We've all heard about "red flags" in a budding relationship: He's got eight kids he hasn't seen in years? She's got credit card debt in the thousands she's kept hidden? But what about the lesser-discussed "green flags" — the things in a relationship that prove your loved one is worth holding onto?
They're there, and sometimes they're just as hard to see as the red flags. That's why we were so intrigued by a recent Reddit thread where one user asked for others to share the green flags in their relationships.
The answers are so true.
"They never make you feel embarrassed when you're with them," wrote poster jyuunbug. "I've told my bf so many embarrassing stories about myself and I've asked so many stupid questions but he has never made me feel embarrassed OR stupid about these things at all."
"My wife brought me French onion soup (which I hate and could barely swallow, but she didn't know that at the time) when I'd been at work for 17 hours, for the third straight day of major overtime," wrote keytar_gyro. "She walked through a scary park at nearly midnight to sit with me and talk to me about the show I was building and what I was trying to teach people, and telling her about it and running through the cues helped me fix a series of problems."
The signs aren't necessarily grand gestures: most touch on life's mundane moments — made better by another person — or unexpected challenges in which the partner seems to instinctively know how to react.
"Taking the time to (at least attempt) to understand what you're feeling when you are upset," wrote Lumi61210. "The ability to empathize with someone you are arguing with is a skill not many people have, and it is one to be treasured."
Other green flags could be acts of kindness not just to you, but to others around you," said Bela Gandhi, president of Smart Dating Academy and TODAY contributor. "If you're walking down the street with a new man you're dating, and he buys the homeless guy a meal from Chipotle because he's hungry (and doesn't make a big deal about it) —that is a green flag," she said via email.
Advice columnist Wendy Atterberry, who writes the Dear Wendy column, responded to the original thread with a post of her own: "Sometimes I think 'green flags' aren’t necessarily signs that you've found the right match for you, but that they can at least tell you you've found a good person."
She recalled an ex-boyfriend who, when they were still just friends, offered to come on a nine-hour drive from Missouri to Chicago when she was nervous about the drive after an car accident. "He set the bar high for how I wanted and expected to be treated by a significant other."
In the end, green flags may fly at the most unexpected of times — and can be highly individualized. But when we say "it just felt right" about a relationship, it probably means we've seen a few of them, even if we didn't realize it at the time.
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