A couple years back, I went on a date with a guy, jokingly disagreed with him about some silly thing I don't even remember, and he hit me. Straight-up slapped me on the arm, hard enough to hurt, not hard enough to bruise. He wasn't my boyfriend or anything; this was our second date. I yelled "Hey!" and he started laughing and told me it was a joke and it's not like he really hit hit me, and I was probably taking everything so seriously because I was an uptight feminist, but he was willing to forgive me for that so long as I went ahead and laughed with him at this wonderful joke he'd made.
He called me for a third date and I did not call back. I was closer than I'd like to admit to being sucked into the "it was a joke! horseplay! are you really going to hold that against him?" thing, but then I thought in terms of red flags. Physically striking someone on a date is one of the reddest flags there is. Even though I couldn't quite convince myself that the hitting itself was wrong, I could understand that it was a sign of wrong things coming. I think that understanding saved me a lot of pain.
But the mere absence of red flags doesn't really say anything good about a person, does it? "I went on a date with the most wonderful guy! I don't think he'll emotionally or physically abuse me! What a catch!"
So let's talk about green flags. (Um. White flags? ...Cyan flags?) Signs that someone is mature enough for a relationship, that they have a healthy attitude toward relationships, and that they have the potential to be a caring and responsible partner. This isn't about compatibility--maybe they're a lovely person but you like Kirk and they like Picard--but signs that they'll be a good partner to someone.
Here are a few. I bet there'll be better ones in the comments.
- They communicate, early and often, about what they're thinking and feeling, and they give you chances to do the same.
- They introduce you to their friends and want to meet your friends.
- They have a rich life outside of you. It can be many different things--job, hobby, friends, family--but they have something that makes them engaged and energized and has nothing to do with you.
- They're excited by the things that make you different, not just the things that make you conventionally attractive.
- They ask you for your opinion and advice as often as they offer theirs.
- They're willing to do un-fun, un-sexy stuff with you; when you need someone to hold your hand in the ER or take you to the airport at rush hour, they're there for you.
- When talking about previous relationships that didn't work out, they admit fault and regret.
- They always ask you before making a decision that affects you, whether it's trivial like "where to sit in the theater" or major like "whether to have sex tonight."
- They respect your decisions and emotions even when you can't "logically" explain them.
- You feel safe disagreeing with them, calling them out when they screw up, or telling them you don't want to do something with them.
- They set boundaries with you sometimes, and they do it in a matter-of-fact, respectful way.
P.S. While I was in the middle of writing this post, Captain Awkward put up a post on the exact same subject! Curse you, synchronicity! But if you don't mind reinforcing my terrible case of Blog Envy, I highly recommend you check her post out too.