There’s a lot of articles out there about “red flags” to watch out for when you’re dating someone. My favorite is the discussion of “Darth Vaders” in the comments to this post by Captain Awkward. The concept can certainly be used for victim-blaming–saying “why didn’t you spot all the red flags?” is a great way to kick someone when they’re down–but it’s a good tool for someone facing the dating world.
A couple years back, I went on a date with a guy, jokingly disagreed with him about some silly thing I don’t even remember, and he hit me. Straight-up slapped me on the arm, hard enough to hurt, not hard enough to bruise. He wasn’t my boyfriend or anything; this was our second date. I yelled “Hey!” and he started laughing and told me it was a joke and it’s not like he really hit hit me, and I was probably taking everything soseriously because I was an uptight feminist, but he was willing to forgive me for that so long as I went ahead and laughed with him at this wonderful joke he’d made.
He called me for a third date and I did not call back. I was closer than I’d like to admit to being sucked into the “it was a joke! horseplay! are you really going to hold that against him?” thing, but then I thought in terms of red flags. Physically striking someone on a date is one of the reddest flags there is. Even though I couldn’t quite convince myself that the hitting itself was wrong, I could understand that it was a sign of wrong things coming. I think that understanding saved me a lot of pain.
But the mere absence of red flags doesn’t really say anything good about a person, does it? “I went on a date with the most wonderful guy! I don’t think he’ll emotionally or physically abuse me! What a catch!”
So let’s talk about green flags. (Um. White flags? …Cyan flags?) Signs that someone is mature enough for a relationship, that they have a healthy attitude toward relationships, and that they have the potential to be a caring and responsible partner. This isn’t about compatibility–maybe they’re a lovely person but you like Kirk and they like Picard–but signs that they’ll be a good partner to someone.
Here are a few. I bet there’ll be better ones in the comments.
- They communicate, early and often, about what they’re thinking and feeling, and they give you chances to do the same.
- They introduce you to their friends and want to meet your friends.
- They have a rich life outside of you. It can be many different things–job, hobby, friends, family–but they have something that makes them engaged and energized and has nothing to do with you.
- They’re excited by the things that make you different, not just the things that make you conventionally attractive.
- They ask you for your opinion and advice as often as they offer theirs.
- They’re willing to do un-fun, un-sexy stuff with you; when you need someone to hold your hand in the ER or take you to the airport at rush hour, they’re there for you.
- When talking about previous relationships that didn’t work out, they admit fault and regret.
- They always ask you before making a decision that affects you, whether it’s trivial like “where to sit in the theater” or major like “whether to have sex tonight.”
- They respect your decisions and emotions even when you can’t “logically” explain them.
- You feel safe disagreeing with them, calling them out when they screw up, or telling them you don’t want to do something with them.
- They set boundaries with you sometimes, and they do it in a matter-of-fact, respectful way.
Your mileage may vary, some bad people will have a few green flags, some good people will be missing a few, all opinions given are only opinions, et cetera. But when you’re considering making a new person a major part of your life, I think it’s important to think not just about “are there no bad signs?” but about “are there any good signs?”
P.S. While I was in the middle of writing this post, Captain Awkward put up a post on the exact same subject! Curse you, synchronicity! But if you don’t mind reinforcing my terrible case of Blog Envy, I highly recommend you check her post out too.