Photo: anut21ng Stock (Shutterstock)
We all know about “red flags,” or the signs that someone is not going to be a great partner. From someone not being able to admit when they’re wrong to being too quick to shit-talk an ex, the list of potential red flags is long and often-discussed. But you may have never heard about “pink flags”—something that could veer into red-flag territory, but is benign enough to be understood and worked through—provided you actually do the work.
What is a pink flag?Sexual health organization Condoms.uk recently commissioned a little digging into the idea of pink flags, sharing the results of their research for daters looking to understand their partners and get a better sense of the longevity and compatibility of their relationships.
Here’s what you need to know: Ness Cooper, a clinical sexologist and relationship coach at the Sex Consultant, explained that pink flags are “flags that can sometimes seem like a red flag until you actually get to know the person and reasons behind them. It’s where something can feel like a big relationship concern and worry but after communication is actually OK.”
True red flags—like displays of violence or cruelty—are not OK, even with communication. Pink flags are the displays or traits that can be talked through.
G/O Media may get a commission
What are some examples of pink flags?Per Condoms.uk, look out for pink flags like mismatched love languages, a lack of communication, or differences in beliefs, whether they’re religious, political, or related to perception of what is “right” and what is “wrong.”
Oh, and if your partner is still friends with their ex, the experts say that, too, is a pink flag. It’s not exactly bad or wrong, but you’re going to need to talk it through to better understand why they are choosing to remain friends, figure out if they’re still in love with their former flame, and decide if you’re comfortable with it.
Rach Wilson, a relationship coach at Divine Relating, noted that “every relationship has some struggles, and most of those are mismatches, which is primarily what ‘pink’ flags are.”
Some, she said, are manageable and can be navigated “without any major sacrifice,” but others aren’t.
What can you do about pink flags?If someone is displaying red flags, like being narcissistic, secretive, or violent, you can—and should—just walk away. Pink flags are a little different, though; these issues aren’t entirely dealbreakers. Disagreeing about politics or religion, for instance, can be difficult, but in many cases, it’s not an insurmountable barrier to lifelong happiness.
First, do a little self-auditing. Identify not only what pink and red flags your partner is showing you, but how you really feel about them. Figure out which, if any, you think you could work through, but be open to the idea that you may be able to work through a lot. Then, have an open and honest conversation with them about your concerns over your mismatched beliefs, their ongoing friendship with their ex, or whatever the pink flags may be.
Wilson added that while some pink flags are possible to move past, some simply aren’t; that’s OK. You may find that even after communicating and being open to working on issues, the best answer is just to walk away.
Are pink flags evident in other kinds of relationships?Pink flags can crop up in your friendships, too. If a friend is frequently unavailable, has mismatched values, or is torn between friendship circles, those are pink flags, not necessarily red ones. You should talk to a friend if you feel pushed aside, ignored, or otherwise hurt—but if they’re abusive, selfish, putting you in uncomfortable situations, or spilling your secrets all over town, those are red flags. Reconsider that friendship ASAP.
The same thing goes for work: Identify the differences between pink and red flags in professional spaces. You can talk to a boss about being able to get more time off or your concern that you aren’t qualified for your job because those things fall in the pink category. If a boss is controlling of your personal life, you’re having issues getting paid, or you’re being abused or otherwise treated inappropriately, those are red flags. Consider looking for a new job.
What this all boils down to is reframing how you look at your relationships a bit. Not everything can be neatly divided between perfection and deal-breaking. Some annoyances are to be expected, but you don’t have to throw your relationship, friendships, or job away without at least first trying to talk through some of the more solvable problems.