Relationship Red Flags: 5 Things to Watch Out For
Looking for a spouse is one part exciting, two parts confusing. We often overthink, overshare, and find ourselves overwhelmed with questions in the midst of our search. We ask things such as …
- What should I expect from a potential partner? Oh wait— are expectations bad? I heard they could be bad.
- I wonder how tall my person will be?
- What if I’m not attracted to them, but they love Jesus? Should that be my only focus?
- Will their family and friends like me?
- I feel Jesus told me this person is my person, but they still have photos of their past relationships on social media. Is that okay? (At least one of us was guilty of this.)
We often hear about “good” characteristics we should look for in a potential partner, but what about those red flags? See, most people (myself and Tori included) like to lead with their best foot, which means at the beginning of a relationship, all you see is the good stuff. Naturally, however, the more time you spend with someone, the more the “real” person begins to show. We must consider those characteristics as we try to figure out if this person is the right person for us.
To be clear, we want to encourage you to be wise and careful about those issues you consider as red flags. We aren’t saying this so you will only focus on the negative, but because a strong attraction or desire for a relationship could cause you to ignore or override your non-negotiables. For instance, have you heard of “the halo effect?” This is the tendency to allow one specific positive trait you see in another person to influence or override your judgment as whole. In the process, you might miss some really negative things about that person because of one thing you really like.
Most of us have been tricked before, but not by the person we had interest in, because we’re not here to play the blame game and give the other person all the responsibility. Rather we recognized we have been tricked by our own hearts. We didn’t want to see the traits that were unhealthy or unhelpful in our failed relationship.
We want to tell you how not to get tricked by your own heart. Instead, we want to see you walk forward into a new relationship with complete confidence and wise discernment! Here are a few questions to help you identify major red flags as you search for the right person:
Red Flag #1: Does this person refuse to give you space to share your thoughts and feelings?
Are they seeking to understand you, or do they only want to be understood? If this person is only focused on themselves, then it’ll be really difficult to resolve your issue because it takes two to mambo … or is it tango? Anyway, you get what I mean. Look for someone who values communication with you. Find someone who recognizes the importance of active listening and allows you to share the way you feel, regardless of whether that feeling is “right” or “wrong.” When it comes to conflict management, it’s more important to be loving than it is to be right (James 4:6).
Red Flag #2: Does this person only want to be with you for one reason?
People will tell you how they feel about you by how they treat you. Sometimes you have to stop paying attention to what they are saying with their words and listen to what they are saying with their actions. For example, if you let your partner know you’re waiting until marriage for sexual intimacy, then would they champion (support) you? Or would they pressure you to change your mind?
If it’s the first option, then you know they’re willing to withhold their desires to support your boundaries and decisions (in what honestly should be their boundary as well). But if they’re not down to wait, then that shows they’re in the relationship for what they can get versus what they can give. Sometimes you have to listen with your eyes … 👀
Red Flag #3: Does this person surround themselves with questionable people? 👭
You become who you hang out with. We know this statement is a little cliché but stick with us here for a minute. Think back on your life. Everyone’s story is different, but you’ve likely had people who have come into your life and suddenly your life improves. It’s almost like you start to level up. Well, the same applies with people who maybe aren’t the best for you to be around, where it feels like there’s a rain cloud hovering over your head.
Now, before you get upset with us, we want to be clear— we’re called to be “salt and light.” We believe we have a responsibility to our neighbor and those in the margins. With that said, it doesn’t mean we take counsel from people who are bearing no fruit in their lives (Matthew 5:13-16; don’t lose your saltiness or allow a basket to dim your light). So as you consider your person’s community, take a real close look at them. These people they hang out with will likely become your community too after some time. You want to make sure it’s a group of people who will point you both back to Christ if you wander off, or who will create meal chains when things get hard, etc.
Red Flag #4: Does this person make you feel like you have to work to earn them? ☹️
Honestly, this one brings up some memories. Tori and I both have struggled with trying to feel worthy of love. We know what it is like to work really hard to keep someone interested. It pains us to think about falling into the trap of needing to earn acceptance, love, or affection from our partner. We understand this issue needs to be seen on a spectrum, of course, and we want to be sensitive to that. For example, someone may just have high standards that invite their potential partner to rise to the occasion and become their best self. But on the other side of that spectrum is perfectionism and manipulation— or worse.
We do good works because we are loved by Him.
So how do you know the difference? Well, it’s simple. Let us use the best example from our own lives. When it comes to our relationship with Jesus and doing good works, we don’t do them to be loved by Him. We do good works because we are loved by Him. So when it comes to your partner, their love for you should cause you to want to be the best potential partner to them you can possibly be! And the same goes for them. But you are operating out of love, not for love.
Red Flag #5: Does this person lack in respect of your boundaries? ✋
Do you lock your doors at night? Or have passwords for your online accounts? Why is that? Well, it’s because you’re protecting things that are important to you. You know what’s incredibly important but rarely protected? Your heart! You’ve probably heard this Scripture: “Guard your heart…” (Proverbs 4:23), but have you ever sat down and created boundaries to protect what’s most important? If not, now is the time.
Once you’ve established your boundaries, pay attention to how your potential partner responds. Do they respect your desire to hold off on physical intimacy until marriage, as we mentioned earlier? Do they honor your request to shut off work at 6 PM to be mentally and emotionally present with you? If they refuse to honor your wishes now, then what do you think the relationship is going to be like in 15 to 20 years?
Anyway, we hope this gives you some food for thought! Stay tuned for more blogs like this one! But if you can’t wait for more, then we share about all of these points and a lot more in our Red Flags video on Youtube. Feel free to check that out! And if you’ve made it this far, then let us remind you of something: people are messy, therefore, relationships will be messy. There is no “one size fits all” advice that will help your relationships thrive. So stick around with us as we share from our own experiences and from those people around us whose fruits we trust!