What Are The ‘Pink Flags’ You Need To Spot In Relationships?

There’s a lot of talk about “flags” in dating and relationships.

Perhaps the most common – red flags – relate to signs of toxic behavior or clear intolerance in a partner. Think about: love-bombing, being rude to service workers, and trying to control and manipulate your every move.

Green flags, on the other hand, are signs of a good partner. You may have found a goalie if, for example, you are a good communicator and comfortable being yourself.

But there’s another flag color that falls in the middle of the spectrum: pink flags. Below, relationship experts explain how to spot pink flags and what to do about them.

What are pink flags?

“Pink flags are subtle signs that you may not be right for a relationship,” says Damona Hoffman, an OkCupid dating coach and host of The Dates & Mates Podcast.

She notes that they aren’t as obvious as red flags, which are more likely to be compatibility and behavior issues that anyone can identify as problematic. But while pink flags are less severe, it’s important to address these minor issues rather than let them fester.

“Pink flags are the kind of warning signs that you can talk yourself out of and ignore until they turn red,” Hoffman explained. “Alternatively, you can turn pink flags into relationship dealbreakers if they were just subtle differences that could have been worked out.”

Alysha Jeney, a therapist and owner of Modern Love Counseling in Denver, also emphasizes the importance of recognizing pink flags when they appear.

“Pink flags might be something that you intuitively feel is a little off, but you’re trying to give the relationship time to determine its seriousness,” she says. “They can also be trigger points from previous relationships that you want to think about. Pink flags are important to note in relationships and use as a point of reflection.”

What are the most common pink flags?

Pink flags come in many forms that vary from relationship to relationship, but there are some common examples.

“One that customers talk about is a person who has limited opinions about things — like never having an opinion or not caring about where you eat, what you do, etc.,” says Liz Higgins, relationship therapist and founder of millennial life coaching. “Another reason is differences in political or religious belief systems.”

Being messy or not texting often enough can also be a common pink flag. While these issues aren’t automatic dealbreakers, they shouldn’t be swept under the rug either.

“Some red flags to watch for are behavioral changes,” says Mabel Yiu, marriage and family therapist and executive director of the Women’s Therapy Institute. “As an example, if they used to be clingy but have become less so over time.”

Pink flags are more subtle than red flags but still need to be addressed.

MoMo Productions via Getty Images

Pink flags are more subtle than red flags but still need to be addressed.

Notice if your physical relationship has changed or you’ve stopped consciously dating and growing as a couple.

“Another pink flag is unsurpassed love language, such as official acts and physical touch,” says Yiu. “This isn’t a serious issue if both partners are willing to move closer together and adjust to each other’s love language.”

Sarah Weisberg, a licensed psychologist and founder of the Potomac Therapy Group, emphasizes the importance of taking note of your own and your partner’s thoughts and behaviors.

“When we realize we’re hurting others, intentionally or unintentionally, it’s important to step back and ask ourselves what’s going on,” she says. “What could that tell us about our conscious or unconscious feelings about the relationship? In those cases, we might need to do some self-work, listen to our intuition, and have some tough conversations.”

However, what is a red flag for some may be a pink – or even green – flag for you.

“If one texts too much, the other is spot on,” says Hoffman. “You need to figure out what your needs and wants are in a relationship and be able to communicate that to your partner. Use pink flags as a sign that you need more information, not a sign that the relationship is doomed.”

How can you tell if it’s a pink or red flag?

“Pink flags are easier to ignore and therefore potentially more damaging than red flags,” says Tracy Ross, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in couple and family therapy. “Sometimes pink flags feel subtle – you don’t see them the first time or even the second time – as opposed to red flags, which are obvious when you show them to yourself. But if something keeps bugging you, it’s time to pay attention.”

She recommends asking yourself, “Can this be done, is this person willing to work with me, willing to communicate, work things out together?” When I express my concerns, do they hear me and understand what I’m saying?”

A pink flag might turn out to be an indicator leading you to spot a red flag. As you explore a pink flag, you may find that your partner is not ready to figure things out together.

“Every relationship has this dance and has to find this balance,” says Ross. “Pink flags are the things that make you wonder if it’s going to be possible or not, red flags are the areas where you find out it’s not going to be possible.”

She cautioned against confusing pink flags with merely unrealistic expectations that your partner will meet all of your needs. Instead, focus on feeling complete about yourself while realizing what is important to you in a partner.

“One sure way to understand the difference between pink and red flags is to think seriously and honestly about what you want in a relationship — take stock of your ‘musts,’ your ‘non-negotiables,’ and your ‘woulds.’ nice’ ifs’,” explains Ross. “If you think about it beforehand and know what you’re looking for – where you can and can’t compromise – then it becomes a lot clearer when you see an actual flag.”

How to address pink flags?

“Whether it’s a pink flag or a red flag, the most important thing is not to ignore it,” says Ross. “The uneasiness or insecurity surrounding these issues often leads to avoidance, and all kinds of relationship problems arise from avoidance.”

Instead of letting things simmer unresolved, take the time to process the pink flags you’re watching. Then talk about them.

“I would say that it’s important to know your safe places to explore these notions: with a therapist, with a trusted friend, with a secure relationship, especially if you’re in the early stages of a relationship,” says Higgins. “Sometimes it’s more appropriate to wait a bit before putting everything on the table. In a newer relationship, the bond isn’t as structured or secure, so addressing a lot of super important things right away may not work as effectively. Balance is key.”

Think about why you’re feeling concerned or uncomfortable, and whether it might be part of a larger problem that you need to solve alone or together. Sit down with that and consider whether you are making assumptions or projecting.

“Pink flags can also provide you with an opportunity to communicate with your partner(s), and how you do so can in itself determine whether you want to continue the relationship,” says Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist and the Co-Director of the Institute for Modern Sex Therapy. “Regardless of whether an issue is big or small, it is important in any relationship that you are able to communicate about it in a healthy way and feel comfortable expressing your feelings and concerns.”

She also advises acknowledging the positive aspects of the relationship. Focus on communicating honestly to see if the pink flag issue is non-negotiable or if it’s something you can accept or find a middle ground instead.

“It’s important to pay attention to pink flags but not obsess over them or let them overtake your relationship,” adds Hoffman. “They’re just things to keep an eye on, or concerns to be curious about.” What Are The ‘Pink Flags’ You Need To Spot In Relationships?

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