As women, we grow up dreaming about whom we’ll someday marry. We watch countless romantic movies and read fairy tales about Prince Charming. We have Pinterest boards for planning the big wedding day. We make lists of traits we’d love to see in a future husband, longing for Mr. Right. Often our expectations loom big. And in our quest for the happily ever after, we may start to feel like we have to settle.
Often when our interests are sparked and feelings are flowing, we can get swept away and even lose sight of what is true. Yet, love doesn’t have to be blind. There’s no reason to settle for relationships that are unhealthy or even harmful.
God cares about you. He cares about the one you marry. And you can trust He will give guidance or even some red flags to be aware of along the way.
10 Characteristics that Should Raise a Red Flag:
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Prov. 13:20
One truth – Nothing is impossible with God. Absolutely nothing. If you find these traits in one you love, or even in yourself, the hope is that He doesn’t leave us on our own to try to figure it all out. He brings help and healing for any situation.
There is no pit too deep, no road too far traveled that His love can’t reach us still. There are no bags from the past too big for Him to shoulder, and help us to unpack, one small piece at a time. He will not grow weary. He will never give up on us.
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. Pray for His truth to bring freedom.
Believe the best about yourself. You are valuable, you are treasured by God. Do not believe the lies that you are “less than,” or 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.