NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, January 17, 2022

What Are "Green Flags" in a Healthy Relationship?

There's plenty of information these days on what to avoid when you're considering getting into a relationship (see my articles: Are You in a Relationship With a Narcissist?Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices? and 10 Signs You're Being Love Bombed).

Healthy Relationship Green Flags

But aside from what to avoid, which are called red flags, it's also important to know what to pursue--the green flags--when you're considering getting into a relationship.  

More about relationship green flags below, but first a few words about unresolved trauma.

How Unresolved Trauma Can Affect Your Ability to Be in a Healthy Relationship
Before I discuss relationship green flags, it's important to address how unresolved trauma can affect your ability to be in a healthy relationship.  

For instance, people with a history of unresolved trauma often have difficulty thinking about what they want in a relationship (the green flags) because they're primarily focused on avoiding the red flags.  

Due to problems they've experienced in their family of origin or in previous relationships, their focus is on avoidance (see my article: How Trauma Affects Relationships and What is Trauma Bonding in Relationships?).

This avoidance perspective is understandable because people with unresolved trauma often have a pessimistic view of relationships (see my article: Unresolved Trauma Often Creates Negative Expectations For the Future).

Without help in therapy, it can be challenging for them to shift their thinking to include green flags. But when their traumatic experiences have been worked through in therapy, they often feel safe enough to consider green flag qualities that are important to them (see my article: Overcoming Childhood Trauma in Experiential Therapy).

What Are Healthy Relationship Green Flags?
Each individual will have their own set of priorities. The following list includes essential qualities to look for when you're considering getting into a committed relationship:
  • They Are Dependable: Someone who cares about you will be responsible for keeping promises, being there when they say they will be, and following through with their commitments. Aside from this, dependability is also about being emotionally dependable--they're there for you in emotionally consistent, stable and caring ways (see my article: Are You Keeping or Breaking Promises?)
  • They Value and Prioritize You: Along with being dependable, they value you as a person and you feel important in their lives. Being physically present isn't enough if your partner is constantly preoccupied and distracted with their phone or ignoring you in other ways.  This doesn't mean that each person in a relationship shouldn't have separate interests or hobbies. It's a matter of priorities, so if they're putting you last much, your emotional needs aren't being met.  It's also a matter of the two of you being able to negotiate and compromise on spending time together and time apart (see my article: Learning to Compromise on Spending Time Together vs Time Apart).
  • They Show Kindness and Empathy: A person who is a good partner will show basic kindness and empathy for you and others. Aside from treating you well, you also want to see they show respect and understanding for others, including your friends and family. In addition, notice how they interact with people they don't know well, like the building janitor or the server in a restaurant.  Someone who is unkind to the janitor or restaurant server is showing you a negative side of them, a definite red flag that will eventually show up in their relationship with you.
  • They Admit When They're Wrong, They Make Emotional Repairs and Make an Effort to Change: Every couple argues, but in healthy relationships both people can admit when they're wrong and give a sincere apology (a sincere apology is not, "I'm sorry you feel that way").  There's a give-and-take quality in a relationship with someone who can admit when they're wrong. Aside from apologizing, they also reach towards their partner and make gestures to emotionally repair the situation.  Beyond words, these gestures can be as simple as a loving gaze, reaching for a partner's hand or a gesturing for a hug (see my article: Making Loving Reparative Gestures is a Part of Healthy Relationships).
  • They Have a Desire to Keep Learning and Growing: Along with the other positive qualities mentioned above, a desire to keep learning and growing is an essential green flag quality. It's more than just admitting to being wrong--it's also a willingness to change and grow as a person. This includes an ability to reassess their beliefs and behaviors that aren't serving them or their relationship with you. Although change can be challenging, a willingness to learn and grow often helps to overcome obstacles to change (see my article: Growing as an Individual When You're in a Relationship).

Know Your Self Worth
Your self worth is your overall opinion of yourself.  Knowing your own self worth is an important factor in recognizing both red flags and green flags in a potential relationship. 

When you have a low sense of self worth, you're more likely to put up with bad behavior from your partner because deep down you don't feel you deserve better.  

Often feelings of low self worth develop as a result of unresolved early trauma. 

Getting Help in Therapy
Many people, who grew up in an unhealthy family environment, need help to learn how to choose and maintain a healthy relationship.

Even if, on a conscious level, they want to choose a healthier relationship, they might still continue to choose unhealthy partners on an unconsciously because of the early experiences they internalized in their family of origin.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to overcome the obstacles that keep you are stuck, so rather than struggling alone, seek help from a licensed mental health professional (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.