Green Lights, Yellow Lights and Red Lights of Relationships

I have someone I’m coaching who’s “discerner” is broken. A discerner is part-brain, part-instinct, and part-Holy-Spirit. Years of staying within his type led to many unhealthy relationships which has broken his discerner. I’m on his team now so I get to be honest and blunt with him to help fix his discerner so he can find a love for a lifetime. I believe it can be fixed. This blog is to help your discerner too.

It is a checklist of Green Lights, Yellow Lights and Red Lights of relationships. This is not my brilliance. It is from Boundaries in Dating written by Dr. Henry Cloud. I know I quote his stuff a lot, it is very good. You will see how practical and good this advice is when you read what he has come up with.

Your team is also an important part of this process. They are for you so their discerner is on point. This list will help them be even on more point and help you. Listen to your team. They love you and want to spare you any heartache, particularly a lifetime of heartache from a bad match.

Green-LightThese are green lights to look for every time in a new relationship:

  • Common interests – these help you determine how you spend your free time.
  • Common goals – these help you determine how you spend your life.
  • Common values – these are what you are going to experience if you stay in the relationship for a long time.

Do not justify away any of these early in the dating process. If there is a difference in any one of these, the relationship cannot grow. Better to learn earlier than later.


No one is perfect. Especially not you. You can have all the green lights in common but that is not going to give you the perfect relationship because human nature is still involved. Human nature brings in selfish tendencies that can irritate the heck out of anyone.

The following are Yellow Lights to be on the lookout for. This does not mean the relationship has to end or will never work. These are areas of patterns which affect relationships. In mild doses you can grow through these together. Maybe. Ask your team to speak up about any of these areas you see and discuss openly if they are relationship enders or things to grow through.

  • Disorganization
  • Difficulty with opening up and being direct about feelings or hurts.
  • Tendencies toward performance orientation
  • Tendencies towards wanting to appear strong and avoiding vulnerability
  • Perfectionism
  • Some attempts to control
  • Avoidance of closeness
  • Impatience
  • Messiness
  • Nagging

There are some traits you need to stay away from. Yes, these are big red lights of STOP. Let your team tell you to STOP and hear them. It doesn’t matter how cute she is or how much money he makes or how much he loves your child, these are Red Lights. Stop. End the relationship. Do not proceed any further. Dr. Henry Cloud divided these into two categories: Destructive Personal Traits and Destructive Interpersonal Traits

Destructive Personal Traits

  • Acts like he/she has it all together instead of admitting weakness and imperfection
  • Is religious instead of spiritual
  • Is defensive instead of open to feedback
  • Is self-righteous instead of humble
  • Apologizes instead of changes
  • Avoids working on problems
  • Demands trust instead of proving him/herself trustworthy
  • Lies instead of telling the truth
  • Is stagnant and not growing
  • Is an addict
  • Is duplicitious

Destructive Interpersonal Traits

  • Avoids closeness
  • Thinks only about himself instead of the relationship and the other person
  • Is controlling and resists freedom
  • Flatters
  • Condemns
  • Plays “one up” or acts parental
  • Is unstable over time
  • Is a negative influence
  • Gossips
  • Is overly jealous and suspicious
  • Negates pain
  • Is overly angry

Why am I picturing so many Hollywood movie plots when I listed those Red Light traits? Why are the “great movie love stories” made up of such obviously bad behavior? No wonder we don’t know when to end a bad relationship. It looks like love on the big screen when it really is a bad pattern of destruction.

I wish a check list could help you find your love for a lifetime. People do not fit on a checklist. People are so much more wonderful and complex. But do let this checklist guide you. Do not justify away something you read here because “he is different and loves you.” Here is a whole list of lies we tell ourselves to stay in relationships.  This is your opportunity to discern wisely, with your team, the who of who may be your love for a lifetime.

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