There are a lot of things that signal bad news when you meet somebody — whether it’s someone that could become a romantic interest for you, or simply a friend. These things should be taken seriously, because any connection that we maintain with people in our lives have influence on us. This can be a great thing, because having wonderful people in our lives has the potential to make us feel empowered, stronger and loved. But unfortunately, that isn’t often the case. Toxic relationships can impose a strong, lasting effect on you, and even traumatic damage. 

We know of a lot of things to look out for, but what exactly should we be looking for? These green flags will help you get an idea of the things you should try to chase more, because sometimes, it can be hard to know. There is a near avalanche of advice you can draw from to make decisions when it comes to relationships and dating, and often, things conflict. You hear one minute that you and your partner should have things in common. But not too many things in common, otherwise you’ll be bored. On one hand, people say that you should never, ever settle. But on another, people say it’s important to not get caught up in ideals and learn to accept people with flaws. The following green flags definitely don’t solve all the problems of how to take this conflicting advice, but they do provide a pretty clear framework of what kind of people you should aim to add to your life. 

You are not confused about their feelings for you

In my life, I’ve found that typically, mixed signals mean that someone doesn’t actually care that much. 

Think about how you act toward people you genuinely care about and value. You respect their feelings, you treat them with care, and you make time for them. You know their worth and don’t want to lose them, so you act accordingly. But when someone seems interested one minute, and not the next, it’s likely they aren’t thinking of you with the same consideration. These people may choose to talk to you when they feel lonely, or they know you will always respond to them. To them, you’re convenient, but not a priority. Using you and taking you for granted does not equal that they value your presence in their life. If someone cares about you, it will be obvious.

They cheer for you 

Jealous friends or jealous partners are bad things. 

You deserve to be around people who cheer you on, especially in romantic relationships. If a partner isn’t happy for you and your achievements, they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing — loving you for who you are and adding to your growth. They’re holding you back and controlling you — which is a huge red flag. The same goes with friends, too. Toxic people will always make you feel like you have to dim your shine so they don’t feel threatened. Your friends should celebrate you when you reach goals and accomplish great things, not become insecure and angry that you could possibly become “better than” them.

“Clean baseboards”

This was an analogy I learned a long time ago. The idea is that there are two kinds of people: one that maintains a clean home, and one that only cleans for appearances, like when they have people coming over. The person who maintains a clean home pays attention to the details and doesn’t forget things like cleaning their baseboards. If you go over to someone’s home and their baseboards are dirty, you can tell that they may not put as much effort into the maintenance of their home than they let on. 

With people, you can tell a lot about their character in little things. Things I look for are: if they talk about friends behind their back — they will talk about you too —, if they’re respectful to customer service people, how they react to you when you’re upset, and if they listen to respond or listen to understand. There are a lot of others, and all of these things can be very telling. You can tell a healthy from a potentially toxic person by checking out these small indicators of their character. 

They have a clear sense of self 

A healthy individual is somebody who has their own boundaries — they don’t let people walk all over them. They could struggle with self-love, but they respect themselves and have a certain level of confidence. This also means they are able to have their own beliefs that don’t become influenced by people — like you, possibly — that disagree with them. They have their own lives and their own interests. All of these things help to better ensure that this person will not rely on you for happiness. This, pretty much always, creates an unhealthy dynamic, where the person is codependent and controlling.

Positive and constructive communication

It is a great sign when you feel comfortable opening up to somebody about your feelings, 

and communicate honestly about what you need from them. You should be able to bring up things that bother you without it becoming a fight. They should be able to do the same, and you should be able to work together through issues. Tension should be resolvable, and disagreements shouldn’t turn into horrible fights. Arguing is normal, even occasional fights are okay. But it’s mentally exhausting to be with somebody you are constantly unable to have healthy conversations with. You should look for the people who you can be open with. 

You feel good 

A good quote from Michelle Obama is “Good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt.” And it really is that simple. It’s not realistic to think that every single relationship you have will always be harmonious, perfect, and without taking work at times. But when you’re done spending time with somebody, you should feel uplifted. You shouldn’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells. Your relationship should absolutely not be filling you with constant anxiety. The whole purpose of having people in your life is to improve the quality and make you happy. That is it. If they are not serving that purpose, they are not good for you. 

Your life doesn’t drastically change because of them

This is a less obvious, but extremely important green flag. 

When a new, healthy relationship comes into your life, you keep hanging out with the same people. You do not self-isolate. You continue the same hobbies and routines. You maintain your same core beliefs and values. You will still want time to be alone to do things you want to do. You do not become all-consumed with your new friend or partner. 

Of course, to make time for someone important, things do have to give sometimes — you only have 24 hours in the day. It’s not unheard of for somebody to spend less time with their friends once they get into a relationship. But if your life takes a complete 180, and you completely change, this is an indication that you and this person are not a natural match. You are altering the shape of yourself so that the two puzzle pieces you are can fit together.

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