Ah, so we meet again… you, red flags, versus us, single Christians.
Yes, we know: Valentine’s Day is coming right up and we are unattached. Single. Dateless wonders. Free and don’t necessarily want to be.
But we single Christians know about red flags. We know how you red flags get.
You can disguise yourselves in myriads of ways, but we are on to you guys. We see you. And we know who you are.
You always come with someone who’s worse than trouble.
You red flags bring drama and trauma that many of us have already lived through and refuse to live through again.
You’re a headache that grows into a migraine. A blind spot that turns into a fatal accident. A toothache that turns into a root canal that becomes an infection and an extraction with a cruel, crazy dentist. A cavernous wolf and a roaring lion seeking whom you may devour.
And we’re not having any of that. Not today, not tomorrow. We are not desperate.
We know that the Bible teaches us how to live as followers of Christ who are single. We know Who Jesus is, and He is much wiser than you and much stronger than you.
We’re going to listen to Him so we can Always. Spot. You.
Christians who are single, here are ten more red flags that grow from the main two red flags I shared last week of false or shallow spirituality and character defects:
- Emotionally immature
- Addiction issues and other poor impulse control
- Anger; unable to handle conflicts or differences in opinion
- Self-centered, selfish, narcissistic
- Dishonest, manipulative, minimizes untruthfulness
- Overly controlling
- Overly dependent or enmeshed, especially with parents
- Unable to communicate effectively (poor emotional intelligence)
- Trying too fast to get you married off
- Financially irresponsible
3. Emotionally immature. A dictionary definition of “immature” is one who lacks insight or wisdom, is not developed or perfected, or who is childish. Immaturity is different from naïve; someone who is naïve can grow up. The person who insists on being immature refuses to grow up and take his or her place in society as a productive, stable, responsible, reasonable human being.
Immaturity manifests in many ways. If your partner is immature, s/he may tend to make many poor, impulsive decisions based on inexperience, ignorance, misinformation, defensiveness, refusal to accept responsibility for his or her own actions, or a host of other emotional problems.
If you begin to see what looks suspiciously like immaturity, don’t think you will make them grow up after you get married. Children expect to be taken care of; you may find yourself saddled with someone who feels you will shield them from accepting adult-level conversations, decisions, and consequences.
There’s a popular meme floating around that basically says before you try to make a spouse out of somebody, let God make them grow up. Marriage is a covenant for 2 adults, not one adult and a child, or two children. If you marry someone immature who resists growing up, be prepared for a lifetime of enabling, covering up, doing things for them they should be doing, and wearing yourself out in general with someone else’s responsibilities.
4. Addiction issues and other poor impulse control. One can become addicted to almost anything. Moderation, balance, and Christ-centered priorities are the keys for activities, habits, and attitudes that are not self-destructive. However, there are many common activities that are destructive and that have become addictions in the lives of believers:
- illicit or prescription drugs
- Internet and social media
Addiction, which the Bible teaches is a stronghold (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Ephesians 6:10-18) is not a habit you have. A stronghold develops a life of its own within yours as you give up control of your life to it and sacrifice your dignity on its altar. It becomes an idol. The addiction now has you—or your potential spouse.
It would be much better for both of you for your addicted partner (or is it you?) to get long-term, gospel-centered treatment for the stronghold. And they have to do it for themselves and the Lord, not you. Anything the devil plants in your life, whether through your enablement or your partner’s, will develop into a fully-grown monster that will hijack anything the Lord wants to do. Remember, the enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy and he is not below using someone you have emotional ties with to do it in your life, John 10:10. Deal with it now or consider ending the relationship. You’re not going to rescue them—only Jesus can do that—so stop daydreaming about it.
5. Anger; unable to handle conflicts or differences in opinion. Anger is a normal emotion given by God to signal that something is wrong; some boundary or right has been crossed. However, if your date blows up or sulks and gives you the silent treatment every time s/he doesn’t get his or her way, or cannot even maintain a civil conversation about differences in opinion or taste, something is very wrong.
There are legitimate reasons to be angry, but the Word of God informs us that we must learn to handle our anger, our grievances, and our conflicts, reasonably and righteously. Sometimes it’s not a legitimate boundary or right that has been crossed, it’s just plain old selfishness.
If your partner goes off easily or always seems irritated, beware. Proverbs 22:24-25 tells us not to make a friendship with a hot-tempered person or you will get a snare to your soul. Other scripture your partner must learn to cultivate if s/he claims to be a follower of Christ include Proverbs 14:21, 15:1, 15:18, & 29:11; Ephesians 4:26 & 31; James 1:19-20; and Colossians 3:8. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself the brunt of all his or her outbursts, blaming, and rage. Even if it does not get physical, it’s still very painful and soul-shattering.
6. Self-centered, selfish, narcissistic. Do you find yourself always catering to your date’s every demand or whim no matter how unreasonable they are and how often you have to do it? Does your whole entire world revolve around them? Do you feel like a means to meeting all their needs? Do you find your own personality, needs, desires, and even ability and willingness to communicate these, evaporating? Beware.
Narcissism is a lousy foundation for a strong and godly marriage, where we are taught to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 5:21). Today’s culture encourages cult followings, idol worship, entitlement, and self-glorification. Social media plays a big part of making anyone who wants to a rock star, even if it’s for horrible behavior. Your date may have bought into the lie that it’s always all about them.
The man or woman who claims to be a follower of Christ but cannot put the Lord first at any time and not his/her partner before themselves at least part of the time may be selfish to the core. I’m sad to say that there is little chance your partner will change without an intervention from the Lord. I say leave now and save yourself the hassle of trying to get a selfish person to give up his or her ego and toys.
7. Dishonest, manipulative, minimizes untruthfulness. For an interesting word study, go to any thesaurus and look up these two words: “truth” and “falsehood.” The first time I did that, I was intrigued. There were only 21 words for truth and pages of whole word trees of categories for falsehood. The devil knew what he was doing when he learned to deceive.
There is a reason why the ninth commandment is not, “you shall not lie.” It says we are not to bear false witness. The Lord knew that we could technically “tell the truth” but bear false witness based on our intent and attitude, what words we actually used, what was left out, how we said what we did, and what gestures accompanied the words. If your partner (or you) have begun to demonstrate a pattern of not telling the truth, break it off and run now rather than later. Stay at your own painful and inevitable risk.
Relationships that last and last well must be based on mutual trust. Trust cannot thrive in an environment where one person cannot or will not be truthful, even if the other person hasn’t discovered yet that their partner is lying. How can you build a godly, strong relationship based on dishonesty, manipulation, deceit, exaggeration, flattery, leaving out important details, image management, innuendos, and more? The Word says we are to speak the truth in love and stop lying to one another (Ephesians 4:15 & Colossians 3:8-10). It won’t happen with a pathological liar. Get completely out but be prepared for their revenge as they lie about why you left!
8. Overly controlling. Not your normal, balanced, and flexible structure that keeps your household clean and running smoothly, or your bank account current, or your children to behave so that they become healthy, productive citizens later in life. We’re talking about excessive jealousy, demands for more and more of your life (eg. finances, time, body, household), and financial or physical boundaries that keep you away from family and friends who could see what your partner is doing and try to help you see it before it’s too late.
An abusive and controlling partner never feels they have enough control over you. They will create a web of deceit and an environment of emotional coercion where you do not feel you could leave without risking your life. He/She will always find a way to keep five steps ahead of you and make sure you never leave. It’s not about love, it’s about control. Think “this will not get better, it will eventually become more abusive, and it will not end well.”
Christians are often vulnerable to being abused by their partners because we are taught to love, forgive, and give someone another chance. We think doing these mean we must throw away our minds and boundaries and allow anyone to do anything they want to us, even if we are destroyed in the process.
Listen: Loving, forgiving, and allowing a partner to return when they are both sincere and repentant is one thing. Part of the fruits of repentance means bringing a genuine and growing change in motive, attitude, words, behavior, and love. The abuser, sadly, does not know how to love, forgive, or repent. The abuser does not recognize healthy boundaries. Their only goal is to overwhelm yours so you won’t leave.
If you’re beginning to feel intruded upon or emotionally suffocated, if you are confused about your partner’s love for you because they often do or say something to hurt or humiliate you, if your requests for permission to have a little space and freedom are constantly being denied or sabotaged, if your friends and family can’t ever seem to reach you, come to your senses. Escape now with the help of those who knew you before and love you enough to help you stay hidden. If you’re not sure if you are being controlled by your partner, start with the article in my reference section by Marni Feuerman. Be honest. It could mean your life.
9. Overly dependent or enmeshed, especially with parents. As I said before, marriage is a covenant between two adults. The new couple must learn to stand alone together with the love, prayer, and support of others. Both partners should feel like equals in this relationship. One shouldn’t always feel like the parent and the other, a child. The overly dependent partner doesn’t seem to have a will, an opinion, or a life of his or her own; they want you to make all the decisions. This isn’t healthy; it’s a form of immaturity (see 3. Above).
Also note that the marriage license is not a license for the parents or in-laws to run interference and unduly influence or destroy the marriage.
Sometimes a partner is enmeshed with one or both parents. Symptoms: they are unable to defend you against their parents. They are unable to express contrary opinions, set limits on their intrusions into your lives, or stop accepting the handouts that make life convenient, but emotionally restrictive. Your lives together revolve around your prospective in-laws’ lives, schedules, opinions, expectations, and socioeconomic standing.
Doesn’t being defensive, competitive, fuming under your in-laws’ condescending comments, being subject to their opinions and directives on everything in your marriage, and having your spouse never develop a backbone and standing up to them sound like the perfect way to start a marriage?
So… Please know that if this describes your relationship with your in-laws, ask yourself how it could possibly improve after you get married. Because it most likely will not. Remember what I’ve already said about control and abuse. Now apply it to your potential in-laws and say to yourself, “It’s not going to get better. They apparently don’t think I’m good enough for their baby girl/baby boy, so I will leave now before they can destroy any potential marriage between us.”
10. Unable to communicate effectively (poor emotional intelligence). Emotional intelligence has been described as the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our emotions and influence others’. Poor emotional intelligence, AKA EI, has been linked to poor work performance, staying stuck in life and on the job, not communicating effectively, being critical and bitter, and other negative qualities and outcomes.
All relationships, no matter how perfect, are subject to some differences and negotiation. If your partner seems to have trouble communicating but no problems emoting all over the place, beware. Effective communication skills can be learned, but it will wear on your relationship until s/he learns to maintain a reasonable and mature style of communicating and resolving conflicts. For a start on conflict resolution, see the Peacemakers website which is in my references.
11. Trying too fast to get you married off. I’ve seen (mostly) wolves and wolfettes in action. It’s fascinating, but frightening, how quickly they can move in on their prey. Week 1: new girl shows up in the singles group. Week #2: wolf has already asked new girl out on a date. Week #3: they’re planning their wedding for next month. They’re not going to go through premarital counseling. They’re not going to take any couples classes or compatibility testing. They’re so in love, pushed by one of them, usually the man, that it makes your head spin and your heart palpitate.
I thought it took time to get to know someone beyond the infatuation stage. It seems one needs time to pray and really get to know someone past the euphoria of heady emotions and learn about their faults and foibles as well as their good points. Why would someone want to get married in such a hurry?
It makes me wonder what they’re hiding.
If your date is pushing you to get married and you’re not ready, especially if it’s only been a few days or weeks since you started dating, be uneasy. Ask yourself and your potential spouse what the rush is. Is their unemployment or visa about to run out? Are they running away from same-sex attraction? Did their ex- just get remarried? Did they lose the house? Are they an axe murderer and they don’t want you to find out? Did they just get diagnosed with a terminal illness? Are they hornier than a horny toad and dying for sex?
Don’t laugh, I have heard some really bizarre and sad stories over many years of listening to people’s bizarre and sad marriage stories. A good one will keep me single at least another three years. If your date is in a hurry to get married, try to find out why. If you’re not convinced you know the whole story, start asking their family and friends. If your date won’t tell you anything about his/her family or friends, be really uneasy. The real reason might be enough for you to break off dating them and they know it.
12. Financially irresponsible. Finances have always been one of the biggest causes of broken marriages. One person is the saver, the other is the spender. One likes to be rational and wise with financial decisions, the other buys like there’s nothing else better to do in the world but to spend money. Differences in attitudes towards finances should be explored and discussed thoroughly as the relationship becomes more serious and focused with a view toward marriage.
Two things you’ll want to know are what are their monthly expenses (think: budget) and how much debt do they actually carry. Find out or ask:
Do you have a written budget? Can I see it right now?
How much do you make in a year/how well is your business doing?
How many credit cards do you use currently? How many are you paying on that you don’t use?
If they live in a house: are you renting or do you own it?
Can you provide proof of your debts?
How much is in your emergency savings?
How much are you actually mandated to pay in alimony and/or child support?
Are you involved in any litigation, whether as the plaintiff, the defendant, or part of a class action suit?
How often do you tithe? Do you do any other charitable giving and how often?
Yes, these are very direct and intimidating questions to ask. Finances are a very private matter for most people. If your relationship is beginning to look like marriage, however, you have the right to know.
I’m not saying your date has have to have a perfect financial record before you can marry them. What I’m saying is that you don’t want any big, scary surprises after you get married, including financial surprises. You know your priorities and where you’ve come from financially, and you should know where they are coming from. How they handle their finances tells you a big deal about their values, priorities, and history of decision-making.
For instance, how would you feel if you learned after you got married that your new spouse was involved in a 7-digit lawsuit? Would you still have married them, because now your assets become their assets?
How about if they had $500,000 in credit card debt? Or a terrible credit score (and how did it get that way?)? Or they just lost their house and now they want to move in with you? What if they had not made child support payments in four years, but the DA’s office just caught up with them? Would it make you go “ah, ha!” if you also learned your date happened to leave their job “right before” the DA’s office found them?
I could tell you horror stories from each red flag I’ve listed in these two weeks of articles, but I don’t want to scare you. I just hope this “short list” of red flags will help you make prayerful and discerning decisions about who you actually finally keep as a spouse. Think of it as being a godly steward over all you have been entrusted with by the Lord. When you get the “green flag” from the Lord and your families and friends, run for that altar with His blessings and mine!
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