Hi Captain & Team Awkward,
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.