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Dating can be scary enough, but with a slew of articles reminding singletons to constantly be on high alert for red flags—signs that a person may be dangerous, violent, controlling or abusive—it’s enough to not even want to leave one’s house.
What if we switched up that rhetoric, just for a moment, and focused on the potential good that could be waiting for us in the produce section of the grocery store, that coffee shop poetry reading or the speed dating our friends are dragging us to? You know, the “green flags.” Back in July, Buzzfeed talked about a Reddit thread where people called out such green flags—signs that a new person was more likely than not to be a decent, respectful and nonviolent human being.
“I’m too conditioned on red to see green,” writes one reader on our Facebook page. Another writes, “You never know—mine was fine until I said, ‘I do.’ Then the red flags started.”
Survivors often echo that abusive partners frequently do not show their true colors until later in the relationship. That’s a scary thought. But even if red flags aren’t apparent, what about green ones? Anything saying this is a safe person? (On that note, if there are no green flags, that in itself, might be a red flag.)
So we decided to ask our readers—many of whom are advocates, survivors or both—what they see as being green flags. Here’s what some of you said:
What Green Flags Do You Look For?
“Respects a ‘no.’” – C.D.
“Doesn’t ‘flip out’ when I express an opinion or feeling.” – A.M.
“Same person in public and private.” – C.N.
“Accepts who you are as an individual.” – M.S.
“Doesn’t blame the woman [for] why past relationships didn’t work. Does not belittle you in public or private. Doesn’t mind attending family gatherings.” – S. D.
“When the person’s actions match their words, from the smallest of things to the most important. This proves honesty, sincerity, faithfulness and a sense of safety.” – P.D.
“When I was dating my husband, he said he would never raise his voice to me. Married eight years to my safe man.” – C. B.
“Respectful, open, honest communication.” – B.H.
“When a guy doesn’t show signs of jealousy when I’m away from him and doesn’t try to stifle my life.” – J.D.
“Not asking for sex right away.” – C.S.
“Is keen to introduce you to family and friends.” – J.H.
“Genuine apologies.” – C.N.
“When they can take a back seat and acknowledge that you know more than they do on a subject.” – M.S.
“Unselfish behavior. Humbleness.” – R.L.
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“I knew my husband was a keeper when he made no effort to stake his claim on me in public … did not get angry at me for making a mistake … laughed at my off-color sense of humor and didn’t tell me I should not talk that way.” – A. F.
“I tell people straight up that my job involves advocating for victims of domestic and sexual violence. If we get past that, it’s a start.” – P.H.
How to See Green
One reader wrote, “Sadly, I do not have the ability to see any such signs, yet.” For some survivors reentering the dating world, having a victim mentality that you just can’t seem to shake will make the idea of trusting again seem as likely as finding a unicorn in your backyard. Experts say PTSD—the combined effects of ongoing trauma—is to blame. Read “How to End Your Victim Mindset” for more information.
And remember that healing comes in stages and isn’t something that happens instantly when you escape an abuser. Read “Stages of Recovery After Trauma” to learn more about when new relationships might come into play again.
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