We are so pleased to have Debra Whitson and her professional advice for you! For more info on her agency and services, please see the link in her bio. Thank you!


As a mediator and collaborative divorce practitioner, I’ve unfortunately seen more than my fair share of unhealthy relationships. Perhaps that’s why it always mystifies me that relationship advice more often focuses on negatives like spotting the red flags when simply the absence of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found Mr./Ms. Right.

So instead, let’s focus on positives like how to know if you are in a healthy relationship! 

man and woman opening a gift on a sofaFor most of us, a major life goal is to be in a happy, healthy relationship. So, it seems counterintuitive to focus on red flags. Not to say you should ignore them – at all – but the negative mindset that may come from always being on the lookout for them could do more harm than good.

In my experience, these green flags are a better way to determine if you’re on the right path. Here are my green flags to help you determine this in your marriage or partnership:

Green Flags for Healthy Relationships

🟢 You’re comfortable expressing yourself: About anything and everything. Sure, some topics may give you more pause before opening the discussion, but you should never have to fear your significant other’s response. If you respect each other’s opinions, even when they differ, that’s key.

🟢 You’re still able to be you: Becoming a couple doesn’t mean you have to morph into one entity. Being comfortable giving each other the space to grow as individuals, to have your own space, and to pursue different interests without feeling the need to change yourself to suit the other person is a wonderful thing. It can actually bring you closer.

🟢 You trust each other: This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. Yes, each person may bring baggage and/or trauma into the relationship that could cause the trust to take longer to earn. But once it’s there, you can each enjoy the vulnerability and freedom you deserve.

🟢 You meet in the middle: This is really twofold. First, you and your significant other share common interests, values and goals (again, not to the point where you diminish your own identity). Second, in those areas in which you differ, you are able to compromise with each other in a way that’s mindful of both your needs.

🟢 You can let it go: Cue Elsa’s beautiful rendition! But it’s true, sometimes you just have to pick your battles. There’s no reason to be a pushover, but not feeling compelled to hang on to every grievance to use to your advantage later is a great sign. Another great sign is that you enjoy each other’s company more than you enjoy arguing with each other.

🟢 You support each other: This is similar to the second flag above. Beyond just giving each other the space to pursue your dreams, you actively support and encourage each other to do so. No matter how boring you might find your significant other’s pursuits to be (we won’t tell)! What’s more, you’re not threatened by each other’s success.

🟢 You accept each other: Everyone has a past, and it’s really hard to build a relationship in the present, and for the future, if you can’t accept the one your significant other has. Yes, it may be different from your experience or the decisions you would have made, but it’s what made them who they are today. 

🟢 You make the effort: More specifically, both of you do. It doesn’t have to be a big romantic gesture (although every now and then wouldn’t hurt), but it is making time for each other, doing little things to show you care. And keep flirting with each other, for goodness sake! It makes a huge difference in keeping the connection strong.

couple standing together against the backdrop of a sunsetFor more information on our virtual coaching and mediation services, or for a free consultation, contact us today.


Debra Whitson Divorce and Mediation LawyerDebra Whitson has been practicing law for more than 20 years, delivering focused solutions guided by compassion and trust. For the first half of her legal career, Debra was a special victims prosecutor, pursuing justice for crime victims, particularly women and children. She was the first female Assistant District Attorney serving Essex County and is a recognized expert in the fields of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. This passion for helping families led Debra to family law, and to pursue collaborative divorce and mediation. 

Today, Debra works hands-on with her clients to learn their short-term objectives and long-range goals. Through this, she develops tailored options and explores how/if those options align with the client’s values, budget, risk tolerance, etc. She then co-produces strategies with her clients that will offer the best chance for advancing the client’s objectives/goals. Debra believes that there may be many paths to get you to where you want to be and advises clients to choose a path that aligns with their values. Through Mediated Online Solutions, she puts her passion for peaceful dispute resolution to work for couples who seek a dignified and self-directed way to separate, divorce, or co-parent. That same spirit guides Whitson&Tansey’s commitment to fighting for social justice and human rights by focusing on the firm’s practice on domestic violence, matrimonial, and family law.

Debra’s driving goal is to let her clients feel heard, cared for, and respected, and get as many people as possible to resolve conflicts in peaceful, respectful ways—in all spheres. 

Awards: Debra is a two-time recipient of the Excellence in Domestic Violence Awareness andAdvocacy Award from the Essex County New York Multidisciplinary Task Force Against Domestic Violence, and she has been recognized for excellence in appellate advocacy from the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation. 

In her spare time, Debra works with Zonta International to improve the lives of women and girls in her local community and around the globe. She loves to travel, good food and wine, tennis, and spending time with her husband and children enjoying all of the outdoor activities available in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State where they make their home

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