Relationships 9 Yellow Flags in a Relationship–Signs and How to Deal With Them By LaKeisha Fleming LaKeisha Fleming LaKeisha Fleming is a prolific writer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of formats, from film and television scripts to magazines articles and digital content. She is passionate about parenting and family, as well as destigmatizing mental health issues. Her book, There Is No Heartbeat: From Miscarriage to Depression to Hope, is authentic, transparent, and provides hope to many. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 15, 2023 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD Medically reviewed by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD LinkedIn Twitter Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Moyo Studio / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents 9 Yellow Flags in a Relationship Yellow Flags vs. Red Flags Yellow Flags vs. Orange Flags How to Determine Your Yellow Flags Are Yellow Flags Bad? How to Deal With Yellow Flags in Your Partner How Can I Make Sure I Don't Miss Yellow Flags? FAQ 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,” explains Jillian Amodio. LMSW, founder of Moms for Mental Health. 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. 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,” says Laura Wasser, family law expert and chief of divorce evolution at Divorce.com. 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. 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. 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,” says Pia Johnson, LMSW. 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? 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. 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,” Amodio notes. “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.?” 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,” Wasser notes. 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. Signs That You’re In an Unhealthy Relationship 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,” says Johnson. “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,” says Johnson. “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 Do You Know When It's Time to Break Up? 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,” Johnson notes. How to Talk About Your Values in a Relationship 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,” Amodio advises. 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. Frequently Asked Questions Can a yellow flag become a red flag? “It's possible for a yellow flag to escalate into a red flag over time if it's not addressed properly. When concerns are ignored or left unresolved, they can fester and become more significant problems that jeopardize the relationship,” states Wasser. Can a yellow flag become a green flag? If your partner is willing to openly communicate about your yellow flag issue, and address what is making you uncomfortable, then yes, a yellow flag can become a green flag.“A yellow flag can indeed become a green flag in a relationship, which signifies a healthy and positive aspect of the partnership. The transformation from a yellow flag to a green flag often occurs when a couple effectively addresses the underlying concerns, leading to growth and improved understanding between them,” Wassar notes. Are yellow flags the same thing as pet peeves? While yellow flags and pet peeves both signal concerns that bother one partner in a relationship, they are not the same thing.Pet peeves are minor annoyances or irritations that may not necessarily indicate a deeper issue or problem in the relationship. They are things that may bother one partner but are unlikely to cause significant harm to the relationship if not addressed. Although pet peeves are more minor than yellow flags, they can decrease the levels of relationship satisfaction. According to Johnson, examples of pet peeves may include leaving the toilet seat up or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. 13 Red Flags in Relationships 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Roddy MK, Walsh LM, Rothman K, Hatch SG, Doss BD. Meta-analysis of couple therapy: Effects across outcomes, designs, timeframes, and other moderators. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2020;88(7):583-596. doi:10.1037/ccp0000514 Kowalski RM, Allison B, Giumetti GW, et al. Pet peeves and happiness: how do happy people complain?. J Soc Psychol. 2014;154(4):278-282. doi:10.1080/00224545.2014.906380 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.