Three college friends and I sat in a hotel lounge, chatting about our younger days. “What was I thinking? The signs were all there, telling me he was Mr. Wrong,” one of them said as she sipped her latte. “I didn’t see the red flags ‘cause I was too busy being in love with the idea of being loved.”
“Me too,” my other friend said. “Why didn’t someone write the book on how to find the man of your dreams?”
All four of us chuckled. We graduated from the same college, lived in the same dorm. And, though none of us would admit it, we shared similar restlessness about finding the right man. We attended classes but in that college campus, what we secretly studied was the male population, hoping one of them would be husband material.
In general, the search was fun. But at times, high expectations ended up in deep disappointment. And other times, the “love” we chased ended up with heartache chasing us instead.
But even with a few scars, we made it through. And now after three of them divorced, leaving me as the only one who is still married to my college sweetheart, we possess a wealth of insight. Most of which comes from experiences lived, episodes endured, and lessons learned in the classroom of pain.
How different our lives would have been if we only had the wisdom to heed these signs.
Sign 1: He allows his romance to turn into physical roaming.
And with soothing words, he attempts to invade the boundaries you clearly established more than once. Yet time and time again he insists, whispering he’ll love you forever hoping you’ll give in. Caution: that’s his testosterone talking, not a man of integrity who values and respects you. That’s when Satan goes into action repeating, “You’ll lose him if you don’t give in.” False. You’ll only lose your own integrity and gain the heartache that disobedience brings.
Time to assess: Should you fail in this area, God will forgive when you ask. He will grant you renewed clarity and peace. And with confidence, you can declare: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” (Psalm 66:17-18)
Sign 2: His sincerity is questionable.
When you speak of your Christian convictions, he agrees with you. When you invite him to visit your church, he goes along. But when you ask him to pray with you, he squirms. Or when discussing deeper issues regarding spirituality, he is ambiguous and distant. Warning: he might be going through the motions to win you over. This red flag needs to fly high reminding you he’s not the spiritual leader, the kind you need should marriage plans appear in the horizon.
Time to assess: Be true to God first and be sincere in your asking for His guidance to identify the strong spiritual leader with sound convictions and good character to be your future husband. Then confidently repeat, “Let me see your kindness to me in the morning, for I am trusting You. Show me where to walk, for my prayer is sincere.” (Psalm 143:8-10, The LB-Paraphrased)
Sign 3: Others are warning you.
You think he’s the one because he “makes you feel so good.” But those around you who know you well and whom you respect give you warnings. They point out flaws you overlook because you’re so much “in love” that you’ve become deaf to their wisdom. But often feelings can be wrong. And emotions can blind one from seeing potential pitfalls.
Time to assess: Your own path to happiness might not be God’s way to bring you lasting joy. Reflect on the advice given, and no matter how well-defined your plans are, welcome wise counsel from those who love you because “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
Sign 4: Criticism becomes a pattern.
Sometimes you might mistake humility and patience when he is free with harsh criticism toward you and others. But when experiencing this during dating, it might be a sign of potential emotional abuse only to increase after that wedding day.
Time to assess: Because you are the daughter of the King, you mustn’t endure painful words, insensitive treatment or even rudeness. Expect to be treated with utmost respect because you know who you are—the masterpiece in God’s hands as you declare: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
Sign 5: He’s in the red.
Although money is not the most important aspect of a relationship, it is the number one reason for divorce. And if marriage is a possibility with the man you’re dating, observe his attitude toward money, his spending habits and his commitment to tithe. Each will give you clues on what to expect should you become his wife. If he’s a creature that flings credit cards at every turn, that’s your clue to dig a little deeper. Otherwise, entering into marriage with debt, money issues and financial troubles will surely have you walking down the aisle toward the altar of disaster.
Time to assess: What does he treasure? What is he storing in his heart? This is the standard by which you must measure him: “… store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20)
Whether you’re 20 or 60 years old, or whether it’s your first date or you’re about to send out wedding invitations, bring your girlfriend with you. Her name is “wisdom.” God’s wisdom will help you answer these two vital questions: Does this man love God more than he loves me? And do his words, actions, attitude, demeanor, dreams and character reflect this conviction?
The answer to these questions will determine whether decades later you’ll be drinking the latte of regret or sipping the fresh water of true happiness in marriage.