The term “red flag” is pretty common, and you may have heard it already. But what does it mean? What is a “red flag” when dating?

Some red flags that come up while early dating are red flags for everyone – things that make it clear that someone isn’t really either ready for a relationship, or has the skills necessary to have healthy relationships. Red flags like these include someone who drinks to excess, or is clearly dependent on mind-altering substances. Another red flag would be someone who is unreliable (they don’t show up at a date, or show up really, really late. They cancel multiple dates with very little or no notice, etc.) Someone who is clearly not over their ex (talks about them constantly, etc.) would be another red flag. We talk about the CATCH skills – they include having compassion for self and others, being aware of feelings, being able to tolerate feelings without blowing up, shutting down or self-medicating, can communicate without blame, criticism or defensiveness, and is happy to learn and grow. A red flag would definitely be if someone you were dating didn’t have one or more of those skills, and wasn’t interested in learning them.

Then there are red flags that are red flags just for you – that is, they are clear indications that there is a relationship vision mismatch. For instance: you have kids and she doesn’t want to raise kids. You have bad allergies to a pet that she has several of. She wants to live with someone and you never want to. These don’t mean that she is not perfectly great relationship material – it just means she’s not right for you.

There are two key pieces to true compatibility, and you should be assessing anyone you date with these in mind: compatible relationship visions and the skills to carry that vision out. A red flag is basically a symptom that there are missing pieces in compatibility.


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