Heeding Relational Red Flags Before Marriage

relational red flags Warning Flag AdobeStock_71489472 copyAny relationship will have its difficulties. But sometimes those difficulties are indicators of deep-rooted problems. That’s when relational red flags are usually waving to warn you. Essentially, they’re invisibly saying, “Pay attention; there are potential problems here.” And if they’re waving, don’t ignore them!

It’s important to know that just because you have a good dating relationship, it doesn’t mean that you should marry.

“Some will say, ‘Since no one’s perfect, it really doesn’t matter who I chose to marry. We’re all flawed.’ Some will even take it a step further and say, ‘It’s about being the right person, not finding the right person.’ Yes, there’s some truth there; but the Bible makes distinctions between the foolish and the wise. Though we all are a mixture of both, there are some qualitative differences between people. It does matter who you marry!

“When we’re excited about a relationship, it’s easy to overlook the red flags in the relationship that should be examined. We want to be married; this special person makes us feel wonderful (at least most of the time). We know some things about this person, but we sometimes fill in the gaps with what we want him or her to be like. Yet we rarely fill them in accurately. As you continue to read, please do so with an open mind. You just might find that some red flags actually relate to you, not to your significant other.” (Glenn Lutjens, from his article, “Red Flags in a Relationship”)

So, if any of the following relational red flags exist in your relationship, talk about these issues as soon as possible BEFORE marrying. Also, it would be good to do so with a pastor, counselor or a mentor. They can give you some good added insights. Prayerfully consider these:

Relational Red Flags Difficulties:

1. You have a general uneasy feeling that there is something wrong in your relationship with your fiancé.

2. You find yourself arguing often with your fiancé.

3. Your fiancé seems irrationally jealous whenever you interact with someone of the opposite sex.

4. You avoid discussing certain subjects because you’re afraid of your fiancé’s reaction.

5. Your fiancé finds it extremely difficult to express emotions. Or he or she is prone to extreme emotions. (These can be out of control anger exaggerated fear.) Or his or her emotions are swinging back and forth between emotional extremes. (He or she could be very happy one minute, then suddenly exhibiting extreme sadness the next).

6. Your fiancé displays controlling behavior. This means more than wanting to be in charge. It means your fiancé seems to want to control every aspect of your life. He or she controls your appearance, your lifestyle, your interactions with friends or family, etc. Your fiancé seems to manipulate you into doing what he or she wants.

7. You are continuing the relationship because of fear. You are fearful of hurting your fiancé. Or you fear what he or she might do if you ended the relationship.

8. Your fiancé does not treat you with respect. He or she constantly criticizes you or talks sarcastically to you.

9. Your fiancé is unable to hold down a job. He or she doesn’t take personal responsibility for losing a job. He or she frequently borrows money from you or friends.


10. Your fiancé often talks about imagined aches and pains. There are visits from doctor to doctor. And that is done until he or she finds someone who will agree that he or she is seriously ill.

11. Your fiancé is unable to resolve conflict. He or she cannot deal with constructive criticism. And he or she never admits a mistake and never asks for forgiveness.

12. Your fiancé is overly-dependent on parents for finances, decision-making or emotional security.

13. Your fiancé shows a pattern of dishonesty, and rationalizing questionable behavior. Or there is a twisting words to his or her benefit.

14. He or she exhibits patterns of physical, emotional or sexual abuse toward you or others. If your fiancé has ever threatened to hit you or actually struck you, this is a warning sign of future abuse. If he or she puts you down or continually criticizes you, this is a sign of emotional abusiveness.

15. Your fiancé displays signs of drug or alcohol abuse. There are unexplained absences or missed dates, or frequent car accidents. And/or there is the smell of alcohol or strong odor of mouthwash. There may be erratic behavior or emotional swings. There can also be physical signs. They can include red eyes, unkempt look, and unexplained nervousness, etc.

16. Your fiancé displayed a sudden, dramatic change in lifestyle as you began dating. (He or she may be changing just to win you and will revert back to old habits after marriage.)

Do you recognize any of these caution signs in your relationship? If so, which ones?

If so, we recommend you talk about the situation as soon as possible with a pastor, counselor or mentor.

SPECIAL WARNING Concerning Relational Red Flags:

In addition, here’s something more you need to work through:

If any of these caution signs are present in your relationship and you are engaging in sexual intercourse, it is imperative that you terminate the physical intimacy immediately. God has your welfare in mind when He forbids sexual connection before marriage. The premature bond this type of intimacy creates will make it difficult for you to make needed changes in your relationship or to break it off.

This article/discussion questions come from the helpful workbook, Preparing for Marriage: Discover God’s Plan for a Lifetime of Love. It is written by David Boehi, Brent Nelson, Jeff Schulte, and Lloyd Shadrach. There was a LOT more to the chapter on the subject of “Evaluating Your Relationship” that we weren’t able to include in this article. A large part of this particular section of the chapter was adapted from the book, How Can I Be Sure? Questions to Ask Before You Get Married. This book published by Harvest House Publishers (which is also a terrific book).

— ALSO —

There is a lot more to learn on this matter. Please don’t hesitate to dig deeper on these matters. They’re too important to take lightly. That’s because, if you marry, and there are huge issues present, you will most assuredly have to deal with them for the rest of your life together. Don’t underestimate how difficult this will be!

If nothing else, you want to make sure you go into marriage with both eyes open. Don’t say you weren’t warned. When relational red flags are waving, you had best not ignore them. So, look at them; pray about them, and deal with them.

There’s no doubt that it’s worth your time and effort to “count the cost” ahead of marrying. After-all, isn’t that what God tells us to do in the Bible? (Here’s a hint; the answer is yes!) See: Luke 14:28-31.

So, first, Norm Wright wrote an article that we link to below on this same issue that we recommend you read:



Additionally, Gary Thomas gives other insights to consider in who you marry. Red Flags are waving everywhere. And then afterwards, Pastor Roger Barriers gives other issues to prayerfully consider:

If a Potential Spouse Doesn’t Have This Think Twice About Marrying Him/Her


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Filed under: Single Yet Preparing

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37 responses to “Heeding Relational Red Flags Before Marriage

  1. (USA) Ok I am 100% that he has none of the red flags; however I am very dependent on my family for almost everything and even now that I am married (6 months) I don’t feel I can or could. I do not depend on my mom and dad even; with a job I can’t let go o their safety net. He sometimes will want me to learn to do things on my own and learn to pay my own bills and so on. I don’t know why or what keeps me latched on so tightly.

  2. (SOUTH AFRICA) Hi, I really need advice. I have been with my partner since January 2007. We got engaged 2 years ago in December 2010. I was in another state when we started dating but I moved to his 3 years ago, on the understanding that we are settling down. We also moved in together, which is something I knew was wrong but I let it be as again I was under the impression that we are getting married. I come from a staunch Christian background and my parents don’t know that we live together.

    I have been asking him about our wedding, but on each occassion he tells me that he is saving up. Its been 2 years and he’s still saving, apparently. I have suggested that we sit together and do a budget but he just ignored me.

    A year ago, he cheated. I found out that he had a 8 month affair with someone else. He then went on for 6 weeks after that and did not speak to me, claiming he was clearing his head. He moved back to his parents’ home during this time. I did try to end the relationship when he returned and he asked me for another chance and I obliged.

    When I’m sitting by myself quietly, I do not believe that he is the man to marry. He is not affectionate with me at all, after so many pleas from my side. We’re totally cold to each other, and when I try to be warm he shrugs me off. He only wants to be close to me when it’s sexual.

    He’s a nice person otherwise, but I don’t feel it in my heart that he loves me and that he’s the one. Am I crazy? I’m thinking of ending it with him and I feel so scared. Please give me an opinion on this situation. Thanks.

    1. Anne, I believe you already have the “opinion” that you need –the one that really counts –the pulling of the Holy Spirit telling you that you strayed from the path you knew and know to be true in allowing yourself to get involved on this level with this guy. Deep in your heart you know that if you don’t pay attention to and heed the “red flags” waving in front of your eyes right now, your life will get even more “crazy” and more complicated. You say that you are “scared” … I’m thinking that you’ve only seen a glimpse into how scary things will get for you if you don’t break away from being entangled with this guy.

      Whenever we stray from the narrow path that God sets us upon in the journey of life, complications set in. Quite frankly, the fact that you’ve gone this far with this guy will make breaking away all the more difficult… but deep inside you know it’s necessary. I’m sure of that as I pray for you. The fact that you aren’t telling your parents about your living conditions –keeping them hidden, the fact that you see cheating and lying and alluding and coldness happening, and that you know in your heart that he’s not “the one” should set off all kinds of warning signals inside of you telling you that you need to flee. Will this be easy? No. But it’s SO important to do. It’s like someone who allowed themselves to get addicted to something — it makes it more difficult to flee from it; but if they don’t, life will get more and more hurtful and complicated. You can’t ignore the tugging of the Holy Spirit and come out on the good end of things. Please, please, please, break free and run back to the Lord for guidance on living your life. I believe with all of my heart that eventually, you will sense freedom in abundance –even through the tears of past regrets and the pain of doing this very important, yet brave thing. I pray God’s blessing upon you as you place your hand and life into God’s care. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

      “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ –to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

      1. Dear Cindy, If you were South African I would address you as Mama Cindy – we don’t call our elders by their first name:-) It has been 4 years since I wrote to you and your response to me has been on my mind a lot these days. So much has happened since then.

        Your response in 2012 gave me courage to end my engagement, a month later to be exact. You really were used by God to save my life, because up until you wrote to me I felt stuck and could not utter the words that it was over.

        As you can imagine I was very devastated when it ended and I went through such a tough time, and had moments when I asked myself if I made the wrong decision. However I knew that I had made the right call -also proven by the extent of coldness my ex handled the break up… it was almost as if we had never been together. He immediately wrote me off. However in hindsight that helped me get over it.

        I immediately started working on my relationship with God after it ended. However the year 2016 was a turnaround for me because I joined a new church, which I felt God prompted me to attend. I decided to also get baptized again and really go back to Christ 110%. I also completed my 1st year of Bible School through the church, in November last year. I now can say that Christ is the centre of my life and not just a part of my life. I clearly see where I had not grown in my walk with Him and hence I ended up making such mistakes. However His grace has been more than sufficient for me and I feel made anew.

        I would like to thank you for helping me back then. I truly appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. This is my prayer for you and Steve: “I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation” Psalm 91:16 (NLT)

        Sending you a wi-fi hug & kiss, Anne

        1. Anne, You have touched my heart more than I could ever express to you in human words. I pray the Lord speaks to you in between the lines of what I am writing and gives you a special hug… from my heart… to yours from God. Yes. I receive your wi-fi hug and kiss and give one back to you as your (much older) sister (or mama) in Christ. I knew that if you broke up with your boyfriend it would be one of the hardest things for you to ever do. I’m so sorry for that pain. But I knew it was important. I would never have written that to you if it wasn’t because I don’t take love from the heart lightly. I’m so proud of you for looking at the bigger picture, and looking up to the Lord to help you so you did what was best overall, rather than what looked like it would be less painful at the time. That was a really mature decision.

          I’m also proud of you for the things you have done and are doing to grow in the Lord. Even though a close walk with the Lord will not mean that you won’t go through troubled times, but you will not have to go through them alone. How I pray that you will keep clinging to Him, looking continually to Him for wisdom, and “a very present help in a time of trouble” whenever you are going through a troubled time.

          This is my prayer for you: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ to whom be the glory for ever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Anne: “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

          1. Mama Cindy. Its me again. I trust you are well and actually I know that the Lord is keeping you.

            I just wanted to let you know that I’ve met a lovely man of God and we are getting married in November.

            I have seen the restoration of the Lord in my life and I’m so happy to be in sync with His timing. Things have just been falling into place without effort from my end and I know that it is Him.

            Thank you so much again for being part of my journey.

            Much love,

  3. (SOUTH AFRICA) You are right, I have ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit… hoping that things will change. I have not left him because I love him so much, plus fear being single. He is a successful professional like me -so there’s that element of financial security for our future. I’ve always wanted a mate who would have a progressive career. I was so glad that he had that when I met him.

    I realise that I need to do the right thing and return fully to God. I need to have a marriage with the correct foundation, rooted in God’s Word.

    As it is, he isn’t speaking to me -I don’t know why. I had told him that he doesn’t make me a priority anymore so maybe that’s the reason. He just gets back from work and doesn’t even look in my direction nor ask after my wellbeing. I feel like I’ve sold my soul to the devil.

    I have always dreamt of what my love relationship would be like. So far this relationship is the direct opposite. We have no fun; he doesn’t want to do things with me e.g. going to movies… and I’m not interested in his football that he’s so crazy about.

    I deserve to be happy, I think i finally get it. Thank you Cindy. I will keep you posted.

  4. (USA) I have been engaged for 9 months. My fiancé had been living with his parents when I met him. He said they are old (they are both 60 years old). He was trying to save money & help them out, but his job was 60 miles each way & he did not pay them rent. He has huge loans to pay but he did not finish anything. He is Mama’s boy & she loves feeding into his insecurities, washes his clothes & feeds him. He is very sloppy because he is over weight. He never finishes what he starts, breaks my things & blames others or hide it.

    When I question he will say it was rubbish of I will fix it or get you another one. He feels my family is crazy & avoids meeting my parents, hates my brothers. My parents don’t want to see him because he had lied to them. He has no Facebook friends. My brothers feel he is hiding something big. My sister says I should stay away from him. He has moved in to my place. He feel people make fun of him because he is over weight. He lives on junk food, donuts, soda but promises to lose weight. Something is not right.

    Why am I with him?? I don’t know who to turn to. I am afraid. I feel sorry for him. He is good to me. I don’t know any more. We are both 34 years old. If I marry him my family will not attend I know for sure. I hate being lonely.

  5. Well, this discussion sounds so familiar to me because I have also fed into a man you claimed to be a Christian. He is actually the exact opposite. He claims to c.f. e a reputable job but I know of many unGodly dealings he’s involved in. We’ve spent the last 15 years playing tit for tat. He would of course cheat with 19 year old girls who also claimed to be a Christian. In fact I believe they’re engaged now and of course no one knows of their true ages. That situation has embarrassed me but I am sure I made him feel the same way.

    Now my ex husband has isolated me away from all my family and friends. Every time I tell him please lets go our separate ways because we were never equally yoked. Nor did we ever support each other’s dreams or goals. We tended to bring out the worst in each other. I tried several times to walk away but he’d never let me. He acted as if I’m personal property, not a person. He always claimed he bought me but that isn’t what I wanted at all. All I ever wanted from day one was a man who would commit his life to the Lord and lead our family in the word and guide us.

    But in turn I had exact opposite. We both committed adultery and there were many domestic situations. When we first married I felt more like his punching rather than his wife. He never matured. Even though we attended the same Church as his parents, his heart was still so distant. He also suffers from many addictions, everything from Marijuana to Heroine, Crystal Meth. He’s what I call a closet addict because I would never have known the truth but he installed some sort of app on my phone and put hidden Cameras all over the house. Then showed all his friends some of my worst and personal moments. I have no idea how long he has done this to me. It was so embarrassing. I let myself go. I QUIT CARING. I turned away from my precious God and nearly went to a hospital. Then I begged him to please just let me go, no more lies no more cheating; please let me focus on Jesus like I should have 15 years ago.

    It’s very hard because I love him more than words could ever say. He was perfect guy for me but we just could not change. Then his parents would always step in. They were great in the beginning and I assumed they were these amazing Christians. They were always so giving and I’m sure I didn’t show them how much I appreciated their kindness. But it was days they’d step in and try to control everything instead forcing their son to separate from them and become one with his wife. They still pay his bills and keep up with all his paperwork and never allowed us to grow into that team that our children needed. In fact, they all became focused on convincing the world I was the problem and they even wanted to take custody of my children.

    I became emotionally distraught from all the mental, physical, and what soon became some abuse of some very uGodly things. It will take years to put myself back together and I’m sure I will probably never trust ever again. I felt like the spit on someone’s shoes; in fact our last domestic dispute I’m sure that’s all I ever was. It truly bothered me when he was holding on to me and still has me afraid to go on with life when in fact he has been having relations with this 19 year old girl she since she was only 17. He tried to convince the world our friends, my friends, and of course his family, that I was this terrible person when the truth is he’s the one who put all this abuse in my life.

  6. Hello. I began my relationship with my fiancé late January, 2014 and we will soon be getting married. He lives and works abroad and he plans that I will relocate to join him at the shortest possible time. But the issue I have is that marriage generally scares me. Anytime I think of marriage to him, I become afraid. He has not done anything to hurt me. He calls everyday and we talk. Several times in the past, I have allowed very good guys to leave all because I’m fearful. In fact my dad told me I’ve been a fearful person since I was young. My mum scolds me at times for my lack of faith. I have gotten my fiancé angry at times by my attitude. Please, does my fear mean that I don’t have God’s approval or I just need to work on myself?

  7. I just hope and pray that whatever is done in the dark will come to the light. The devil was a liar and it was so sad how many you had to tell! Wishing you and yours the best! GOD Bless! Though it does concern me that when we are around each other our love and compassion for one another is still there. We’ll always love one another I’m sure but honestly let someone else deal with you and that life. He has a sexual addiction and will never be faithful until Jesus becomes real to him and unless he truly changes his ways and lifestyle and can truly commit to one master. I pray you find God’s will in your life. I also will continue to search diligently for his face, that he will comfort my family through all these changes.

  8. One red flag I did not read about is use of pornography. While I was engaged to my husband I discovered that he used dating sites and masturbated regularly (at least every morning). His excuse was that he’d signed up for the dating sites before we met and was browsing them because of his insecurities; he wanted to see who was interested in him. It didn’t cross my mind that he might have used pornography too, but I know now, that he was addicted since a young age. We got married at 34.

    When I found out about the dating site and masturbation, I was ready to leave him, but a Christian friend of mine encouraged me to hear his side of it and try to work it out. Also, he cried and begged me not to leave him. I felt sorry for him and was also afraid of being alone.

    We were both new born again Christians who’d never been discipled or studied the Bible much. We did six weeks of intense Christian pre-marital counseling and had a very “Christian” wedding ceremony. However, we lived together before getting married and no one ever called us on it by advising one of us to move out until the wedding. I think this was a huge mistake. We tried desperately, especially him, to avoid pre-marital sex, but when passions are high right before a wedding it’s nearly impossible to prevent it, IMHO, if you’re living together. It must have happened three times before the wedding. Unfortunately, in hindsight, the damage was done to our marriage even before it started.

    Fast forward two years: A few months following the birth of our first child I discovered a paper with a pornography web address on it and went to the link. To my utter horror, it was so obscene I had to close the browser or I might vomit. Meanwhile, my little baby girl and husband slept. What a horrible feeling it was to think that my kind and gentle husband and brand-new father was looking at young naked women having sex with who knows who and masturbating to these images. I wanted to run away from the nightmare, but couldn’t now that I was married and a mother.

    I confronted him and he excused it promising not to do it again. It must have continued for years, probably ten. My trust was shattered, but he apologized, sought some help and seemed like he was changing. BUT, he had a job (airline pilot) that allowed him access to free cable in hotel rooms and unmonitored internet use.

    No accountability, business travel and lots of internet use are dangerous in the hands of porn addicts. It’s a cancer in a marriage. I get sick when I imagine him watching other women and experiencing orgasms while looking at them. I feel cheated on a hundred times over.

    We’ve done counseling individually and as a couple, but I am still bitter and hurt. He has such a distorted view of sex, I discovered, that he can’t make love with the lights or do it any time other than at night. We are intimate once a month at most and, after childbirth, after 6-7 months. Very frustrating.

    My husband has many good qualities and I loved him early on in our relationship. Thirteen years into marriage to him I realize the deep wounds and unforgiveness I still harbor. We have three children. He’s been sober from porn for 3-4 years. In fact, we became missionaries and live in a foreign country. We seem to have it together, but I wonder if we should have ever even married because we haven’t grown together. We tolerate each other. I don’t feel much love for him, but often feel hatred. I suffer from depression and anxiety.

    PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE RED FLAGS! Things like this only get worse once you get married. Unless there’s some serious counseling, therapy, remorse and recovery this behavior won’t simply go away on its on. It would be better to not start off a marriage with such baggage.