Warning Signs in Dating Relationships

by Shelley Poston

It can be difficult to be clear-headed in a dating relationship.  It is easy to see only the positive in the other person and completely ignore any warning signs.  Optimism for a relationship can cloud judgment.

It would be foolish to date someone and not even consider the possible outcomes.  Not only would it be foolish, but downright selfish.  While you do not have to commit to marrying this person right away, you should realize that any guy-girl relationship you begin has the potential to end in marriage.

If there is always that possibility, then you must ask yourself whether this person has the qualities you will need in a husband.  You are not being selfish in asking that question.  It is important that you do.  That is why it is important to consider some warning signs you will look for while dating someone.  Watch out for the following red flags.

If you are more interested in your relationship with Christ than your date is.

If you desire to have a marriage relationship built on Scripture, you will want to marry a man who will be a strong spiritual leader to you and your future family.

Ask yourself these questions:  How strong is his relationship with Jesus Christ?  Is he interested in growing spiritually?  How passionate is he about reading God’s Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers in a biblically solid church?  Is he servant-hearted?  Are you spiritually stronger than he is?  Your spiritual maturity may result in frustration and leadership struggles if he is not as strong as you in his relationship with God.

Second, does he care about your spiritual growth?  Ultimately, your spiritual condition is up to you and you alone.  However, in Ephesians Paul compares a husband’s role toward his wife with that of Christ’s role toward His Bride, the Church, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, the she might be holy and without blemish,” (Ephesians 5:25-27, emphasis mine).

Christ’s role and a husband’s role do differ because only Christ alone can truly cleanse us.  However, a husband is responsible to lead his wife in sanctification, as this verse explains with the imagery of Christ and His bride.  If a man cannot do that, he is not ready to be a husband.  And if he is not ready to be a husband, dating him could only have a sorrowful outcome.

If your date is too dependent on you.

Marriage is a covenantal bond between a man and a woman where there is dependence—to a certain extent.  If you are dating a man who expects you to be everything to him and always make him happy, you both are in for a harsh awakening after the honeymoon ends.  You are both sinners and you will sin against each other.  While you do not want that to happen, it is reality. You will disappoint each other, not on purpose, but you will.  You cannot meet his every need.  To try to is foolish. Also, if he wants you to meet all his needs, that is close to idolatry (Exodus 20:3, 4).  Only God can truly satisfy a person’s soul.

If your date won’t keep his hands off of you, then stop dating him.  His hands shouldn’t be on you in the first place!

Do not fall for the statement of, “I just care about you so much,” when a guy won’t keep his hands to himself.  The truth is, he cares more about himself in that scenario.  Neither of your bodies belong to each other until you say “I do,” (1 Corinthians 7:4), so it is wrong for a man to treat a woman as if he has free reign with her body before marriage.

I think it is safe to ask this question: if a man is not honorable and pure before marriage, why would he be so afterward? After marriage, your bodies belong to each other.  However, if he could not keep his hands to himself before marriage, how do you know he will keep them to just you after marriage?  It’s an good question that needs to be considered seriously.  The unmarried man’s actions are a good indicator. 
The same applies for sexual innuendo that is inappropriate before marriage.  If he is always broaching conversations about sex, he is not doing a good job of helping you to protect your mind against lust before marriage.  I am not implying that a man has to be a prude, but he is to be a protector.

If a man is addicted to pornography, he is already committing adultery/fornication in his heart, even before you tie the knot.  He is already showing that he is unwilling to “forsake all others,” and that he is not living a pure lifestyle.  
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong [defraud] his brother in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things…”

God’s will is for your sanctification, which includes purity.  Is that your date’s heart for himself and you?  If it is not, then he is a defrauder, who loves himself more than you or God.  Don’t expect marriage to change him.

If your date has an anger problem

How does your date cope when things do not go as planned?  Does he spew his anger all over everyone, including you?  This is a serious red flag.  Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

If you are not to make friendships with angry people, why would you covenant yourself to someone who fits this description?  Proverbs makes it clear that you will only be ensnared.  Do not expect that you will change that man.  You may actually become an enabler who receives the brunt of his anger.

Spouse abuse by an angry man does not usually randomly begin fifteen years into a marriage.  An angry man has that potential long beforehand.  Abuse is not only physical- it can also be emotional.  A man may apologize to you over and over again, but if he has abused you even once, leave the dating relationship immediately.  Do not stay with him out of pity.  Encourage him to find a godly man who can help him, but you should get out fast.  You are not sent by God to fix him.  That is the Holy Spirit’s work.

If he won’t grow up.

No one wants a husband who acts like a child.  Those little childlike qualities may seem really cute right now, but it will grow old (and aggravating) shortly into marriage.  Immaturity kills relationships.  If a man is not responsible with his time, money, and work, why would he be responsible in his future family life?  If he is more concerned with worldly pleasure than pleasing God in being an honorable and responsible man, this is not the kind of man who will rightly point his family toward Christ-likeness.  Watch out for the selfish man.
The Bible has a name for the guy who has the Peter-Pan syndrome: he is called “the sluggard.”  Proverbs mentions him several times, including in Proverbs 6:9-11, which states, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”

What is this man’s work ethic?  What is his work ethic in helping others?  Is he content letting others do his job for him?  Does he help you when you need it?  If he would more readily spend a day on the lake than helping someone in need, this indicates where his heart lies.
You should also consider your date’s relationships with other people.  Is he unhealthily dependent on his friends or family?  Has he not taken adult responsibility such as his living arrangements or expenses?  Also examine his relationships with other women.  If your date is a flirt or has many close female friends (especially previous girlfriends), this is something to take as a caution.   As cute as his flirtation may have seemed toward you, it might also be an indicator that he likes “playing the field” and will continue to—even just in seemingly harmless ways—after marriage.  It won’t be so cute then.

If your date is not teachable

A man who is unwilling to take counsel shows that he is prideful instead of humble.  Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance [counsel], a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

A man who seeks counsel is a man who desires to be wise.  As Solomon, the wisest man of all, said, “For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her”, (Proverbs 8:11).

What are his friendships like?  Are they foolish or wise?  Has he invited accountability into his life from not only his friends, but older and wiser men?  A man who does not want counsel and hides from accountability is a man who is not ready to be open with a wife.  He may seem strong and independent, but he may actually be prideful.

Because so often, “Love is blind,” input and counsel from other people around you will be very helpful to spot positives or negatives in a relationship.  Be willing to accept their counsel.   All of these points, of course, you should prayerfully consider in your own life.  If we as women are unwilling to be above reproach in these areas, why should we expect that from men?

If you have just spotted some serious red flags in your dating relationship, seek counsel from wise, confidential people in your church community.  But remember, the decision is ultimately up to you.  You have to be married to this person till death do you part, and you can choose whether your marriage will help you to grow in serving another believer, or will pull you down and bring you much sorrow.  Choose wisely, and trust God’s sovereignty if that man has not come along yet.  You won’t be sorry!