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Relationship Green Flags

by Maureen Pollard,

Emotional Health Editor

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg,
Ontario.  Visit her online at:

"Sometimes known as green flags, there are specific ways someone can show up in a relationship with respect, helping to create trust and growth as a couple and as individuals. What are your green flags?"

Human brains are naturally wired to notice negatives. It’s a survival mechanism, helping us identify and avoid threats to our safety so, it is important to be aware of problematic red flag behaviours that can signal trouble in any partnership.

It’s also a good idea to understand what behaviours signal the potential for a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. Sometimes known as green flags, there are specific ways someone can show up in a relationship with respect, helping to create trust and growth as a couple and as individuals. What are your green flags?

Open communication. When someone is willing and able to have conversations about everything from small talk to big issues, there is a great possibility of developing trust. It’s true that it takes time to share all of your story with someone, especially very personal information. The ability to engage in direct, open communication helps deepen your understanding of one another as a whole person.


Taking responsibility. We all make mistakes. In a healthy relationship, it’s critical for each partner to have some self-awareness. The ability to notice that they have done something hurtful, and taking ownership for their actions, whether the harm was intentional or not, is a powerful way to build trust.

Healthy boundaries. Whenever two people are building a relationship, it is important that each partner feel able to say no to anything that doesn’t work for them, whatever the reason. The experience of being with a person who respects your answer when you say no creates safety in a relationship. Ideally, there are plenty of opportunities to say yes to one another. It may also be true that sometimes a “No.” can change to a “Yes.” when the timing is right, or circumstances change. In a healthy partnership, each party feels comfortable saying no, knowing that their limits will be respected.


Vulnerability. Healthy relationships where trust and safety are developing allow each partner to begin to share deeper personal information with one another. When one partner shows vulnerability and the other partner only shares superficial information, the imbalance can have a negative impact over time. If either partner struggles with vulnerability due to previous trauma experiences, it can be helpful to seek therapy individually and together as a couple. These issues can be too big to heal without professional

Mutual support. In a balanced relationship, each partner encourages the other to have experiences for personal and professional growth. Sometimes sacrifice is required to secure success, such as budgeting money and time for one partner to complete an educational goal such as a master’s degree, or a personal goal such as running a marathon. While one partner may need more support and sacrifice from the other from time to time for such achievements, over the course of a relationship each partner
should feel that their goals are a common priority in the partnership, and that they each have a turn to shine.

Peaceful problem-solving. Rift happens, it’s repair that matters. Over time in any relationship there is bound to be conflict. Two people with different personalities and life experiences are likely to have disagree at times. In a healthy relationship, conflict is met with curiosity as each partner strives to understand the other person’s perspective. When there is understanding, there is an ability to “meet in the middle” with respect and compassion for each person, creating the trust and safety that are at the heart of a healthy relationship.

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