Dating can involve a lot of… assessment, particularly at its critical beginning stages. We decode texts, consult the group chats and are on high alert for just about any reason to run off.
When looking at a potential match, there’s a lot to look out for in the early days. Even when things are just casual, we tend to shift into detective mode, sniffing out just about anything we can about a person. Sure, we want to get to know the person we're letting into our lives and bedrooms, but we're also sussing out what we're getting from this person, and if there's anything about our dynamic together that could spell the end before it's even begun.
Things could be going great, you've got all the butterflies and sparks, but then you find out that they have a "crazy ex", they're a little too into the gym or hell, maybe you're not quite in sync physically...traits that aren't necessarily bad per se, but do set off a soft alarm in the back of our minds, enough for us to step back and reassess. Cue the uncertainty.
What are pink flags?
While red flags refer to the signs that should have us running for the nearest exit, pink flags aren't as obvious. They're the subtle characteristics that don't quite sit well with us but are still minor enough that we could convince ourselves they're just something we can deal with. After all, relationships are about compromise, right?
For the most part, pink flags just become something you end up accepting, especially when you're not looking for a relationship or are happy to keep things casual enough that these things don't really bother you. Where they become an issue is when we reach the stage when it's either time to ride it out or take an exit route.
As an evolutionary instinct, we're bound to look out for what's not good for us, and it's better to be wary than habitually making excuses for shitty people, but sometimes we use pink flags to discount people that could be good for us.
How do we get over pink flags?
Getting over pink flags requires some introspection. No matter how fresh the relationship is, if something is alarming you about a date, that's worth investigating. No matter how small, or how much your friends convince you it's nothing to worry about, if it speaks to an issue you feel will only get worse over time, i.e. they're a bit of a workaholic or don't do anything without consulting The Boys, the concern is valid.
On the other hand, if your gut is telling you that you're overreacting, then it's possible to get around them. The key to sorting the quirks from the incompatibilities really comes down to context. People are complicated and messy, and there's reason behind our madness. Maybe they're overly frugal, but it comes from financial trauma as a kid. There's always more than meets the eye, and we all have baggage, it's just a question of whether you can work with each other's.
Maybe they're a really shitty texter. This can be fine if they love to spend much time with you and don't mind a phone call. Where it's not as fine is when they're on their phones the entire time you're together and are distant when you're not.
Or say they're best friends with their ex. Is it a healthy friendship, from your observations? Or do you see the sparks of unfinished business and co-dependency? If you're still confused, despite multiple in-depth chats with friends, family and therapists, what you really need is to switch the communication channel to, well, them. Talk to them! Voice your concerns in a way that doesn't antagonise them. You don't want to come from a place of judgement, or as if the way you live is objectively better than someone else's, but try to work out if it's something that they're aware of, and if they also see it as an incompatibility.
We're told that the beginning is the best bit, that it's the 'honeymoon period' and should be easy. But if we don't open ourselves up to the unexpected or even bother looking a little deeper, we might just be setting ourselves up for disappointment. Relationships will always involve compromises and frustrations — we just need to find our own line between expanding our minds and settling.
While they're confusing as hell, pink flags ultimately make things clearer in the big picture. Even if you're not entirely sure what it is you want in a partner, these situations are actually great for teaching us what we don't want, which is not a bad place to start. And remember, we all have pink flags of our own, too, so always show a little empathy.