If You Want to Settle Down, Look for These Green Flags in a Relationship
Most people love the idea of being in a relationship. There's a lot to love about it. Companionship and fun are part of the appeal, but having someone who gets you, supports you and wants to grow old with you is what we all really long for.
Casual dating is fun for a while, but eventually, most of us want something with more depth. Whether you're just starting to look for a serious relationship or you're wondering if it's time to take the next step, these relationship green flags are indicators that your partner is worth the commitment.
Communication Is Comfortable
If your partner is the first person you come to about good news, bad days and everything in between, that's a good sign. Being comfortable expressing your wants, needs and emotions without stressing about their possible reaction shows that you feel supported and safe around them.
You can be vulnerable because they've proven they're ready and willing to offer their full attention and listen. If you can talk to them about anything, that's a major green flag.
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You Can Discuss Problems Openly
Outside of Hallmark movies, the perfect boyfriend doesn't exist. There are no perfect people, even if you do find a ruggedly handsome one who happens to own a quaint, small-town Christmas tree farm. Imperfect people translate to imperfect relationships. Instagram relationships don't tell the full story. That cute couple's selfie doesn't show the 20-minute fight in the car over which restaurant to go to, but we all know it happened.
It's normal for relationships to have challenges. What defines a healthy relationship is being able to discuss issues without holding them against each other. It should feel like the two of you are a team working to solve a problem together. You versus the problem, not you versus each other.
Your Partner Can Accept Constructive Criticism
There are no perfect partners, but a partner that's willing to learn from their mistakes is pretty close. For a relationship to work long-term, both partners need to be able to receive feedback with an open mind.
If they react defensively to every minor concern or complaint, solving major problems will be a nightmare.
They Validate Your Feelings, Even During Disagreements
Two different people are bound to look at situations differently from time to time. If your partner works to empathize and understand your perspective and feelings even when they're upset, hold onto them. That's solid evidence that they value both your relationship and you.
They don't want to win a fight; they want to find an outcome that makes both of you happy. A person who's patient enough to try to fully understand their partner, even when it's frustrating, is probably someone who shares your desire for a deep, meaningful connection.
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They're Cool With Boundaries
Even in extremely close relationships, healthy boundaries are part of the deal. These include everything from physical boundaries, emotional ones and economic ones, to sexual ones. While consent comes to mind, boundaries extend far beyond the bedroom.
For example, if you have a night owl for a partner but you have to start your commute at 6 a.m., it's important for them to respect that you aren't available to chat on weeknights. They might want to have time alone with their friends, too. If you already know you can set boundaries like that and they'll respect them without a hitch, consider it a good sign.
They Aren't Spooked by Conversations About the Future
Planning an entire life together after two weeks of dating is nuts. At first, conversations about the future should be to gauge whether you want the same things out of your relationship. Are they looking to settle down, or are they just testing the waters? Where do they see themselves in a few years? If you want a house, kids and a dog while they want to be traveling the world, you have some thinking to do.
If they look at you like you're clingy or crazy whenever you mention possible future plans, they're probably not settling-down material.
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They're Committed to Working on Themselves
People can't be perfect, but being self-aware is a close second. If your partner is already highly self-aware, understanding their own feelings, behaviors, goals and patterns, they likely have a growth mindset. They know they aren't perfect, and they're open to actively learning as they go.
Someone who's self-aware is also more likely to examine how their actions affect others, which is key for long-term relationship success.
And to Working on Your Relationship Together, Too
Relationships should be fun, but no relationship is effortless. They're like plants. Healthy houseplants don't require tons of work, but small amounts of maintenance and care are required to keep them alive and growing. Every now and again, they need some extra TLC.
Relationships are no different. If your partner makes time to connect with you, discuss what could use improvement, what's going well and what you appreciate about each other, you've found a keeper.
The Relationship Moves at a Sustainable Pace
While there's no fixed timeline for relationship success, extremes are concerning. If a couple has been dating for five years and one partner is ready to start a life together while the other is content to see each other once a week, they have a problem. Rushing into a serious commitment before fully getting to know each other is just as worrisome.
A relationship that progresses naturally without feeling forced or rushed is a solid green flag.
You Both Know What You Want
This one is tricky. Our dreams and desires naturally evolve over time, and that's OK. If you're still figuring out who you are, what you need in a relationship and what you'd like your life to look like, you might be headed toward rough waters. It's helpful if you both have answers to these questions:
- What type of relationship are you ready for? Are you interested in marriage in the future? Or kids?
- If your job involves travel or moving, what does that mean for your relationship?
- What do you need to be happy in a relationship?
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Even simple factors, like lifestyle and pet preferences, should be discussed. If one person would happily stay in watching movies all weekend while the other's an avid hiker, there's trouble brewing.
It Feels Stable
When you're in a healthy relationship, you don't have to feel anxious about much of anything. You trust your partner, and their reactions are even-tempered and predictable.
Being with a loved one shouldn't feel like being on a ride at Six Flags. Some gentle waves are to be expected, but your relationship should feel like something you can rely on 99 percent of the time.
You'd Hang Out With Them Even If You Weren't Together
We're not talking about staying friends if you break up. That's not everyone's style, and that's OK. What we're talking about is knowing that you'd enjoy spending time with the person even if there were no romantic strings attached. Do you have fun together? Do you share interests and get each other's jokes?
You'd be surprised how many people try to date someone just because they look good on paper, but they don't mesh well in real life. If your partner feels like a good friend who you also want to kiss, you're on the right track.
You Can Be Yourself When You're Together
Yes, relationships do take effort, but you shouldn't have to alter your personality, taste or appearance to be with someone. Your relationship should be a safe space to be the most authentic version of yourself. No masks or pretenses. You should inspire each other to become the best version of yourselves but never to become someone completely different.
If someone doesn't like how you load the dishwasher, that's NBD. If they find your laugh annoying and think you talk too much, find someone who finds your chattiness endearing instead.
You’re Part of Each Other’s World — But Not the Entire Thing
Quality time is valuable, and being able to lean on your partner is important, too. If you come to rely on your partner 24/7, that teeters into codependency territory. Codependency is when one person is always giving while the other is always taking. It can go both ways, too, in which both parties are so reliant on the other that they can't function independently.
Finding a healthy balance is crucial to having a relationship that's connected without feeling suffocating or restrictive. If you both have independent interests, friendships and goals outside of your relationship, that's a good sign. If neither of you feel responsible for keeping the person happy, consider it another point in your favor.
You Respect the Kind of Person They Are, and Vice Versa
This should go without saying, but your partner should be someone you genuinely admire and respect. The way they treat not just you, but everyone else in their life, says a lot. If you share core values, that's a green flag.
Look for smaller signs that their heart is in the right place, too. How do they treat service workers? How often do they call their grandma? Do they follow through with their promises, even when they won't gain anything from following through? Actions speak louder than words, so we consider consistent, positive actions to be the most meaningful type of love letter there is.