What are you looking for in the person you will marry? Should they read their Bible? Be fun to be with? Like the things you like? Be physically attractive and intelligent?
Allow me to let you in on a secret – most divorces don’t happen because a spouse was not intelligent or attractive enough, or because they were boring or didn’t read their Bible as much as the other person did.
Most marriages end over issues like lack of emotional connection, infidelity, anger, or criticism.
It’s OK to have preferences and tastes (and you should have), but there are certain traits that you should look out for if you are in a relationship headed towards marriage.
These traits have to do with character.
The outside of a person may attract you to them but the inside is what you will live with in marriage.
In any dating relationship there will be things you can live with and things you should not.
Here are some things you should not live with, they are red flags to be heeded:
The person gets jealous when you spend time with same-sex friends, is suspicious of your every move, or accuses you of seeing other people behind their back. (Obviously, if you spend more time with your friends than your girlfriend or boyfriend, this is a problem!) Jealousy will lead to false accusations or misinterpretation of circumstances. Relationships are built on trust, and jealousy and suspicion break that down.
Lying or dishonesty – in words or
This comes in many forms – making you feel stupid, mocking your mistakes, or not respecting your physical boundaries. Telling confidential stuff to others, persistent teasing when you’ve asked them to stop, shouting or swearing at you.
The person does not allow you the freedom to be yourself. Demanding you dress a certain way or getting angry when you don’t do things their way. Demanding to know where you are at all times. This can have a spiritual twist to it too – when a man insists that a woman should be subservient to him and obey him because the Bible says wives should submit to their husbands.
Deleting texts or emails so you can’t see them, won’t let you see their phone, tells you not to worry and laughs at your fears, or belittles you when you question them. Not being transparent about their life.
Laying the blame for relationship problems on you while not being prepared to change and adapt themselves. Something is amiss when one person is doing all the adapting while the other remains fixed.
A difference in spiritual values may not seem that significant before marriage, but it will prevent true harmony and understanding in the long term. Once children arrive the problem will be multiplied. This is a huge red flag.
Pornography issues will not be solved by getting married. It’s not a sex problem, it’s a heart problem. (Please read this post on whether you should marry someone who is into porn – it’s not a clear cut decision.) Addiction is serious. Don’t enable or excuse an addicted person because you want to marry them.
A resistance to owning or apologizing for mistakes. The person is self-righteous and gets defensive instead of being open to feedback when mistakes are pointed out.
A narcissistic person believes the world revolves around them. Their needs are paramount. Everyone else is to blame for their mistakes. They can be manipulative and demanding and use others to get what they want.
So, what should you do if you see any of these red flags?
These things don’t necessarily mean that the relationship is doomed, but they do need to be worked on.
a) Confront the problem directly without accusing. “I value honesty in our relationship. When you lie to me or to others I don’t like it. Honesty is the foundation of trust in a relationship and we can’t grow without it.”
b) See what kind of response you get. If the person takes ownership and apologizes, that is a good sign. One of the most important things you want to see in a future spouse is the willingness to adapt and work on faults. You aren’t looking for perfection, just a willingness to acknowledge mistakes and grow. Make sure you are with someone who can see when he or she is wrong and own it.
c) Watch for a pattern of sustained repentance, change, and follow-through. It may be necessary to take time away to wait for true change to happen. Don’t be afraid of losing someone who refuses to change. These things are too serious to be taken lightly and have the potential to make your life miserable for a very long time.
d) Only trust again and move forward if these red flags are no longer problems.
If you see any of these traits face them directly. Don’t make excuses for the person or refuse to acknowledge they have these faults.
Remember, because of the nature of human beings, relationships will be imperfect.
You are always going to be dating someone with flaws, but there are flaws you can live with and flaws you shouldn’t.
You will learn patience and acceptance through the ones you can live with as well as how to work through conflict.
But serious character flaws can injure and destroy you.
If the person you are with injures you, leaves you feeling bad about yourself or hurts you in other ways, you are dealing with things you should not be allowing.
Don’t move forward without doing something about these red flags.
Any red flags you could add to this list? What are some you have experienced? Are you tolerating things you shouldn’t be?
[i] Adapted from Boundaries in Dating, Cloud & Townsend, pg 104