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Red Flags in Dating

How do you know when to walk away?

In every dating relationship there are “red flags.” If you can’t identify them, most likely you don’t know the guy very well. He’s perpetually late, insensitive, or maybe there is no spark between you. We are all fallen human beings, bent on foolishness and selfishness.

So, the question becomes when does a red flag mean, “proceed with caution” and when does it signify “run for your life!” The most serious red flags in my book can be summed up with 3 C’s.


I would rather marry an unattractive, boring man with great character than the most charming guy who lacks it. A healthy marriage is impossible without traits like integrity, kindness, and unselfishness. How can you be sure that he is really working late when he doesn’t come home until 7:00? Can you trust him to value your feelings even when he doesn’t understand you?

Character can sometimes be difficult to discern in a dating relationship. After all, you are both presenting the best “you,” so character flaws might be disguised in the midst of romance. Here are few subtle red flags that may signify show-stopping character flaws in a man you are dating.

  • He demonstrates traits of dishonesty like stretching the truth or flat-out lying.
  • He is unkind or dismissive to those who are easy to overlook in our world.
  • He becomes defensive or angry when confronted.
  • He values things or money over people
  • It’s always about him . . . What he wants, what he thinks, what he needs.
  • He drinks in excess or used recreational drugs.

While all of us are sinful and have aspects of character that God is working on, character flaws are very resistant to change apart from God’s direct intervention.


Remember this: abuse and control are closely related. When I hear heartbreaking stories of men who become physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive in marriage, the seeds for this behavior were almost always evident in the dating relationship: He got angry when she was five minutes late. He wanted to isolate her from all of her other friends and only spend time with him. He wanted access to all of her financial decisions or was unreasonably jealous when a male friend texted her.

Even if the guy you’re dating apologizes and charms you into forgiveness after this type of behavior, consider it a serious warning that he has control issues. While these tendencies might be simply annoying or even endearing when you are dating, they are likely to be accentuated in marriage. The commitment of marriage often gives an insecure man license to clamp down in control. He might even use the Bible to justify making all financial decisions or alienating his wife from family and friends.

How does your boyfriend interact with other people in his life? Is there a healthy give and take, or does one person’s agenda seem to dominate the other's? Sometimes, a controlling man is docile and even weak within some relationships (particularly within his family) but overreacts with control in other relationships.

Remember that control can be expressed through manipulation, guilt-trips, jealousy or outbursts of anger when a person doesn’t get their way. It can cause you to feel fearful of making mistakes. If you sense any of these within your dating relationship, don’t ignore those dynamics. It may be a sign that you need to cut off the relationship, but it most definitely should cause you to take a time-out and seek input and wisdom.


Perhaps the most important aspect of a strong marriage is the belief that you are in this for the long run. Divorce is not an option. Marriage will get difficult at times. You will have days, months, and maybe even years when it feels like an uphill climb to love and honor each other. What will keep you from giving up? Only your commitment to your word and your belief that God can unite two hearts that are yielded to him.

Is the man you are dating a man of commitment? Does he keep his promises even when it costs him to do so? Is he willing to commit his life to you rather than just asking you to move in with him as a trial run? What do you notice about his other relationships? Does he have life-long friends, or does he walk away when relationships get difficult or conflict-ridden?

Throughout the course of dating and marriage, both the man and woman learn, grow, and hopefully adjust to one another. Marriage can be the most refining relationship on earth. However, it is a big mistake to marry a man with the hope of changing some core weaknesses, like these three C’s.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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