Recently, I wrote a post on Boundless in which I compared dating to the process of purchasing a home, and I warned readers about the dangers of settling on a “fixer-upper,” that is, “someone who look[s] perfect at first, but upon closer inspection, his or her life is falling apart.” I explained that although these folks “promise to ‘fix it all’ (with your help and a little bit of time),” deep inside, you realize that “you’re involved with a big mess that’s going to take over your life, cost you a great deal, and leave you wishing you had just kept looking.”
In the end, I concluded, “If you’ve started looking closely at your significant other and realize that you’ve gotten yourself involved with a disastrous fixer-upper, know this: It’s OK to walk away. It’s not your job to save them, fix them or hold them together. Instead, the best thing you may be able to do is step away and trust the Lord to complete the work in their life.”
A number of our readers agreed that no one wants to date a “fixer-upper,” but the big question in response to the article was: How do you know you’re involved with a person whose life is structurally unsound?
Before I go into that question, I think it’s important to make something clear from the beginning: We’re all in the process of being sanctified by God (or “being completely remodeled” by Him, if you want to stick with the metaphor); and everyone brings issues, insecurities and annoying quirks into relationships. So please understand that I’m not trying to encourage pickiness or a twisted sense of entitlement that is rooted in the prideful assumption that you deserve a perfect spouse.
With that being said, there are some folks out there who are hazardous to your emotional health, and here are some of the sure-fire signs that you’re involved with one of them:
- Mean-spirited physical touch: If you’re dating someone (male or female) who ever uses physical touch in a mean-spirited way — even if it doesn’t hurt — get away. This doesn’t just mean shoving or hitting; it means unkindly touching any part of your body in anger, annoyance or frustration. You simply don’t want to be with someone who demonstrates disrespect for the dignity of your body.
- Possessiveness: Someone who wants you — but doesn’t trust you — will try to control you. They’ll pull you away from friends, family and Jesus — whatever it takes to make sure that you’re theirs, all theirs. And in the meantime, they’ll need you to coddle them, comfort them, and assure them that they have no need to be jealous. Listen, you’re looking for a grownup to love, not a brat to babysit. Avoid people like this at all costs.
- Addiction: If you’re dating someone and you’ve stumbled upon their out-of-control addiction to anything — alcohol, controlled substances, food, pornography, whatever — back off. There’s a ton of hope and help for them, but if you stick around, the chances are that you will become their source of hope and help, and that’s not your job.
- Faithlessness: If you’re a follower of Christ and you are going to follow the biblical mandate to marry someone who is a believer (2 Corinthians 6:14), that’s going to eliminate some really nice people who otherwise seem like they would be a good match. It’s unfortunate, but what would be more unfortunate is for you to get involved with them, assume you can win them over with missionary dating, and then deal with the fallout when they finally push back and say they want a relationship with you, but not your God.
- Lying: Someone who has a pattern of telling half-truths and fudging on the facts is a manipulator. If you’re involved with someone like that, please understand that this habit will inevitably creep into other areas of their lives and eventually undermine your ability to trust their character. Don’t wait until you’re at the altar to panic about that; get away now.
Maybe you’re currently dating someone who exhibits one or more of these traits (in fact, maybe you exhibit some of them). Please understand that I don’t think that means the person won’t ever be dating (or marriage) material; it just means they’ve got a lot of growing up to do before they get involved with you.
Even without these character flaws, once you get married, you’ll discover that you and your spouse will have enough trouble building a peaceful, happy home, so don’t get involved with someone who’s vexed with these foundation-crumbling flaws. I realize that this may mean having to say goodbye to your significant other, but that’s a lot better than going emotionally bankrupt trying to hold things together with a fixer-upper.
What other warning signs would you add to this list?