On red flags

So, based on your descriptions, I’m between a red flag and a yellow flag. (26/f). I know why- I’m extremely insecure etc…but, now that I am labeled as an orange flag, what am I supposed to do? Should I just expect to be dismissed based on my flag status?


Okay. I’ve been getting a bunch of comments and submissions about the red flag answer, and I’ve come to realize that we all have very different ideas about what a red flag means.

Speaking from personal experience, a red flag isn’t that big of a deal. It’s merely a warning, something to notice as a potential problem. Everyone I’ve ever dated has had multiple red flags, and I personally am a walking collection of red flags. Most of us are.

In fact, it’s impossible to not have at least one red flag, because If I meet someone who doesn’t have any red flags, that’s a red flag.

See what I’m getting at? Red flags aren’t a penalty or a punishment. They’re just indicators. By themselves, they aren’t cause for dismissal, and they don’t disqualify you from anything.


30 thoughts on “On red flags

  1. Margo says:

    Everyone is just looking for an excuse to be dismissed. You can tell self-esteem is at an all time low. I’m over 30 and I’ve never been in a long term relationship but I’ve know plenty of love and I don’t come with flags. I have no desire to just let people write me off for the history of my status either. Because I respect myself. What is status anyway? Will people even date in the future? It’s sad to think about.

    • Margo says:

      As long as you are happy girl, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t doing it the way it should be done.

      hey sorry though would you mind using the name Margo 2 or maybe Margo with the first letter of your last name though? I know it seems stupid but it’s going to get confusing on here if you are also commenting as Margo, sorry. I just really love this website.

      Great comment, though!!

  2. minuteye says:

    Not all red flags are created equal for all people. I know from experience that I hate certain kinds of behaviour in a partner, so a red flag that they’re prone to that might tip the scales against them for me, but that doesn’t mean they’re undateable in general.

    A red flag for X just means “they might have a problem with X, keep your eyes open for that”; you can decide later if it’s a little problem, a big problem, or a false flag, but paying attention to red flags can help you spot patterns that the dewy eyes of the honeymoon period might push you to overlook.

  3. dk says:

    We definitely all have red flags. I suffer from severe depression at times and despite being outwardly very functional (job, house, kids with activities), I still have weeks of misery and days of being bed-ridden. Not everyone can cope with that and it’s scary sometimes to think I will be rejected, but I do have some other fabulous qualities (I swear! :-)). My boyfriend of 3.5 years can handle mine because I seem to give him appreciation he didn’t have with other women.

    He has been married 3 times, which is a red flag. But after being with him for those 3.5 years and learning more about those other women (not just through him, but through meeting them, and through family dynamics), I can say he is the best thing that ever happened to me and 2 of them absolutely did not appreciate what they had. The 3rd was a first and youthful marriage and she decided she liked women more so they split amicably.

    Those are just things to evaluate. Can you handle the other’s issues?

    • Margo says:

      I’m sorry that you suffer so much. Depression is something I will never understand. I am really happy that you found someone. Also you are really brave for meeting his past wives.

    • My husband and I push around entire shopping carts full of red flags. I have ADHD and bipolar, with an extra emphasis on depression and anxiety. My husband has PTSD with psychosis, and addiction problems (currently sober). We’re both out of shape and overweight, we’re socially phobic, and we both got arrested for a little “closet gardening” to deal with our insufficient mental health care.

      But we both have some great talents and characteristics, and we fit perfectly together, largely because we’re in the same boat in so many ways and have certain key strengths and weaknesses that balance the other. In fact, I like to think of it as being two really complicated puzzle pieces that just happen to have all the grooves in the right places.

      So even if you have a ton of red flags, maybe the key is just to find someone else whose flags fit in well with yours.

  4. Someone says:

    Eh, I always thought “red flag” meant “potentially dangerous” like a sign he might be a cheater or an abuser. Not like “might have issues of some kind”, because while we all have issues, not everyone is sketchy/dangerous.

    • Brynn says:

      Not everyone is sketchy, but everyone is dangerous. Living a long comfortable life with someone whose never hurt a fly only means you haven’t encountered the situation in which they become dangerous. That, I believe, is why everyone is getting so self-conscious about this red flag business; they see in black and white. People live on a spectrum, and you can’t identify good and bad from any solitary snippet of information. You require context. “Red flags” are a way of highlighting relevant context. Again, no one should be summarily dismissed for a singular action, vacant of context.

      It’s worth noting that Coke’s insightful and incisive nature is less about an understanding of people (people are easy), it’s more her understanding of situations. You can see the way she reads a situation out of another person’s words, and that she is most successful when either the submitter or the audience’s situation is reflected clearly in her writing. Her intellect is important, no doubt, but it’s hardly unique. Her refusal to live in a vacuum is her real power. These things are related.

  5. Nina says:

    LW, while you describe yourself as extremely insecure now you don’t have to be insecure forever. Therapy has done wonders for my self esteem (and every other area of my life) so I’m throwing that in here as a suggestion. It’s awesome when those issues are not dangling over everything anymore.

  6. Lilac says:

    This explanation makes a lot of sense, and I accept it.

    This is the problem that sometimes appears with fun-sized advice. You don’t get to explain anything and a lot of misunderstanding can breed from quick-fire responses.

  7. Arnold says:

    Not COMPLETELY relevant, but this whole discussion brings to mind a quote from the very beautiful show Bojack Horseman (get past the first few episodes and buckle up…):

    “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.” -Wanda, as played by national treasure Lisa Kudrow

    I was so surprised by how many people ran out after that post yelling WAIT NO BUT I’M FINE. Of course you’re fine. There’s no cutoff age for falling in love for the first time. Handing your heart to someone can be really hard, though, when you’ve experienced firsthand how crushing it is to watch the person you handed your heart to just break it. Entering into a relationship with another person requires a lot of trust, and knowing that the other person has also experienced the pain of the end of a relationship can add to that trust in a lot of ways. It means they might be more careful, see signs and ways to make things less painful. Your first foray into a real live relationship can be so messy and full of rookie mistakes that someone who’s been with other people might not make so easily.
    Then again, maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all. In any case, love is an awesome beast and you should get out there and dance with it and maybe let it eat you and poop you out sometimes.

  8. Anna says:

    I like that the only thing Coquette and my mother have in common is intelligence and the inability to admit when they’re wrong.

      • Anna says:

        Sorry I didn’t see that comment earlier. I didn’t mean to say you were totally wrong. However this response process was very non-falsifiable. Not that I’m a huge fan of Popper either.
        However if I am allowed to use one of my favorite french idioms, this response/explanation was a little “tiré par les cheveux”. But mostly it made me laugh bc it reminds me of my mom’s very sweet and very annoying stubbornness in discussion. (Edit : as did your response to my comment)

  9. Ashley says:

    however hurricane warning flags, such as a few traits my ex possessed, should disqualify you from dating.

    or well, maybe not dating, but certainly from dating me haha!

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