You have probably heard about the Red Flags and Green Flags in relationships, right? Green Flags represent the healthy parts of how a relationship feels and the Red Flags are what is considered unhealthy or toxic/bad. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Professionals defines healthy relationships as “safe and empowering. In them we feel secure, valued and appreciated” and unhealthy relationships as “turbulent and co-dependent.”
In a Healthline article, some examples of positive/healthy or Green Flags in a relationship are, teamwork, physical intimacy, time apart, and open communication. They go on to share common Red Flags as controlling behaviors, violating boundaries, verbal mistreatment, and feeling afraid to express yourself.
VeryWellMind provides a list of 10 Red Flags that you may want to consider if you are questioning a relationship in your life.
Our list of red flags isn’t exhaustive; there are surely others. Ultimately, it’s important for you to trust your gut and walk away from a partner who demonstrates one or more cautionary signs. In some cases, it might make sense to try to salvage your bond, but if your partner shows no sign of self-correction then it is probably best to walk away. If you ever struggle with knowing what to do, speaking with a therapist can help.– VeryWellMind
This is not specifically about romantic relationships either. You may be noticing some Red Flags in your relationship with your supervisor, co-worker, relative, or a friend. Knowing that there are levels to your flags by identifying your personal boundaries and expectations, but also what you will not tolerate are essential in cultivating and sustaining healthy relationships, personally and professionally.
If you don’t know your tolerances, you may struggle to identify what happened in the interim. Knowing how to identify what feels like a violation, disrespectful or unwanted before it becomes a Red Flag is an act of self-love. In my Self-love Sessions, I have supported individuals with identifying the areas in their life where they are experiencing stress because stress is a major cause for depression and anxiety symptoms. Relationship Red Flags are common, and they impact mental health and overall wellbeing. The struggle is identifying what happened before the flag became red. This is why we need to talk about the Yellow and Orange Flags in relationships too.
Viewing healthy and unhealthy relationships in black and white terms, feels unrealistic. Humans are more complex than that right? I have created additional flag definitions that you may find beneficial as you process what you are experiencing in your relationship, how you want to navigate any unhealthy relationship patterns, and what you can do when anything other than a Green Flag is present. Here are The Heart Advocate’s definitions of Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green Flags:
Red Flags – Having an indefinite and absolute zero-tolerance for certain behaviors, mannerisms, and/or words because they feel dangerous, toxic, disrespectful and unhealthy.
Potential Examples [Red Flags]: cheating, verbal abuse [name calling, manipulation, gaslighting, threats, etc.], physical abuse [Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence], controlling tendencies, lying, mistreatment of kids, older adults, and/or animals, etc.
Orange Flags – Having little tolerance for certain behaviors, mannerisms, or words because although it is not a deal breaker, it’s upsetting and is desired to be eliminated.
Potential Examples [Orange Flags]: unsupportive of parts of your life, excessive substance abuse, lack of mental health support, talking about themselves too much, overly critical, judgmental, and insecure, disrespecting others, emotional baggage, comparing you to past partners, etc.
Yellow Flags – Having some tolerance for the behaviors, mannerisms, and/or words that are discomforting because they feel unsupportive or unkind.
Potential Examples [Yellow Flags]: not listening, cancelling too much, spending too much time on phone, interrupting during conversations, not getting along with your loved ones, flirtatious with others, etc.
Green Flags – Behaviors, mannerisms, and/or words that that feel safe, supportive, kind, caring, and respectful.
Even with these additional definitions and examples, identifying your Relationship Flags may not feel as easy as they are defined. The reality is that each of us has individual and specific boundaries, tolerances, and expectations in relationships that blurs these lines person-to-person. Your relationships are your own and the more clarification you can give yourself about what classifies a Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green Flag for you, the more proactive you can be.
If you have never considered your Orange and Yellow Flags, here is a Heart Tool that you can use to identify them and prioritize what you will do if they present themselves, Relationship Flags.