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What You Need To Know About Dating Red Flags, Green Flags & Yellow Flags Rising

How do you navigate dating and relationships in a society that has evolved so much?


I grew up in a home not knowing what a healthy and loving relationship looked like. And I know countless other women may have experienced the same. The same goes for men too. We gravitate towards partners that resemble what we know or what seemed to be normal when it never was. The saying is true - what is not healed in your childhood later affects your adult relationships. We ignore red flags, settle for yellow flags, and most times miss all the green flags when it comes to dating. Why? Because it's a feeling that is foreign and doesn't register as normal. So, we run towards toxic and ignore the signs of what a healthy relationship may look like. And I was definitely the type to stay longer than I should in a relationship that wasn't for me. But my dating standards have leveled up. I learned the lessons and cut my losses.

The problem is we don't speak enough about what green flags are in a relationship. It's almost as if green flags are a rarity and hard to come by.

Because of social media, we have become hyperaware of nothing but red flags. And we now live in a world where we label almost any and all human behavior as "toxic". But this logic is hella flawed and can't be true. We can't just be out here labeling all men or some women as "toxic" or "ain't shit". C'mon now. But I'm going to stop here because that's a different conversation and a different article for another day.

But when you think of good or bad signs in general, we often think of universal signs, or we revert to what we learned as children. Traffic light colors. We all know red means "stop", "danger", or "warning". Yellow means "proceed with caution" or "slow down". And green flags mean you're "safe" or "good to go". As remedial as it sounds, this same concept applies when it comes to dating and relationships.

Not only do you need to know what type of personality traits you want in a partner, but you have to know what healthy relationship behavior is too. He or she can be charming and successful, but their habits or how they handle daily life can be detrimental. Here are some examples of red flags, green flags, and yellow flags (it's an actual thing) in relationships that you should know, look for when dating, or choosing to get serious with somebody's son or somebody's daughter.

Red Flags In Relationships

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Red flags in relationships are signs that let you know that something isn't quite right. It's often a response, interaction, or behavior that leads to you question your partner and/or the relationship. And if you have to question it the first time, it's going to be a problem the second, third, and fourth time. This is where we fuck up. We don't listen to what our intuition is trying to tell us. According to a UK outlet,The Independent, a red flag in a relationship is defined as "something your partner does that indicates a lack of respect, integrity or interest towards the relationship."

Now, these signs of a red flag can vary, but it also depends on what you are willing to tolerate. Read that again. Some of us stay with partners because we're just not aware of unhealthy habits or behaviors.

Sheleana Aiyana, founder of Rising Woman on Instagram, shares some of the red flags you should look for when dating or consider before entering a relationship:

If any of these red flags exist in the person you are currently dating or in your relationship, you need to run the other way and/or amicably end it. I ignored all these signs in a past relationship, but I didn't know any better. I now know about non-negotiables in relationships. And it has been a game-changer. I know exactly what I won't tolerate and what identifies as a red flag for me.

Green Flags In Relationships

Now, let's talk about all things healthy in relationships. According toNedra Tawwab, green flags in relationships are:

...up-front indicators that you're in a relationship that's worth continuing and nurturing. A new relationship full of green flags is a relationship in which you will probably be able to let down your guard and be your truest self.

Green flags are the complete opposite of red flags. What this means is that you won't have to question your partner's actions. You won't have to feel guarded or tolerate repeated behaviors that make you feel a certain way. It means they are willing to show up as a partner and be present in the relationship. It also means that the relationship is equally a safe space for both of you.

Nedra Tawwab and Sheleana Aiyana share some of the green flags to look for to cultivate a healthy relationship:

These are the healthy behaviors we want in not just a romantic relationship, but any relationship. Remember, love flows - it makes your heart expand. It makes your soul grow. What love doesn't do is make you feel small or constricted.

Yellow Flags In Relationships

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OK, yes. Yellow flags are real. It's the things we don't necessarily pay attention to about a person, but we should. These types of relationship flags are not deal-breakers, but they are signs that scream, "I don't know about this," or "That's weird." Yellow flags are also considered a behavior that can be acknowledged and worked on.But more importantly, you need to figure out if the behavior exhibited by your partner is a trigger for you.

According to an article fromMedium andThe Love Brain, some yellow flags to be aware of in a potential partner are:

  • Major debt. Everyone has some type of debt, but how someone handles their finances can be revealing about their money habits or level of responsibility.
  • Indecisiveness. The ability to make life decisions are important. If one is not capable of making decisions about their own life, you may not want to keep rocking with them.
  • Opinionless.Communication is key in any relationship. So, if a partner can't communicate their opinions to you, either they are not comfortable enough with you to share their thoughts or they don't have thoughts to share.
  • Never had a long-term relationship. It's not a major yellow flag, but it could shed light on commitment issues.
  • An ex is always why a past relationship failed. If someone always blames their ex for their relationship not working out, this means that they refuse to take any accountability for their actions or they are victimizing themselves.
  • Different life plans. Again, it's not a bad thing, but if you and your partner can't meet in the middle about your life plans, then you may want to consider parting ways.
  • Details about their personal life are left out. This is dependent on the stage of the relationship you are in, but if a partner can't open up with you in time it's grounds for concern. It could potentially mean he or she is hiding things from you.
  • Highly insecure. It's never cool to have a partner who lacks confidence and who constantly seeks reassurance. It becomes emotionally exhausting. And if they're not willing to work on becoming a secure person, you might have cut ties too.
  • Where are their friends? A healthy individual has a network of close friends. If someone doesn't have friends or you haven't met their friends, it could mean they have trouble maintaining close relationships. Also, the type of company your partner keeps can give you insight into who they are.

Some of the yellow and red flags mentioned seem like things you normally would pay attention to upfront. But let me just say, not all yellow flags are as obvious and some of us are still learning how to date. This is where your list of non-negotiables comes to play. Study them like it's the Bible or a college textbook. This way, when you're dating someone, and they say something or respond a certain way, the yellow flag will become more apparent.

I missed every single yellow and red flag in a past relationship. I was so blindly in love that I thought we could just move past these little issues or eventually grow together. I was clearly in denial. But it's OK. Because now I know what green flags are and what traits or behaviors create a healthy relationship.

And my only hope is that we learn to say deuces to red flags, pass on the yellow flags, and embrace the ones who come with all the green flags.

Because in the end, this is who you want - a life partner that is a safe space and more.

For more love and relationships, features, dating tips and tricks, and marriage advice, check out xoNecole's Sex & Love section here.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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