Everyone knows about dating red flags – those little warning signs that a potential partner should be avoided at all costs. But we rarely hear about the green flags – even though they're exactly what we should be looking out for at the start of a relationship.
Green flags are the exciting indicators in someone's behaviour and words that say, 'Go ahead!' and reassure us that we're at the start of a good thing.
Ness Cooper, a relationship expert at The Sex Consultant, says: "We focus a lot on telling people to look out for red flags but regularly forget about green flags. These are positive signs that the new relationship is healthy and has possibilities for both to grow individually, as well as together.
"Green flags aren’t about feeling happiness 100% of the time, as no relationship is perfect – but a green flag can simply mean that you’re able to both work through any problems that do arise, together."
So if your radar is rusty and you're not sure if their grumpy expression is a red flag or not, here's a list of what you should be looking out for instead.
"When you go on a first date it’s easy to look out for more red flags than green flags, because you’re nervous," says Cooper. But it’s important to look out for both as it can help you make a solid judgement on whether you feel comfortable seeing them again.
"When we go on a date and just focus on red flags, we may have already decided to end it straight away rather than giving it a chance to go further."
Instead, here are the green flags that really matter.
1 They're present in the moment
If they arrive full of convoluted excuses, constantly break off to answer messages or check Insta, and talk only about what they're doing later, or what they did earlier, they're not present.
But if they take time to greet you properly, ignore their phone, and engage with what's happening right now, from complimenting your outfit to discussing menu choices, they're happy to be with you, and focussing all their energy on the time you have together.
"Being present in the moment is important and if they‘ve taken the time to put their phone down and pay attention to you this can be a sign that they are really into you," says Cooper.
2 They're fully listening
Are they focussing on what you're saying and responding appropriately, encouraging you to explore your story further, or asking the right questions ('How did you feel?' 'Then what happened?') If so, they're a great listener.
"They're not just listening, but actively listening and responding with empathy," explains Cooper. "You’ll find when someone is really listening, the conversation feels natural and flows."
If they seem to be waiting for you to draw breath so they can jump in with their anecdote, or irritably flapping their hand at the waiter, however, be wary.
3 They make eye contact, often
Not the creepy, intense-staring kind, but regular connection and shared glances as you talk. Eye contact shows they're attracted to you, happy to be with you, and not so cripplingly shy they can't drag their gaze from the table.
"Good eye contact can mean you’re feeling safe in each other’s company," says Cooper, "plus the added bonus is you’ll both be sharing moments that help produce bonding chemicals and strengthen any future relationship you form."
4 They're happy to compromise
If they're happy to let you choose the film, but make suggestions for where you might eat, or ask your opinion on the pub where you're meeting, it's a great sign. Too rigid – "the film starts at 8, so I've booked my favourite restaurant at 6.45" or too willing to let you take the lead – "I don't mind" isn't always a great sign – and it could be an issue.
In discussion, too, obvious willingness to disagree without defensiveness is a green flag right there. "It’s positive when you both can see that differences don’t matter and you can work through them even early on," says Cooper.
5 They compliment you
There's a fine line – noticing and appreciating you is lovely, but when it veers into, 'I'd like to see what you're wearing underneath' it can be uncomfortably sleazy.
The key is to notice whether the compliment is about you or them. It doesn't have to be about looks either – a true compliment can simply be someone taking the time to notice something positive about you, and mentioning it.
"You're very kind to your friends" is just as encouraging – and a sign of deeper connection – as "I love your hair."
6 They make you laugh
And not just with mean asides about fellow diners or how awful their dad is. Laughing at your jokes too is a green flag – if they're maintaining a barrage of jokes, it's more of a sign that they're nervous, and/or desperate to be the centre of attention.
But sharing jokes, wit and relaxed humour – rather than prickly 'banter' – is a great sign.
"If you’re able to laugh together this can be a sign that you’re both very comfortable with each other," agrees Cooper.
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