Doug Fields and I believe that one of the most important books either one of us have ever written is Getting Ready For Marriage. Far too many couples spend more time and energy focusing on the flowers for the wedding than the long- term success of their marriage. Although this doesn’t sound very romantic, when couples approach seriously dating or getting married they had better look honestly at any “red flags.”
Are You Willing to Look Honestly at “Red Flags”?
Too many couples ignore red flags in a relationship or aren’t willing to talk about them—or even worse, they just hope the issues will go away. These people are headed toward disaster. They get married, become miserable, and divorce (either quickly or after dragging it out for years). I often wonder how many marriages could have been saved from disaster if the couple would have been courageous enough to face the hard issues. No one gets married hoping to have a miserable relationship, but too many people who are having a difficult time during their courtship mistakenly assume it will get better after they are married. Unfortunately, marriage doesn’t work that way. Often it gets more complicated if couples haven’t looked at the issues ahead of time.
No one individual or couple is perfect. Two imperfect people marrying one another will absolutely have issues. We all bring our brokenness and pain into a relationship, but certain actions and beliefs should become automatic causes for alarm. These issues are not new. In fact, millions of failed relationships have preceded your relationship. You would be a wise couple to consider the potential red flags that we’ve identified from failed marriages. If you see yourself or your fiancé in any of these, then it’s time to slam on the brakes and get some serious counsel. Postponing a wedding is a much better option than naively moving forward, hoping things might change after you are married.
Addiction: Alcohol, drug, sex, gambling, and pornography addiction are all issues that weaken the foundation of a healthy relationship. Addicts don’t do intimacy well, period.
Abuse: Has physical or sexual abuse from the past not been addressed? When people bury their painful experiences, those issues have a way of coming back even stronger in a marriage.
Unfaithfulness: If your fiancé has cheated on you, are you positive you have dealt with all the issues surrounding that circumstance? If there is habitual cheating and you continue to allow it, you need to seek counsel for denial and codependency. Chances are good it will happen again.
Community concern: If your friends and family are all in agreement that the relationship is not right, take the time to get some honest, objective counsel.
Cohabitating: Studies show that couples who are cohabitating have a much greater chance of marital dissatisfaction and divorce.
Sexual activity: Is a sexual relationship clouding your decision-making process? Too often, sex can fool couples into an instant intimacy bond. We have both counseled engaged couples who were active sexually, and many used sex to hide their deeper issues. They didn’t clearly see their deeper issues as being particularly destructive because they were enjoying sex.
Pregnancy: For women under thirty, most births now occur outside of marriage. On a HomeWord radio broadcast, the “trainer of trainers” when it comes to premarital counseling, Dr. Norm Wright, said, “One out of four marriages occurs because of pregnancy.” This is a complicated issue and definitely an important reason for additional counsel.
Different spiritual values: Do you and your fiancé have similar spiritual beliefs? Spiritual compatibility is a major part of a healthy marriage.
Poor communication and conflict-resolution skills: Communication is key to a successful relationship. Poor communication and conflict resolution skills can derail a relationship very quickly.
Issues with previous spouses: If you or your fiancé has been married before, and you still have major “unfinished business” with your ex-spouse, this could destroy your marriage.
If you read through these red flags and felt uneasiness in your heart, mind, or soul, I implore you to listen carefully to those feelings. Now is the time to seek counsel. To further prepare you, I suggest you work through the Getting Ready for Marriage Online Assessment Tool at GettingReadyForMarriage.com.