The Green Flag Test: How to Spot a Potentially Toxic Relationship

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“I’ll be damned if I ever let someone hurt me like this again.”

Those were the words of resolve as I drove away from my abuser’s house for the very last time.

It took me four long, painful years to get to this point but I was finally free.

I didn’t date for a long time after him. But when I did, I was determined that I’d be on the lookout for someone who I could safely give my fragile heart to. And on the lookout for those who might cause it harm.

That’s how I developed what I call the “Green Flag” test.

What’s a Green Flag Vs. a Red Flag?

Before we get into what the Green Flag Test is, let’s talk about what’s a green flag versus a red flag.

Red flags are:

  1. They are persistently late or ghost you often
  2. They act on jealous behaviors consistently
  3. They move too fast in the relationship, love-bombing you
  4. They use intimidation and aggression to control situations and people
  5. They blame others (especially “crazy” exes) for their problems
  6. They use passive aggression as a communication style
  7. They are hot and cold when it comes to affection

And many more. Red flags are going to be personal to everyone’s experience. If someone’s behavior makes you feel yucky, then it’s a red flag for you.

Now let’s talk Green flags:

  1. They are consistent in their communication style
  2. They express jealousy in a healthy way and don’t act on jealous thoughts
  3. They move the relationship at a pace that feels comfortable for both of you
  4. They don’t intimidate, use passive aggression, manipulation or violence to get what they need
  5. They express their emotions, frustrations, and interpersonal issues in a healthy way
  6. They take responsibility for their role in a problem
  7. They are steady in their level of affection/desire to be in a relationship with you

What’s the Green Flag Test?

Well, it’s six things that should and should not happen at the start of a mentally and emotionally healthy relationship. If your new person displays 4-6 of these green flags, then it’s a good idea to go forward with a serious relationship.

The Green Flags in this case are:

  1. They aren’t afraid to tell you when they’re upset
  2. They validate your concerns
  3. They are respectful towards your feelings
  4. They listen
  5. They have good boundaries
  6. They look inward

Check them out in detail below:

1. They Aren’t Afraid to Tell you When They’re Upset

Relationship wise, if something bothers your new beau do they tell you? Or do they squirrel the feelings away only to have them come out in a fight later?

People who don’t have great control over their emotional lives are going to use passive aggression, manipulation, stonewalling, and anger instead of expressing their needs. That kind of behavior is a definite red flag.

People who do have a decent handle on their emotions are going to let you know right away when you’ve crossed a line. Bonus points if they can express their concerns in a kind and gentle way and talk it out to a place where both of you are happy.

They Validate Your Concerns

When you tell your new love about a relationship concern do they lean into the conversation or do they dismiss it?

It’s important to notice the frequency of the behavior with this flag. Everybody gets defensive sometimes, everybody can be dismissive by accident. The red flag comes when your SO is routinely dismissive of your concerns, never wanting to engage in conflict or a difficult conversation.

The green flag is when your partner agrees that, while your concern may or may not make sense to them, that it’s valid to you. More often than not, they work with you to understand the root of the problem instead of dismissing or gas-lighting.

They are Respectful Towards Your Feelings

On that same note, an emotionally savvy partner will be respectful to your feelings.

This was one thing my ex failed miserably at. He knew things like teasing really hurt my feelings. But instead of stopping, he would intensify the teasing because he thought it was funny. Spoiler: it was not funny. Red Flag!

The green flag here is going to come when you openly express your frustrations. Instead of dismissing your feelings, they take them into consideration for next time.

They Listen

Great listening is a rare skill that few people actually possess. It takes work, practice, and a lot of messing up to get right.

Let’s be real, most people aren’t going to be awesome at it. But they should at the very least pay attention and be present with you when spending quality time together. Especially at the beginning of a relationship.

A partner who listens will know a lot of your preferences as well as have a decent understanding of what makes you upset. They’ll take time out to ask how your day was.

They Have Good Boundaries

Good boundaries are essential for a relationship’s overall health. That being said, during that NRE (New Relationship Energy) phase it’s pretty normal for boundaries to dissolve a bit. It’s just a thing that happens when the love chemicals are coursing through your brains!

The red flag happens when your paramour can’t seem to be without you. They stop spending time with their friends and get angry/jealous/extremely anxious when you need some space. That’s called co-dependency and it is not healthy (more about that here).

Green flaggers recognize they have to spend time on their own and/or with other friends in order to be emotional healthy. They tend not to get jealous when you’re out there doing your own thing and if they do they 1.) don’t act on it and 2.) look inward to figure out why that bothers them instead of being upset with you.

They Look Inward

And last but not least is my favorite green flag. People who are emotionally healthy are going to look inward when upset rather than expecting their partner to change to accommodate their feelings.

If your love gets mad and repeatedly demands you change your behavior to make them “less mad” – that’s not a healthy relationship; that’s a serious red flag, folks.

Partners who take a moment to consider why they’re really mad, sad, or upset are going to take the green flag in this instance. Why? Because they recognize their feelings are are not someone else’s responsibility to change. Looking inward like this helps them see more perspectives than just “I’m mad” which in turn can really aid a couple in finding a solution faster.

Wrap Up

Now here’s the part where I have to get real with you guys. Just because someone can’t pass the Green Flag Test doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.

Why do I say that?

Because there were plenty of times in my life where I wouldn’t have passed either. I’ve certainly been toxic and emotionally unstable but I wouldn’t consider myself bad. I was just… growing up; making all the natural relationship mistakes.

With that being said, I sure as heck wouldn’t have wanted to date myself during that time. Yikes!

That’s why it’s so important to be able to identify the red flags. If a person is showing them they’re just not ready to be in an emotionally stable relationship with you. For your sanity and theirs, you should let them be.

On the other hand if someone passes the Green Flag Test, then hooray! You’ve got yourself a keeper!

As someone once told me, “choose wisely” when picking a mate, especially one with marriage potential. Now that you’ve got the Green Flag Test in your relationship toolbox, you’ll be able to do just that!

Much Love,


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