When you venture out and make connections with new people, you meet all kinds. You likely can’t date every eligible prospect you meet, and you probably don’t want to. So, how do you decide who to date, who to engage as a friend only, and from whom you should walk away while muttering under your breath, “No way, Jose!” Sometimes you won’t know the answer until you’ve been around a person once or twice. But you can learn a lot about potential date before you ever go out with them.
Here are ten negative traits that should wave a red flag of danger when you observe them. I’m not saying these people are incapable of growth, healing, and change. But these negative issues can only be repaired with significant effort on the part of those who suffer from them. Don’t think for a moment you can change a person with the following traits. You will do better to keep looking than to invest a-lot of time with Red-Flag People who exhibit the following ten characteristics.
1. Just Too Good to be True
There’s an old saying: “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” People who seem to be too good to be true usually are. Here are several clues that a person may be living out a deception. He or she:
- Puts on an act to make a good impression.
- Exaggerates the positive and covers the negative about him/herself.
- Explains away (or outright lies about) anything that comes across in a negative light.
- Resists admitting faults or failures.
- Seems not to have a care in the world.
- Tells you too much too soon—such as expressing feelings of love and devotion as if you’ve known each other a lifetime.
- Is strangely secretive or involved in something “magnificent” that can’t be shared.
- Seems to be without nearby friends or family members who can validate or refute his or her facts or claims.
An old song says, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” Make sure the people you date are the real thing: down to earth, genuine, transparent, honest, and truthful.
2. Spiritual Dud-Ness
When you’re committed to putting God first in life and living out that commitment day by day, it’s a big mistake to move forward with someone who is not similarly committed. There’s just no reason to invest time in a romantic relationship with someone who has very different values from yours.
You are a spiritual creature, and being with a spiritual dud will turn your life into one compromise after another. Everything a spiritually vibrant person does is oriented in the direction of God—how you invest your time, your resources, and your abilities. A person who is not interested in God is headed in a different direction and serving another god—self, personal ambition, physical desires, or other appetites.
The longer you’re with this person, the more dangerous it becomes. It’s like lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite in your hand and saying, “I’ll put out the fuse before it blows.” You may think that with just a little more time and love, you can win over the spiritual dud to your worldview. But it’s highly unlikely. I believe the Bible is God’s Word, so when he tells us not to be “unequally yoked” there’s a good reason (2 Corinthians 6:14). God wants to keep you from the heartbreak of living with someone who does not share life in him.
3. Tangled and Entangled Apron Strings
Here’s another example of God’s brilliance. The Bible’s first instruction about marriage was given in the Garden of Eden right after God created Adam and Eve: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Even though this verse talks about a “man” leaving his parents to be united to his “wife,” it’s really talking about persons (be they wives or husbands) leaving their parents to be with their spouses. When you marry, your husband or wife replaces your parents as your closest human relationship.
You may wonder why this instruction about leaving parents and cleaving to spouses was needed at this early point in the human race. After all, Adam and Eve didn’t have earthly parents to leave; God created them with his own bare hands. But apparently leaving parents in order to be joined to a spouse is so important to God that he put it in the Bible right up front.
And, yet, some people just can’t pull this off. We use terms like “tied to apron strings,” “mama’s boy,” or “daddy’s girl” for people who can’t leave father and mother in order to be joined to a spouse. You don’t want to get emotionally involved with someone like this because this person’s parents will always be a major part of the equation. Wherever you go and whatever you do, it will seem like mom and dad is in the backseat or the other room. People who can’t let go of their parents have little room for you. Look for someone who respects and honors his or her parents but lives independently—physically and emotionally—and relates to you as top priority.
4. Mommy or Daddy Missing In Action
This person is opposite of the mama’s boy or daddy’s girl. Instead, this person’s mother and/or father failed to provide the care and nurturing parents need to provide in order for kids to grow into healthy independent adults. So, these Red Flag People are still searching for someone to take care of them. They are a magnet for people who want to be caretakers (mommy or daddy) to others. These two are a match made in dysfunctional symbiotic heaven.
The problem this matchup creates is an unbalanced marriage that eventually ends in resentment and disconnection. Eventually the parent in this relationship grows tired of taking care of the child.
5. Ability to Consume Vast Quantities of Something
Beware of the person trapped in addictions, capable of seriously damaging or disabling a relationship. I’m not just talking about the big ones we hear about: drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex, or porn. Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that is a controlling focus of a person’s life can be an addiction (shopping, fitness, sports, etc.). And all addictive behaviors disrupt and poison relationships. When you’re in a relationship with an addict, his or her addiction will always take priority over you.
Nobody is completely free of habits, traits, or compulsions. But steer clear of dating people who consistently elevate their hobbies, habits, or happenings above their relationships. You’re not likely to win that competition, so drop out of the game and move on before you get hurt.
6. My Way or I’ll Shove You to the Byway
Danny was a lot of fun to be with—as long as you did what he wanted you to do. He decided where he and his dates would go, what they’d do, and when and how they would do it. Some girls were fine with that, but even the most compliant of dates objected when he told them what to wear, where to sit in the restaurant, and what they should order. People like Danny don’t seem to be controlling at first. Rather, you feel like you’re being taken care of or that the person is extremely considerate, thinking of everything. The crack in the wall occurs when things don’t go as this person plans or you balk at one of his or her directives. Get ready for an explosion of anger, an icy cold shoulder, or a steamroller to squash your request or suggestion. So, if you sense this type of behavior, the sooner you balk, the sooner you will be free to walk.
If you marry someone like Danny, there’s a good chance your marriage will be haunted by nightmares.
- Your partner will make demands you can’t live up to.
- There will be disappointments and failures that are not your fault but for which you’ll be blamed.
- Expect outbursts of anger from your partner you had no idea were boiling inside him or her.
- Your partner will withdraw for long periods when you take a stand against his/her demands.
- You will lose friends who will not let your partner control them as you are controlled.
Do you get the picture? This is what can happen when relationship nightmares become living, breathing realities. Control freaks kill relationships by constantly demanding that things be done the way they want them done and manipulating you to be sure they get done that way. Their control of activities and events will eventually rob you of your life, identity, and freedom.
7. Worship of the Narcissistic Trinity: Me, Myself, and I
First cousin to the controlling person is the one who lives at the center of his or her own universe and expects everyone else to stay in proper orbit. This person is a taker, not a giver; self-centered rather than other-centered; and devoted to me, myself, and I. This person views everything that happens through the lens of personal needs and wants. Narcissists are like leeches, sucking the life out of relationships for their own ends.
Conversation with a taker is virtually all one-sided... anything you say will most likely be a cue for turning the attention back to himself or herself. Takers’ “conversations” are dominated by their own stories, difficulties, opinions, and so on. Anything you say only reminds them of something they want to say. They are not interested in finding out about you.
In healthy relationships, both participants give and receive; neither one dominates or tries to monopolize the attention and energy. If people devalue or ignore your contribution, they are saying you’re only there to serve them.
8. The Ticked and Ticking Time Bomb
Everyone experiences anger. But a person whose anger is unresolved and uncontrolled can blow up a relationship beyond repair. Excessive anger is a big-time source of stress and disconnection in relationships. For example, people who are ticked and whose anger issues are ticking time bombs of destruction are frequently impatient, annoyed, or irritated. They are argumentative and quarrelsome with little provocation, and they use withdrawal or other means to manipulate others. Don’t be surprised if they shut you out with silence or play the victim role, something they do with great expertise.
These folks are overly aggressive, antagonistic, or sarcastic. They are excessively jealous, competitive, and possessive. They are known to be negative and rude. Stay out of a deeper relationship with this person until he or she has successfully dealt with anger issues. I have been surprised at how well angry people can resolve their issues, but it’s not easy; their stubborn resistance is sometimes a flaw that is terminal in a relationship. Direct your attention to people who have a healthy outlook on their anger. They release their anger without harming themselves or others, and they are able to forgive others and themselves in order to move on in their lives.
9. Emotional Dud-Ness
Does one or more of the following descriptions give you a creepy déjà vu feeling?
- Whenever you talk about your feelings or ask how your date feels about something, he or she gets very quiet. “I don’t want to talk about that now. Maybe later,” this person will say, but later never comes.
- You’re looking for a deeper sense of commitment in the relationship, but the other person seems to crave increasing freedom and flexibility.
- In your mind, quality time in the relationship means being together, talking together, doing a project together, or playing together. For the other person, quality time means watching TV (“Don’t talk while I’m watching”) or doing stuff he or she needs to get done (work, chores, or anything except connecting with you at a heart-to-heart level).
- Opening up to someone about your hurts, needs, dreams, desires, yearnings, aspirations, and goal is something you have to do with a friend or relative because your partner won’t go there.
If these statements describe how you feel about the person you’re dating now (or most of the people you tend to date), you have a big decision to make, and you have to make it now. Do you really want to spend your life with someone as unfeeling and uncaring as a block of granite? Are you sure you’re up to a marriage in which your emotional needs and craving for connection are completely overlooked or thoroughly stonewalled?
10. Fear off the Charts and Running Amok
No news flash here. Everyone experiences fear. That’s not all bad news because not all fear is all bad. Healthy fears help save lives. But there are also unhealthy fears, and some people are so dominated by them that it really clogs up their relationships in a bad way. People under the sway of unhealthy fears tend to be controlled and consumed by them.
Unhealthy fears are triggered by imagined or over-exaggerated dangers. These fears prompt people to make irrational, unwise decisions or paralyze them from making any decisions at all. Unrealistic fears may be so pervasive that fearful people spend most of their time either quietly avoiding them or loudly fighting them. And people consumed by fears are blocked from developing healthy relationships. These Red Flag people are not hopeless. These fears don’t have to be permanent. Each of them can be transformed if they seek help. None of these people would be classified as Mr. or Ms. Wrong, but they are definitely Mr. or Ms. “Not Right Now.”
I’m not saying that Red Flag people are bad people you must avoid like the plague. They are people with particular weaknesses, blind spots, or flaws who need love, encouragement, and, in some cases, counseling. What I am saying is that it is unwise to get emotionally involved with Red Flag People unless and until they deal successfully with their issues. And that means not dating them—not now, perhaps not ever. To do so is to roll the dice with your own happiness and prospects for a fulfilling lifelong marriage. And that’s just too big of a gamble.
*To learn more about the book, Is This The One? from Steve Arterburn, please click here.
Steve Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and host of the #1 nationally syndicated Christian counseling talk show, New Life Live! the founder of Women of Faith conferences and serves as a teaching pastor at Heartland Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Steve is a bestselling author of books such as Every Man’s Battle and Healing is a Choice. The above excerpt is from his book Is This the One? Simple Dates for Finding the Love of Your Life. Steve resides with his family in Fishers, Indiana.