Developing Great Relationships

Dark Clouds and Red Lights —- Relationship Problems



Dark Clouds and Red Lights—Relationship Problems


     In an apparent attempt to build my confidence in facing the real world my mother would always say that it is “you vs. you.” I never quite knew what this meant or what the rules would be. Clearly there would be no head slapping, eye gouging, or ear twisting since that would not only hurt but would also look silly.

     We might all be sitting around talking about some relative, an activity that was always better than any movie we could rent. It would never center on any worthy accomplishments. An uncle could win the Noble Prize but we would talk about how he used to sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table and constantly scratch his armpits. One misspoken word by an aunt or a faux pas by a cousin and we had a conversation starter for months. The best thing that any relative could bring to a potluck dinner was only their appetite. A beautiful and delicious cake would be eaten like starving lions around an antelope and then forgotten about. But have someone forget to bring anything at all and we had delicious conversation far beyond the next holiday. But eventually my mother would look wistful and say, “But he’s good people.” People? I know that he was greedy and incorrigible but was he also demon possessed or schizophrenic?

     My mother has perfected the sacrificial servant motif through decades of stringent practice. “So mom, what do you want to have for dinner for your birthday?” The answer was well predictable. “I’ll just have toast,” she would say with such an unworthy demeanor that would make even Cinderella blush. “You don’t even have to put any butter on it. You need to save your money. I’m just happy to have you here.” Eventually we would talk her into going to a Chinese restaurant where she would always order vegetable lo mein; the cheapest dinner on the menu at $2.95. “Mom, why don’t you treat yourself this year? Get something different.” “But I like vegetable lo mein. Why can’t I have what I want?” So we would order appetizers to flesh out the dinner. She would take one meager item and then my father and I would consume the rest.

     She has an uncanny ability to find the most dangerous aspect of any activity. “Mom, I’m going to get a haircut.” “Make sure he doesn’t cut your ear with those scissors. They keep those scissors really sharp; it doesn’t take much to draw some blood. Tell him to be careful around your ears. Tell him this before he even gets started.”

     Or another time, “Mom, I’m going to the convenience store to get some milk.” “Don’t forget to wear your seatbelt.” OK, that was not too bad. That was pretty tame as far as worse case scenarios go. Maybe she is losing her edge. Wearing a seatbelt is important and the fact that I have not failed once in over 30 years to put it on does not necessarily diminish her reminder. “Oh, and before you go in.” Oh, oh. “When you get there, sit in the car for a few minutes and see who’s in there. Convenience stores are robbed all of the time. If there is anyone suspicious then wait until they leave. Or, even better, pull out and go around the block. There might be shooting. Promise me you’ll do that.” “Of course, Mom. If there’s a bullet with my name on it, it’ll have a hard time finding me.” Will I sit in my car when I get to the store? Of course not. But I will get my milk and my mother will have peace of mind and is not that really what matters?

     Many times I wanted to tell my mother to stop being so negative or to not be so “motherly” with me. But then I would realize that she still prepared my meals. And on several levels I decided that it would be to my advantage to simply maintain the status quo.



        Relationships can have problems from many different ways. One person may have a wrong attitude that keeps them from having deep relationships. Or there may be a dysfunctional character quality that is stirring up all kinds of problems. Or the way that the relationship has come together may be harmful.

Every one of us has baggage from previous relationships and every person that we meet has baggage from previous relationships. But no matter how deep the rejection and hurt that we have had we must learn that the good from close relationships will out weigh and, ultimately, cleanse away a lot of that pain.

Our best example is God. More people will ultimately reject Him than love Him. “The road is narrow.” Many people will hate Him. “They spat on Him.” Even Christians will disappoint Him. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” But despite this disappointment and rejection God does not quit. And because of that, we can be saved and maintain an eternal intimacy with God.

        We are going to take a look at three unhealthy ways that can sink a relationship and, by doing so, make it easier to recognize these trouble spots when they come up so that they can either be remedied or avoided.

Unhealthy thinking

        The thought patterns that we develop can result from many factors: our parents, the interactions that we have had with friends, neighbors and other people, our attitude towards God, our health, our finances and so on. Though we usually cannot change or avoid these things there is always a choice of how we will respond to them.

If you see yourself or another person fitting into any of these cases then action should be taken to change these attitudes. These thought patterns will disrupt and hinder the development of good, solid relationships.

You find yourself only with companions rather than in relationships.

What does this mean? Only having companions means that all of your friendships are shallow. This may be because you are waiting until that perfect person comes along. Companionships are usually tossed together more because of circumstances than because of a deep mutual interest. A person who only has companionships may indicate that he is only looking to immediately fill specific needs rather than for a person to share their lives with. When you only have companionships you find it easy to go from one person to another and the loss of contact with any one of them is easily forgotten.

This person will do what is called relational surfing. They will hop around from one relationship to another never staying around long enough to settle in and get to really know or appreciate that person. This type of person is a relational vagabond.

You may be someone who always has only companions rather than relationships because you like going out or dating but you do not like commitment and vulnerability. However, God was not interested merely in being companions when it came to us. He did not save us just so that we do not have to go to Hell and so that we can wander the streets of gold forever without ever running into Him. He saved us so that we can intimately know Him.

In Isaiah 49:15-16 God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” This is intimacy. God does not stamp “saved” on our foreheads; He stamps the saved on His hands.

If you find yourself only having companions then you should examine why. Is it because you truly desire deeper relationships but lack the skills to do so? Then study the section on “How to Have Great Relationships” and then “practice” relationships. Learn to work at them.

Or maybe you put up a wall when a relationship hits a certain level. This is probably related to some kind of fear. Try and determine what that fear is and, if necessary, seek Christian counsel for it.

You avoid close relationships out of fear of being hurt.

You may have put a lot of hope and energy into a particular relationship and then something tragic happened and he or she was gone. They might have simply walked away. Things may have gone steadily downhill and what was once filled with such hope is now a scorched remainder of what once was. Maybe nothing much happened with someone that you had high hopes for. Or maybe the person passed away. There can be a number of reasons for this failure or disappointment. But the end result is that you are now so hurt by what happened that you will do almost anything to keep it from happening again; even if it means pushing away any potential good. You have become the person who, because you bit down hard on a bone once while eating, will now never eat again even if it means your eventual death. But in this case with relationships you will not physically die, but you will allow yourself to emotionally die.

        Everyone has some kind of fears regarding relationships. There is the fear of being ridiculed, of being rejected, of being ignored, of being exposed, of being dumped for another, and many others. Ultimately there needs to be the realization that the benefits of relationships far outweigh the negatives.

In Matthew 7:14 Jesus said, “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” More people reject God than accept Him and yet He still pursues those whom He can. People grieve Him, they disappoint Him, they reject Him, and they curse Him. But God does not give up on people. Neither should we.

Identify your fears and talk to someone about overcoming it. It may not be quick and it may not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

You avoid close relationships out of fear of being exposed.

Some people are phonies. They try and act more spiritual than they really are. Or they try and be more important or wealthier or caring than they really are. But they know that it is all a front and that, if the other person finds this out, then all bets are off.

Sharing lives means being genuine with others. If that means changing something that is wrong or weird about you then do so. But for everything else it means no apologies, no shame, and no disclaimers. If you tell a lie you will tell it forever but if you tell the truth you only need to tell it once. It is much easier to be yourself than to be a fake.

Everyone has something that they might be ashamed for others to find out about. These things do not need to be revealed right away. For example, if you had committed a crime in the far past or you married young and it quickly failed. They can come out as you get to know each other better.

However if this dark side is something that you know that they will ultimately be detrimental to the relationship then it should be mentioned earlier on in the relationship. I knew one situation where the man was an addicted gambler, but he hid it well. He married a wonderful woman who brought a nice sum of money into the marriage. Near the end of their first year together she noticed that there was not any money in any of their checking accounts to pay the bills. She asked him about it and he confessed that he had been gambling all of their money away behind her back. He was forced to leave before he lost the house, too. This is a problem that should have been mentioned early on since it would definitely affect the marriage.

Other examples of where someone should reveal a potential problem is when someone’s personality is occasionally adversely affected by medication or where there is a deteriorating health problem that might not be obvious at this stage. Discussing these things is only fair to the other person. There should never be an attitude of “Well, it’s not my fault that you didn’t notice this problem before. But you married me and now you have to live with this.”

If you feel that you have something to hide and it is preventing you from getting deeper into relationships then consider what that issue is. If it is a sin then you can repent and put it behind you. If it is not sin then maybe something can be done to lessen it. But if not, then realize that someone may be willing to accept that one issue because the rest of who you are is so good. But if you do not believe that you even have enough good to balance out any of the bad then work on becoming more like Jesus’ character. As you become more like God there will be nothing bad enough that will be able to overwhelm godliness.

The fear of being exposed can be changed. It does not have to be a problem.

You avoid close relationships because you want to stay in complete control.

Relationships mean sacrifice. Adam lost a rib for Eve. Jonathan gave up his potential to be king for David. Joseph had to carefully guard Mary’s reputation when he found out that she was pregnant with Jesus. God had to die for us.

Some people want every aspect of their lives laid out predictably and neatly. The problem is that people will have a tendency to mess that up. If you want complete control then you will have to go it alone. But if you want depth then you will need people.

Let us read a few passages about sacrifice and think about the sacrifice that was made. Think about how vulnerable this Person became and then consider why He did it.

Mark 15:15

And wishing to satisfy the multitude, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified.

Matthew 27: 29-31

And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.

Mark 15:31-32

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” And those who were crucified with Him were casting the same insult at Him.

Mark 15:34-37

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?” And when some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.

2 Corinthians 5:21

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


This is not God telling us that we need to sacrifice; this is God making the ultimate sacrifice. This was done so that we might have a relationship with Him. Of course, God is not asking us to die for a date, but He is asking us to be willing to give up our control so that we might be vulnerable to another.

If someone else recognizes some sin in your life then that is a chance to repent and become more like Christ. If someone points out weaknesses in your life then that is a chance to change and become more like Christ. And if someone notices ways that you can strengthen some areas then that is a chance to grow and become more like Christ. See these as opportunities to become better. Do not blindly jump to your own defense or attack the faults of the other person.

We all make mistakes. Doing so does not necessarily make us losers. None of us knows the absolutely best way to do everything. Relying on other people is part of the enjoyment of a relationship as you both learn to interact, support and learn from each other.

You lack social/personnel skills so you do not even try.

Many people grew up isolated from others. They might have been made fun of by other children or were ridiculed by their parents. As a result, they do not know how to develop good relationships. Sometimes they try too hard but only end up being annoying and sometimes they do not try at all.

We have looked at how to develop these skills in other sections of this book. There are also a lot of other good books on right relationships. But in a nutshell, if you need to develop better social skills then try some of these things.

·         Study God’s relationship with us. How does He relate to us?

·         Become a people person by focusing on people and not using people to focus on yourself.

·         Listen to others. Ask them relevant questions. Remember what they say and ask them about it later.

·         Be positive about yourself and be an encouragement to others. Do not gossip. Nothing kills a mood faster than putting down yourself, the other person, or someone else.

·         Ask others how you can better develop your social skills. Ask for specific examples.


Becoming good at relationships takes time and effort. Just because you may have gotten a late start does not mean that it is impossible. Moses may have had a speech handicap (Exodus 4:10) yet he became the spokesman of God. There may be a lot of stumbles and failures but the key is to learn from them and try again.

You expect perfect relationships and then bail out when your expectations are not met.

Another way of phrasing this is that no one is good enough for you. Perfect friends are awfully hard to find. They have to never disappoint, be insensitive, be moody, cranky, or depressed, or say the wrong thing. And as if that is not enough they also have to always be available when you need them, have the exact right words for each situation, know when to rejoice with you, weep with you, and when to leave you alone. That is a pretty tall order. But there are people whose tolerance of other people’s mistakes or shortcomings is razor thin. It is like walking on the top of a fence; one slip and you are gone.

The reality though is that, at one point or another, everyone will let you down; everyone will disappoint you. Some will do it intentionally either because they are mean or because they are put themselves above you. Most will do it quite by accident either because they did not realize the possible consequence of their actions or because they simply cannot read your mind and know exactly what they should have done in order to please your every whim. And some will disappoint you simply because you put people into lose/lose situations where they can never do enough for you or be enough to you.

Your quest should not be to find that someone who is perfect. Your quest should be for you to learn to be gracious and compromising and tolerant. What needs to be realized is that we are all sinners including yourself.

        Once again God is our example here. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God takes us “as is.” He does not ask us to be perfect before He accepts us. So you too should not expect someone to be perfect before you accept them.

You expect everyone else to make the effort.

This may be because you found a lot of friendships to be phony or shallow or people that you thought were solid friends became quickly uninterested in you. Or maybe you poured your heart out to someone and got nothing in return. So now you figure that if anyone is going to be your friend they are going to have to prove their sincere interest by taking the initiative each and every time.

There are people out there that cannot go beyond a certain level of intimacy. You may just have had the chance of finding many of them. Or maybe you just expected too much too soon. Or maybe you are someone who easily “tells all” and is wonderfully transparent, but most people are not like that. Or maybe you are just shy. There are many reasons why your relationships were not as reciprocal as you had hoped. Some may have been their fault and some of it may have been your unreasonable expectations.

But whatever the reason you now sit in your chair and wait for everyone else to make the first move. And there are some people, God bless them, who will actually make the effort to talk to people who are by themselves. But even those people, if they get no return initiation, will get the feeling that they are simply unwanted and stop making the effort.

But whatever your reason it will have to go. There is no such thing as a born “people magnet.” Those people who always have someone around them are like that because they have learned to be a good friend. God does not play hard to get and neither should you.


You are a faithful friend if you:

·         Stick by a person who is struggling even if it is inconvenient for you

·         Do not draw immediate conclusions from rumors without first checking out your friend’s side

·         Make yourself generally available

·         Will follow-up a friend’s difficult situation with a phone call or visit

·         Know when to give advice and when to simply listen

·         Are genuinely concerned about the other person’s life

·         Are willing to adjust your schedule for the sake of your friend’s needs

·         Are reliable in keeping appointments and in fulfilling tasks that you said you would do

·         Are willing to help someone get their life back together even when their fall is a result of their own sin

·         Can set aside your own privileges or rights for the sake of someone else

·         Cannot enjoy something that is harmful to your friend

·         Can generously give that which will improve the quality of your friend’s life

·         Work with a friend to fulfill their goals


Unhealthy people

        Everyone has faults. Once I was in a particularly long trial and someone wondered if that was the case because my heart was not right. My first thought was, “Of course my heart isn’t right. And neither is yours or anyone else’s. It’s because all our hearts are wrong that we need God’s grace, mercy, patience, and forgiveness.”

        But in this section we are not going to look at the sins that people commit but, rather, at those people who have an encompassing character sin that will be guaranteed to cause problems in any deep relationship. These are not sins that are the result of a situation such as bitterness even if they last a long time. Nor are they sins or characteristics that are generally triggered by events. Examples might anger and depression. Nor are they sins that may be annoying but will not necessarily destroy a marriage or close friendship such as self-absorption, moodiness, and withdrawal. These are sins that will affect all areas of a person’s life and their results will be severe.

Anyone with the grace of God can change. Even deep lifelong habits can be triumphed over. But usually that takes time and may involve a lot of frustration and anger on both sides. These are people whom you could be friends with but whom I would greatly suggest thinking twice about marrying.

        If you see yourself as any of these people then you need to get before God and change your ways; otherwise, you will be the one who destroys the relationship.

The constantly rescued

This is a person who seems to be frequently bailed out by other people. Whatever their problem might be at the time it seems to affect them more than it would other people. They may appear pathetic and rely heavily on other people to help them through these frequent crises. What are some areas that this might be manifest?

a)       Emotionally

This person goes from one emotional crisis to another. There will usually seem to be a good basis for the trouble but the problem is that the response is always overly dramatic and histrionic. This type of person is high maintenance and will wear you down.

b)       Financially

Are you a love interest or merely a bank to the other person? Anyone can have a financial problem, but someone who is always in a financial crisis should be examined more carefully.

c)       Relationships

If the other person is always getting into arguments or in trouble with other people then there might be something more foundationally wrong then that they attract problem friends. If there is some inability on their part to get along with people then it is only a matter of time before it happens to you. You do not want that to happen after you are married.

d)       Physically

This person might always be sick or troubled by some aliment. Many times this is related to a lack of discipline, exercise, or self-control. Their physical problems may be real but, as in many other areas, they are exaggerated and easily become debilitating. These aliments may prevent this person from getting and keeping a good job or from being reliable. Sometimes these people appear to be more hurting when someone else is around or when they know that they are being looked at.

e)       Spiritually

You do not want to get romantically involved with someone who is frequently having spiritual doubts and struggles. Instead of walking up a mountain path together growing closer to God, you will always have to stop and throw her a rope because she just fell off a cliff again.


Of course God wants us to be there for other people and there will be times when the frequently rescued will be going through a actually difficult time. These people may be irresponsible and confused and may not be able to help themselves as easily as other people. If there is a continual crisis that is not due to some unusual circumstances then you had better think twice. Be careful about choosing your friends because their weaknesses make you feel needed.

The perfectionist

What are the signs of a perfectionist?

·         They set goals that are beyond reasonable and then are easily frustrated when they are not exactly met.

·         Someone who freaks out when things are not “just so.”

·         They obsess over minor mistakes and imperfections. This may involve their grammar, their house, their clothes or any number of things.

·         Their pursuit is not just for excellence but for perfection.

·         There is never a sense of completed satisfaction.

·         They oftentimes feel that there is one and only one correct way of accomplishing something.

·         They can have moments of pumped up grandiosity as well as moments of terrible shame and worthlessness.


There are two major problems with a perfectionist. 1) They will never be satisfied with anything that they do. 2) They may apply their perfectionism to you. When this happens you will never be quite good enough, you will never be able to please him with anything that you do, and you will eventually wear down.

Of course God wants us to do all things well but He does not want us to be burdened with perfectionism. If you detect that the other person is a perfectionist then watch out. Life is full of inconsistencies, mistakes, errors, and compromises. That is why we have mercy, forgiveness, patience and understanding. God, thankfully, does not jump on us every time that something is not just so and neither should we do that to ourselves or to others.

The controller

A controller is someone who feels that he knows the best way to handle everything. Efficiency is his goal. Therefore allowing someone to grow and learn through an experience is not as important as getting it done quickly and well.

Notice a few characteristics of a controller.

·         He is not so much interested in communication as in letting you know his opinion.

·         He is oftentimes smug and condescending.

·         He has an attitude of superiority.

·         He will always claim that he is only saying this for your own good.

·         He will frequently correct others although he may couch the correction with subtlety and humility. For example you may have completed something but took longer than he would have liked so he might say, “I didn’t realize that you didn’t know exactly how to do that. I should have showed you first.”

·         He will keep you on a tight leash.


If you marry a controller then you will not be able to grow the way that God wants you to grow. Instead, you will only change the way that the other person wants you to change.

The flawless

        This person never feels that he does anything wrong and has no sense of personal shortcomings. He always finds someone else to blame and rarely takes responsibility for his mistakes.

        A wife who cut herself on a steak knife while doing the dishes blames her husband for buying knives that are too sharp. A man who bangs a knuckle while fixing someone else’s car blames that person for breaking the car in the first place. A woman will spills a drink says to her husband, “Look at what you made me do” even though she is the one who put the drink down and he never touched her.

This type of person must always be right and will never see any need to change. What that means is that there will never be any growth in him or any attempt to conform to you. You will always have to be the one who does the compromising and changing. Instead of moving towards each other, you will be the one that always does the moving. This will wear you out.

The possessor

This person does not trust you. They must know where you are all of the time, who you are talking with, and why are you doing certain things. They want you all to themselves. They will probably try to discourage you from having much contact with your friends and family. They are very suspicious. They may carefully check over the phone for any unfamiliar calls. Sometimes they will even check the mileage on your car to see if you went out and how far.

Of course as two people get closer to each other they will want to spend more time with each other. But if one person becomes too confining or too exclusive then there will be a problem. Eventually, if you marry this person, then many years of your life will be lonely and unfulfilled because all of your friends were driven away.

This person is oftentimes very jealous and very insecure. They may accuse you of acts or thoughts that are unjustifiable and unreasonable and no amount of proof to the contrary will fully satisfy their suspicions. They may even imagine an entire conspiracy. One man thought that because his wife had made a phone call to their bank that she was secretly withdrawing money so that she might leave him for another man. That was the furthest thing from the truth, but he was convinced otherwise.

You will find yourself constantly having to explain any circumstances that are out of the ordinary. Every phone call must be explained. If you dress up then the possessor thinks that it is for some other person and so you cannot win. If you make their favorite meal then it is because you are guilty of something. The possessor fears that their partner will find another person or place that is more appealing than what they currently have and will leave. The result is that the possessor feels that they must guard and control everything.

        No one can live like this. If trust is not there at the start of a relationship then how can it ever develop? Relationships usually start out trusting because you do not have a history of hurt.

Possessiveness is dangerous. If the other person is like this then get out. You may feel nice right now being the center and focus of his or her universe but eventually you will be smothered. You need to break out of this jail as soon as you can.

The fixer

This is where one person feels the responsibility to retool and change another person. The relationship is more of a teacher/student or parent/child relationship than one between two equals.

         A fixer is different than a controller because a fixer will usually have a specific goal or change in mind. You have become his project. Whereas a controller is more interested in everything being done in the most productive manner, which is defined as his way of doing things. A fixer may not necessarily think very highly of himself; in fact, he may actually feel inferior to others. It is his drive to fix others up that gives him his self-worth. Whereas a controller thinks that he has a much better grasp of how to accomplish things than other people. A fixer is driven by the weaknesses and shortcomings of others. A controller is driven by his own self-importance.

One problem is that a fixer is easy to take advantage of. He feels obligated to jump right in and do whatever is asked of him.

Another problem is that once the fixer feels that his or her work is done then they do not feel needed any more. That is one reason why some of their marriages fall apart.

Also, the person being “fixed” can become resentful and annoyed. No one wants to enter into a marriage where most of the attention that they get is how they can be improved. They are not an old car to be tinkered with or furniture that needs to be reupholstered.

The abuser

        This can be one of the most dangerous people to become close to. The abuse can take many forms, it may be physical, emotional/verbal/mental, or sexual (yes, even in a marriage). It can be active such as hitting or yelling or it can be passive such as neglect or rejection. It can be frequent or it can be intermittent. We will take a brief look at each of these so that they might be more easily recognized as wrong and not normal behavior.

        The abuser is not always continuously abusive. There may be scattered times referred to as the “honeymoon” when he is wonderful and sweet and repentant claming that he will never do it again. This will keep the abused person hanging on because she thinks that things have taken a turn for the better and that he has truly changed. Unfortunately, most of the time the abuse will appear again. If you find yourself in this cyclical situation then call an abuse hotline (check the front pages of your phonebook) or talk to a counselor. No one deserves to be abused.

        An abuser can be either a male or a female although males tend to dominate this category. But for the sake of simplicity I am always going to refer to the abuser as a male in this section. These lists are not comprehensive, but they should give a good idea of what is not acceptable behavior.


You are a conscientious or responsible friend if you:

·         Do a task well and not just to get it done

·         Do all things as though you were doing them for God

·         Use all available resources to get the job done well and efficiently

·         Ask questions to understand the full expectations of the task and not just guess and hope that it is OK

·         Can ask for help when a task seems overwhelming

·         Do not allow trivial distractions prevent something from getting done

·         Keep your word even when it is no longer convenient

·         Assume more responsibility to help relieve the stress and pressures of others

·         Are able to adjust your plans and priorities if the best course of action has changed


Physical abuse


·         Hitting

·         Pushing

·         Grabbing and squeezing very hard

·         Kicking

·         Biting

·         Choking

·         Slapping


·         Withholding (Holding back food, time spent with your children or family, or other resources as punishment)

Emotional/Verbal/Mental abuse


·         Intimidation (“Don’t you ever do that again or I’ll…”)

·         Comparison (“She looks a lot younger than you even though she is a few years older.”)

·         Rejection (Telling you that you are unwanted or worthless)

·         Ridicule (For displaying emotions, for accomplishments completed or not attempted)

·         Corrupting (Forced to watch acts of cruelty, exposure to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or criminal activity)

·         Humiliation (Forbids or monitors how much you talk while in public, frequently points out any supposed faults that you may have, disgraces you in front of other people, calls you derogatory names)

·         Criticism

·         Threatening (Threatens to harm, remove, or kill possessions, pets, friends, relatives, children, or you)

·         Sarcasm

·         Domination and control


·         Abandonment (Staying away overnight or for longer periods of time)

·         Ignoring (Showing no interest, not answering or responding to, walking away from conversations)

·         Isolation (Not allowing you to talk to friends, force you to be alone in a room for long hours, severely limits your access to money or a car)

Sexual abuse


·         Forces you to engage in sexual acts that you do not enjoy

·         Forces you to have sex when you do not want to (If you are married then is called marital rape)

·         Forces you to trade sex partners with one or more couples


·         Withholding affection

·         Uses sex as the solution to all arguments or after a violent episode

·         Forces you to dress provocatively in public when you are ashamed of doing so

·         Gets his thrills and stimulation from pornographic movies or magazines

·         Flirts with other women with no regard to your feelings

·         Talks about how there are a lot of other women who would want to have sex with him if you do not

General questions to ask yourself

·         When you try to discuss the problem with the abuser does he become hostile and aggressive?

·         Do you feel trapped?

·         Are you afraid of him?

·         Do you have a sense of powerlessness and dependency?

·         Is there a sense of “What he says, goes”?

·         Does he make you feel depressed, withdrawn from life, or worthless?

·         Is he driving you to alcohol, drugs, or other destructive habits?

·         Do you feel that you deserve to be treated badly?

·         Does he deny that any abuse has taken place even when it should be clear that it has?

·         Does he force you to live like a non-person?

·         Do you keep thinking that it will get better when it never does?

·         Do you blame yourself for how he acts?

·         Does he force or suggest that you punish yourself such as by cutting yourself or by other destructive acts?

·         Does he make you feel emotionally numb?

·         You know that it is wrong but you are afraid to leave because of the children or because he will hunt you down?

·         Has your self-esteem plummeted because of how your are treated?


If you have experienced any of the above behaviors on a fairly frequent basis or can answer “yes” to any of the general questions then you should definitely talk to a counselor or someone who is knowledgeable about abuse. If the relationship is just a friendship or even an engagement then you should seriously consider breaking it off. If you are in a marriage then seek professional help to determine the best course of action.

No one deserves to be abused in any way by any one. Psalm 40:2-3 reads, “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” God delivers us from trouble; He does not want us to suffer in it. It is never God’s desire for anyone to be the victim of an abuser.

The addicted

        When discussing addictions this does not include medication for illness.       There are many types of addictions that may be legal or illegal: alcohol, drugs, or prescription pills. There are numerous reasons as to why someone would be addicted: starting young as a kick, using them to forget misery, constant exposure, peer pressure, enjoying the high, and so on. But the cycle is usually the same: depression, use, guilt, depression, use, guilt…

        People who are addicted may seem like more fun when they are on their drug but ultimately it is destructive. The use of the drug will become more frequent and heavier as the body adapts to the current stimulus. Addictions are physically, psychologically and emotionally destructive, they are expensive, they lead to unpredictable behavior, they are shameful, they are controlling, they ruin families and friendships, and can easily be fatal in any number of ways.

        Do not believe that the person will change just for you. The person who is an addict needs help, not a deeper relationship.

The mentally disordered

        There are many reasons and causes of mental illness. A person who has a mental disorder needs immediate and consistent help. That person should not enter into marriage until he is either cured or the illness is under definite control.

        A short list of some of these illnesses is:

·         Explosive Disorder (uncontrollable bursts of rage)

·         Severe paranoia

·         Schizophrenia

·         Severely limiting phobias such as agoraphobia (leaving familiar places), heliophobia (sunlight), lalophobia (speaking), and ombrophobia (rain) to mention a few.

·         Hallucinogenic, delusional, or bizarre behavior

·         Severe antisocial behavior

·         Manic-depressive psychosis


You will have peace and contentment if you:

·         Are able to put your trust in God about terrible circumstances

·         Can respond with grace even in the midst of sin

·         Focus on giving rather than on getting

·         Remember that Christ’s death proves that He loves and cares about you even when it appears that is not true

·         Do not allow people to push you into sin but learn to do what is right

·         Forgive

·         Pray for your oppressors rather than scheme against them

·         Are patient for your desires

·         Do not demand your “rights”

·         Repent

·         Do not establish difficult or unlikely expectations in relationships

·         Do not draw broad negative conclusions about yourself or others based on flimsy evidence or trivial matters

·         Know that doing what is right and doing your best is more important then the results

·         Give thanks in all things

·         Pray for guidance and wisdom in all situations and decisions


Unhealthy relationships

        There can be two people who are fairly normal and who have basically the right attitudes and yet together they do not mesh well. Why is it important to study unhealthy relationships? Should not most people be able to see that for themselves? Unfortunately the answer is no. Many people may see one of the issues that we are going to examine but they think that it is normal. Or they may not see it at all because they are not looking for it. This section will hopefully alert you to some of the ways that a relationship can be unhealthy. It is trying to answer the question, “Will this current or possible relationship work or am I wasting my time?” This can help you determine whether or not that car that you are looking at has an engine in it or not. If it does not then it is not going to go anyplace.

Why is this important? Because it may save you a lot of heartache trying to get something to work that just is not going to happen. If you think about a car without an engine then no matter how much you press down on the gas pedal or turn the key it is not going to go anywhere. Some relationships just are not going to work out no matter how much effort you put into it. God put everything that He has into developing a relationship with every person who has ever lived and yet even He is rejected more than He is accepted.

Also, you will not waste as much time. Why be stuck in some situation for months or even years that just is not going to happen?

Throughout this discussion you must realize that no one will ever be perfect and that many successful relationships will have some of these following issues to a small degree. The red flag starts to wave when any of these issues is major or there are several of them. Also realize that relationships are extremely complicated with many issues clouding up the scene such as previous relationships that are unknown to the other party. This might be relationships with parents, childhood abuse, or conscious or unconscious biases or opinions. It could even have been an extremely pleasurable or painful experience that made a great impression such as when you were twelve you saw the most amazing car and out of it stepped a woman with red hair and so you have always had a thing for women with red hair although you do not know why. Or, conversely, a car driven by a woman with red hair once hit you and so you have always loathed women with red hair. You cannot absolutely judge the potential of a relationship based on a checklist.

But we are going to look at some issues that might help you to better understand and evaluate yourself, the other person, and where your relationship might be heading. These do not only apply to dating and the prospect of marriage but can also be applied to close friendships to a degree. It pays to recognize the signs of a healthy or unhealthy relationship; to know when to hang in and work on it, and when to move on.

However, in all of these cases if you are married and these problems or those listed in the section “Unhealthy people” exist then, unless it is abusive, you should first try to salvage the marriage through counseling or whatever means possible. Though Romans 12:18 in not in the context of marriage it is still applicable: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” The two keys are 1) “if possible.” If there is even a slight glimmer of hope then do not give up on your marriage. 2) “So far as it depends on you.” You can only do so much, you can only be so patient, so merciful, and so forgiving. But when you have done what you can and there is no change in the other person’s attitudes, actions, or motives then you might consider how necessary it is for you to remain in a destructive situation. This does not necessitate divorce but perhaps separation might be advisable. No one deserves to be the fodder of another person’s sins.

Relationships based on a single trait

How many men date a woman who is a shrew simply because she is beautiful? Or how many women marry a man because he has a great job or because he is in a powerful position? Health can fail. People lose their jobs. Body parts droop. People become senile. Talent can fade.

When you marry someone you are marrying a total person and the rest of who that person is cannot be ignored. What if you take your eyes off of that one trait and look at the rest of the person. Do you still like what you see? If not then you better get out.

God does not close a blind eye to the things about us that are not good. God loves us for all of what we are. He will help us grow out of our weaknesses. He will give us the grace to repent of our sins. He will trim away parts that hinder us. But God does not pick any of us because He is enthralled with one particular trait. God does not need the celebrity or the great athlete or the talented musician. He chooses people and works with what we are as a whole person.

        Choosing a single trait may work out if you are a violinist and she is a pianist and you want to form a touring group, but there better be more than that if you are to get married.

        Probably one of the single traits that a man will focus on to the neglect of all others is a woman’s looks. It has been said that boxers punch harder when a beautiful woman is around. It is unfortunately true that men will forgive an attractive woman much more than one who is not. It may be a rush to picture yourself walking into a room with this beautiful woman on your arm but what will it be like the rest of the time? Though it is important to be physically attracted to the woman that you marry God makes it clear that character weighs far more importantly than looks. That is why He wrote Proverbs 31. We can take a brief look at what God thinks is the complete woman. The woman described here is an ideal who has tremendous accomplishments (she has maidens, plants a vineyard, sews, is vigorous and healthy, is shrewd in real estate) that God surely does not expect every woman to achieve. But the point is the character that is behind and drives each of these accomplishments.


10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

The comparison is interesting. Jewels are beautiful to look at but generally they have no value other than the artificial one that people place on them. An excellent wife is far greater than jewels because her value is true and deeper than the initial dazzle.


11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.

She gives no reason for her husband to be suspicious or jealous. She is responsible and dependable. He can confide in her knowing that she trustworthy. She is an asset to him and not a liability. She knows what is needed and does what is necessary to ensure that it has been provided.


12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.

She does not gossip about her husband, is not glad when he fails, and supports and encourages him. She is committed to her husband for all of her life.


13 She looks for wool and flax, And works with her hands in delight.

She looks for the best and to do the best job possible. She is cheerful in what she does and does not complain.


14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.

She likes variety and is not content to do the easy and routine all of the time. She does not allow convenience to rule her decisions.


15 She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens.

She is willing to abandon comfort when necessary and provides for her family. She is fair in how she deals with people and is willing to serve those who are under her authority.


16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She is wise in her decisions. She is not flighty and rambunctious. She does not make expensive impulsive purchases. She is able to save and invest. She does not simply buy a vineyard but she plants one. This implies studying to learn about the task at hand, careful designing, and a desire to be industrious and work hard.


17 She girds herself with strength, And makes her arms strong.

She is not lazy. She works energetically. This contributes to her being healthy and vigorous.


18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.

She can ably distinguish between that which is righteous and good and that which is a waste of time. That her lamp does not go out at night may mean that she plans ahead. She is ever watchful. She is willing to work at something until it is complete.


19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.

She learns a skill and then applies it. Today we may not spin our own cloth and make our own clothes, but we can learn cooking skills, craft making, sewing, gardening, or a host of other skills and hobbies. This world has so many wonderful things to learn about that it is a shame to waste our lives in front of the TV or just killing time day after day.


20 She extends her hand to the poor; And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

She is sympathetic and generous. She is willing to associate with the downtrodden. Despite all of the time that she needs in providing for her own household she still makes sure that she has enough time and resources remaining for the unfortunate.


21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She is prepared for emergencies and likely problems.


22 She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

She takes care of herself. She does not act like the martyr who sacrifices everything so that her family can have it all. People do not look upon her and say, “What a noble woman. See what rags she wears. She has given everything for others.”


23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

She respects her husband and supports him. She does not feel that she needs to dominate him though she is certainly competent and successful in her own right.


24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

She is productive. She can run a business if necessary. She is willing to aid in the family income.


25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

She is no sad sack. She is confident and knows her value in God. She does not walk around stoop shouldered whining about how terrible a person she is or how awful her circumstances are. She anticipates and prepares for the future. She is not a worrywart about what may come.


26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She is not a petty gossip nor does she delight in scandals or slander. People come to her for godly advice knowing that she will be kind and gentle and not condescending. Since Proverbs talks about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom (1:7) this is probably a reference to her knowledge and study of the Scriptures and the ways of God.


27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

The “ways” of her household may refer to habits, speech, attitudes, and actions of her husband and children. She is careful that all know how to avoid worldliness and pride and how to walk on the path of righteousness. She does not find contentment and satisfaction in being lazy.


28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:

She does not praise herself but finds others doing that for her. Her relationship with her children and husband is great.


29 "Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all."

She stands out among even the noble. Her husband prizes her highly.


30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

Charm is deceitful because it is a put-on whose purpose is to captivate the interest of someone, but it is not the real person. Beauty is vain because it is hollow and appeals to your ego or body while neglecting your more important soul and spirit. Then we see the force behind all of the success mentioned in the previous verses; she fears the Lord. Charm gets tiresome. Beauty fades. But godliness is the only quality of the three listed that has the capacity to grow and deepen and last the longest. The great charmer and the ravishing beauty may seem to be the most appealing when at parties, but a godly woman will bring the most respect and will ultimately produce the most wonderful and satisfying marriage.


31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

What she starts she brings to maturity. She does not begin a marriage with great enthusiasm but then grow fidgety and bored. She does not get tired of teaching her children what is right. She is faithful to the end and ultimately she will find joy and satisfaction in what she has accomplished. She will look back and have no regrets because all that she did she did well and unto the Lord.


        So when all is said and done are you considering marrying that woman because she closely matches God’s description of an ideal wife or because she is a “babe”? Of course there are many godly women who are also physically attractive, but what does God say is the most important? Who will be the better wife, the better mother, the better companion? –The godly woman or the supermodel? God knows what He is talking about; He knows what will make us happy and what will deceive and trap us. Character vs. looks: do not be shallow, see a woman as God sees and appreciates her.

Relationships that are opposed by your friends

Other people can be wrong and some people can just be catty. But it would behoove you to pay careful attention to what others think or say especially if they know you or the other person well. Love can be blind. Others who are more objective may be able to see more clearly.

When people tell you to get out of a relationship ask for specifics and then carefully weigh what is being said. Do not be stubborn.

Relationships based not on who they are but on what they may become

        If you are going to marry someone then you must love him or her for what they currently are and not for what they might become. In some areas that person will always stay the same whereas in other areas they will change but you do not know how. Therefore, you cannot gamble on what direction a person will take even with all of your goading and prodding.

Perhaps this person is not mature spiritually but you think that once he gets into Bible studies and goes to church regularly then he will get his spiritual life in shape. Think again. It is more likely that you will be drawn down to his level then the other way around. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” Notice that it does not say, “Good morals elevates bad company.” And Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” If you find yourself compromising your beliefs in order to maintain a relationship then you had better leave A.S.A.P. If there is anything that will poke a stick into the eye of your convictions it is relationships—more so than money, more so than power. Relationships will twist us up emotionally and cause us to do or think things that three months ago we did not think that we would ever do.

Perhaps she spends too much money on herself and has maxed out all of her credit cards but once you are married and you are able to help her she will soon be on the road to responsibility. The more likely reality is that the only road that will be traveled on is when you are on your way to the poor house.

Maybe he checks out other women regularly but you figure that once you are committed to each other then he will only have eyes for you. More likely you figured wrong. Yes, he can repent and never lust again but the more probably scenario is that there will be lots of arguments over this area.

Maybe she has a problem with anger or is too moody or chatters too much but once she is in a stable marriage she will feel better about herself and all that will change. The only thing that will change is your realization of how poor a judge of people you are.

Yes, people can change. God can do wondrous things in people’s lives. But if this person needs to change then you had better be patient enough to wait until that change takes place before you make any kind of commitment. “Potential” is a concept that may never become a reality. Do not think that you will be able to remake, reshape, or reconstruct your partner into the person that you want him or her to be after you are married.

You will never marry the perfect person and, while married, you will both have to make some large adjustments and compromises. But too many people go into a marriage hoping for a change that never comes and then they are left frustrated and feeling trapped. You have to like what is there now because what is hoped for may never come.

Relationships that are unbalanced

This has nothing to do with education, money, age, or race. This has to do with caring for each other and being mutually interested in each other. This has to do with commitment and with giving. If these four things for one person are far greater than for the other person then there might be a problem.

        What are some ways to tell if a relationship is unbalanced?

·         One person does all of the giving. You might say that the man should pay for all of the meals and give all of the flowers and so on, but woman can give tokens of affection also.

·         One person tries to constantly “talk up” the relationship while the other person seems unimpressed and uncaring.

·         One person takes all of the initiative, makes all of the plans, talks about the future together and the other person seems to act as though it was just something to do.

·         One person drags the other to church, initiates and carries all of the spiritual discussions, and is the only one who really shows any kind of interest in spiritual matters.

·         One person is excited about introducing the other to their friends and family while the other seems to avoid friends and family when the person is around.

·         One person believes strongly that it is an exclusive relationship while the other is looking to date others.

·         One person offers much sincere support and encouragement when the other is down or hurting whereas the other shows no such reciprocation.

·         One person focuses on the other whereas the other focuses only on their own self. One woman that I dated and I would pray together. I would start off and pray for things in her life. Then it would be her turn and she would pray for things in her life. At the end of these times I would say, “Well, I prayed for you and you prayed for you.”


No relationship will be completely balanced so there are a few considerations.

Some of this out-of-balance could just be different personalities. For example, one person could just be more aggressive while the other is shy or one is just more expressive and demonstrative whereas the other is subtler. But the two questions that you would have to ask yourself are 1) is it really different personalities or is it just a lack of interest by one party? 2) If it is simply different personalities then can you live with this for the rest of your life?

Maybe you are just on different levels at the moment but, given time, the other person will catch up and you will both be equally caring and interested in the other. This could be true and, in that case, you will need to exercise patience. But at some point you have to evaluate whether the relationship is moving more into that balance or if it is just staying in the same place.


What is an example of a perfectly balanced relationship? There is only one and that is the Trinity. As you read the Scriptures notice how each one points to the other and glorifies the other.

Jesus says of the Father in John 8:54, “Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, “He is our God”.’”

The Father says regarding Jesus in Matthew 17:5, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’”

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.”

In Luke 10:21 it talks of Jesus through the Holy Spirit looking to the Father, “At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.’”

You can see that each focused on the other and drew praise and adoration to the other. Notice, also, how they knew each other and supported each other.

In a true balanced relationship, each person will focus on the other and place the other’s needs, wants, and desires above even their own. Why is this balanced? Because each person is giving 100% to the other. It is not 50/50, it is 100/100.

There are other great relationships in the Bible that you can study. There is Jonathan and David, Naomi and Ruth, Esther and Mordecai, or Jesus and any of His disciples but especially Peter and John.

Relationships based on desperation

What are some signs of desperate people?

·         They feel that time is running out and they have to get someone quickly.

·         They are like wolves. They seem to be always hunting for a date. They only go to events to scope out the opposite sex. Merely making friends or having a good time is subservient to getting a telephone number or a date.

·         You can see them asking out many others. They use the shotgun or fishing net method of dating. Instead of being truly interested in one person and appreciating him or her they will ask out as many as possible hoping that one will take the bait.

·         They will try to get your phone number after talking to you for only a short amount of time. This indicates impatience and a fear that something will scare you off first.

·         They believe that having a date or a spouse is the only way to complete or validate their life. They feel that they must be in a relationship.

·         They may hop from relationship to relationship as others learn what they are really like. They do not make much of an effort to improve or change their character; instead, they are simply trying to find someone who will take them “as is.”

·         All or much of their conversations revolve around how to get a date.

·         Their standards continually drop until breathing is their only requirement. If they are a Christian they may even talk about dating non-Christians since “God hasn’t provided anything yet.”


They might be more interested in being in a relationship than they are really interested in you no matter what they may say otherwise. They are the sort of person who can be said to “be in love with love” but they may not be in love with you.

Relationships still living in the past

        Usually this will take one of two forms: bitterness or longing (or a mix of both). Both will be deadly to the current relationship.

Most of the time this bitterness exists because someone believes that they were treated horribly and unfairly in a previous or possibly even current relationship.

Hebrews 12:15 states, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” Anyone who is bitter about something in the past will carry that bitterness into the future and, therefore, his or her bitterness will become your future. Bitterness reveals a lack of forgiveness and of holding grudges and hurts. If that person can hold bitterness towards someone else then they can eventually hold it towards you, also.

Bitterness leads to anger. It leads to cynicism. It leads to moodiness. It can ruin both people just as easily as it can ruin the one who harbors it. A bitter person is bound to the past and will not be able to fully commit to your future together. You can certainly help that person to understand forgiveness and repent of the bitterness, but you should avoid getting into an intimate relationship until that happens.

Longing occurs because this person was in what they considered to be a great relationship. They might have felt that they were perfect for each other and had high hopes and expectations. But then something happened. Maybe they broke up or the other person moved or passed away. In any case, this person still feels that, though there is not any realistic hope of ever getting back together again, something may happen and they will be reunited. Should this be the case then you are nothing more than a substitute. You will always be compared to that other person. You can do better than that.

Your relationship should not go any deeper until the person is able to truly put that past relationship behind him. You deserve their full attention.

Relationships where conflicts are not properly handled and resolved

Every relationship will have its conflicts. But there are two crucial questions to ask regarding those conflicts. Are they easily sparked by trivial issues? How are they handled?

I know several couples that bicker and argue over every little thing. I may ask how much further it is to a restaurant that we are all going to. One will say 20 minutes and the other will have to jump in and say that it is only 15 more minutes and then give an explanation as to why their estimate is correct. Or another couple that argued because she felt that you should only use one cotton swab to clean both ears whereas he always used one per ear. Oh, the horror.

In these kind of cases there is never a sense of allowing the other person to be close. There is not enough patience. There is not enough mercy. These are not important matters. It does not really matter if it is 15 or 20 minutes away; I was not planning on doing a time trial, I just wanted a general idea.

If there is bickering while dating then what do you think will happen when you are living together?


The second issue is how those conflicts are handled. What are some wrong ways to handle conflicts?

§         Using name-calling such as “stupid.”

§         Having to always be right and never being able to apologize or admit wrong.

§         Recalling past episodes of failure or mistakes.

§         Ranting and raging and stop listening to what you have to say.

§         Walking away without discussing the situation.

§         Exaggerating what happened to justify their histrionics.

§         Twisting or lying about the facts to “prove” that they are right.

§         Using intimidation or physical force or making threats.

§         Mentioning other people who supposedly agree with your side against the other person.

§         Denying that there even is a problem when it is clear that there is.

If any of these are true in your relationship then you have a problem.


How does God handle conflict? Isaiah 1:18 says, “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.’”        First, God recognizes a conflict. He does not gloss over it or pretend that it does not exist. Second, He calls for mature communication. He says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” Third, Instead of merely making an accusation, He proposes a solution where we both come out as winners.

If the two of you argue frequently and do not maturely resolve those conflicts then you might consider backing out. As time goes on and this behavior is not consciously altered then you will both just learn how to dig in your heels and nothing will ever be resolved or changed. Arguments will never focus on solutions but only on blame.

Relationships with frequent lying, criticism, anger, or belittling

An open and honest relationship means that you both can see the strengths and the weaknesses in the other person and be encouraging and supportive. A damaging relationship involves too much focus on negative traits. This can even be disguised by the one person expressing their concerns or corrections in a gentle, seemingly helpful manner; sort of the “I’m saying this for your own good” approach. But, ultimately, the person is simply attacking.

If a person can easily lie to you then how can you trust anything that he says? Can you live the rest of your life with someone who hides things from you and then refuses to tell you the truth when confronted? Do not think that this will change when you get married. A liar will tend to be more devious, more likely to engage in wrong acts, and more unfaithful because they do not feel the need to be honestly accountable to anyone; even you.

Criticism finds a weakness, sin, or undesirable trait and then hammers it. There is no desire to discuss the issue maturely and with an eye for a solution. There is no attempt to tolerate it or to be patient. The critical person is not truly interested in the other person changing for the better as much as what “I want” even though that will probably be vehemently denied. Criticism will grind you down. It turns an innocent and honest relationship into a battle. And even if a solution is presented it is usually done so with arrogance and impatience. Criticism does not build up people; it only damages relationships. And as the relationship deepens the criticism will usually broaden.

Frequent anger is generally a sign of immaturity, self-centeredness, frustration, and an inability to constructively resolve antagonizing circumstances. There is a lack of self-control and a lashing out without concern for any immediate and long-term affects. If you marry an angry person you will find yourself walking on eggshells and being the brunt of unnecessary and destructive attacks. Proverbs 22:24 makes itself clear, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man.”

Belittling can be direct, it can utilize sarcasm, and it can hide itself in humor. But it generally flushes out to be “cheap put-downs.” Whereas criticism may hide behind the guise of “just trying to be helpful,” belittling puts up no such front. It is not teasing. Teasing should be innocent and playful; it does not mean to hurt. Belittling reveals a deep insecurity and low self-esteem. If you are with someone who cuts you down, then bolt. You are better than that. And besides, if you are that awful then why are they going out with you to begin with? The problem is not you; the problem is that they are destructive. You should feel better about yourself when you are with this person and not worse.


        All of these behaviors are damaging to a relationship. They are not cute. They are not fun. They are not helpful. They emanate from an insensitive, immature person. If you are dating someone like this then you should seriously consider backing away. Eventually you will be worn down, your own self-esteem will drop, and you will usually find yourself biting right back. Is this what you have waited for all of your life?

Relationships that are not yet available

        If a man or woman that you are interested in is married then it is definitely not God’s will for you two to be together no matter how perfect it may seem. Even if their marriage was initially wrong and was brought together for all of the wrong reasons, it is now God’s will that they stay together (with the possible exception of adultery or abuse on that spouse’s part).

        Also, if that man or woman is separated and even if a divorce is pending it is not God’s will for you to date that person. They are still married in God’s eyes and it is important that they and you continue to honor the sanctity of that marriage vow. Until that marriage is officially over it may be God’s will for the two of them to reconcile and be reunited no matter how foolish or ridiculous that may seem to you at the moment. It would, therefore, not be your place to disrupt how God may be working in each of their hearts. That person is not free until the marriage has legally ended.


You are patient if you:

·         Can endure unwarranted criticism without immediately striking back

·         Are able to work at the pace that the other person needs in order to change rather than at the pace that you want to go

·         Can pray for a boss who is always maligning you rather than scheming how to get him or her back

·         Understand and accept that God’s timing is oftentimes different from your own

·         Are willing to work more slowly to get something done right rather than just getting it done

·         Can understand that some people will make more mistakes than you would in the same situation

·         Know that in some situations it is better to wait until conditions are better then to rush on ahead

·         Are able to persevere in prayer even when nothing seems to change

·         Can quietly suffer through a friend’s ill mood or depression until they can get back to being their familiar selves again

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: