Have you ever been in a situation where all the facts told you it’s not going to work, but you tried to make it work anyway?
I definitely have.
I think of the time I traveled overseas and attempted to cram my luggage with about 10 pounds more than I should have. A few hours later, I was dealing with a busted bag and my stuff strewn across the airport floor, just moments before my flight.
But even more applicable, I think of the different guys I dated in my twenties, who were loaded with yellow and even red flags. I wanted to be in a relationship so badly that I downplayed the warning signs and tried to make it work. Thank God He spared me and gave me the wisdom to move away before things got serious.
A lot of us do the same thing when it comes to choosing relationships. Whether we’re swept away by emotion or driven by our fear of failure, we often walk into a relationship or stay in a relationship in which all the facts clearly tell us, “It ain’t gonna work.” Yet we try to make it work anyway.
But the thing about healthy relationships is that they’re never forced. The facts and the feelings go hand in hand, paving the way for trust, communication and growth along the way. When it comes to building a healthy relationship, it’s important to have the right ingredients. Just like baking a cake, you can’t pour a cup of salt into the batter and expect it to taste right.
I’ve witnessed countless relationships in which people were dealing with the wrong ingredients, yet still hoping to get it right. While I believe in a God who heals and transforms lives, the truth of the matter is many times we take the reins and try to change people we’re dating, instead of stepping back and allowing God to do His work in their lives.
Everyone has faults, and of course we’re called to stand by people as they work through baggage, but the qualities below are major red flags, especially if the person isn’t taking steps work through them:
The Unaware Addict
Whether we’re talking food, sex, drugs, alcohol, porn, gambling or video games—an addiction is any harmful activity upon which our lives and well-being revolve. Addictions begin to impact the life of the person involved by slowly taking more, and more of their lives, leaving no room for anyone or anything else. We’re not simply talking about a struggle here, we’re talking about a stronghold. There’s a difference.
A true addiction is not something you can simply decide to walk away from, because its roots always run deep. It grips your life and slowly seeps into every part of who you are. A person who is deep in addiction is not fit to be in a dating relationship, much less consider marriage, until they have at least started down the path toward recovery.
Healing from an addiction requires time, energy and self-focus. If you’re dating an addict, there’s a good chance one of two things are happening: either you are hindering their healing, or they are hindering your growth. Step away before someone gets seriously hurt.
Once upon a time, I met a woman whose boyfriend lied a lot. He’d lie about the small things—like how late he was working or how much money he had in his pocket. And then even the big things—like where he was or who he was hanging out with. And because of her love and commitment to him, she found herself making excuses for him.
Fast forward six years, and their marriage is falling apart as the walls of trust completely crumbled.
If you don’t have honesty in a relationship, you don’t have trust. And if you don’t have trust in a relationship, you have no relationship at all. A person who can’t be real about big things and small things alike is a person who has something to hide.
Abuse comes in different shapes, forms and voices. Whether we’re talking about the manipulation of emotional and psychological abuse, the coercion of sexual abuse or the twisting of God’s word in spiritual abuse—an abusive relationship is a relationship in which one person uses his or her power or position to control and harm another person.
But healthy relationships are never a one-sided thing. They’re not about power, manipulation or control, but rather, they’re about two people loving, giving, serving and sacrificing for one another.
Abuse in any form has no place under the umbrella of a sacrificial and loving marriage.
One of the biggest patterns I see in unhealthy or toxic relationships has to do with this specific trait, because it’s not as obvious as the rest. The emotionally unavailable person is someone who is not involved, connected or engaged in the relationship. Usually, this person is distracted by other things. Something (or someone) is taking his or her attention away from the relationship.
This could be the alcoholic, the workaholic or the chronic cheater, but the idea is they all have this one thing in common: they’re not fully invested. And they never will be.
So many times, men and women stick around in these empty relationships, waiting for things to change. But a one-sided dating relationship will always equal a one-sided marriage, because what you see in dating doesn’t change just because you put a ring on their finger. Save yourself the heartache and grief by choosing better for your life and relationships.
The Unapologetic Narcissist
The healthiest of marriages are made of two people who are giving, loving and serving one another. So then why do we settle for much less in our dating relationships?
A narcissist is someone so obsessed with him or herself that they don’t have the capacity to focus on someone else. This is the kind of person with the mentality that “it’s all about me.” They live their lives as a party of one, even when they’re in a committed relationship. They make choices, decisions and plans based only on what’s best for them, rather than taking their partner into consideration. They live their life to get ahead, no matter how it might hurt or impact the people around them. And a person who is doing life alone now is a person who won’t be able to do life together later.
Dating is a great time to identify the red flags in a relationship long before there’s a ring on your finger. Once you see them, remember that red means stop, and then muster the courage you need to move away and get healthy. Marriage is about choosing someone to walk with you through the journey of life. And it’s a long journey—so be sure to choose well.
This article originally appeared on truelovedates.com. Used here with permission.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.