It’s easy to create lists of relational warning signs: things you need to watch out for. Those are important, and we need to take them seriously.
But enough with the bad news. What about the good?
Even if failed relationships are all you’ve had to this point, here is a helpful perspective: You can’t change your past, but you can change direction now.
Whether you are in a relationship now or hoping for better in your future, here are five positive signs your relationship could go the distance.
Sign 1: You are both physically attracted and spiritually compatible.
While looks and physical chemistry aren’t enough to sustain a romantic relationship, those things do matter. Physical attraction is a real consideration, and if you’re not attracted to a person, by all means move on. Some Christians have a very odd tendency to disregard physical attraction as long as the other person loves Jesus. But this is romance, not a Bible quiz.
More Christians are on the opposite end of that spectrum, however, meaning they overlook a person’s walk, or lack thereof, with God as a deciding factor on whether or not they should date them. The truth is, whether or not both parties love Jesus should be an absolute deal breaker.
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul actually makes a concession concerning divorce for believers left by an unbelieving spouse, saying to let them leave. “For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Or you, husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?”
That, among many other scriptures, should bring real clarity as to whether or not a Christian should ever embark on a romantic relationship assuming that faith in or serious commitment to Jesus will come later.
Sign 2: You have real conversations about things that matter most.
Simply put, we date people because of how they make us feel, but we break up with them because of who they are. We come to recognize some fundamental incompatibility we have with them that we did not see until we were deeply involved.
People in good dating relationships explore matters that will vitally support or disintegrate the relationship long term. When you talk about your ideas of family and how you envision the roles of a career or ministry in your life, do you share a great degree of common understanding? If so, be very encouraged.
Sign 3: People you care about approve of the relationship.
While not everyone’s opinion deserves influence in our lives, we must also acknowledge the importance of counsel from wise friends and family. When a trustworthy person asks tough questions about our romance, it may be for good reason. If we are the only ones who see great things in someone we are dating, our vision may very well be impaired.
Pleasantly contrary to objections, however, is the shared excitement and support we experience when those who know us best and love us most feel we have found someone truly compatible. I can remember when I was dating my wife, Christal, my best friend told me bluntly, “If you don’t marry her, you’re stupid.”
What welcome words those were. I received similar affirmations from my father. These were good signs I paid attention to—and their reservations, though difficult to hear, should have been heeded in my rocky romantic past.
Sign 4: Your emotions are well-founded rather than foundational.
Extreme excitement is a component of most every romantic relationship—whether it last days or years. Because of that, we should admit to ourselves that intensity of feeling isn’t necessarily an indicator of lasting love. But for someone in a healthy relationship built on character, shared faith, and common life direction, such excitement is should be embraced and enjoyed.
After all, love and marriage are about more than emotion, but they shouldn’t be without emotion.
In Song of Solomon 1:2, a young woman extols not just the attractiveness of her love, but his very character and reputation: “Your name is like perfume poured out.” In other words, she is head-over-heels not just about how he looks, but who he is. If your romantic interest lost their looks today, would you be left with someone you had reason to adore?
Sign 5: You’re both have a commitment to Biblical values.
That sexual purity is difficult to maintain is undeniable. The more you love or are attracted to someone, the more you want to have sex with them.
Is it difficult? Yes! But it’s not like defying gravity, as long as you have a shared a commitment to honoring God. If you are a Christian in a serious relationship looking for strength or needing to do an about-face concerning sexual purity, know that your best-laid plans must be mutual.
And remember, if one or both of you has messed up in the past, that doesn’t define you and it doesn’t condemn you. The important thing isn’t where you’ve come from, but it’s your mutual commitment to each other now.
In our culture where marriages are not arranged, we can’t take the risk out of dating. I wouldn’t have it any other way; I love and still adore the woman I freely asked to spend the rest of her life with me.
Just as there were early signs that my past broken relationships were headed for disaster, so I can also see that these five signs were accurate indication of what would become a satisfying marriage.
Lennon Noland is a chaplain at Duke University. He lives in Durham, NC with his bride Christal, their three children and their German Shepherd, Bonhoeffer. He blogs a LennonNoland.com and tweets @lennonnoland.