In relationships, red flags can function as stop signs that might give you pause regarding the long-term health of a given partnership. Orange and yellow flags are more so markers of potential for the development of red flags. And green flags are signs that a partner stands to be a great fit. There’s another flag shade, though, that could be of strong import for relationship health: beige flags, which might manifest as someone being boring or not putting forth enough effort to even be able to decipher whether they present red or green flags.
Beige flags might look like dating someone who seems to have thrown together their app profile without much thought, or staying in a relationship with someone who is, well, just fine. But, when you acknowledge beige flags in a relationship and choose to stay the course, are you settling? Here’s what experts have to say about beige flags in relationships, and the best course of action for when you see them.
Does having beige flags in a relationship always mean you’re settling?
To reiterate, beige flags aren’t necessarily a sign of a relationship being doomed or that there’s reason to brace yourself for bad news ahead. Unlike red (or even orange or yellow!) flags, beige flags more so function as “food for thought” about the person you’re dating as well as how the two of you relate. Beige flags can read as your sex life dying down, date nights coming to a halt, or partners simply not putting in the effort they used to.
But is this bland beige cast a bad thing, per se? Could it simply mean the honeymoon period is over? According to relationship and dating coach for folks over age 50 Nancy A. Shenker, it depends. “The definition of beige flags may vary based on age and life stage,” she says. “I was looking for very different qualities in a partner [when I was] in my twenties and thirties than what I’m seeking now [in my sixties]…I want to have the great travel and life adventures and experiences I wasn’t financially or practically able to have in my youth.”
“The definition of ‘beige flags’ may vary based on age and life stage. I was looking for very different qualities in a partner [when I was] in my twenties and thirties than what I’m seeking now.” —Nancy A. Shenker, dating coach
While in previous decades, wanting to settle down was a green flag for Shenker, the same quality now might be more beige. And in the scope of a relationship, that beige flag might well constitute settling for her. Essentially, a beige flag is anything that doesn’t excite you but isn’t net negative. So, while any red flag is something to take seriously, beige flags might best be regarded in terms of their quantity and importance. One beige flag might not be a relationship ruiner, but if there are dozens, perhaps that could point to an overarching theme of settling. The key for being able to read beige flags and deduce a plan for how to handle them is to introspect about the larger picture.
One person’s beige may be another’s green or red. To gauge what your beige flags are (and how much each matters), Shenker suggests asking yourself: “What kind of life do I want to live, and what type of person will enhance that life?”
What to do if you notice beige flags in your relationship
Identifying the beige flags is the first step in knowing how to handle them. But what happens when you can’t tell what color the flag is to begin with? Some people may read red as beige and green as red, depending on how they show up to and interpret their own interpersonal relationships.
“One of the most common issues my clients have is confusing what is a red flag versus a beige flag versus a green flag,” says Bonnie Winston, matchmaker and relationship expert. “So, as a result, they want to break up too soon with a good partner, or they stay too long with the wrong partner.”
But sometimes, people operate at different speeds. For instance, if one partner doesn’t say the words “I love you” when another partner is ready, the in-love partner may feel rejected, unloved, or uncared for; they might feel like it’s a beige flag. However, people fall in love at different speeds, and that’s okay. In this case, the beige flag of not being in love may turn green in time.
As another example, consider that folks have different values. Someone who has a sloppy style and never dresses up, even for a date, may come across as making no effort, which can land as a beige flag. But, clothing and style are adjustable; you can always buy new clothes or work with a stylist to transform that beige flag up to a green one.
Ultimately, effective communication is a key relationship green flag; in fact, it’s one that has the power to turn any beige flag green, in partnerships that have healthy potential. A relationship expert can help you parse these conversations. And if after talking through beige flags that seem to have the power to turn red, you realize you’re not on the same page with goals for the future, it might be time to reconsider the partnership now rather than later.