In any relationship, a yellow flag, which is a behavior or characteristic that you want to keep an eye on, can crop up.

Yellow flags are subjective in nature—what may not make a difference to one person in a relationship can be very concerning to another individual. The issue may not mean that the relationship is over, but it may lead you to proceed cautiously.

While yellow flags might not be deal breakers or major issues, they are generally warning signs that the behavior, tendency, pattern, or trait could turn into a larger issue, hint at something bigger, or at the very least be worth having a discussion about and exploring further.

We look at the importance of recognizing your yellow flags in a relationship, how to make sure you don’t miss those warning signs, and actions you can take to deal with yellow flags that you see in your partner.

9 Yellow Flags in a Relationship

Although yellow flags in your relationship may not be a problem to someone else, there are some general warning signs that you may want to look out for.

  1. They want to spend all their time with you, from the beginning. While this can seem endearing, it can also be concerning. “If someone becomes too dependent on their partner, it can be a yellow flag, signaling an unhealthy dynamic that may lead to excessive pressure or an imbalance in the relationship.
  2. Has no hobbies or interests. Outside interests help to make a person more well-rounded. If your partner has no other things they enjoy outside of the relationship, you may want to look at whether they’re withdrawn, isolated, or dealing with depression or anxiety.
  3. Has no other friends. Some people naturally like to keep to themselves. However, not having other friendships sparks concerns about your partner’s ability to nurture healthy relationships.
  4. Unwillingness to compromise. If you are the one in the relationship who always relents to keep the peace, that is an issue. If one partner is unwilling to compromise or meet the other halfway on important issues, it can be a yellow flag. A healthy relationship requires both partners to be willing to listen and work together to find solutions that work for both.
  5. Carries a lot of debt. Having debt is very common. Not all debt is bad. But you should look at how your significant other acquired their debt. Do they have bad spending habits? Also, is there a plan to address the debt? What is their attitude towards money?
  6. Does not respect your boundaries. If your significant other is often late and keeps you waiting or has no respect for the personal rules you’ve put in place, it can show a lack of care and concern for your feelings.
  7. Has a history of failed relationships. Sometimes people are just unlucky in love and sometimes there is a pattern that can be clearly identified in understanding why so many relationships begin to come apart at the seams. Is there a pattern that points to concerning behaviors such as rushing to commit, not being able to commit, controlling behaviors, lying or manipulation, cheating, substance abuse, etc.?
  8. Constantly hides information. If your partner is consistently hiding things or avoiding sharing details about their life, it could be a yellow flag, indicating trust or communication issues that need to be addressed.
  9. They’re not close to or are too close to their parents or family members. If you value family, you might want to seek a partner who is also family-oriented. However, this is a yellow flag because you may not know why they aren’t close to their family members. There may be a legitimate reason as to why they’re estranged. If your partner is too close to their family, you may worry that they will not make enough time for you or that they will allow them to get involved in your relationship. So, in both situations, it’s important to dig deeper and ask your partner for some clarity. You can share your concerns or fears and suggest ways to come to a compromise.

Yellow Flags vs. Red Flags

While a yellow flag says proceed with caution, a red flag is a full-stop issue.

A yellow flag issue can turn into a red flag if it is never dealt with or resolved.

A red flag is a more serious warning sign that indicates significant issues or behaviors that are damaging to the relationship and may be deal-breakers. Red flags often require immediate action or intervention to address. Examples of red flags may include emotional or physical abuse, constant dishonesty or lying, lack of respect or contempt for one’s partner, unwillingness to compromise, or consistent cheating or infidelity.

Keep in mind that, a yellow flag issue can turn into a red flag if it is never dealt with or resolved.

Yellow Flags vs. Orange Flags

While a yellow flag issue can warrant observation, orange flags elevate the gravity of the issue.

The difference between a yellow flag and an orange flag in a relationship is the level of seriousness or urgency. Orange flags are more serious warning signs that indicate there are significant issues in the relationship that require immediate attention. Orange flags may be behaviors or attitudes that are damaging to the relationship and have the potential to cause harm or lead to a breakup if not addressed.”

Both levels of issues are important. However, an orange flag moves it from observation to being more harmful to the relationship.

How to Determine Your Yellow Flags

Yellow flag issues differ from person to person. So, how do you figure out which issues will upset you?

Consider Your Own Values and Priorities

If you want someone who is reliable, stable, and honest, right away you know that a lack of those traits constitutes a yellow flag for you. Along those same lines, observe what is important to your mate. If their values don’t seem to align with yours, that could be a warning sign.

Think About Behaviors You Don’t Like in People You Already Know

A practical way to decide what your yellow flag issues are is to think about behaviors that you don’t like in the people around you. If a friend’s habitual lateness or inability to commit to plans annoys you, chances are that would be a yellow flag in a relationship.

Consider How You Feel When You’re With That Person

You can also figure out potential yellow flags by paying attention to how you feel when you’re with that person. Does something seem off in the relationship? Are you uneasy, or is there something making you uncomfortable?

Discuss Your Concerns With Loved Ones

Other people you trust can help you determine your yellow flags.

Seek outside perspective. Talk to trusted friends or family members about your concerns and ask for their input. They may be able to offer a different perspective or help you identify potential yellow flags that you may have missed.

Are Yellow Flags Bad?

Yellow flags are not necessarily bad. Being able to identify a concern and bring it to the forefront can provide an opportunity for healthy communication.

The key to drawing a benefit from an issue of concern is figuring out what your concern is, why it’s bothering you, how your partner responds to it, and what actions you plan to take. If a concerning issue can help make your relationship healthier and stronger, then it’s a positive.

How to Deal With Yellow Flags in Your Partner

Once you’ve identified the traits in your partner that are yellow flag issues for you, you want to address them in a healthy way. Approaching your partner with understanding, and even empathy, is a good place to start. Perhaps looking at the behavior from their perspective will help you know how to deal with it.

Talk it out. Use ‘I’ statements to avoid blame language. Understand the difference between a preference and a problem. Understand each other’s perspectives and see what changes can be made and what compromises can be agreed to decide if the relationships should continue.

Communicate and Enforce Your Boundaries

While giving your partner time and space to address the problem, you also want to make your own boundaries very clear. Let them know what is not appropriate in the relationship.

If the two of you are not able to reach a compromise, seeing a therapist or a counselor can help as couple’s counseling has been found to help couples communicate better and improve their intimacy.

The most important thing, however, is to find a solution that works for everyone in the relationship.

How Can I Make Sure I Don’t Miss Yellow Flags?

When it comes to recognizing potential yellow flags in your relationship, you have to pay attention to the person who can tell you the most about those issues—you. Listen to what’s going on inside of you. Practicing mindfulness is a good way to tap into your feelings. Above all, be honest with yourself.

It’s important to remember that dealing with yellow, orange, and red flags in a relationship can be challenging, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution—you have to do what’s best for you.