Forget red flags, let's take a look at what we're looking for.
In most dating discussions, there’s often a lot of chatter about red flags; spotting them, ignoring them and cursing yourself for not paying enough heed to them. We’re always cautioned to look out for these telltale signs that the person we’re seeing probably isn’t the best for us. We’ll look at behaviours like late night texts and canceling plans, and either cut the cord or decide to keep seeing that person regardless. (Uh, big mistake, am I right?). At this stage most of us have finely tuned our red flag radar but do we know the ‘green flags’ that indicate your partner’s actually a keeper? Those early sparks that indicate this one could be ‘the one’?
Oh, how we love a man who doesn’t mumble! Or a woman who speaks her mind instead of doling out the ‘I’m fine’ with a face like thunder (we’re guilty!). Butting heads is never nice but it is inevitable, and if you are both willing to talk it out, be open to different points of view and accept each other’s perspectives then you’re on to good thing.
Differences will always be par for the course, but it’s how you handle those differences that’s the important bit.
For Mary, realising her and her partner’s ability to problem solve was a major green flag. “We had a really tough first year together, we were plagued with problems outside our control and it took some really strong communication skills to get us through. There was a lot of sitting down and putting our heads together and trying to remain positive. It would have been easy for my other half to run for the hills as soon as the going got tough, but having someone who’s willing to level with you and find a solution, that’s really something special.”
Are they the first person you call when you get good news? Having someone who celebrates your wins (and commiserates your losses) with enthusiasm is a surefire keeper. A study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that couples who respond to each other’s good news in a big, enthusiastic way report significantly higher levels of relationship satisfaction. So there you have it. If you’ve found someone who is as thrilled about your achievements as you are, and is there to listen when things go wrong, hang on to them.
For Rachel, one of the first things that attracted her to her partner was how comfortable she felt to be herself around him. “It was strange, I’d always felt very nervous on dates, but with Robbie I felt this ease with him straight away. I actually surprised myself by how open I was with him. I mistook that for friendship in the beginning, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that that’s how it should be with your other half. In the past, I’ve presented an idealised version of myself in the early days, but I never felt like I had to do that with Robbie.
I felt happy just being regular old me and he loved me just as I was.”
Like Bridget Jones! Chris Rock once said that “When you meet somebody for the first time, you’re not meeting them, you’re meeting their representative,” but when you meet a keeper you drop the facade, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve a snotty nose from the flu, are in foul humour after a shitty day at work or are riddled with a particularly bad hangover, there’s zero judgement. As it should be.
‘I think we need some time apart’. There are no seven words that strike more fear in a relationship, but in reality, space is actually a good thing if you’re consciously coupled (Just not in the Ross and Rachel ‘we were on a break’ sense of the word). In Mating In Captivity, author Dr Esther Perel breaks it down. “It is not a lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire,” she explains. “Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection.” It can be hard to peel yourself away from your partner and you may even feel a little affronted that they’ve made plans that don’t involve you, but a bit of space fosters independence and allows each of you to maintain a sense of identity. And absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find out what it means to me’. It’s been 52 years since Aretha Franklin first asked for a little respect but nothing has changed. Finding a partner who respects your boundaries is just as important now as it was then, whether that boundary is stepping back so your other half doesn’t feel smothered, adjusting what you share about your relationship online or even just not picking your partner’s spots when they’ve asked you not to.
A good relationship means realising that you can’t have your own way all of the time.
Met someone who doesn’t overstep the mark, and is prepared to compromise when needed? In the words of Beyoncé ‘You got the green light (uh, uh, huh, uh, uh)’.
Okay, we’re messing, but it helps right?