By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
You found the perfect mate. Wedding plans are beginning to come together. Your dream of having a spouse and raising children is finally going to come true! But there's just something wrong in the relationship, and you can't quite put your finger on it. Christian marriages are often celebrated—and even heralded—because marriage decreases the chances of a couple having sex before marriage. Additionally, marriage is a sacred covenant between two people and a bond God holds in high esteem. However, if your gut is telling you it might be time to break off the engagement, but you can't bring yourself to do it, here are five signs that might convince you to call off your engagement:
Physical abuse should never be tolerated. If someone is being physically abused in their relationship, there is zero tolerance, and the relationship should be terminated immediately. However, mental and emotional abuse is much harder to detect. This type of abuse leaves no scars. It is difficult to see if it's destroying the relationship until it's too late. This is especially true if the abuser knows all the right words to say to make you believe he is repentant and wants to change. The following are areas that are considered emotionally abusive:
-Past transgressions held against the other
Emotional and mental abuse, such as gaslighting and denial, can be just as detrimental as physical abuse. Seek the help of a professional and alert the leadership in your church of this problem. Breaking off an engagement is not a sin, as painful as it may be. If you break off the engagement before the issue gets worse, you may be doing yourself a great service.
Throughout a marriage, it is common for partners to be tempted sexually. Jesus himself was tempted in the garden by Satan. Part of living in this world is dealing with temptation in its various forms. Temptation in and of itself is not a sin; how you deal with it is what counts. Jesus was tempted yet used the Word of God to refute the enemy's lies. Infidelity is always a sign of a much bigger problem. Using pornography and looking lustfully at members of the opposite sex is a form of adultery. If your partner is engaging in these behaviors, it is time to break off the engagement and seek counseling. You can choose to seek counseling (both individually and as a couple.) Even if you don't enter into a marriage covenant, healing from the scars infidelity leaves on everyone involved is important. It is not impossible to have a good marriage, even after infidelity. But the issue must be dealt with, and the underlying problem must be resolved before it carries over into the marriage relationship.
Addiction can come in many forms. For Christians, addictions come in more covert forms, some of which the Christian community applauds. While drug and alcohol addictions are obvious, Christians can also become addicted to work, TV, social media, food, and exercise, among other areas. Not only can addictions minimize the relationship's importance, but they can also demonstrate that the person's intentions and motives are in the wrong place. When someone is chasing the corporate ladder rather than investing time in his family, this can be just as detrimental as someone who drinks too much. Addictions are indicators that the person has a void in their soul that only God can fill. Encourage them to run to God and get help if necessary. Do not allow your relationship or even you to fill a void only God can fill.
4. Being Unequally Yoked
Scripture is clear on this issue. To enter into a marriage covenant with a person who is an unbeliever or someone struggling in the faith will have detrimental consequences on your spiritual growth. Paul writes about this when he says, "Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship do righteousness and iniquity have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
A yoke is a harness that is placed on two oxen. The purpose of this harness is to allow both oxen to go in the same direction. It prohibits one ox from straying from the intended direction. In the same way, when two people are married, they are to do life together. This also includes their spiritual life. If two people are at odds with the priority God has placed on their marriage, more than likely, one will drag the other down when it comes to their individual spiritual growth as well. As much as God desires for two people to be married, he never desires for a person who is hungry for God to do life with someone who doesn't feel the same way. While there's nothing wrong with one person not placing the same priority on their spiritual growth, it is not good for that person to become entangled with someone who wants to grow and move forward in their faith.
To establish this, it is essential to have hard conversations. It is important to know where both of you stand regarding spiritual growth. This includes having a daily quiet time, regular church attendance, prayer, reading the Word, and raising their children in the faith. While this may be tempting to put off talks about this until after the marriage, it is important to know where you stand. It is better to know one person is on a different page when it comes to their spiritual growth. Do not enter the marriage covenant believing you can change the other person. This view does not value the other person as autonomous and capable of making their own choices and utilizing their free will. Taking something by force never ends well. When one person bullies the other into believing the way they do, it already devalues the marriage relationship. The more one person forces their own views, the more the other person will resort to rebellion resulting in friction—or an ultimate faction—in the marriage.
5. Different Religious Beliefs
It is one thing to have a different priority in spiritual matters yet hold the same belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation. It is quite another to hold an entirely different religious view. If someone says they are a Christian, probe deeper into their theological beliefs. Ask them what they believe and why they believe it. If they simply hold to a set of beliefs held by their current church denomination, ask them to explain what those views mean to them. While the couple may be in different places in their maturity, they must hold the Bible as the ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he does, and his assertion that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Anything other than that will only stir up trouble for you in the future. This is a great way for you to get to know more about your partner's view on the world and a good opportunity for you to brush up on your own beliefs—both within your church and your personal interpretation of the Word.
Hard conversations before marriage are never easy. But they are necessary to have a healthy, thriving relationship. God wants two people who are dedicated to each other, themselves, and God. Anything else cause disillusionment—and ultimately—heartbreak—if they disagree. If you encounter any of the above issues in your relationship, breaking off the engagement before it's too late is best. A reluctance to break off an engagement may only lead to a later visit to a divorce lawyer.
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.