ROSIE GROEN: I can recommend a romance checklist
Stilering: Nicola Rose. Grimering: Caroline Barnes by Frank Agency. Hare: Alex Szabo by Carol Hayes. Jumper, See by Chloe at Fenwick, Jeans, See by Chloe at Fenwick. Skoene, Jennifer Chamand
When I was a smug married I didn’t go in for relationship analysis. I didn’t know my ‘attachment style’ from my ‘intimacy blocks’; my ‘abandonment trauma’ from my ‘trust issues.’ I thought it was all a bit navel-gazing. But there’s nothing like your own marriage blowing up like a North Korean missile to make you re-evaluate.
Divorce made me think about how I had acted in my relationship – and how my behaviour might have contributed to its downfall.
So these days I’m more aware of the things that trigger me and the sometimes irrational responses that result. I know all the lingo. I can tell a narcissist from a control freak; a gaslighter from a hedonist. This means that in my new relationship, I’m looking for compatibility, emotional maturity and self-awareness – as opposed to ‘ooh, he looks nice in a T-shirt’.
It was early on in my dating odyssey that I first encountered the concept of red and green flags. A date had sent me the main points via WhatsApp then ticked off my qualities against a checklist. Gelukkig, I passed on most fronts (or maybe that’s just what I inferred).
Thanks to him I understand the concept of working out the yeses and nos you want from a partner. Some are obvious and don’t require a crash course in psychology to figure out. Take personal hygiene. That’s non-negotiable. It was a hard ‘no’ to the guy I met in a London café who hadn’t moved out of the student self-washing-hair phase. Ditto the man who told me that because you’re clean after a shower, you need never wash your towels.
It’s also about knowing yourself and what you can and can’t deal with. I couldn’t date a flouncer or anyone who could keep an argument going for days. I have friends who maintain the silent treatment for a week ‒ then by the end can’t even remember what they’re peeved about.
So, here are the green flags to look for in a potential suitor ‒ and the red to beware:
1 Self-responsibility. How much do you own your mistakes? Beware the man who blames everything on someone else: his predilection for five-day benders on his absent father or his lost job on his ‘psychopath’ boss.
2 Self-care. We are not asking for Gwyneth Paltrow-style clean eating or Daniel Craig levels of nattiness, just the basic ability to clothe and feed yourself.
3 Long-standing friendships. Pub or work ones don’t count because they are more about circumstance than choice.
4 Empathy. This is key.
5 Supports your personal growth. I take this to mean a partner that wants you to do well without being threatened by it.
6 Honouring boundaries. Emosioneel, seksueel en fisies. And they respect that stealing your expensive moisturiser is crossing the line.
1 They think you are perfect. This is thrilling at first but soon becomes like eating a giant bag of Celebrations – delightful, but sick-making.
2 They hide you from their friends. This says, ‘I’m keeping my options open.’
3 They rush relationship milestones. See point one. I once talked to a guy on a dating app and before I had even met him, he was booking me on a flight to his villa in Ibiza.
4 A different attitude towards money. If they’re a stingy tipper or don’t want to turn on the heating because ‘snow insulates’ – it will soon be discounted soaps for Christmas.
5 They can’t communicate. I refer you to my earlier flouncer comment.
6 They can’t apologise.
One green flag I love about my boyfriend is our sleep compatibility. I’m famously an early-peaker – dancing on the tables at eight, unconscious by 11pm. Only last week he passed out at 10pm, mid-dinner party.
He’s a keeper.