Often in the quest towards marriage and finding “the one,” something happens. It’s easy to overlook things that may not seem that big of a deal while dating, but these things could be destructive patterns once married. But love doesn’t have to be blind. There’s no reason to settle for unhealthy or harmful relationships, simply to pursue being married.
We all have sin issues that we deal with on a daily basis. We’ve all made mistakes that we often wish we could do-over. We all need the grace and freedom that only Christ Himself can offer. But our marriages are healthier when we recognize red flags in our dating relationships, instead of choosing not to see problems at all.
God cares about the decisions we make. He cares about who we marry. And we can trust He will give guidance, and help us see some red flags to be aware of along the way.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com
1. The Unbeliever
Marriage can be hard enough at times, add to that the pressure of deeper spiritual disconnect, and you may be in big trouble when the normal stressors of life occur. Missionary dating and marriage will be a road of extra struggle. If you hold vastly different spiritual beliefs now, don’t falsely assume you’ll get him to “turn around,” or change his ways later. It may happen, but it may not. Be careful not to settle for less than what God would want for the spiritual health and care of your marriage.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? - 2 Cor. 6:14
2. The Abuser
You are worth far too much to be abused by anyone. Ever. Move quickly away from anyone who brings you physical, verbal, or deep emotional harm. It’s not worth it to attach yourself to one who desperately needs help and freedom himself. You are not his saving grace. That is God’s work. Marriage is built on deep love and respect and this is most certainly no way to begin. See the warning signs for what they are. Believe you are valuable and precious to God. Say “no more” and move on.
The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. - Ps. 11:5
3. The Addict
This man needs freedom that can only come by admitting there’s a problem and seeking counseling, professional help, and the strength that God can bring. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, or pornography will lead to destruction. And though your relationship may seem to challenge him in the right direction, don’t be fooled that he’ll so quickly “give it all up for you,” without the aid and accountability of professional help. You are not the one to set him free and your role is not to try to change him. Only God can.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything." 1 Cor. 6:12
4. The Narcissist
If your boyfriend cares more about what he looks like in the mirror on any given day, than what you do, or can’t seem to get enough of his “greatness,” you may have trouble ahead. No matter how handsome, talented, and charming one may seem, marriage is built on the word “together.” If the relationship before marriage seems a bit one-sided, emphasis on “his side,” it may be destined for struggle. Your life should be greatly cherished by the man who calls you his wife. Humility, compassion, love, and respect towards others are much more admirable characteristics than simply the externals.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. - 2 Tim. 3:2-5
5. The Controller
What seems to be disguised early on as “I’m only trying to help,” can really be a deep need for control and a heart of jealousy. This man will dominate and strive to make every decision for you, decide who you should spend time or who you should no longer see. The one driven by control needs will have continual issues with whether he can “trust you.” Often, under the grasp of the controller, you may start to feel like you can hardly breath. It’s suffocating. It’s supposed to be, that’s how he holds you in his grasp. Be free. This is not your problem to fix. It’s God’s.
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. - James 3:16
6. The Angry, Hot-tempered Man
A man who cannot control his temper before you’re married, will most certainly be a man who cannot control his temper after you’re married. In most cases, it will worsen. No matter what our personality type, it still doesn’t give us room to plow over anyone in our pathway with harsh words and rants. Take time in different scenarios to see how he responds, especially under pressure. How does he act on the ball field? In traffic? When the waiter gets the order messed up? When the pressures mount at work? When you’re running late? The key is – does he realize it’s an area of weakness that he desires for God to help him change? If the answer is “no,” steer clear.
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered - Prov. 22:24
7. The Man Still Tied to Mama
We all love a man who loves his Mom. There is deep respect for those who care for and show love to their parents. Yet sometimes the lines get blurred. When the guy you’re dating still has every bill paid by his parents, they control every decision he makes, and he cares more about what Mama thinks than what you think - newsflash – struggle is ahead. One of the number one causes of divorce is relationship difficulty with in-laws. No family is perfect, but be sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to leaving, cleaving, and uniting as one. If there is trouble with drawing healthy boundaries before you’re married, there most definitely will be trouble later.
'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? - Matt. 19:5
8. The Flirt, Cheat, Tempter
Behaviors established before marriage are not going to magically go away once you say “I do.” Sexual sin can be a deep trap of the enemy and once ensnared in these destructive patterns, they are difficult to break. The mistakes of the past should hold no control over our present and future. Watch for behaviors that signal trouble. Is he respectful to women? Does he flirt with your best friend or the waitress at dinner? Is he begging you to sleep with him? Red flag. Be careful that you have wisdom to see the true heart before you enter covenant relationship with one entrenched in sexual sin. You are worthy of respect, the one who loves you, will wait for you.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. - 1 Cor. 6:18
9. The Liar
Every marriage must be built on trust. Without this as a firm foundation, you’re in for trouble from the beginning. So what about those “little white lies” you started noticing along the way? In reality, there’s no such thing as little white lies. Any lie is meant to hide, deceive, or manipulate truth. There is no room for dishonesty in a healthy, loving relationship. It’s a dangerous trap and you will always be left wondering what he’s hiding.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish. - Prov. 19:9
10. The One with Destructive Money or Work Habits
If you’re supporting your boyfriend and paying for everything now - this may not change much later. Is he a hard worker? Does he have a job? Is he a workaholic? Does he have secretive spending habits? Addiction to gambling? Insurmountable debt? Once married, these patterns can worsen when the stressors of family life and responsibilities mount high. Money problems and financial struggles are one of the main causes of divorce. Have the discussions before you’re married. Decide upfront if the two of you can agree on the big issues.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. - Prov. 13:20
While You Are Waiting
Pray that God will guide and give you wisdom. Ask for His protection and help in making the best choices about any relationship.
-Believe the best about yourself. You are valuable, you are treasured by God. Do not believe the lies that you need to settle for one you can’t fully trust, or may not treat you respectfully or lovingly.
-Trust Him with your future. We may not have it all figured out or be able to see what, or who, is ahead. But He knows. His timing is perfect. His ways are good. He’s often at work behind the scenes where we can’t see. Don’t think for a minute He’s forgotten you. He cares. And He has the power to do great things.
Debbie McDaniel is a pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids and a few too many pets, dramatist and writer. She has a heart to communicate God's hope though the everyday moments of life - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ones that take your breath away. A lover of every sunrise, forever needy of His grace, this Texas girl finds joy in the simple gift of each new day. Debbie invites you to join her at www.freshdayahead.com.
Originally published Tuesday, 13 December 2016.