There are many ways to look at the issue of relationships because there are many types of relationships. Our focus here is on the relationship between people who intend to get married in honour of the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4) or anyone considering dating. It is prudent to note that Scripture is clear about relationships that do not honour our bodies as temples of God or the sanctity of our sexuality. Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:13- 20, 7:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, and 1 Peter 2:11 remind us of God’s displeasure against sexual relations outside of his given boundaries.
What are the red flags to watch out for if you are in a relationship with someone with whom you hope to tie the knot? What should make you call for a serious meeting or consider letting go before it is too late?
The first thing we must consider – even before the relationship starts – is the whole conversation of salvation, or to put it in the negative, unbelief. We know that light and darkness do not mix in the natural world. The same is true in the spiritual things- the light of Christ’s salvation cannot mix with the darkness of sin (John 1:5). Paul warns us against unequal yoking with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-18), not so much because he wants to take the fun out of our lives, but because that is God’s design and desire for his children – to be united with those the Father calls. So, before you get into a love relationship with someone, please consider the eternal state of that person. If you are in a relationship with an unbeliever, then know you are treading on treacherous grounds and walking in disobedience – not to man, but to God, whom you claim to love and honour.
Equator Line Boundaries
Another thing you need to keep in mind is whether this person has clear boundaries or not. For example, in Western Kenya, Maseno in particular, there is a big stone with the inscription, “The equator line passes here!” The dilemma with this signage is that no one can literally see the equator; it is an imaginary line. You have to assume precisely where the line passes. Some people have such boundaries – invisible and vague. You cannot tell their true stance against immorality, promiscuity, abortion, divorce, gender-based violence, cussing, unfaithfulness or any other matter. In their talk, they are neither here nor there, falling short of the call in Scripture to let our ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and our ‘No’ be ‘No’ (Matthew 5:37, James 5:12). These are people you sometimes don’t even know whether you are dating or you are friends – the two of you cannot define what you are. You want to avoid being caught up with someone who doesn’t have clear-cut lines on matters of life and godliness.
In life, we need to know what needs to be done and what needs to be avoided. A ‘yes-man’ is someone who agrees to everything as if they have no mind of their own to challenge or suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, yes-men are not helpful in serious relationships because they will fall short of the claim of Scripture that iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). If you are looking into marriage, know that marriage is God’s institution to sanctify us. If someone doesn’t put you on task with your decisions while dating, how would s/he do so in marriage? Moreover, if your partner is a ‘yes-man’, you will not be challenged to grow in your personal life – character, attitude, love for God etc. – because they will agree without question to everything you say. At the same time, you do not want to be with someone who will always want their way and challenge your decisions irrationally. There is a fine line between objectivity and being controlling. Therefore, it would be best if you had someone who will cause you to be productive by keeping you in check. Someone who will question everything in light of God’s will for your life, which is pleasing to God (Romans 12:2), will be a good partner. Someone who acts as if everything you want is valid or anything you say is correct will not help you move forward. Watch out for such behaviour, as we are fallible men.
Another red flag you need to watch out for is someone who is overprotective. Now, it is okay for us to be alert concerning who our loved ones are interacting with at any given point. Protection is part of our make-up as human beings. It usually flows out of love. God protects us through and through (Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 91:7). Paul charges us to love others with genuine affection (Romans 12:10) and care for the interests of others and not just our interests (Philippians 2:4). At the heart of love is a desire to protect. But protection does not mean total alienation from others around us. Someone who is overprotective will not want to see a partner interacting with the opposite sex. They are continually careful about what their partner is doing or fidgety about who calls or texts their partner. Sometimes, these people use tracking devices, making random calls to establish who you are with, even when it is not urgent. When your partner thinks they are the only one who should be in your space, calls, texts, chillouts, and so on, you should view that as a red flag. Before they knew you, God had put you in a community of humans you lived with for years (unless they found you in solitary confinement).
Abusive and Overtly Aggressive
You must be concerned if you notice unusual anger and aggressive behaviour in your partner. First, as much as we are susceptible to negative emotions, God calls us to control our anger and not sin (Ephesians 4:26-27). However, when anger turns into physical engagements – slaps, blows, scratching, and other unbecoming behaviours, then you need to make a turn. Secondly, most people think abusive language and insensitive name-calling are just a matter of speech and upbringing. It could be, but it is more often entrenched in the character and heart of that individual. Only when the miracle of transformation happens can we shift our eyes off the dangers.
Finally, beware of someone who is secretive. The point of any relationship is to grow in trust and confidence. Unity does not exist without trust and openness. Just as we see the unity in the God-head (John 17:11), we are also called to be one as we relate closely. Secrets breed doubt and suspicions, attitudes which work against a relationship. If your partner cannot be open about the essential things- their friends, struggles, fears, their source of living, etc., there is a problem. Vulnerability is crucial in any relationship; secrets kill vulnerability and deep connection. Things done in the dark are often naughty and destructive (Ephesians 5:11-12, Proverbs 9:17, 17:23, 2 Corinthians 4:2). If there is no openness in the journey to marriage, there will be no openness in the marriage.
We must be keen on many things about ourselves and those we seek to walk with in this life journey. Whatever we ignore will hurt us in later days. Be careful and alert. Please pay attention to these signs and much more that we have not mentioned here. Our goal is to live with others for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).