by Kamila Dowgiert & Nuala Clarke from the Arts University Bournemouth

We all know about red flags in relationships. Those little (or big) things that trigger our warning system and get the alarm lights flashing. But how much do you know about green flags?

Green flags are a way to reframe your wants and standards for a relationship. Rather than looking for negatives in a person, look for their positive attributes. When you look for a partner (or a friend!), you could find yourself settling if you only avoid red flags, instead of seeking out green flags.

So, what are green flags?

They’re the things that you want from relationships. They’re always positive and are based in mutual-respect and appreciation. Here are some examples:

  • Listens to you
  • Compromises when necessary
  • Gives you space for individual friendship and alone time
  • Takes care of themselves
  • Accepting past without judgement
  • Respects individuality and you feel safe to express yourself openly
  • Admits mistakes and is able to apologise when they’re in the wrong
  • Stops doing things you tell them make you uncomfortable and honours boundaries

Seeking out green flags

Whether you’re in a relationship, looking for a partner, or playing the field, you should be thinking about green flags. This will help you appreciate loved ones or prompt you to reflect on whether a relationship is right for you.

Remember, everyone has flaws. These aren’t necessarily red flags. The nerves of a first date might prompt an out-of-character action; a perfectly reasonable flaw might seem like a deal-breaker when, in fact, it might be worth enduring it for the positives! Green flags can help you focus on the good aspects of a relationship, especially if you’ve had bad relationships in the past that are keeping the hope of a new relationship in a shadow.

It’s good to make the transition between looking at the things we do want, not the things we don’t want. Most green flags have a similar red flag. For example, if the red flag were clinginess, the green flag would be respect of boundaries and personal space. We demand more from our green flags, than simply the absence of an issue from the lack of red flag. That being said, you should still be mindful of the negatives in a relationship. No amount of green flags can make disrespect or abuse acceptable.

Remember, all relationships can affect our mental health, our self-worth, and our wellbeing. Every single relationship that we enter into, romantic or otherwise, should be healthy and mutually beneficial.


5 Active Steps you can take towards green flag thinking

  • Open the dialogue.

Relationships shouldn’t be a taboo subject. If you are hesitant to talk about a relationship with someone that you trust, then this might indicate that there’s something wrong.

  • Understand your priorities

Not everyone is going to have every single green flag. (Or if they do, I want to meet them!) So think about the things you want most. For me, I won’t compromise on a good sense of humour, someone who respects my space, and someone who loves our differences as much as our similarities.

  • Find your people

Find the person or people that you feel comfortable talking openly with. Talking out loud (or over messages) with others can help you organise your thoughts better, as well as open you to new ideas and perspectives.

  • Be honest with yourself

Objectivity is key in this. Sometimes, when we’re in a relationship, especially in the early stages, we can get caught up in the moment. It’s hard to take a step back and think about whether this person is right for us. We might not think it matters too much, especially if we aren’t thinking long-term, or if we’re enjoying the company more than the absence of it. However, a bad relationship can be more damaging to us than no relationship at all and foster these thoughts of self-doubt.

Try writing your thoughts down – be honest! Sometimes we rush to a loved one’s defence and make excuses for behaviour. Remove yourself from the picture. Give yourself the advice you’d give a friend. Then take it!

  • Be kind

If a relationship isn’t right – seek support. Show yourself kindness. You don’t have to do everything on your own and things aren’t usually simple. STARS Dorset and other similar support services are there to help. Otherwise, reach out to someone you can trust for support.

 Kamila Dowgiert

Kamila is the Vice-President of AUB Students’ Union, and Nuala is our Activities & Communities Coordinator. Here at AUBSU, we are keen to work with STARS Dorset in opening the dialogue up about relationships. During university, lots of people enter into new relationships, some for the first time. We want to help make our students aware of their own self-worth and the standards that they should look for in their relationships.

For more info on our Green Flags campaign visit our website.

Illustrations by Emma Green

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