Love Signals: Red and Green Flags of Relationship

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February 10, 2022

Writer: Pamela Ma, Jerwin Regala
Researcher: Pamela Ma
Editor: K Ballesteros
Peer Reviewer: Jake Villanueva
Creatives: Krystle Labio, Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio
Tweetchat Moderators: Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo, Marc John Paul Agbuya, Christine Joy Salvacruz, Brigida Candelaria, Donna Ramos
Twitter Spaces Moderators: Richardson Mojica, Azie Marie Libanan, Aiah Osano

 

Love Month is here! The celebration is a reminder to do something nice for the people we love. It is a day dedicated to spending time appreciating and celebrating love. People across the nation and around the globe always anticipate Valentine’s Day, especially those who are in romantic relationships.

All relationships exist on a spectrum [1]. We define spectrum as an instrument used to classify something and to say that relationships are on a spectrum, we mean, we can classify our interactions with someone, ranging from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy existing somewhere in between. We use ‘flags’ to refer to signs or indicators that evaluate a relationship, whether they can be healthy for us or may harm us. Green flags are signs of a healthy relationship where both parties feel safe and empowered. Unfortunately, relationships are not always filled with green flags. Some interactions are turbulent, there’s a feeling of being misunderstood, undervalued, and insecure. These kinds of interactions are characteristics of unhealthy, sometimes abusive, relationships and we flag them with red as warning signals. These two flags are indicators of what we can look for in evaluating whether our relationships are positive. Both healthy and unhealthy behaviors can exist in a single relationship, and the presence of any green flags does not negate the red flags [3]

Let’s look at examples of green and red flags in relationships.

 

Green Flags 

As stated above, green flags are signals of healthy relationships. In these relationships,  we feel secure, valued, and appreciated. It’s important to know which behaviors are green flags so that we can: (1) choose to engage in those actions yourself and (2) identify which relationships have these green flags and, when possible, (3) decide to be around people that offer those positive behaviors. 

An online pamphlet from Sawtooth Mountain Clinic enumerated these green flags  [2]. Let’s take a look at these. 

Respect – Healthy relationships are grounded in feelings of admiration and esteem. Respect is demonstrated when we talk to someone kindly and truthfully, acting in ways that show how we value their time and opinions. 

Trust – When we trust someone, we believe that they have good intentions and feel safe with them. They’re dependable, and we know that they’ll act in our best interest, even when we’re apart.

Communication – Good communication means being straightforward, even if it’s uncomfortable, in ways that the other person can absorb and understand. It’s about talking frequently, openly, calmly, respectfully, and rationally. 

Honesty – Good communication is also about being honest which means telling the truth (and all of it) in a timely manner.

Patience – We all get thrown off balance and make mistakes. Healthy relationships take this into account and respond gently and with compassion.

Flexibility – Life can be chaotic, but healthy relationships have the ability to shift, flex, and “go with the flow.”

Empathy – It’s important to be able and willing to put yourself in someone else’s position and imagine their perspective, even if you disagree with their opinions.

Reciprocity – In a solid relationship, people do what they can for others – in balanced, equal, but not necessarily identical, ways.

Appreciation – Noticing someone’s kind actions and then intentionally expressing that gratitude lets people know that they are being seen and valued. 

Room for Growth – People grow and change and need room and safety to do that. In a strong relationship, it’s safe to ask questions, take risks, give honest feedback, and make mistakes.

Individuality & Boundaries It’s also safe to be distinct individuals with separate interests, goals, friends, and hobbies. It’s important that those differences are appreciated and encouraged.

Healthy Conflict Resolution – Even the strongest and healthiest of relationships will have some disagreements. Being able and willing to discuss things that are difficult or upsetting, while at the same time remaining respectful and empathetic, keeps relationships resilient.

Red Flags

Early signs of an abusive relationship are examples of reg flags that later progress to acts of physical, emotional, and sexual violence  [5].  Here are things to look out for, both in your own behaviors and in the behaviors of others  [2]

Contempt can be camouflaged as sarcasm, being condescending, hurtful humor, insults, or making fun of someone. It sends the message of one person being superior and the other being inferior.

Suspicion stems from not believing that someone has your best interest at heart. It can show up as attempts to track whereabouts, control behaviors, or limit relationships with other people, even if those relationships are healthy and supportive.

Lack of Communication can mean shutting down discussions with emotional distance (the silent treatment), anger, or changing the topic. It can also be dominating conversations, leaving others with no time to talk, or not listening when they do.

Dishonesty can show up both as knowingly telling false statements, or it can be withholding information. 

Impatience is demonstrated by frequent frustration with the natural ebb and flow of life or having expectations that are unrealistic or inappropriate.

Rigidness is expecting things to be a specific way regardless of circumstance. It’s accountability taken to the extreme. 

Dependence and Conformity require someone to give up their autonomy, and require the following of rigid relationship “rules.” It demands that struggles in the relationship be kept secret, even from trusted, supportive people. 

Lack of Reciprocity is when one person insists that their stipulations be met but is unwilling to consider someone else’s needs, asks that rules be broken for them, or rarely contributes to shared work.

Lack of Empathy is shown by a refusal or inability to consider another person’s perspective and the reasons that they might feel that way.

Lack of Appreciation is signaled by not noticing someone’s efforts, not expressing gratitude, or neglecting to acknowledge someone’s contributions.

Lack of Growth -if minimizing mistakes is the priority, that leaves no room for learning and changing. 

Poor Conflict Resolution includes yelling or physical harm, misplaced blame, defensiveness, overgeneralizing, a need to “win,” forgetting to listen to the other person, making assumptions, attaching someone’s character, and refusing to discuss problems.

Relationship Goals: A Mentally Healthy Love

Many studies have shown that a healthy and supportive relationship—be it romantic, familial, friendship, or otherwise—can be linked to higher self-esteem, increased sense of self-worth, and improved self-confidence. Love, no matter what form it comes in, helps people incorporate safer behaviors into their everyday lives, reduces anxiety (worry, nervousness), and lowers the chance of developing depression or another form of mental illness  [4]. If a relationship may be doing us more harm than good, maybe it’s time to evaluate whether it is a good fit or it is something that we should now let go of and move on.   

According to Georgia Wells, the best thing we can do to let a relationship flourish and be mentally healthy [5] is to 

Communicate. We need to know what our partner’s boundaries, triggers, and love languages are. We must learn to open up and let each other in.

Compromise. It’s no good knowing all of these things if neither party is willing to accommodate their partner’s needs. However, we should never have to change completely for a relationship and this leads us to another really important thing for relationships-

Space. In partnerships, we need the space to be individual people and feel comfortable in our own skin. But like we mentioned earlier, this isn’t always the case and sometimes it is wiser to let the relationship and the person go.

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

Pre-session Activity

Enumerate your ideal green flags

Enumerate some red flags which you have experienced

Guide Questions

  1. How do we cultivate green flags in a relationship? 
  2. In red flags, when is it time to let go of a relationship?
  3. How do your present relationships–romantic, filial, friendship–help your mental health?

Post-session Activity: 

  • Let’s commit to a month of LOVE together! Take the graphic and retweet one of the GREEN FLAG techniques as a commitment to becoming a more loving person in your relationships! 

 

References

 [1] Authors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center (n.d.). Relationships. Healthy, Unhealthy, or Abusive?. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://dvsacenter.org/2021/02/09/relationships-healthy-unhealthy-or-abusive/.

 [2] Authors of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic (n.d.). Relationships: Green Flags and Red Flags (pdf file). Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://sawtoothmountainclinic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/TOM-Feb-2021-Relationship-Green-Lights-c.pdf.

 

     

 [3] Campbell, A.(2021). What Are Some Relationship Green Flags?. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://wellbeing.jhu.edu/green-flags/.

 [4] Parker-Pope, T. (2007). Is It Love or Mental Illness?. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB117131067930406235.

 [5] Wells, G. (2021). Red Flags, Green Flags, and When to let Relationships Go. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from https://cbtprofessionals.com.au/red-flags-green-flags-and-when-to-let-relationships-go/.

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