I’m having some doubts about the relationship I’m in. How can I tell if I should fight through because it’s real love, or walk away?
“Love conquers all.”
It’s a sweet phrase that we like to put on posters and hang in our kitchens and even preach from our pulpits.
But does love really conquer all? Is that all you need? And if so, what do we make of the disastrous divorce rates evidenced in our society – both from inside and outside of the church.
I guess that depends on your definition of “love” and what it actually means. The root of this phrase probably stems from 1 Corinthians 13, where we see the TRUE definition of real love. A love that’s based on commitment, and evidenced by action. A love that’s not based on feeling, but on choice.
The problem is that this phrase is being hijacked by our culture – and misinterpreted to mean that the feeling of being in love will get you through whatever life brings.
But just as quickly as you can fall in love with your feelings — you can guarantee that your feelings have the power to take you right back outta’ love.
Love- real love- is powerful – but if and only if you’ve learned to recognize it, live it, and choose it moment after moment.
Today, many men and women go into marriage with high hopes, but very little preparation, and end up struggling through the pain of an unhealthy, dysfunctional, even catastrophic marriage situation.
Marriage is not an easy journey, and when the rubber meets the road, those who go into it ignoring the warning signs will always reap the harsh reality of the seeds they’ve sown.
As you might know, I have a large following of singles on this blog. And while I believe in the importance of helping married couples walk through the “hard things” of marriage — in fact, I wrote a whole NEW book about it that I’d love for you to preorder TODAY— I believe it’s JUST as important for singles to learn as MUCH AS THEY CAN in preparing to make a wise marital choice. They need to get a front row seat to marriage, so they can be prepared to choose marriage well.
Red Flags to Consider
If you’re in a dating relationship today that is headed toward marriage, and you’re having some doubts if it’s real love…as a Professional Counselor, I’ve worked with far too many broken individuals and have endured one too many heart-breaking marriage counseling sessions not to graciously ask you to rethink your decision to get married if you and/or your significant other exhibit any one of the following sign:
#1: You’re having major, recurring, obsessive doubts:
When it comes to love, almost every single person will have a doubt at some point in their relationship. It’s normal to have moments of doubt, to get cold feet every once-in-awhile, and to feel a little nervous when it comes to thinking through the potential of lifelong marriage. But in a healthy relationship, time will always decrease doubts and fears. As time passes, the level of doubt and fear should not increase, but decrease. As you see your partner’s traits and qualities slowly unfold, the right relationship will move you into peace not panic.
If you’re having constant, recurring, obsessive doubts it’s a signal that either something is wrong in the relationship, or something is wrong within your self. Maybe it’s your personal past or baggage holding you back and causing you fear (see point #5), or maybe there’s something going on in the relationship that’s continually causing you to rethink your decision. Or maybe you’re struggling with clinical anxiety that’s starting to impact your relationship. But either way, recurring, constant doubts are never something you should ignore – but instead, seek to get to the bottom of and work through.
#2: You’re caught in patterns of unhealthy conflict and communication:
I always say that communication is the life-line of a relationship. Your words are a pathway into your soul, and being able to connect on a daily basis is an important part of marriage. If you find yourself in a relationship where communication doesn’t come easy, and where things tend to escalate into unhealthy patterns of unresolved arguments and unhealthy conflict, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself if this is really something you want to commit to for the rest of your life.
#3: You see continued signs of major character flaws:
In my book, True Love Dates, I explain that in a healthy relationship perfection is not the goal, but rather, perspective. But there are times in a relationship when things are actually FAR from perfect. If you’re in a relationship in which you’re seeing patterns of unhealthy behaviors emerge, there’s a good chance these behaviors are going to stick around for the long haul. Things such as dishonesty, rage, infidelity, addictions, and the like are patterns that point to a deeper issue. Without a doubt, these things need to be dealt with and overcome before you should ever enter into marriage.
#4: Your most trusted friends and family are giving you repeated warnings to rethink your decision:
When it comes to relationships, oftentimes we’re blinded by love. There could be flaws and red flags that we don’t see because our emotions are leading the way. But an important component to a healthy marriage is having a supportive community: people who love you, believe in you, and support your relationship. Friends and family often see things that we’re blind to. So if you find yourself in a relationship in which your friends and family aren’t on board, I would highly suggest you take their feedback into consideration. Invite some trusted people to speak into your life, and then take the time to listen to what they’re saying before you move forward in haste.
#5: You have significant emotional or psychological baggage that you’ve ignored in your personal life:
Like I said before, none of us are perfect. We all have habits and hangups that we’re dealing with and trying to move away from. But there are some issues that are more severe than others and can actually get in the way of a healthy relationship. If you find that your past baggage, or current habits, sins, and struggles are getting in the way of your ability to function well in a relationship, you need to take the time to work on yourself before you try and work on your relationship. In True Love Dates, I discuss the importance of “dating inward” as a significant part of the equation of a healthy relationship. Deal with your past baggage, understand your identity in the present, and cast a vision for your future. The ability to give the real love described in scripture is contingent on your ability to love yourself: that includes taking care of your health. Because you will always attract a relationship that’s on YOUR level of psychological and emotional health.
For more on finding and keeping a healthy dating relationship, check out True Love Dates.
For more on navigating the joys and struggles of REAL marriage, pre-order my new book, Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We>Me.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!