I do a lot of teaching about red flags – signs that someone is NOT partner material, that people with a history of trauma often overlook.
But what about the signs that someone IS partner material? I call these “green lights.” You will have particular standards when you define what YOU are seeking in a relationship, but I’ve laid out some basic standards you may want to adopt for yourself. They don’t provide confirmation that someone is right for you, but if they meet these criteria, it may indicate they’re worth getting to know!
The clearer you can be about the characteristics of a good partner, and the more carefully you honor what is most important to you in a mate, the easier it will be to avoid heartbreak and entanglement that make the road to true love delayed, depleting, and destructive.
The twelve signs I list here may sound like no-brainers, but if you’re honest with yourself, you have probably accepted less in the past, and paid the price. Here are twelve signs everyone should look for in prospective partners.
1. You feel romantically attracted to them, and they show you in big or small ways that they’re attracted to you.
You won’t always know if you’re reading the signs correctly, but either they seek out a conversation with you, or when you talk to them, they seem happy to talk. They make eye contact, they smile, they act interested in what you say, and they put a little effort into keeping the conversation going.
2. They are not already in a relationship.
Clarifying this with someone you’ve just met is a gentle way, totally accepted culturally, to let them know you’re interested. It is not overstepping (and you get to save face in case they are in a relationship) if you say “Oh, that’s interesting what you just said… so, are you in a relationship?” In case they say“Yes, actually, I have a girlfriend. She’s right over there,” you can quietly change your intentions without embarrassment. And now you know!
3. They will clarify whether a get-together is a date.
So let’s say they show signs of interest. They’re not in a relationship, and one of you suggests getting together sometime. If you are in doubt about whether they mean for it to be a date, your mission is to get that clear, ideally before the first date. If you still don’t have clarity, don’t agree to a second get together until the date-or-not question has been clarified. I know what you’re thinking: “Can’t we just be friends if that’s what they want?” You can, but I only recommend that if you’re not attracted to them. “Hanging out” with someone you like romantically, who is not into you, drains your emotional energy and dims your emotional availability for someone who IS into you.
4. They demonstrate interest in getting to know you.
They don’t just talk about themselves, or try to impress you, or talk about outside things like the news or the weather. They ask you about YOU. Anyone who is healthy and looking to be in a relationship will have that as their number one goal for a date.
5. They listen to what you say.
They understand you. They “get” you. They have a conversation with you about what you said – it’s not just taking turns asking and answering questions.
6. They make it clear that they are interested in you.
There are circumstances where it’s OK, even though it’s awkward, to get to know someone through one, two, or at most THREE get togethers. If you find yourself falling for them but afraid to ask, and you’ve been hanging out with them for a while, the answer is probably that they’re not interested. You’re avoiding the question because either you know the answer or you fear the answer is no. Be courageous! Healthy people like to get this clear, and I encourage you to do it too, so you don’t waste your lovely romantic possibilities waiting around in a nervous limbo.
7. They’re open about themselves, and what they are looking for.
It could be a red flag if they jump right in to tell you tragic stories or rants about an ex that screwed them over. This would mean they’re in healing mode and not quite ready. The openness to look for concerns their vision for themselves and what they want in life; do they want marriage? Are they interested in having a serious relationship? Do they have kids? Do they want to have children in the future? These are major compatibility factors you should know, no later than the third date.
8. They are logistically available.
That means they live in the same general area as you. They have time for a relationship. They don’t have anything in their life that would get in the way of forming a commitment. I’m talking about things like an ex who is living in their basement, or a job that keeps them out of town most of the time, or they’re about to move to another country.
9. They treat you (and everyone else) well.
This includes food servers, other drivers, people on the street, and animals. They are kind, gentle and respectful.
10. They’re honest.
If they notice the restaurant forgot to charge for the dessert, they tell the restaurant. If you ask them a question about themselves, they answer.
11. They are considerate about making plans with you.
They make it clear when a plan is firm, they show up when they say they’ll show up, and they call when they say they’ll call. They never leave you guessing about whether something they invited you to do was an invitation or just a random idea. If plans have to change, they tell you right away.
12. YOU feel good when you’re with them.
You feel good not just because love is exciting, and not just because there’s hope that loneliness will be gone from your life (these are legitimate reasons to be happy). It’s not enough just to feel attracted or crazy about them. By itself, that’s not a sign. The sign is that, as a result of meeting them and spending time with them, YOU feel lifted up. You find yourself feeling good about yourself, like you want to be more and do more in your life, in a way that’s healthy, positive, and fulfilling. That’s a sign that someone is a good match for you. And ideally, they’d have this lifted up feeling from you too!
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