10 Red Flags You Shouldn't Ignore When You're Dating

woman looking worried at phone sitting in a restaurant, red flags to not ignore while dating

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and that can’t be more true as you look back on dating relationships from the past. When the relationship ended, you probably felt devastated. The pain made your heart break, and you wondered if it would ever heal. After all, breakups are like a death and have to be mourned. It’s the death of a relationship, friendship, hopes and dreams, and memories. Then time passes. You begin to feel grateful for the path the relationship took. You can see God’s provision in it and how He spared you from future hurt, or how He had a different and better plan entirely.

Regardless of how a relationship ends, the goal of every healthy dating relationship, if it doesn’t end in marriage, is for the two people to leave each other better than they found them. In God-honoring dating relationships, selflessness and edification should be the motive. In ideal circumstances, two people break up because they discern that they’re not compatible or their relationship isn’t God’s will for their lives—not because one of them has hurt the other one.

For years I called myself a “recovering single.” This name came from my need to recover from the mistakes I made when I was a single woman. I now tell single women that you bring into marriage everything you struggled with as a single—that includes past relationships. The memories linger even though I am "recovered."

I wish my discerning eyesight was as clear back then as it is now. I would have saved myself a lot of time, regret, and hurt. In an effort to use my experiences for good, here are ten red flags to watch out for while dating.

The first three are the most important and non-negotiable for a Jesus-follower. If the man you are dating or want to date does not possess these three criteria, then you should not date him. However, the other seven are red flags that may need discernment. If they are present in a relationship, then it’s wise to slow down, pray, and think with logic.

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  • Man and woman sitting in a park looking mad

    1. He Doesn’t Profess Jesus as His Savior


    Women are notorious for missionary dating—dating someone with the hopes that he will start following Jesus. However, I give the advice that you need to date someone based on who he is today, not who you hope he will be tomorrow. If you are a Jesus-follower, then everyone you date should also be a Jesus-follower. This is your first criteria for dating. You can’t always help who you fall in love with. The dilemma of being in love with someone who doesn't follow Jesus brings much anguish.

    2. He’s Not Already Active in Spiritual Disciplines

    Many people say they are Christians or Jesus-followers, but they aren’t active in church, they don’t read their Bibles, and they do not have a habit of prayer. It’s tempting to make exceptions and date a person like this anyway. Again, we do so with the hope that they’ll change or practice these disciplines with us. However, how a person typically spends his time is a good indication of his priorities. You want a man who participates in spiritual disciplines without your influence because this reveals his true heart for God. Looking even further down the road, you want the man you marry and who becomes the father of your children to lead your children, take them to church, and pray with them even when you’re not around.

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  • two oxen yoked together working in a field

    3. You’re Not Equally-Yoked


    If you’ve been a Christian for a while then you have heard the Christianese term “equally yoked.” This comes from 2 Corinthians 6:14 where Paul warns us to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Throughout the Old Testament God gives the Israelites this same warning. But what does it mean to be unequally yoked? The term comes from two oxen who share a wooden bar. The wooden bar joins them together so that they can equally carry the burden of the task given to them. However, if the oxen have different strengths or are different sizes, then they cannot work together to get the task done. Instead, they work against each other.

    Excuses such as "we'll participate in faith separately," "he grew up with a different background," or "he'll participate after we're married" create an unequal load, like the oxen. Instead of working together towards the common goal of serving glorifying Jesus together, you'll work against each other.

    4. He is Estranged from Family Members

    Life is messy. Stories of abuse, addiction, and other painful circumstances poison families. In some instances, distancing from a family member is the wisest choice. However, as you date a man and discern marriage, you, too, have to be wise. Estrangement from family members should cause you to watch, listen, learn, and prayerfully discern whether you should bring yourself into that dynamic. If your dating relationship becomes a marriage, then his family becomes your family. You will take on that dysfunction.

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  • upset mother in law looking at happy couple

    5. Your Family and Close Friends Have Reservations


    We have all known friends in bad dating relationships. It’s like watching a runaway train that you can’t stop. From the outside looking in it’s so obvious. But the two people in love are either oblivious or in denial.

    If your family or friends have legitimate reservations about a person you are dating, it is prudent to pay attention. It is likely that they see something you do not see and even cannot see. Of course, sometimes motives are not pure. However, through prayer, you should be able to discern whether to continue the relationship or not.

    6. He Has an Unhealthy Relationship with His Mom

    In my experience, I have seen very few healthy adult mom/son relationships. This has always intrigued me. Of course, I do not have an adult son, so I do not know what it is like to watch your little boy grow up and become dependent upon a woman besides his mother. However, from what I’ve seen, many moms struggle with seeing this change of hands. They become clingy, controlling, or even resentful towards the man’s girlfriend or wife. If the mom is in an unhealthy marriage, then her son can unknowingly become a pseudo-husband for her.

    It is natural for there to be some level of unease when a son starts dating or marries. The sign to look for, though, is mutual dependence that is not natural. In a healthy situation, the mom accepts and adheres to Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

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  • man yelling at coworker or employee looking upset

    7. He Treats People of Lower Status Differently Than Other People


    We can learn a lot about someone by observing how they treat people in public, especially people who are in a position of service—such as a waiter or cashier—or people in a position of lower social status—such as homeless people. This reveals a heart of pride and entitlement. It also reveals the value he puts on human life. Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and serving those we come in contact with by being kind to them is the most basic place to start.

    8. You’re in Couples Counseling While Dating

    I have told young women before, “Your worst day as a single person becomes your best day in a bad marriage.” Marriage is beautiful and wonderful, but it is also hard. Someone in the healthiest, happiest marriage will admit this truth. We romanticize marriage, and we should. Romance gives us the desire to get married. This is why those early years of dating and engagement should be some of the most lighthearted years of our whole relationship. We should look back on them with nostalgia and peace.

    When there are serious conflicts while dating, conflicts that require counseling, it’s wise to discern whether the relationship is right. The need for counseling will most definitely come in marriage. If there’s already a need while dating, then you’ll feel like you’re climbing uphill.

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  • man and woman looking unsure and confused looking away from each other

    9. He Doesn’t Have a Secure Job or Plan for the Future


    Proverbs 24:27 gives us good advice. It says, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” In this verse, there is an order with moving forward with plans. First, prepare and get ready. If the person you are dating does not have a job or firm plans for the future, then it’s wise to take a step back. This is even truer if there are signs of laziness or lack of motivation.

    10. He Has a Negative View Towards Women

    Since the Garden of Eden, women have been viewed as less-than compared to men. This is a part of Satan’s master plan to oppress an entire gender so that they cannot be used by God. However, when we look at the life of Jesus we see that He changed all of this. He showed us the true value of women and that He sees them as respectable, honored, and cherished. For the first time, Jesus elevated the status of women by the way He treated them.

    Men who do not see women in the same way as Jesus does reveal a deep heart issue. It’s wise to observe how the man you’re dating talks about women and treats women—women in his family, including his mom, but also women in public. If there is any derogatory language or an attitude of arrogance, control, or bitterness, then it is a red flag.

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    Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on BrendaRodgers.com and follow her on Twitter.