Were there any signs?
Many people ask this question after hearing my story. A story of falling in love with a Southern green-eyed boy who ended up committing adultery and living a secret life.
It took me a while to write this, because I had a hard time admitting that I saw warning signs while dating my ex-husband. I saw the signs, but I didn’t trust myself enough to listen to them.
The Enemy hates good marriages. Why? Because marriage is the ultimate picture of how much God loves us. It’s a commitment to die to yourself and the total opposite of selfishness. When marriages are strong, it slaps the Devil in the face! He hates anything that represents God! And, he’s been hitting marriages hard since the beginning of creation, starting with Adam and Eve.
How do we see warning signs aka “red flags?” Each of us have a navigation system, which only works when we listen to God’s voice. However, the Enemy deceives single people into believing that their navigation systems are broken–so that they will ignore red flags even if they see it.
It says in the Bible that the Devil steals, kills and destroys. If the Devil can steal your ability to identify red flags, then he can easily lead you to choose destructive relationships and sabotage your future. If single people keep choosing relationships that are unhealthy, the Enemy doesn’t even have to try to destroy marriages–they’ll do it on their own.
So, what do we do if we’ve been choosing wrongly? We have to start listening to God’s voice, the Holy Spirit. We need to start trusting ourselves when we feel that something is wrong.
Here are the red flags I wish I listened to:
- His maturity in faith doesn’t match yours, and he lacks a deep personal relationship with God. Many women I’ve talked to compromise here. Conflicts arise when two people from different religious backgrounds get married, and it also happens when two Christians of different maturity levels marry one another. Your values will match the level of your maturity; thus, different levels of maturity will lead to a clash of values. I found that this was the CORE reason why my ex-husband and I had so many disagreements.
- You find yourself constantly rationalizing things away. You feel as if the relationship is causing you to choose between who you are and what you want. Now, I am not talking about compromising on watching your favorite TV show and letting him watch sports instead. I am talking about MORAL compromising. I’ll give you an example: I have a strong value of not watching movies with graphic nudity. However, while dating my ex-husband, he told me that he watched movies with nudity (and I mean, graphic nudity). This issue is something we discussed over and over–and each time it was met with a lot of tension. We made an agreement that he could watch whatever he wanted as long as he “looked away” during nude parts. (And, I just had to trust him because I didn’t watch every movie with him.) At times, I wondered if I was compromising too much, but each time I rationalized it all away. I had a red flag staring me in the face–a red flag that was hinting a deep sexual addiction he had–not just to porn but to prostitutes.
- He is vague with parts of his past, and there are topics that are “off limits.” My ex-husband left out a lot of parts of his life–parts that I discovered later that I wish I knew before. I let a lot of things get past my radar during my dating season and ended up finding more secrets than I could handle after we exchanged vows. There were parts of his past that he “didn’t want to talk about.” I felt sometimes I was walking on eggshells when I asked certain questions about his life. I hold to the firm belief that you should really get to know someone before you marry them. If they are keeping secrets from you while you are dating–there will be more when you get married–trust me. If your significant other can’t trust you now, they won’t trust you later. You should have full transparency with one another–not so you can expose their secrets–but so you can cover each other with understanding and work on things that need mending.
- He has a broken childhood, but never sought healing. I dated several men who ended up being unfaithful to me–and eventually married one. What did they all have in common? A very, very broken past that was never truly dealt with. Just because they share their story with you, does not mean they are getting help. It’s always best for them to have received professional therapy–especially in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, pornography, etc. DON’T BE AFRAID to ask how they’ve gotten their healing. I knew something about my ex-husband’s past that was major and concerning. When I first found out about it, I wanted to ask him how he coped with it, how he dealt with his past. He said he had healed from it, and I tip-toed around the subject because I could tell it was sensitive. Tip-toeing around such a huge issue was like trying to cover an elephant with a napkin. It wasn’t going to go away just because we didn’t talk about it. Looking back, I would tell myself, “Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions!” You will only be hurting yourself if you ignore the broken pieces that will become part of a broken marriage later.
- You’ve caught him hiding things from you. ONE OF THE BIGGEST mistakes I made–was not to break off my engagement when I had the chance. We had just gotten engaged a few days prior, when I found a lot of photos of other women on his computer. One was an entire album of a girl he had dated that I NEVER knew about–and he dated her while we were getting to know one another. I felt so sick, I remember crying. He begged me to forgive him, cried crocodile tears–and we proceeded with our wedding plans after my big discovery. This flag was a warning of his unfaithfulness, and I refused to acknowledge it because I didn’t trust the small voice. My instincts kept telling me something was wrong-but I kept thinking I was making everything too big of a deal. Do you see what a lie that is? The lie that you can’t trust your instincts?
- He or she always has to be the one to “do” things. They always have to be “in charge.” I did long distance with my ex-husband so it was hard to recognize his tendency to control until we were married. However, looking back, I remember the first time I had a “check,” a feeling that felt off. We were at his house, and I was trying to wash the dishes when he told me he would do it. I then continued to wash dishes because I assumed he was just trying to be polite–and I wanted to clean up after he had spent time cooking me dinner. Then he snapped and said, “Please, don’t.” But, this time, it was very firm. I was surprised, but wasn’t sure how to respond. He then explained that if I washed dishes I would make too much noise, and he had the ability to do it a certain way. I kept thinking this incident was “small” even though it bothered me, and I didn’t feel right about it. Little did I know, I was getting a glimpse into his controlling and abusive personality that came to light during our marriage.
Who you are with will determine where you will go.
If you’re getting red flags in your current relationship, here are a few suggestions. Remember, they may not look like the ones I’ve listed.
- Pray and ask God, why you are feeling the way you are feeling.
- Write out the EXACT event that bothered you. Don’t sugar coat it or water it down. Then, read it to a friend–one that will be honest with you. (I’m serious about this step. It’s important. Don’t isolate yourself to your own thoughts. Ask someone what they think about the warning signs you are getting.)
- If you start seeing a pattern, there is something major and you shouldn’t ignore it.
- Analyze any “warning signs” against your morals. Figure out if it’s something you can actually live with the rest of your life if that person never changes.
- Make a decision to love yourself and trust yourself. There’s no point continuing to date someone that you aren’t sure about, especially if you are leaning towards marriage. It’ll only make for a rocky foundation that will fall apart later on. If you end up having to break off the relationship, you’ll have the freedom to choose again.
After being single for almost a year, I’ve learned to trust myself. It’s made all the difference. I’ve learned to say “no” to men that I had a bad feeling about. I’ve trusted my gut even when it didn’t fully make sense. I can say, I haven’t dated a single jerk since. And, it’s only made me love myself more for making good decisions.
I’m waiting for the right guy; in the mean time, I’ll keep writing.
-Jen, Writer for the Healed Heart