From frenzied dancing at formal wedding receptions to crying over a movie star's eventual marriage, how much can you handle in a relationship? TikTok has a new term for such quirky behaviours and eccentricities: Beige flags. Weird, usually benign, possibly endearing, but might mean trouble later. As one user explained, a beige flag makes a potential partner or a partner pause and say “Huh?” for a few seconds before continuing.
Abu Dhabi-based Moira Johnson wanted to hide behind the bushes during a quiet formal wedding reception when her partner decided to “liven it up”, by singing the grunge track Smells Like Teen Spirit from the band Nirvana. “He didn’t know half the words after ‘Hello, hello’ and so that hello part went on for a long time. He even pulled some terrible dance moves because I had earlier made the mistake of teasing him about his non-existent dancing skills,” she recalls.
No one came near the couple that night, and Johnson nervously mentions that she didn’t even want to venture near the newlyweds to congratulate them. She didn’t know how to stop her partner; they had just started seeing each other.
Deepa Singh from Dubai hasn’t forgotten her friend’s shock when her partner zoned out of a conversation with her friends and suddenly started analysing the violence in fairytales. “Later, he told me that he was so bored by everyone’s conversations that he was just trying to talk about something interesting,” says Singh. “We were all talking seriously about a work-related problem and suddenly he starts talking about some gruesome and violent version of Cinderella,” she says.
One Dubai-based entrepreneur says that she has discovered that her partner likes keeping several cookie boxes under their bed and snacks on them at night when stressed, refusing to share it with her. Another corporate manager recalls that he once went on a couple of dates, with a girl who was a fan of the K-Pop band BTS. “Everything was fine, and I didn’t mind the conversations about K-pop. She kept talking about them, and I listened. But then it went on and on and then one evening she revealed that she was genuinely sad as she believed that one of them had a girlfriend, but she had now ‘accepted it’. And then she kept talking about it for the rest of the evening. I drew the line there, and said goodbye,” he says.
Beige, red, or green flags
The beige flag is the latest addition to the flag family, and it lies somewhere awkwardly between the red and the green. The red is something everyone is aware of; it is a sign of a toxic and harmful person. For example, if your partner insists on keeping a tab on you or reading your messages. A green flag is when you and your partner are well-suited for each other, and the situation seems jovial, overall.
Sharin Shafer, a matchmaking expert from Bond, The Agency, explains a beige flag as a quirk, which can possibly be reframed as an endearing habit. However, this reframing works if this habit does not go against your value system. "It is all about balance,” she says. “Red flags are helpful as they keep us away from dangerous situations or toxic relationships that could cause us harm or hurt or both. But in the case of beige flags, these are just things that you want to keep your eye on to ensure that in the long run they are simply a manageable quirk, rather than an idiosyncrasy that is likely to become a real nuisance, which will ultimately become a bone of contention within your relationship,” she says.
What are beige flags?
Beige flags aren’t necessarily deal breakers; usually they’re just a nudge for you to take note before they cross into the problematic territory. The psychologists and wellness experts break down the latest term for us.
“When we first start seeing someone, it is common to overlook minor issues and quirks that might be warning signs of a deeper problems,” says Athiya Kabir, a Dubai-based mental health practitioner at Chearful.com. “These signs can cause probable issues in the relationship and potentially harm mental health in the long run.” Essentially, it’s often a slightly strange personality trait and behaviour that hasn’t yet traversed into full-blown weirdness, but could possibly have the potential to do so.
When we first start seeing someone, it is common to overlook minor issues and quirks that might be warning signs of a deeper problems. These signs can cause probable issues in the relationship and potentially harm mental health in the long run...
Explaining the “trend” of beige flags, she notes that people have started sharing videos of people’s quirks that aren’t necessarily good or bad, but could indicate an underlying issue. “For instance, showing up late, could be considered a quirk, but it can also indicate a lack of respect for a partner’s time,” she says.
No one is perfect, reminds Charlotte Spurway, a Dubai-based psychologist. “Every single person has their beige and red flags. We all have baggage. What is important is, how much do these flags align with us and our lives,” she says. Everyone has different and unique habits, and they make us different from others. It could also be their way of coping with stress or anxiety, she explains. It’s just a habit that makes you think, “Okay, I’ll keep a watch on that.” For instance, if your partner decides to suddenly play the saxophone at midnight to ease his anxiety, see if you want to address it as you can’t sleep, or maybe learn to let it go and sleep with earphones.
We all have baggage. What is important is, how much do these flags align with us and our lives. Everyone has different and unique habits, and they make us different from others...
Should you worry about a beige flag?
You might not need to worry about your partner ordering a Hawaiian pizza and then picking out the pineapples. Some traits could be considered beige flags, as they are synonymous with benign behavours, like insisting on eating pizza on Fridays or fighting for the window-seat on a train. If it’s really not affecting you, then why bother, asks Shafer. “Rather than categorise these types of behaviours as beige flags, why not view it as your potential partner being self-assured enough to know their own mind and what they do or don’t like, especially if their particular beige flags and quirks are not of great importance to you or likely to irritate you,” she says.
However, some beige flags could mean trouble. For example, if your partner never seems to have follow-up questions to any decision that you make, then you might need to address it in the long run. Some beige flags might actually be red flags in disguise, or can devolve into red later.
Rather than categorise these types of behaviours as beige flags, why not view it as your potential partner being self-assured enough to know their own mind and what they do or don’t like, especially if their particular beige flags and quirks are not of great importance to you or likely to irritate you
There are many signs of beige flags that might need to be addressed. Spurway points out how to catch the potential beige flags in the beginning of a relationship. “When you first start seeing someone, and they ‘love-bomb’ you with bouquets, chocolates and a constant stream of affection, this might be a sign to slow things down,” she says. You might at first think it’s romantic and sweet. While there’s normal healthy excitement when you start seeing someone, it shouldn’t go into an overdrive. Else, this could give away to an unhealthy co-dependency in the relationship later.
The other signs that beige flags could be heading into the red territory are if you notice behavioural and personality changes within yourself, says Spurway. If you notice that you aren’t seeing your friends often, or dropping some hobbies because your partner might not like it, then that could be a warning sign. If you are in a state of permanent cringe at your partner’s habits and mannerisms, that could also mean trouble.
You need to start discounting beige flags when they go against your value system or a deeper personality trait, says Shafer. It could mean that you are not compatible in the long-term. “One example of this is if your potential match is a stringent timekeeper and you are always running late,” she explains. “Unless this disconnect is addressed and rectified early on in the relationship, because you both really think it is worth doing as the relationship shows great promise, then over time resentment can build and eventually this sort of beige flag may turn into a red flag as time passes,” she says.
Kabir describes a range of other signs that include poor communication skills constantly just giving snark about others, which might seem funny at first, but could also be a hidden red flag. She also cites lack of emotional availability. “For instance, if they seem emotionally guarded, or keep interrupting, changing the topic of conversation, or just not listening,” she says. If you noticed that you are drained, anxious, embarrassed by them, or feel something is off, then, you need to address these problems.
How do you address a beige flag?
Dubai-based Dianne Taffe (name changed on request), a school teacher, is resigned to the fact that her husband randomly wanders off in the middle of a conversation with a group of people. “I’m used to it now. They’ll suddenly ask, ‘Is he okay, where is he going?’ And now, I just say, ‘Yeah he does that.’ I think people are used to it now,” she says. Tamanna Menon, an Abu Dhabi-based homemaker proudly calls herself a beige flag as she enjoys collecting scented soaps and has a wardrobe full of them. Clearly, her husband doesn’t mind this at all. These are the flags that people can make peace with.
However, if you do have issues with beige flags, you need to communicate and speak to people openly, says Shafer. “It is highly likely they will have identified your beige flags, and this can be a great opportunity for you to discover what they are and about the quirky behaviours you have that make others pause for thought. Communication is key to a healthy relationship—beige flags or not,” she says.
“Very often, it is those little quirks and differences that define a personality and who someone is. If you are attracted to that person, it may be the case that you were drawn to them not in spite of but because of those eccentricities,” adds Shafer.
Kabir explains specific steps that you could take to address the problem. “Be specific about what is bothering you, and without using accusatory language. Listen to your partner, and try to understand the reason behind their quirks and actions. Ask if they need help, and see if it’s something that you can compromise, and find solutions that work for both of you,” she advises.