Red Flags, Green Flags and When to let Relationships go

The quality of our relationships has an extremely large impact on our wellbeing and functioning. When we are feeling “low”, “confused” or “disconnected”, it is perhaps an area which is not given enough attention as a reasoning for why we may be feeling that way. Here we talk about the “red flags” and the “green flags” in relationships and signs of when it might be time to let a relationship go.

When we think about relationships, they vary on a spectrum from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. Healthy relationships are safe and empowering. In them we feel secure, valued and appreciated. Unhealthy relationships are turbulent and co-dependent. In them we may feel misunderstood, insecure and undervalued. Abusive relationships are dangerous and damaging. In them we can feel extremely isolated and worthless. Red flags and green flags are great indicators of what we can look for to evaluate whether our relationships are positive.  So what are “red flags” to look out for in a relationship?

Red Flags in Relationships

Red flags are warning signs! They are typically characteristic of an unhealthy relationship.  But sometimes the earliest signs of an abusive relationship are examples of these “red flags” which later progress to acts of physical, emotional and sexual violence. (If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, please see the end of this blog post for support services).

What are Red Flags?

  • Communication, decision-making and intimacy is one-sided
  • There are bursts of affection followed by periods of the “cold shoulder”
  • Conflict is common, rarely resolved and there is little compromise
  • Individuals avoid bringing up their perspective for fear of “rocking the boat”
  • Individuals struggle to be their own person and feel shut-off from the rest of their support network

So what should we do if a relationship has lots of these signs? Well firstly relationships are not perfect and there will be ups and downs. But we do want to make sure the positives outweigh the negatives. So, we’ve got two options: we can either chose to work on the issues together or we can choose to let go. But, if we choose to stay, we want to make sure the relationship already has positive signs. These are called “green flags”.

Green Flags in Relationships

What are Green Flags?

  • Communication, decisions and intimacy is two-sided and both parties feel heard and appreciated
  • Conflict is within moderation and both parties are able to compromise
  • Each other’s boundaries are respected
  • Both parties feel like an individual – they have their own hobbies, are self-sufficient and feel secure and equally fulfilled when they are away from their partner
  • Both parties feel nurtured and safe to be vulnerable

How do I cultivate green flags in my relationships?

The best thing we can do to let a relationship flourish is to communicate! We need to know what our partner’s boundaries, triggers and love languages are. And this goes two ways! Our partner needs to know these things about us. So we must learn to open up and let each other in. The next step is a willingness to compromise. It’s no good knowing all of these things if neither party is willing to accommodate their partner’s needs. However, we should never have to change completely for a relationship and this leads us to another really important thing for relationships…space. In partnerships we need the space to be individual people and feel comfortable in our own skin. But like we mentioned earlier, this isn’t always the case and sometimes it is wiser to let the relationship and the person go.

Letting go of Relationships

When individuals are no longer a “good fit” for us, it is important to let these people go and move on. There is nothing more we can obtain from the partnership. Furthermore, it may be doing us more harm than good. This is a skill which often gets easier with age. As we become more mature we are able to see more clearly (and often quicker) if a relationship is not a “good fit”.

However, it’s important to acknowledge letting go of people is hard. It often means releasing a person who has helped make us who we are today. In one way or another they have shaped our past, our experiences and our identity. Also, as humans, we typically don’t like change. It can feel very uncomfortable and there can be anxiety around whether we are making the right decision. This is even more apparent in individuals who have low-self-worth or have been a part of a co-dependent bond. Also, if we have been in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, we may have been told things like,

  • “You’ll never find someone else like me,” or
  • “I am the best part of you,” or
  • “I will destroy you if you leave”

Such statements are used as weapons of control to play on our insecurities and make letting go even harder.

The process of moving on can follow a similar path to grief. If you would like help coping see – grief and loss.

But what happens when we finally let a relationship go?


We move into a space where we can make our own choices. Therefore these can be choices which benefit us and are consistent with our values and goals. Additionally letting go opens the door for new relationships and experiences which are more suited to us and our desires. So, whilst letting go is hard, staying in a place which no longer serves us is always harder. On that note, it might be time to ask yourself, are there green flags in my relationships or are there red flags waving around just waiting to be addressed?


If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, please seek support. Psychologists like us are a great option if you are looking for business hours and face-to-face support. But organisations like DVConnect and Lifeline offer free, 24-7, telephone crisis counselling and support.

And, if you are struggling with some of the points mentioned here and want to chat, please reach out to our therapists. To consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist, please download our referral form here and take it with you to your GP appointment. We hope to be of assistance soon!

Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.

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