DEAR ALI: “What are some ‘RED FLAGS’ I should avoid?”
I just got out of a destructive relationship and am still facing the consequences of hurt, pain, distrust, abuse and more. I kept trying to be ‘forgiving’ when things would happen, hoping he would keep his promises to change, but he didn’t. I guess my question is, what are some of the ‘red flags’ that I should not put up with and how can I have the courage to leave when I recognize these things?
Thank you dear sister for this challenging question. I know it is not always ‘black and white’ when we are in the midst of something, especially when your heart is involved. So the first thing I would say, is don’t beat yourself up. We can be thankful that God gave you the strength to leave when you did, which spared you from future hurt down the road. I would advise seeking professional counseling if there is deeper healing that needs to take place. As you do this, take Paul’s words of advice of “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…pressing on toward the goal to win the prize” for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). Press forward, asking God to heal you and show you what you can learn about yourself and His design for relationships. Ask Him to make you whole in Him so that you will never again choose to endure another abusive relationship like the one you just got out of.
Now to your question about what are some practical attributes in a person that may serve as RED FLAGS to watch out for. The ones that go beyond the typical ‘minor imperfection’ category and into the ‘watch out’ category. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in their book Boundaries in Dating (which I have highly recommended for the last three weeks!), point to David’s Psalm 101 for some clues:
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.
First, David implies the importance of character, beginning with a look at yourself and the way you lead your own life. That is absolutely crucial to be honest with ourselves first, before we can slap any expectations on anyone else!
From there, he says he avoids:
- Vile things
- Deceit and/or lying
These things can take many shapes and forms in real life, but most would agree that David’s list involves qualities that are likely to cause more harm than good in people and relationships. Dr. Townsend and Cloud say, “If you encounter such things in a person you are dating, then they are weighty indeed and you should be very, very careful.”
Other RED LIGHTS they list as traits that are destructive in relationships are:
- Acts like he has it all together, instead of admitting weakness or imperfection
- Religious instead of spiritual
- Defensive instead of open to feedback
- Apologizes more than changes
- Avoids facing problems
- Refuses to work on problems
- Has visible addictions
- Avoids closeness
- Jealous or suspicious
If there are some of these patterns showing up in a person you are with, consider asking them to seek counsel from someone you trust. If they are unwilling to face issues and problems and/or get help, as the Doc’s say, “Watch out!” These are patterns that could persist and cause great harm to you in the long run.
We must remember that God’s command to us all is to ‘bear fruit’ in all we do, even in our relationships. Jesus says everything is known by the fruit it produces–good or bad (Matthew 12:33). So it is good to ask ourselves, “Is this relationship bearing mostly good fruit or bad fruit?” Good fruit in a relationship would be making each other feel loved, respected and valued, laughing and having fun together, dealing with problems in a healthy manner, encouraging each other in their faith and their calling in Christ, and challenging each other to grow in Christ likeness, exhibiting and growing in the ‘fruits’ of the Holy Spirit, like peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
To the contrary, if you are with a person who uses abusive or harsh language, puts you down, leaves you feeling bad about yourself, or fearful about his actions and reactions, then that would be considered ‘bad fruit’ in the eyes of God and He never intended you to have to put up with those things.
I understand it can be difficult to leave a person when you feel an emotional attachment to them. Here are some tips that can help give you strength to do the right thing when you are in a destructive relationship:
Pray Continually. The most important thing is that we stay connected to God. The Bible instructs us to “pray continually…” (1 Thess. 5:17). Pour your heart out to God and ask Him for wisdom, guidance and strength to navigate through the situation by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Soak in His Truth. Often times when we are involved in destructive or abusive relationship, it rubs off on us and permeates our thoughts, attitudes and perspectives about ourselves and life. We must re-align our thinking with the TRUTH of God’s Word and His character. As we let the Word soak back into our hearts, we will be reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, holy vessels made for His noble purposes! Getting our thinking and self-worth back on track can help in navigating us back to healthy lifestyle and relationship choices.
Share Your Burden. God never intended us to bear life’s burdens on our own. He instructs us to share our burden with Him first and foremost (Matthew 11:28, 1 Peter 5:7) AND with our community. When we are feeling down and out during or after a relationship, have the courage to let your loved ones in and lean on them for strength, love and wisdom. To refuse help from others is to refuse love that God could be pouring through someone directly to you. Learn to receive it and then give it back when you are strong and another person is in need!
Seek Professional Help. Enduring an abusive relationship may cause deeper harm than you can handle on your own. Pray to God alone and with others to see where He may direct you to get some professional help. God tells us in His Word, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Be sure not to enter into another relationship until deep wounds from your past relationship are dealt with.
Sorry this post got a bit long! But this topic of how to avoid RED FLAGS and how to have the strength to walk away is a prevalent one, even in the church. I pray dear sister (or brother) that you got something out of this series of ‘What to Look for in a Mate” and that it might help in making wise and Spirit-led decisions in the future. It has helped me, as I learn and grow along with you. 🙂
Have comments or thoughts to add? Do it right here and join in the conversation! Also post questions or topics you would like to see addressed on this blog in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. Thanks for stopping by and having a wonderful weekend!