It probably says much about the human condition that we often focus on the negative instead of reveling in the positive.
And when it comes to dating, it can be a struggle to see the “green flags” with all those “red flags” wildly waving away.
It’s almost as if we’re programmed to look for the reasons why someone isn’t right for us instead of trying to figure out if someone isn’t wrong for us.
In a wholly unscientific experiment, I typed both “dating red flags” and then “dating green flags” into a popular search engine (it rhymes with Hoogle). Articles about those red flags outnumbered their green counterparts four to one. Talk about a negative mindset.
No more, I say! Cease with the naysaying!
In an attempt to redress the balance, here is my stupidly optimistic stab at trying to bring a little more positivity into the world of dating. After all, if we focus on the negative, that’s what we’ll find. Let’s see if focusing on the positive (and thereby adjusting our mindset) can increase the velocity of Cupid’s arrow.
So, here’s a short list of dating green flags, because c’mon people, it’s time to focus on the good stuff.
1. They have an exhaustive list of what they want from a relationship.
It’s a little bit scary when your intended partner produces an essay detailing exactly what they need from their prospective mate. More so if they have an accompanying one-hour-long Powerpoint presentation. And it’s even more intimidating when they produce all of this over cocktails in a crowded public place.
However, this is actually a good thing. (Not the public place part…that’s just weird.)
But knowing exactly what you want from a relationship? That’s fantastic!
We’re not children anymore. We’re adults. Just as we should know what we want from a job, our hobbies, or our friends, knowing what we want from a relationship is a big, fat green flag. And if your potential partner has this knowledge? It’s a sign that they’ve thought about this. And it does need to be thought about.
Dating should be fun. But let’s also not pretend that we’re not auditioning one another for a leading role in each other’s lives—a massive role. Knowing what you want saves a lot of hurt further down the line and ensures neither of you is miscast.
Whether that’s detailing their specific “love language” or simply outlining how much time they have available to commit to the relationship, this stuff is never wasted. And while it’s all subject to change—as the relationship develops, so do our needs and wants—it’s a pretty solid foundation to start from. If nothing else, sharing our lists is an amazing way to begin having a serious conversation about why you’re both sitting in that bar in the first place, sizing each other up.
Get talking, people. Don’t be afraid to tell each other what you both want.
And if you don’t know? Well, get thinking. What do you want?
You’re a grown-up; you should really know this stuff. And take it seriously as you’re both worth the effort.
2. They admit to past mistakes and screw-ups.
Oh, no—your intended mate isn’t perfect!
They admit to not treating their previous partner as well as they could have. They are estranged from a family member. They have a job they hate and that they freely admit isn’t a fair reflection of their potential. They admit to struggling as a parent. Run away! This isn’t the fairytale you were looking for.
Stop, you idiot. Turn around, sit back down, and hear them out.
For starters, you at least owe them that because you’re not a saint. If you’ve got nothing in your locker that you’re not ashamed of then you haven’t been doing life right because screw-ups come with being human.
Also, how do you expect them to respond when you share your failings? Don’t be a hypocrite; just sit and listen.
This kind of honesty is priceless.
We all make mistakes but admitting to them is the hard part. Not everyone does.
But someone who will? That’s a keeper, my friends.
Because if you decide to take dating one step further, you will embark on something called a relationship. And you will have rough times. As much as you may love each other, there will also be days when the sound of their breathing annoys the hell out of you. You will fight, argue, and fall out with each other.
And (Shock! Horror!) it won’t always be your fault. Sometimes, it might be them.
What you need in those times is not someone who believes they are perfection in human form and simply passes the buck. You want someone with the humility and self-awareness to admit to their failings, to admit they might have fallen short.
Listen to how they talk about the chapters in their life they’re embarrassed about. If it’s always someone else’s fault, be wary— there’s a good chance that when something goes wrong between the two of you, that pattern will continue. It’ll be your fault, or the weather, or the dog. Either way, you’re not resolving the problem.
But someone with the honesty to admit to their failings? There’s a chance, my friends. A chance that when you come to those bumps in the road you’ll be able to traverse them instead of being caught in a continual blame game.
You don’t want a saint, you want a human who appreciates that they are as much of a train wreck as you are. Admitting to past mistakes and being flawed isn’t a red flag, it’s one of the biggest green flags there is.
Flawed is sexy, people. When a prospective partner is okay with taking accountability for their past errors, it’s a huge indicator they’ll take responsibility for their future ones.
And trust me—you’ll need that moving forward.
3. They talk about their former partners. Maybe even a lot.
They’re not over their ex? Time to flee!
No. Don’t. Sit down (again).
To begin with, how long ago did they break up? Last week? Okay, maybe there’s an issue there, in which case you have my permission to begin figuring out where the exit is.
But, a year ago? Two years ago? Well, you’re going to have to trust that they’ve decided they are ready enough to begin dating again. Give them the benefit of the doubt—it just might be the best punt you’ve ever taken.
And, instead of being concerned about the amount of time they’re giving over to discussing their ex, think about why they are.
Is it because that relationship was the single worst experience of their life? Hate to break it to you, pal, but you’re not just being auditioned as a possible lover, you’re also up for the part of their new best friend—it’s kind of how romantic relationships work. And BFs talk about that kind of stuff. Get used to it.
However, there could also be gold dust in them there hills. Why? Because by telling you about how their former partners got things wrong, they’re basically giving you a guide to how to love, respect, and value them.
Granted, no two relationships are comparable. But there’ll be clues about what they do want in a partner. If their ex never held their hand in public, grab their mitt next time you’re out. If their former spouse never made them feel special on their birthday, then—surprise, surprise—it might be a good idea if you did.
Talking about an ex is rarely a turn-on, but it doesn’t have to spell doom and gloom. Take a step back and, instead of fixating on the ex, look at what your date is indirectly saying about themselves. The clues they drop could go a long way in unlocking the wonderful mystery that is them.
There are millions more green flags out there, but this is just a start.
God knows dating is hard enough already, so let’s look for the positives, and instead of finding reasons not to let someone in, why don’t we find reasons to open the door?
They might just be worth the risk. And we’re definitely worthy.