Ask Abby, Lifestyle

Ask Abby (or Analise): Green and red flags in dating

Dear Abby: I’m looking for love, but I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be “looking” for exactly. Everyone talks about green and red flags in dating, but I just get so confused. So, tell me, what are the good and bad things that I should be keeping an eye out for?

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Senior Graphic Artist

The realm of dating is very reminiscent of those “Where’s Waldo?” books where you have to search through a sea of people to find the man in the red and white striped sweater.. In the dating world, we’re not looking for just any person, we’re looking for our soulmate. We have to sift through the red flags of others to find the green –– and sometimes, we get so focused on searching for the good that we overlook the bad. 

But if you know what to look for, the one for you will be easy to spot!

Red flags

I could probably write a book as long as “War and Peace” that describes and analyzes every little red flag that I have noticed in relationships. But, I’ll spare you my grievances and only include the most prominent issues that really get under my skin. 

They constantly insult you

When someone knows you like the back of their hand, it’s easy for them to know just where to stick the knife when they want to hurt you. Why would someone who loves you want to intentionally hurt you? I’ll never know, but my advice is to avoid getting blinded by your adoration for them to the point where you tolerate disrespect.

There’s a difference between just “joking around” and actually insulting your partner.

They search your phone

While swapping phones may work to keep the peace for some, I still get a weird feeling when it comes to looking through your partner’s private property.

Shouldn’t you trust your partner enough to know that they wouldn’t cheat on you? If you don’t, is that someone you really want to be with? Do you want to police their phone activity your whole life? Let me answer that for you — no, you do not.

They talk badly about exes

This is a minor red flag, but it can tell you a lot about the person you’re seeing. 

I don’t see an issue with being open about the things someone did to you. Those are your experiences and you have a right to be transparent with your partner. However, when they embellish details and call the other person “crazy,” it makes me wonder whether their ex is actually that bad, or if they’re just bitter about the breakup.

They don’t plan anything — like ever

Everyone’s a little indecisive sometimes –– but that is a lame excuse for never planning anything for your partner. 

I’m not saying that you have to map out a grandiose date every single week, but you both should take turns. I would argue that a date is 10 times more fun when someone else handles all the details. 

You’re playing the interviewer

I find it totally strange when people can’t hold a conversation! Here’s a rule of thumb: When someone on a date asks you a question, give your answer, and then respond by asking them the same question. It’s that simple, people!

A date is not an interview. There’s technically no right or wrong answer to most questions, so just be personable and engaging. Most importantly, be yourself!

Green flags

Now, just because a person is kind doesn’t mean you have to date them. You’ll know whether a relationship is working based on how you feel –– but in the event you’re confused, here are a few things that you should look for in a partner. 

Good communication

Let’s be realistic — everyone has their phones on them all the time. You don’t need to wait three business days to respond to a text! Okay, maybe don’t blow up their phone, but check in, follow up on plans and ask how their day was.

They make time for you

In any case, I think it’s important that you make time for the people you love. Learning when to step away from work can be hard, but hey, it’s all about finding that balance. 

Those who really care about you will find time. Whether it’s a phone call or a quick 20 minute hangout, time is precious and is an indicator for how much they truly care.

They validate your feelings

We may not always know the right thing to say when people are feeling down, but that’s not always a bad thing. If we wanted solutions to every little problem in life, we would go see a therapist. 

Sometimes it’s better when the person you love doesn’t offer advice or solutions to your problems, but is always there to support you whenever you need them. 

Even when someone can’t understand what another person is going through, offering empathy goes a long way


I always say that anybody can buy you things, but it’s more about the thought that goes into a gift that proves how much they truly love you. 

When people actually listen to the things you say, or want to know you for who you are, it will reflect in their actions. They’ll show interest in your hobbies, bring you your favorite flowers or make you a special playlist. 

Being thoughtful has no bounds. 

The gray zone

I love hearing about my friends’ dating endeavors, but something that always catches my attention during the post-date debrief is when they praise basic respect.

“They asked to kiss me!”

“They didn’t pressure me into doing anything.”

That’s all great! That’s exactly how a good relationship should work, but having respect for your partner isn’t a “green flag” — it’s the bare minimum.

Consent never goes out of style. Please don’t listen to anyone who tells you it “ruins the mood.” It’s expected when you decide to take someone out.  


I’m not trying to make dating sound empirical –– you don’t need to score a certain number of green flags to be a good partner, but you should be aware of the warning signs of a bad relationship early.

As “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” puts it most pertinently, “We accept the kind of love we think we deserve.”

I say that if we learn to use love like glasses, rather than blinders, we will never be steered wrong.

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