"Beige Flags" Are the New Red Flags—How to Spot Them in Your Relationship
Experts weigh in on how they differ from red, yellow, and green flags.
"That's a red flag," is a phrase you might hear when telling your friends about a new significant other. While these are subjective depending on your preferences and needs in a relationship, more often than not, one major red flag is enough to be a total dealbreaker. However, with "beige flags"—a new term that's gone viral on TikTok—that's not always the case.
"Red flags—those deal-breaking issues that we want to notice and avoid—are often easy to spot once you know what to look for. However, beige flags—the little flaws or quirks that might be easy to overlook—can be problematic even if they aren't obvious dealbreakers," clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Date Smart, tells Best Life. "When dating, we often notice a person's quirks and factor them into the overall equation. If they aren't too odd, a person's little quirks can even be endearing. However, if a person's oddities are perceived as strange or irritating, it's likely a beige flag."
Experts have a few suggestions for identifying beige flags in your relationship—and what you should do if you find they're more concerning than cute. Read on if you want to know what to look out for.
There's a wide variety of potential beige flags.
Abbey Sangmeister, therapist and life coach, tells Best Life that beige flags make you stop and say "hmm" about another person. You may pause if you notice they have a different routine or habits—but while it might take you by surprise, it's not necessarily a bad thing.
"An example of a beige flag could be something as simple as the person having a very specific way of folding their clothes, always needing to put hot sauce on everything, or always leaving empty or almost-empty water glasses lying around," Sangmeister says.
Other examples on TikTok include a boyfriend who simultaneously orders two drinks at breakfast, a girlfriend who has barely seen any movies (even famous ones), and a husband who goes through TSA PreCheck without his wife at the airport.
Another TikToker said her boyfriend's beige flag is that he always asks the waitstaff what to order "no matter how awkward or embarrassed the waiter looks when he asks"—and someone else shared that her husband's beige flag is that he is "so nonchalant and unbothered about everything" that he never asks for additional, often important, details.
"His brother is divorcing his wife. Why? He never asked. His best friend got a new job. Where? He has no clue," the text overlaying the last video reads.
Beige flags are different than yellow flags.
Red flags spell trouble, and there are also green flags, which are indicators that you might have found the right partner. Beige and yellow flags fall between those two ends of the spectrum—and they're not the same. Yellow flags, much like yellow lights, are one step removed from red flags, while beige means something else entirely.
"Beige flags are those signs that feel neither good nor bad but have a sense of being off, weird, quirky, or something you just aren't sure of. Beige flags make you stop and think, but don't make you feel like they are a yellow flag that needs more attention," Sangmeister says.
They will differ in person and online.
According to Beth Ribarksy, PhD, professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, beige flags present differently depending on how you communicate.
"In face-to-face connections, it could include anything that might make you give your partner the side-eye," she says, noting that there may also be a deeper reason for their actions. "Do they insist on eating pizza with a fork and knife? (Maybe they're particular about keeping clean hands.) Do they always put a throw pillow on their stomach when they sit on a couch or a chair? (Maybe they're self-conscious about their belly.) Do they always lick the outside of their glass after they take a sip? (Maybe they're afraid of making a mess… or maybe want to savor every drop of life.)"
When it comes to online dating profiles or communication, however, a beige flag could be a lackluster profile or impersonal messages
"It might indicate a lack of energy, effort, or investment in finding a partner or may point to a lack of creativity," Ribarsky explains. "Or, they might only have one photo, which could point to the possibility of being a catfish or having something to hide. These also should make people a bit more aware about what they're putting in their own profiles to avoid waving your own beige flags."
Trust your gut when thinking about how these quirks may impact your relationship.
Sangmeister points out that beige flags can also shift to red, yellow, or green—and if you do notice this change, Manly recommends checking in with yourself mentally and emotionally.
"You can spot beige flags in your relationship by taking an honest, nonjudgmental look at how your gut is responding to another person's quirks," Manly says. "While it's important not to judge others, it is important for us to be able to discern what we enjoy or don't enjoy about another person's attitude, behaviors, and appearance."
She continues, "When beige flags arise, we want to notice them without judgment; this helps us take note of why we find a certain trait or quality a bit strange or bothersome. By taking this mindful, compassionate approach, we can honestly look at whether the issue would be troublesome in the long run."
Take action if you're worried they could turn into red flags.
Manly uses the example of an odd laugh that you might eventually find charming, which is a happy ending for a beige flag. But these neat resolutions don't happen in every relationship.
"Depending on your personality and experiences, you also might find a certain laugh so grating that it becomes a big issue," she says. "As another example, you might notice that a person is a bit quirky when it comes to spending money. Just notice the beige flag to see if the behavior is just a bit odd or if the person is miserly or stingy to the core."
Ribarsky also notes that these beige flags shouldn't constantly occupy your thoughts. If this is the case, consider talking to your partner and recognize that you might just "not fully understand" how or why they have these behaviors. But beyond your own annoyance, if you and your partner are arguing over a beige flag—or you find that it actually goes against your morals—then it's become a red flag, Sangmeister says.
Lastly, Ribarsky cautions that multiple beige flags can spell trouble.
"If you're finding a parade of beige flags, it is likely a good sign this potential partner isn't a good fit for you," she says. "You'll ultimately spend too much time thinking about these flags than on developing a strong foundation for your relationship. Or, if a beige flag is suddenly giving you that gut-check ick factor, it is time to call it quits."
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