If you’re someone like me who has ignored red flags in the past, you’ll understand the significance of ensuring you’re aware of them. However, I’ve recently felt that I’ve become too hyperaware of red flags. Always on high alert, I’ve found myself expecting red flags to come up everywhere; when I started speaking to someone new a few months ago, our very first conversation was about the possible red flags we could see in each other. Way to put a dampener on things early on! We didn’t even know if we were compatible but we were already anticipating why things wouldn’t work out.
Noticing red flags is good but being too aware of them can feed into a lot of premature negativity. Marine Ravinet, head of trends at dating app happn, believes that focusing on red flags too early on can actually be a form of self-sabotage. Marine says: "Not only are we making the other person seem less desirable in some way but we’re stopping ourselves from progressing in our romantic endeavours."
She believes that we may even enjoy looking for the things that could go wrong as it gives us a sense of control. "If we end things before they get a chance to, then we can't get hurt, can we? It was our choice to not let things play out naturally. We're completely protecting ourselves from any possible heartbreak."
On top of this, often it's possible to conflate run-of-the-mill turn-offs with red flags. Sometimes, what we think is a sign of a toxic person could actually be us being super picky. "We may question our date's choice of outfit, their hairstyle, their height – anything that makes us feel less concerned about ourselves. What we don’t realise that we're doing is passing our own insecurities off onto someone else," says Marine.
Relationship coach John Kenny believes the difference between a turn-off and a red flag is how we feel in our gut. "One of the signs of a toxic or unhealthy situation is if you don't feel comfortable with someone else's energy," he says. "It’s important to think about how you feel in their energy, rather than looking at something you’re not particularly keen on."
And so these days, I’m making an effort to focus on green rather than red flags. Green flags are things we want in a partner. "It's a chance for us to reflect internally," Marine says. "Is your date making you laugh? Are you smiling? Are you attracted to them physically? Is there an emotional connection? If the answers are yes, then you've just acknowledged green flags."
Twenty-five-year-old Ayesha* thinks that concentrating on green flags has made dating easier, especially as a Muslim woman. A green flag for Ayesha is someone who aligns with her faith, who has the same love language as her and is someone she can feel calm and safe around. "Too many times the dating scene feels like a maze and that’s an inconvenience because companionship in Islam is supposed to bring a level of comfort which is lacking in today’s relationships and dating scene."
Ayesha believes that focusing on green flags helped her find her current partner. She says: "It helped me solidify what it is I actually love in a partner; it’s to have someone who looks at me and feels comfort and the urge to truly take care of me and bring enjoyment, without me having to give up my personal space and be anything other than myself."
Allowing yourself to be more positive and focus on the good things while dating is hard but it’s not impossible. John says we should start by looking at what we like rather than what we don’t like. "Go in with your energy high rather than being pessimistic. Just think, I want to date this person and see if they tick my boxes without being too picky. Don't worry about finding the right person straightaway, you're just dating or going to get to know someone and see if they fit into what you really want."
Ayesha says that trying to have a positive outlook in all areas of her life made it easier to avoid negativity in her dating life. "I’ve learned to exercise a bit more restraint [when] focusing on the negatives, on what could actually just be me feeling nervous. I’ve also gotten better at setting boundaries in my dating life and take joy in being open about my emotions and how I love others."
Marine says the dating experience will feel more fun when you start to focus on all the good things that can happen. "When you start opening your eyes up to all the green flags popping up, you’ll notice how the pressure lifts in a new way. Looking forward to a date, or having high hopes, doesn’t mean that your heart is going to get broken if it doesn’t go the way you want. Instead, you’re able to take note of what you do want in a future partner and continue your dating journey with fresh eyes."
*Name has been changed