” when I knew damn well that my Z stopped me from B nine times out of ten!) So many people are stuck in the narrative of disabled-people-as-universal-patients that they forget that, er, we’ve had our bodies and minds our whole lives. When I first told my current partner that I was going out to Y, he just said “If everything goes tits up, ring me and I’ll come and find you.” There’s a massive green flag! Trust, respect for my intuition, and firm belief that I’m my own best caretaker.

    – Doing the reading, so you don’t have to give them a 101 on your condition as it pertains to them, but also listening to your experiences on it (See above)

    – Being able to see past the times that the relationship becomes a bit carer-caree, and still see you as a complete person, who is up for laughs and sexy times like everyone else, not just endless, earnest hot water bottles and tea.

    – Going out and doing things without you. I’ve known people who didn’t believe me that sometimes, when I was ill, I was perfectly happy being plonked down in front of the television for a few hours whilst they went out and socialised. The listening part is key here.

    – When they don’t want to “fix you”, even though they acknowledge that sometimes, it’s pretty difficult being you. People who know that it’s not their place to say “I wish I could take away all your pain” are, frankly, brilliant.

    – When they’re still around and still asking you what you want them to do, rather than assuming control, when you’re in need of hospital visits and similar. And then when they offer (no pressure though) to drive you to your assorted appointments, and to deliver low-pressure hand-holding if you need it.

    …Well, that’s the beginning of a bit of a ramble, but I think it’s semi-useful stuff.

    • Kristy said:

      That all seems sound to me. I especially love your “Going and doing things without you” point. No one wants to be ignored, but everyone wants some time alone!

    • staranise said:

      Yes, absolutely. Trusting that you know how to take care of yourself is HUGE for me. So many people assume PWD haven’t done basic due diligence: we’ve never thought of vitamin supplements, we don’t keep on top of medical advice, and we don’t have firsthand knowledge of our own lives.. So underwritten in everything is a basic mistrust of the words that come out of one’s mouth. “I’m really tired in the mornings.” “Oh, you should try this remedy.” “I take a lot of painkillers.” “Painkillers are bad, you should do yoga.” “I do yoga.” “That much exercise is bad for you!”

      It’s like, you’re never allowed to be disabled and capable of handling your shit. So for me a big green flag is when somebody just says, “Huh, okay.” and trusts I know how to live in my body, instead of deluging me with advice.

      • Ace said:

        That’s been one of the things with interacting with a friend of mine that became disabled. Shutting up my jerkbrain that wanted to question decisions she makes while it was saying ‘are you sure she isn’t pushing herself too hard? is this going to be ok? maybe we shouldn’t do x even if she agrees for her own good’ was hardest in the beginning and one of the best things I could do. Trusting her to know her limits and communicate them and for me to believe them was the best thing I could do for our friendship.

        • staranise said:

          Yeah. Under it there is, “I am distressed this friend of mine is in a hard spot; I want the best for her, and am uncomfortable when she was in pain.” Noble, but not always helpful! Much better to listen closely to her about what she needs. The advanced class is watching and observing and seeing what she misses (like when friends tell me I may not have noticed, but I’m having a bad mental health week, or when my family offers to buy or install home upgrades that make my life easier) but it should only be done with a thorough grounding in the basics.

      • me said:

        Very true. There’s something about disability that brings out the Halping Instinct in others. Trusting that a person is the expert in their own life and knows how many “spoons*” they have on any given day is a huge deal.

        *Explanation of spoons here: The Spoon Theory.

  17. Elisabeth said:

    The Captain’s list hits most of mine so I won’t repeat those.

    I noted “ability to be vulnerable with them” mentioned above; I have one that’s an extension of that, which is that when I have found the courage to be vulnerable, especially about difficult things that I might feel ashamed of or judged on, the other person’s response is accepting and caring and a desire to make things easier. (As context, I went from a relationship where I was regularly criticized for my emotions and behavior and mental health, and gaslighted continually, to a relationship where my confessions or displays of all these things that I’d been told made me “unacceptable” were met with calm, grace, and reassurance that they could be dealt with. Eight-plus years later, it’s still a crucial aspect.) Feeling that someone respects what you’re dealing with and feeling, and has your back in difficult times, is a big thing.

    Another big one for me: The ability to laugh together. Laughter matters, and when you have the same sense of what’s funny, it makes everything better. My husband and I finish each other’s funny thoughts/situational jokes all the time, without even intending to, which demonstrates that we’re on a similar plane of humor and thought, and we know what kinds of jokes to make that will reliably make the other person laugh.

    When they grossly misuse your kitchen tools, and it drives you up the wall, and you still want them around anyway. ;) (Okay, this one might be extremely specific to me…)

  18. Camilla said:

    Can your partner both give and receive help with problems (intellectual, logistical, practical) gracefully? Can they also articulate “sympathy not solutions” politely if that’s what they need?

    It’s easy to notice someone who gives help and listens well… but someone who gets huffy about being helped, or is unhappy to see you pull out a previously hidden talent, can hide that for quite a long time.

    • Keely said:

      This! So important. In my comment I focused on my partner’s behavior when helping me, but the reverse is just as important. A person who can only be the fixer, and can’t graciously accept help? That is a person who is a mess somewhere deep down even if they don’t appear that way. (I’ve been that person. I’m learning.) Also dangerous are people who can’t or won’t articulate their needs, but then get angry about how you address or fail to address them.

  19. boots mcgee said:

    +11111 to everything that’s already been listed here, you people are brilliant.

    Mr. Boots and I have been married for several weeks now, together for a couple of years, and he raised up this awesome bright-ass green flag yesterday when we were driving:

    “Your hair looks really good like that. It’s like, professional. You look like Hillary Clinton.”

    Holy schnikes, my husband considers Hillary Clinton a sexy lady symbol! After years of *headdesking* every time someone critiques Hillz for not being feminine enough and for always cheering her on for her brilliance AND her style, I am just pleased as pantspunch to have been told this by Mr. Boots.

    So my green flag that I’ll add to the pile, especially for the LTR’s out there, is:

    – Finds new and fresh ways to make you feel good, even years into your relationship.

    • Zed said:

      That is ADORABLE and AWESOME.

    • staranise said:

      It’s awesome to hear your marriage is working out! I remember you writing in about anxieties about your wedding, so this comment makes me happy.

    • JenniferP said:

      My friend’s 10 year old nephew went as “someone he admired” for “dress up as someone you admire” day at school. Hillary Fucking Clinton.

      The kids are all right.

      • Awkward Niece said:

        You know it’s so funny, just at the moment I was reading this I happened to get something in my eye?

        • hypatia said:

          The Awkward Army has developed Onions-Over-TCP/IP technology. It’s the only explanation >_>

          • MisMis said:

            Yeah,
            I think the RFC is in the making at the IETF. Should be finished next year in April.
            Until then, enjoy the benefits of RFC 2324 – The Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol.

            http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2324

  20. Since I’ve been loving the site, thought I’d take a crack at my first comment…

    There were two big green flags when I met The Professor (CanuckMom husband).

    The first (which if I had not liked him may not have made me so happy) was that he always, always, made plans with me for the next date before the current date was over. It was so great to not have to worry about “does he like me”, “is he going to call me” and to just relax and enjoy myself.

    That always reminded me of something a good friend’s mom told us about boys (though it would apply whatever your preference) when we were teenagers – “The right ones – the ones that really like you – they are going to chase YOU. They will make time for you and they will want to see you.”

    The second green flag was that he thought I was funny. Since my previous partner of six years did not share the same sense of humour that I did, (turns out we didn’t actually have that much in common at all) he never laughed at my jokes. I have, on many occasions, reduced The Professor to a puddle of laughter. This was a HUGE deal for me.

    Good luck to the LW!

    • pochiblythe said:

      I so agree with these!

    • statusstories said:

      Laughing at jokes — yes! Every lady mag that told me I just wanted to be with someone funny made me seethe. Sure, I like to be amused, but if a guy doesn’t think I’m funny, our relationship is not long for this world.

      • JenniferP said:

        WORD.

        Gentleman Caller and I are both hilarious and have a performer streak, but it never feels competitive or like one person is relegated to audience.

        • M'fly said:

          I’d never thought of it that way, but that is such a good way of putting it! I think I’m pretty funny and my friends and family think that I’m hilarious, but in several relationships I’ve felt really unfunny, and like if I tried to be funny I was stealing the stage from my partner. So obviously in those relationships it was a performer-audience relationship, and audience participation was discouraged.

  21. A big green flag for me, and it may not be universal is “Do you have big audacious dreams? Can they co-exist with my big audacious dreams? Yes? Fantastic!”

    Conflicting big audacious dreams (along with being put on a pedestal and some serious ‘my life revolves around you now and nothing else) were why my last relationship came to an amicable but permanent end.

    • Britt said:

      I love this! I think people who have big, audacious dreams that can co-exist (even if those dreams never quite come to fruition) are likely people who are going to grow and change in ways that bring them closer together rather than putting distance between them.

      Also I think people who have at least a few big, audacious, maybe out there sounding dreams are typically the kind of cool, intellectually curious, big hearted types that I want to be around, but that’s just me.

      • Related, a person with NO big audacious dreams is a red flag to me. Because I think they’re a vital part of a whole person, and I don’t want to become that person’s big audacious dream.

        • alphakitty said:

          Huh. I’m not sure my dreams qualify as big and audacious — I just never had one big, driving dream… but I’ve always prioritized happiness and have happily deep-sixed stereotypical definitions of “success” in favor of the ones that appealed to me and my husband (I wouldn’t call his dreams big and audacious, either), with a lot of making it up as we go along rather than having a predetermined dream. And yet I swear I have heft! And joy!

          So I think it’s not a general rule that the person has to have big and audacious dreams — but that they have to have things that really matter to them, that are worth shaping lives around. And, of course, the things they want to shape their lives around need to be compatible with the things that really matter to you.

          And for you, personally, I get that the dreams need to be big, because yours are and the idea of someone shaping their life around yours too much makes you uncomfortable, and perhaps to some extent you just don’t relate to puttery dreams…

          Your comment also brings up the issue of compatible risk tolerance/aversion. For you, the other person probably has to have a generous dollop of risk tolerance, because you need to feel free to fling yourself out there, and someone who is uncomfortable with that would drive you nuts… and vice versa. So I’d say that’s another important criterion.

          • Yan said:

            Agreeing with the compatible risk tolerance. I’m not a “big audacious dream”:person. That requires a level of looking further into the future than I enjoy (it makes me feel about as safe, secure, and happy as trying to imagine my place in the multiverse, which about gives me a panic attack), but I’ve built my life on leaps that made sense at the time, even if they weren’t part of a plan. I want someone similar — maybe not a grand ambition, but an ability to seek a new level when needed, to take risks for what you want out of life, to not sit on the sidelines of your own game.

            It’s more about match than about needing one specific thing, I think.

          • mintylime said:

            “they have to have things that really matter to them, that are worth shaping lives around.”

            HELLS YES. It’s the depth of that “matters” which is important, I think.

        • staranise said:

          I relate to this in a weird way. I’m disorganized and pretty laid-back, so it strikes some people as weird when I say I’m ambitious. I have big audacious dreams (like wanting to found and run a multi-disciplinary mental health treatment centre in the mountains) and I am kind of working on them, in the sense of I am ticking off items necessary to achieve them… but if something else comes along and I end up chasing some other audacious dream, I will not die a disappointed woman.

          I don’t necessarily need somebody who’s halfway to getting on the cover of a magazine for hir accomplishments. What I do need is someone who listens to their heart’s hunger. Who honours that hunger as something vital to their life.

          Sometimes that comes out in little ways. “My dream was to be a rockstar, but that didn’t work out, so now I have a garage band with friends and we play in a bar once a month.” The secret is that they know what they yearn for (to express their creativity, to help other people, to create something meaningful), and set out to get it.

          • Which mountains do you have in mind? Because that sounds AWESOME.

          • staranise said:

            Rocky, Kananaskis, or Kootenays!

            And I know, right? It was largely prompted by watching friends fail to get the treatment they needed because holding onto a normal life with your fingernails counts as “functioning” and doesn’t qualify you for inpatient treatment. But sometimes being able to drop your life and go get sane is helpful. I would really love to build a retreat where you’re in a beautiful place and your whole job is to get well. Sanity Camp.

          • Please let me know what training I need to start on right now so I can work at Sanity Camp, or can I just show up with poetry, craft supplies, enthusiasm, and Having Been There?

          • staranise said:

            Actual Sanity Camp training should probably involve post-secondary work in the human services fields. :/ People who give large amounts of money to treatment providers like that. But when I am plagued by doubt over whether it will ever work, hearing enthusiasm from other people helps.

          • JenniferP said:

            I am late to becoming a fan of Sanity Camp but I loooooove the idea. Great idea.

  22. Britt said:

    Massively, massively echoing the sentiment of many others that my number one green flag is “does this person have a complete life without me?” Do they have friends, family (biological or chosen), hobbies, things they’re passionate about? Can they take care of themselves reasonably well (even if not in exactly the same way I would)? If yes to all of those, yay! That means they’re spending time with me despite having other things that they would enjoy doing that they could be filling that time with and that I’m not going to end up on the hook as their sole source of support, whether it’s emotional, material, or otherwise.

  23. Keely said:

    Unfortunately(or maybe fortunately?), I’ve figured out many of my green flags by comparing potentially-troublesome events in my new relationships to what would have happened in the same situation in the Bad Relationship with my Darth Vader boyfriend.

    It goes like this. Some event occurs that creates unhappy/uncomfortable feelings, and therefore has the potential to cause conflict. I have some particularly anxiety-provoking triggers related to my past, but it really could be anything: We disagree about a political issue, perhaps in a public conversation. I show up late to an event. They cancel on me at the last minute for a date. We’re traveling together and get lost, or miss the last bus.

    Often when something like this happens, I get super anxious, and I have to step back, calm down, and assess whether my fear (this is about to get ugly) is appropriate. And it never is, because my friends now are amazing. It’s not that there are never issues, but that those issues are resolved without stress disproportionate to the importance of the problem.

    I would like to think that one day I won’t have these little moments of panic. But for now, those moments are reminding me of my green flags.

    I think I could probably sum up all of those green flags with “they aren’t an abusive asshole and they deal with their emotions like an adult”, but to elaborate:

    1. They Use Their Words.
    2. They are capable of calmly handling my experiencing of strong emotions without immediately flipping into “fix-it” mode, denial, or hostility. (I am a very emotional person AND I have clinical depression and anxiety. Sometimes I just need to cry, or just sit through the storm until it passes. I need a partner who is capable of sitting with me. This doesn’t need to be their response in all situations, but when it is appropriate or at least when I specifically ask, it shouldnt be a monumental task.)
    3. They are glad to explicitly negotiate terms of the relationship, or even better, they bring it up. (When I asked my girlfriend to be my girlfriend, she said “Maybe. First, tell me what that means to you.” AMAZING.)
    4. When appropriate, they can comfortably make a sincere, mature apology. This means a) being able to admit wrongdoing and completely accepting blame and b) not being half-assed or manipulative in the apology–no “I’m sorry BUT”s, no inappropriate groveling “I’m so sorry, I’m the worst person ever, you must hate me, please forgive me” (I’m still working on this myself–neither my parents nor my ex-partner can actually admit wrongdoing without a lot of drama or caveats. I tend towards over apologizing, it’s kind of a big problem.)
    5. I come away from awkward/difficult discussions thinking “that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!”

    I’m sure I have others, but I should stop. Basically, once you get past “this person is not abusive” and “this person is a sufficiently capable and emotionally mature adult”, and “I enjoy the time I spend with this person”, it all comes down to what YOU want and need in a relationship. Spend some time thinking on that, rolling it over in your head. Read CaptainAwkward. Read Dan Savage’s column. Date. Talk to other people (and dates!) about their ideas about relationships. Given that you’re already here, I’d say you’re off to a good start.

    • Vir Modestus said:

      “When appropriate, they can comfortably make a sincere, mature apology.”

      This. I would add, the ability to maturely and sincerely ACCEPT an apology. We’re all human, we’re all trying hard (in a good relationship) and we are all liable to really screw up from time to time. Being able to a) admit mistakes and b) forgive mistakes is really important in a healthy relationship.

      • Datdamwuf said:

        Totally agree on both counts, the ability to sincerely apologize and accept the same. I learned the hard way with abusive ex that manipulative people can manipulate an apology so you think it’s sincere until you really *listen* to what they are saying and realize the tears are not for the pain they caused you, not at all.

  24. theLaplaceDemon said:

    Big green flag: Understanding that when there is conflict, it doesn’t necessarily mean one person is right and the other is wrong, and that the way to end a conflict is NOT to keep arguing until someone Wins.

    Also: Is respectful of what your needs are in terms of space/intimacy, but is also willing to speak up about their own needs. That was one of the things that surprised me the most about my current Admiral Sexy – I was shocked that I could just trust him to tell me when his needs were not being met, rather then having to play mindreader.

    • Kateh said:

      Yes, yes, yes to the conflict thing. I reckon the biggest, most fluttery green flag of all is whether you can employ a working conflict resolution mechanism. Sounds unromantic, but it’s actually the most heart-warming thing in the world. If you both know that when you disagree (and if the relationship has legs you *will* disagree at some points) your partner will listen to you without defensiveness and with generosity and respect (assuming because you’re awesome whatever you say is going to be coming from a good place even if you’re completely wrong about this thing); if you know they will not only listen but hear what you’re saying and feeling, take it on board and be able to use their words in return so that you can talk about what you will both (together) do with all that information, then you’re on to a winner.

      Because if you have a way to resolve issues and move forward that works and leaves you feeling good about each other, you stand a fair chance of being able to deal with anything that comes up, however big or bad.

      And of course you don’t always need to agree to resolve issues – you’ve get to keep your own preferences and opinions, you don’t need to become a big McCoupley amorphous blob of unity. But you don’t belittle each other for those tastes you don’t share.

    • Quinrue said:

      Yes, I was going to say having productive conflicts and what is sometimes called “fighting fair”, but yes I like your description that it does not mean one is right or wrong and that the only solution is one person wins and the other loses. The best solution is where both parties win and it is possible in most conflicts between two people that care about each other. One of the big steps to getting there is to identify the problem properly, a lot of folks just try to skip to the solution they have though of instead of bringing the problem up. It’s the difference between, “You have to stop going out with your friends!” and “I need for us to have more couple time.” The first will likely start a fiery argument, the second will hopefully open up a good conversation about how that need/want can be met and together you are likely to come up with some awesome solutions.

    • Oyceter said:

      So much this! I tend to be really scared of disagreement and conflict, so with my friends, I actually very much value being able to disagree and not having it be Giant Conflagration of DOOM!

      When I started dating CB (my current Admiral Sexy), I was a bit freaked out by how much the both of us agreed. This is a bit idiosyncratic, probably, since it was due to meeting online and very vague fears that someone who clicked THAT WELL with me maybe had found my blog online or something? But we disagreed and were able to have conversations. Later on, we had to work out how to handle bigger disagreements, which was scary but still doable.

      We kind of joke now that we don’t quite have fights, but more bits of misalignments that we have to figure out.

    • Yes. This.

  25. shadowedge said:

    Green Flags:

    Will admit to having issues (rather than denying wildly) when an issue arises.
    Will both make and take the “sandwich of love”.
    Disappointment is not the end of the world ( for example, “I’m not happy with the way we handled that. Can we try something different if it happens again? VS. “You will never have my trust again!”)
    Likes my stuffed bear.
    Appreciates my (way too many shelves of) books.
    Shares at least some of my taste in books.
    Likes my mad creativity.

  26. TR said:

    When Admiral Sexy catches you in a bad mood and gets the sharp side of your tongue, and a) loves you anyways but b) loves hirself enough to call you on your shit or accept your ( fairly immediate) apology and lets you calm down through space or a hug or whatever. .

  27. MHM said:

    Great green flags above. This is a fun and positive topic!

    My #1: You feel like YOURSELF with them, at ease, and comfortable.

    Also:
    – People you respect say that the person brings out the best in you (and you totally agree)
    – You like their family. It’s not necessarily a red flag if you don’t, but getting along with their parents can be a nice green flag.
    – You can express yourself freely without fear of judgement
    – You agree on things easily, especially major life goals (e.g., to live in city vs. country, spending vs. saving) and daily life stuff
    – They are your best friend but you still are very attracted to them- butterflies without anxiety!

    With my new husband, we were so worried about red flags at first, that we talked about red flags non-stop. We kept checking in: is that a flag? It was ridiculous, but it worked! If you can have Flags-Talk with someone, it’s a green flag!

    • Copcher said:

      I totally agree with your (and I think several other people’s) #1. I also think that, if you feel like yourself and feel comfortable being yourself around a person, a lot of other green flags can follow from that. You feel comfortable expressing yourself, you feel like you can take risks without being judged, you don’t worry too much about looking silly or stupid in front of them. If you feel comfortable as yourself around them, you feel comfortable as all parts of yourself, not just the parts you want to show off.

  28. Lieutenant Right said:

    I love this question! My addition is “Do you feel they let you feel your feelings?” I find with some friends I hold back a bit because they have to put down my feelings to support theirs. Like if they agree to something and go back on their word but blame me for asking in the first place (this happened recently and it sucked), or they make fun of my romantic history because it doesn’t align with theirs. Basically when they make you second-guess yourself regarding your own feelings.

    • I just dumped a bunch of those anxiety-producing friends in the last year and it essentially opened up my heart and life to actual, positive-bringing people and now I have a whole community of new acquaintances, an amazing dude wrapped in green flags (though seriously, just put the sponge on the edge of the sink, can’t you? Price of admission), and the world is better for it.
      Friends are meat and milk but they can be poison too – but because we’re not “dating” them we don’t necessarily afford them the same destructo-potentiality as a romantic partner since they aren’t “up in there” in the same way.
      LESSONS LEARNED.
      Everyone important should be a good friend and everyone else can be a civil, nodding acquaintance.

  29. BIG GREEN FLAG: Admiral Sexy treats vulnerable creatures (children, animals, food service employees) with respect and kindness, even when nobody’s looking.

    • Ace said:

      I remember one of my first dates with my now-husband, we were walking along the street in his town and talking. All of a sudden he got this funny look on his face, reached down and picked something up off the street. It was a pacifier that the baby from the family that lived above the store we were passing was crying for. He threw it up to the distressed looking woman at the open window after brushing it off on his shirt, and then turned back to me to keep our conversation and walk going.

      I hadn’t heard the baby crying, I hadn’t seen the pacifier. But he did, and he took a second to help them out not in a ‘I’m a hero!’ way, just in a ‘no big deal, what were you saying again?’ kind of way. Big green flag for me. :D

    • Britt said:

      Totally, totally this. Best advice my grandma ever gave me.

  30. This one’s good for all relationships, romantic and non-.

    Do they treat people who aren’t able/allowed to reciprocate bad behavior well and respectfully? This encompasses things like being polite to the waitstaff and tipping appropriately, being pleasant to the receptionist answering the phone at the doctor’s office, being patient with the checkout clerk when the scanner’s not working right, etc. (This philosophy was introduced to me at a young age by my dad, who also taught me to always over-tip breakfast waitstaff, because they got stuck with the shift where the food is cheapest and had to get up early too.)

    • mintylime said:

      Plus one Internets to this comment.

    • me said:

      Oooooh, that’s a good one. It’s something I notice about any new person I meet. It would very hard for my opinion of someone to change dramatically if they didn’t treat people in service jobs well (with an exception for a one-off incident under high-stress circumstances that was later acknowledged).

  31. Ethyl said:

    My green flag for sexyfriends or nonsexyfriends is if the feeling you get when you’re leaving their house or the restaurant or museum or wherever. A green flag person makes you feel happy after hanging out, and maybe a little tired from all the laughing, and connected, and good. A red flag person leaves you feeling anxious, sad, stretched, or tired in a bad way. A green flag person leaves you feeling like you want to say nice things about your night and them on facebook.

  32. Copcher said:

    I feel like there are two kinds of green flags. One is a more general “Is this person a good person who treats people with respect and will therefore likely treat me well?” kind, and the other is more of “Is this a person who I, personally, should invest time into hanging out with?” kind. Both types are really important, so it’s worth looking through both lists. I do think, however, that someone could have all of the first kind of green flags, but still not be a great friend/partner/whatever to someone. (Like, a particular someone. Does that make sense?)

    One of my most important green flags, aside from feeling like myself around people, is actively looking forward to hanging out with them. Example: I once had a partner who met pretty much all of the green flags on the first list. He was a great listener, he told me when he was in a bad mood and didn’t take it out on me, he treated waitstaff, ushers, store clerks, and other people who couldn’t reciprocate bad behaviour quite nicely, he had interesting goals that he enjoyed working toward, and he was all around just great. And, for the most part, we had similar interests, I mostly felt like myself around him, I liked his friends. I had fun hanging out with him, but I didn’t actively look forward to it. It was definitely a case of him just being the wrong pants for me, even if he was, objectively, a great pair of pants. And I think the same can be true of friendships. A person might be a great friend, but for them to be your great friend, you should look forward to hanging out with them.

    At the same time, if someone meets all of the green flags on the second list but doesn’t come across as a great person in general, I would call that a red flag.

  33. GemmaM said:

    I’ve been through periods when I was really open to sex on the first date — and one of the big obvious green flags you see when you offer sexytimes early in a relationship is actually a refusal, followed by lack of judgementalism and a suggestion of what they’d like to do instead, e.g.

    “I don’t have sex on the first date, but if you’d like to make out on the couch, that’d be cool.”

    “Honestly, I’d rather we waited a while to have full-on [PIV] sex, but it’s really nice being naked with you.”

    The ability to articulate boundaries clearly like that without shutting the whole thing down is a big green flag.

  34. mintylime said:

    Some things that are on my list of Green Flags:

    Green flag: Treats you like a partner and likes it when you treat them the same. There’s a bit in Mercedes Lackey’s By the Sword in which one of the characters says (among other positive partnerlike behavior) about another character (pardon, this is a paraphrase, the book is in the garage) “She takes on the tasks that I can’t do (like hunting) and substitutes the ones I can (like cooking), without a quibble” – I’m totally not doing the section justice, but it’s always struck me as a good description of a partnership.

    Green flag: The kisses feel good and natural. I’d say it’s shallow, but experience has demonstrated to me that if the kisses aren’t good, the rest of it won’t be either.

    Green flag: Willing to communicate, even if they aren’t really good at it (but know it). Willing to Use Their Words, even if they aren’t sure what the words are yet. Being willing to talk about things going on in their head that aren’t completely figured out yet, and working them out -with- you, is pretty awesome.

    Green flag: Gets along with most of your friends, but doesn’t try to break you up with the ones they don’t get along with. (My extreme example: I am still friends with my husband’s ex-wife, even though it was Not Amicable. My darling Admiral Sexy has never asked me to stop being friends with her, even though it makes him uncomfortable.)

    Green flag: You have hobbies/interests in common, but also each have your own things you are separately into. I had a marriage once where our lives totally meshed and we had everything in common; it was stifling.

    Green flag: Responds well to Non-Violent Communication and “you seem really upset about something that seems utterly trivial. Is there something else going on here?”

    Green flag: Digs your jokes. Even the weird, obscure, meta-meta ones (whatever weird, obscure, meta things you are into. Tells wicked jokes that aren’t hurtful or full of -ism.

    Green flag: Happy to give you space (and willing to ask you for space). Even if that means one whole bedroom of a fairly small two-bedroom house. Even if that means one of you goes out sometimes to visit friends or see a movie so that the other person can be home alone for a while.

    Green flag: Acts Like An Adult. Pays bills on time; house does not look like a Hoarders set; body/clothes are clean; etc.

    Your mileage may vary.

    • V said:

      Acts Like An Adult. Pays bills on time; house does not look like a Hoarders set; body/clothes are clean; etc.

      I generally agree, but with the caveat that I have been too depressed to deal with any of those things before, and I am rather glad my partner did not walk out because of it!

  35. Bee said:

    Being totally comfortable around them, they have passions about other things, you both have friends and that’s cool, etc etc — most of these have been said :)

    One of the biggest green flags for me is being able to handle my breakdowns — lots of things get to me emotionally in non-logical ways. Lack of logic does not stop my breakdowns from happening; in fact it just makes me freak out about freaking out. Being able to accept that and be there for me and not judging me when I’m freaking out is a HUGE green flag.

  36. Gadfly said:

    My biggest green flag: Admiral Sexy should GIVE you energy rather than STEAL it. Obviously, when starting a relationship it’s natural to be nervous your first few times together. But after that? People good for you to be around will leave you feeling relaxed, and able to be yourself. Red flag people will make you tense up whenever you have to deal with them, even after knowing them for a while. Your instincts here are usually right.

    You may find yourself thinking, “Ugh, I’m tired and don’t have the energy to deal with RED FLAG. I would just prefer some time alone with GREEN FLAG to recharge.”

  37. Ace said:

    I agree with so many people’s lists!

    I’ll add a +1 to acting like an adult. No matter what gender you are, one person shouldn’t have to do all the ‘boring’ bill paying/cleaning/organizing so the other gets to do only fun hobbies and such.

    When it’s gift-giving time, they believe you about what kind of presents you want. No matter how many jewelry commercials the TV show, I’m still not allowed to wear anything but my wedding ring at work. While it’s nice to have some nice earrings and a necklace to wear at times when I want/need to be fancy, I spend so much time not being able to wear these things, I forget most of the rest of the time. Which is why my husband listens to me and gets me other things instead of what the TV tells him I want.

    Actually, maybe that’s a bigger thing. Willing to listen to you and change behaviors instead of just going along with cultural programming. Men are programmed/expected to always tell a woman they’re in a relationship with that they look perfect. (you know, to shut them up. Woe betide the man that tells the truth! Sitcoms have shown us their folly!) So it took a few tries for my husband to give me an honest answer when I sometimes ask him how I look. When he thinks I look especially nice, he says so. When I ask and he thinks I look OK, he says so. When on occasion, something with how I look is off, or makes me look weird, he says so. I have veto power of course, I don’t always change, but the honest answer is so much more important to me than the constant useless reassurance that our culture thinks he should give me. And when asking his opinion on things, I always make sure ‘I don’t really care’ is a valid option. It works for us.

    • Zed said:

      “When it’s gift-giving time, they believe you about what kind of presents you want.”

      Or believe you that you don’t want presents!

  38. Cal said:

    I just want to +1000000000 everything already said in this thread, and add the super-awesome GIANT GREEN FLAG my lovely girlfriend gave me today.

    I’d had an absolutely miserable day at work and was very stressed. I work late so girlfriend was pretty tired, making both of us fairly wibbly in the emotions department. We ended up talking and crying, and then somehow rationally talking through our emotions and ways to help each other feel better while crying. It was sort of magical, in a teary, snot-filled way.

  39. rebekah said:

    for me a major green flag in my relationship was when he remembered to tell a friend of his whose house we were going over to my list of food allergies (there is a lot) so that I didn’t show up and either not be able to eat anything (which is not only awkward but really really sucks to sit there hungry and watch other people eat) or accidently eat something that I shouldn’t.

  40. Sarah in Tokyo said:

    A green flag I noticed: my Admiral Sexy wants me to be involved in all the neat stuff he likes, but he’s cool with me saying “neh, not my thing” and going it alone. He’s really involved in the punk scene here and is always getting free passes to shows. He often asks if I want a pass, too, and if I want to go then he’ll get me one. If I feel more like hanging out on my own, then he’ll catch up with me later and we’ll watch a movie or have some pizza and chill.

    I’ll admit, though, whilst I get the nice Oh My Stars The Future! feelings, I still also get Oh God Oh God Future Is Scary! feelings. Half of the time I think of it as being obvious. Hell, the future is scary. But on the other hand, I feel a little like I’m not doing my relationship right if I feel that little bit of fear. Anyone else get this as well?

    Man. I never told anyone this. I feel like I’ll get some sort of well obviously your relationship with this guy you love the fuck out of is balderdash and it is doomed to fail hahaha! answer. I’m actually a little afraid to hit the Post Comment button. This one’s the first healthy, comfy, non-self-esteem-smushing relationship I’ve been in and sometimes I just feel scared that I’m doing it wrong. Does that make sense?

    • Ethyl said:

      I’ve been with my partner for 15 years and yeah, the future is sometimes still scary. We’re planning a big move sometime in the next couple of months, and he’s planning to go back to school full time (omg money). But the difference is, when I think about these scary things, I also feel like its a little bit less scary because we’re going to be facing these challenges together. I hope that helps!

      • Sarah in Tokyo said:

        That really, really does. Thank you so much. :)

    • mintylime said:

      This is Entirely Understandable. The future is unknown, and thus can be awesome and scary all at once.

      I’ve had a good bit of that in my current relationship (which included a move across the country for me and a big change in my employment status), so I’m wondering if it’s the other side of the green flag mentioned above about “both of you think you are the lucky one in the relationship” – the worry that the luck might run out.

      Try not to let the “the future is scary” feelings eat you up … maybe make a plan for what you can do if things go totally pearshaped (totally vague is ok!) and then move on with making life and the relationship awesome.

      (and good luck to you!)

      • Sarah in Tokyo said:

        I’m wondering if it’s the other side of the green flag mentioned above about “both of you think you are the lucky one in the relationship” – the worry that the luck might run out.

        YES. YES YES YES. That is precisely it. Thank you so much for giving me the right words. It does feel like that. It feels like “doop-dee-doo, man, this is the best ever. Sure would hate for something bad to happen!” And poof goes my luck and exeunt Boyfriend, pursued by a bear.

        • <3 My favorite Shakespeare blocking line ever.

    • JenniferP said:

      The FUTURE & the idea of change is always scary. We’re animals who are like “well, that didn’t get us eaten by predators, let’s keep doing it.”

      Keep enjoying your cool thing.

    • alphakitty said:

      No matter how wonderful it is with someone or how few grounds they give you for worry, it is always a vulnerable feeling to get too hooked on someone, and to dare to count on them and shape your life around them. Unless you’re taking them appallingly for granted, there’s always an awareness that they are a separate person who has their own wants, needs, and dreams, which means theirs could at some point diverge from yours, and if you’ve gone and counted on them that’s going to suck.

      The only way to avoid altogether that is not to share your life with someone… a better way to manage it is through regular communication about wants, needs and dreams, so you make sure your partner’s are being met to the best of your ability within the relationship. It doesn’t ever make the fear disappear completely, but it reduces it to a bearable level.

      • Tosca said:

        I mean heck, not to get all morbid or anything, but if you don’t break up one of you will eventually die! :(

        I’ve been married 10 years this year, and our relationship is great. So, I’m less concerned about him leaving than dying someday in the future. It is SO SCARY to love someone so much, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  41. cendare said:

    Green flags that Mr Cendare had:
    1) Usually, when I get moody, I withdraw and say nothing. When it happened with Mr Cendare the first time, I actually felt like “I want to tell him the truth, because this is an important thing that’s bugging me”. I trusted him but more than that, I wanted him to know me. I don’t know how you inspire that in someone, but I found it to be different and new for me.
    2) He talked about women who were interested in him who he’d turned down (in the course of other stories). Yay, so he doesn’t see all women as interchangeable, so he’s with me because he thinks I’m special!
    3) He talked about situations he hadn’t liked that he left. It sounds weird, but I was like “you have boundaries! You know that you have worth and you deserve to be treated well! swoon”
    4) He remembered details. Like, I’d mention in passing “yeah, I like scallops” and weeks later we’d be talking about some restaurant and he’d say “and you would like them because they have great scallops.”
    5) When we had a fight, sometimes he’d apologize afterwards. Sounds small, but I never saw my dad apologize to my mom, *ever*. Mr Cendare can see after the fact “oh yeah, I was being grouchy and obnoxious” and he can say he’s sorry. And, he doesn’t always, because sometimes I was being unreasonable, so I know he means it when he does say it, and he’s not just trying to make me happy. Also, he has said things like “It makes me unhappy when we fight”, just saying his feelings, which leaves room for me to say “me too” and suddenly we’re in sync. Admittedly we don’t always fight well, but just to have healthy fights most of the time is a cool thing.

    I think of what Breakup Girl used to say. “Do they think you’re awesome and treat you accordingly?” That’s it, in a nutshell.

  42. solecism said:

    One that I haven’t seen mentioned yet is talking. Six years in, we still sometimes stay up too late talking. Sometimes it’s just catching up after being away from each other during a long day, and sometimes it’s a conversation that’s just really intense that we’re not ready to end. We still greatly enjoy each other’s company and just sharing ideas and news with each other.

    • I love this one!

  43. Sarah in Tokyo said:

    Oh oh oh, one I didn’t see on here. It’s weird, but: being able to be gross around each other. Loving people means loving their bodies as well and with bodies come all manner of drips, runs, gusts, squidges, parp noises, and green stuff.

    If you’re going to love each other cute, you’ve got to be able to love each other grody, too.

    • staranise said:

      Though I feel that needs to be clarified with, “You don’t think they’re suddenly gross and unlovable, you love then anyway,” not, “You think their parp noises are damn sexy.”

      MAYBE I’ve known people who thought it should be the latter and got offended when their objects of affection were like, “Oh, gross, put a bandage over that!” when THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN LOVED UNCONDITIONALLY.

      Just maybe.

      • Sarah in Tokyo said:

        Oh man, thanks for pointing that out. I actually had a roommate who seemed to think this way. She had some pretty yucky personal habits that she insisted were adorable and how dare we not think the same, because men think I am cute – I am very very cute.

        It was good to be off that lease, man.

  44. maggie said:

    The first time I met my sweetheart, it was a Sunday afternoon after we’d talked online for 3 hours into the night. We hung out at a Starbucks and chatted for a while, then me being me we ended up at his apartment.

    He has two cats, which I am allergic to, but I didn’t start sneezing or anything so whatever. Fun ensues! Anyway, after being naked and sweaty for a while, I suddenly noticed that I was *covered* in hives.

    Then I passed out twice. The second time I hit my head on the way down and woke up bleeding in his arms. He was understandably pretty horrified, but I got myself home in one piece.

    We still ended up spending the following Thursday to Sunday together, after he bought new sheets for the bed and kicked the cats out of the bedroom and we figured out how to keep me alive at his place.

    He didn’t make me feel embarrassed about it, he accepted it and made it clear that he liked me a whole lot anyway. He abounded in green flags, and felt the same about me.

    3 1/2 years later he’s got another green flag of “other cool feminists have crushes on him” in spades. We also have gotten more vocally feminist together, I think; we know we have each other’s back, so it makes it easier to speak up sometimes. Anyhoo. That is my stupid how-we-met story. My mom does not know it.

    • alphakitty said:

      I love this story!

      • withywindling said:

        I nearly had a black eye the next day. It was pretty amazing. Memorable, at least. :)

  45. Likes the right things about me. There’s a big difference between “I find the grace and maturity with which you handled that difficult situation attractive” and “I find your massive video games collection attractive”

  46. anewgirl (LW) said:

    Hi everyone, I can’t say how much I appreciate you all sharing your stories, experiences, thoughts and reading recommendations on this topic – thanks! All of it makes perfect sense to me, from ‘being respectful of each other’ to ‘the kisses make me feel all fluttery’, and everything in between). So this is quite some food for thought (and for those read flags, I’m reading The Gift of Fear, among others) – and I’ll keep on riding the Awesome Train.

    Jedi Hugs all around!

  47. solecism said:

    Another green flag I haven’t seen flying here yet: has friends of all genders who are terrifyingly awesome. And the friends of other genders are not simply the adjuncts to primary friends of the same gender. In other words, this person is able to form strong relationships with a range of strong, independent, interesting people that are not like hir.

  48. Oyceter said:

    I may have overlooked someone else’s reply that’s the same thing, but:

    Thinks you’re awesome for the same reasons you think you’re awesome (and vice versa re: you thinking that they are awesome).

    I don’t think misalignment here means the other person is a Bad Person, but it usually means that our paths may not be running together that well. Ex. I think some of my own cool bits are being able to think critically about things in terms of oppression and social dynamics, and I want to be awesome in a way that helps people and helps the world in general (preferably in a nerdy way!). Most of my close friends and current Admiral Sexy think this is awesome and support me in this, whereas people I’m not as close to may not get it, or may think I’m cool because I am funny/know about websites/can dance/something else not as integral to me.

    • Katie said:

      Yes, THIS!!!! A thousand times. There is something so frustrating about being liked for the wrong reasons. It’s like wearing an itchy sweater.

  49. commanderlogic said:

    True Stories from the House of Logic:

    Mom: So… do you guys ever fight?
    Me: Me and Mr. Logic? *thoughtful thinks* You know, I can’t think of any time when we’ve fought.
    Mom: So… does one of you just do what the other one says all the time?
    Me: Oh, we disagree, but it’s never gotten to raised voices.
    Mom: Well, it’ll be different when you’re married.
    Me: O__o Okay, sure whatever.

    SPOILER ALERT: it hasn’t been different at all.

    I’d say that civil disagreements and resolutions are an amazingly amazing and huge green flag, because there’s so much bound up in them: Mutual respect, loving intention, confident vulnerability, etc. If you are afraid of telling your person about something you disagree with them on, look sharp, okay?

  50. A very few of my many giant green flags in the Super Duper Awesome close relationships I’m in right now:
    • They check in frequently about how I’m doing (with our relationship interactions in general, with a specific conversation, with sexytimes, whatever). This may not be as huge a deal for other people, but I’m used to Not Having Feelings Except The Ones I Know My Partner/Friend Will Be Unequivocally Okay With to the point where I habitually don’t even think to consider the fact that I might have feelings about things, so it’s a BIG DEAL. (This is getting better.)
    • They recognize when I have feelings that the feelings I am having are All About Me. This doesn’t mean that they dismiss the feelings because it’s my job to deal with them, or that they are not allowed to have feelings about my feelings, but that they don’t make the conversation all about them wanting to fix my feelings/how terrible a person they are/etc. Note: “Is there anything I can do?” is acceptable when offered in good faith, especially since asking for help is also something I’m still working on.
    • Having interests and projects and friends of their own.
    • Being capable of taking care of their own Adult Crap, like eating meals once in a while and returning library books on time.

  51. solecism said:

    Ooh, ooh, ooh! I got another one! Silly little rituals. They can be running in-jokes, or some physical gesture, or a minor task/care-taking, or after-dinner treat, or bedtime routine, or whatever. Just something small that you share regularly that helps define the uniqueness and specialness of this relationship.

    • withywindling said:

      Being able to do silly things together in general is a green flag. We make up a lot of songs about our cats.

      • anewgirl said:

        That’s SO awesome!

  52. FlyBy said:

    There’s a saying that a guy will eventually treat you how he treats his mother, which I think is very wise. One of the biggest green flags when I met my husband was watching him interact with his mother. He obviously loves her, takes good care of her, and treats her kindly and with appreciation and respect. They do fight, but then it blows over quickly. It’s a very good relationship, despite a lot of external strain. If he could do that, I was pretty sure he’d treat me well too. Haven’t been proved wrong yet!

  53. I am gleefully swaddled in green flags myself. One good one: two weeks after we started dating, I got a GINORMOUS fever blister/cold sore which, truly, looked like a gross Hitler mustache. Not only did he stick around, he kissed around it.
    Dan Savage has his brilliant Price of Admission video and the only price I am paying in this relationship is the fact that he cannot turn a light switch off to save his life.

    May everyone be so happy as LW and myself!

  54. shiftercat said:

    Followed the link from Cliff Pervocracy. I think this is going to be joining my list of regular blogs.

    Green flag: You have a similar sense of humour. Sure, you’re not going to laugh at all the same things, ’cause you’re different people, but if you find yourselves laughing at a lot of the same stuff, it’s a good sign.

    This is important because if you’re in for the long haul, you’ll want to be able to joke with each other. Laughter is one of the best stress-leavening techniques.

  55. tawaen said:

    Ok, so I don’t think I saw these, though there were some similar.

    Green Flag: Accepts that you have prior responsibilities and wants to help out (or at least not be a burden to those responsibilities). Example: When I was dating online, I would have to warn visitors about my adopted beagle. They couldn’t come into the apartment until they were given chicken treats to bribe her, or she would howl at them and run away and quiver on my pillow until they left. My current sweetie (after I explained that he couldn’t just ring the bell when he got to my place) brought fake bacon and a squeaky toy for the monster on his first visit. And now he has a dog bed at his place for her.

    Green Flag: Accepts you at your word when you say what you want. Example: Doesn’t argue on first date when you say you’d prefer to split the bill. Offering to pay is fine, but trying to override someone’s independence is rude.

    Green Flag: Can accept a compliment without needing to disparage their abilities/attributes, etc.

    Green Flag: Is familiar with viewpoints and lived experiences that are dissimilar to their own! Example: If he’s a straight guy, he has women authors and musicians on his shelves! And doesn’t get defensive about liking things that aren’t coded masculine.

  56. Christine said:

    Fabulous. My parents actually decided to get married after what they experienced when my mom’s mom died. My mom said that the emotional maturity and support my dad provided during that time really showed her that he was a solid match (Also, my dad was 22 at the time. Talk about maturity! My mom was 33 haha!) And they’re still going strong :)

  57. ladyquirk said:

    I have to say, I love this thread for not only helping me to see what green flags look like, but also helping me to get over my last relationship, because I can now see the distinct lack of green flags and the abundance of red flags that popped up.

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