How do you know if you’re in an unhealthy dating relationship? Many of us live in denial about the state of a toxic relationship—bearing with it much longer than we should. This may be because of fear (“What will happen if we break up?”) or because of embarrassment (“I should have seen this sooner!”). We may also hesitate because we’re not sure if what we’re seeing is just conflict that needs to be worked through or if it’s enough to warrant ending the relationship.
This post may provide some clarity. Following are three warning signs in a dating relationship—three red flags that you shouldn’t ignore. If you see any of these in your relationship, address them with your partner. Then find a mentor or counselor who can offer biblical wisdom and perspective on the situation. From there, you can prayerfully decide whether or not to break up, or if this is an issue that can be worked through with appropriate counseling.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)
Does your boyfriend fly into a rage when things don’t go his way? Does he make excuses—“I had a bad day,” “I was just really annoyed”—but fail to apologize or appropriately deal with his emotions? This is a sign of a lack of self-control. Self-control is a fruit of walking by the Spirit; you cannot simultaneously be in the Spirit and raging at your partner, friend or acquaintance. A pattern of anger is a dangerous road, and if your boyfriend is exhibiting this behavior, it’s time to address it.
Typically, the best way to address a character problem is to discuss the issue one-on-one with the person—but because anger can quickly escalate to emotional and physical abuse, it would be wise to have a mentor figure present or at least nearby during your discussion with your boyfriend.
Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9)
A lazy person may joke about sleeping in, procrastinating on school projects and being late to everything, but these things aren’t actually that funny. Part of being followers of Christ means respecting others through diligent work. If your boyfriend refuses to work, can’t keep a job or consistently fails to follow through in his work and relationships, there is reason for concern.
Laziness can manifest itself in several ways, but ultimately it is a spiritual issue. God is a worker, and knowing Him inspires us to be diligent in our own work. It should also lead us to make an effort in our dating relationships, not “giving up” or ceasing to try once we’ve found someone to date. If laziness characterizes your dating relationship, discuss it with your partner. See if you can work through it and if he is willing to change. If not, think and pray about taking a break.
3. Sexual Sin
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Though all sin grieves God, sexual sin comes with a particular set of consequences. Couples who engage in it—whether through porn, erotica or continually transgressing their own physical standards—forfeit the peace and unity God wants for their relationship. Sexual sin also blinds us to God’s will for our lives, deafens our ears to the Spirit and drives us away from an intimate relationship with God and a thriving relationship with our partner. That’s why Paul admonishes us to FLEE from sexual sin!
If your relationship consistently gives way to sexual sin, three things need to happen. First, you need accountability. You and your boyfriend each need to have a godly person of your same sex to talk to about this issue. You would also benefit from a married couple mentoring you through this season. Second, your spiritual walk is ESSENTIAL to overcoming sin in this area. If you’re not cultivating a strong prayer life and walk with God, you will continue to struggle. This needs to happen both individually and as a couple. And finally, if you continue to fall into sin together, it’s time to take a break until you can grow enough in your spiritual walk to come back together in purity. Read more here.
These are only three warning signs; there are several more that could be discussed (such as unequal yoking). But if you’re in a relationship that is exhibiting any of these signs, remember that God loves you and wants you to be at peace. Following His will is the only way to get there. Trust Him with the outcome of the relationship. Trust Him with the future. And take whatever steps of obedience are necessary to honor Him today.