I remember hearing a story in college that blew my mind. At 34, my English professor had met and become engaged to her husband, a widower with two young children — in the course of three weeks! When I met them, they were going on 20 years of marriage and still madly in love.
How could someone make a wise decision on a lifelong partner so quickly? I thought. Surely you would need much longer to really know.
Then I met Kevin.
At 30 years old, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get married, when I met a handsome barista intent on a future as a children’s pastor. We started leading a small group together for other single young adults, and a month later we were dating. Three months after that we were engaged, and another three months down the road, we said our vows on a rainy September afternoon.
Nearly eight years later, we’re happily married with four children. Sometimes “fast” works.
Other times, however, a fast-moving relationship is more like a runaway train headed for a washed-out bridge. This was the case for Lyneta, who says that her first marriage, which came about in the short span of 10 months, ended because of domestic violence. Lyneta says she missed some warning signs. “I mistook possessiveness for love (because my family of origin wasn’t healthy either), and ignored all the red flags pointing to abuse,” she told me.
“I think if there had been more time, I might have recognized the volatile nature of his control over me. There were times when he lost his temper but never physically hurt me. Eventually, that façade would have had to come down.”
In her article “What Does ‘Going Slowly’ Look Like?” Erica Giesow offers this advice:
“[Going slowly] gives each person in the relationship room to breathe and to enjoy dating without the pressure of getting too serious too quickly. It also protects the heart as individuals gauge whether they are good for each other. And it safeguards couples from pushing physical boundaries they may regret later.”
How Fast Is Too Fast
Obviously, I don’t believe in an arbitrary timeframe for relationships, because there will always be exceptions. Every relationship is different, and God works in mysterious ways to bring people together. At the same time, the pace of a relationship does matter. It is to a man’s (or woman’s) glory to search out a matter, and that generally takes time.
So how can you know if a fast-moving relationship is meant to be or is headed for disaster? Here are five signs your relationship may be moving too fast.
1. You’re eager to overlook red flags.
A friend recently told me about an “intervention” she had with a girlfriend whose relationship seemed to be moving too fast. My friend noticed some major red flags, including the fact that the guy didn’t attend church and had posted some questionable things on social media. The woman was dismissive of my friend’s concerns and seemed overly forgiving of her love interest’s apparent character flaws.
Some red flags may not spell doom for the relationship, but should be addressed nonetheless. Cara says that she knew very early in her relationship with Daniel that they would get married. So it didn’t seem wrong to say “yes” when he popped the question five months into dating him (part of which had been long-distance). During the engagement and after marriage, she struggled with a major move and controlling new mother-in-law.
“I feel like we survived something that would have led many marriages to divorce,” Cara says. “I think if we had moved slower, it would have given us a chance to talk through our expectations of ‘leaving and cleaving’ while we were dating or engaged, rather than having the shock of dealing with dysfunctional extended family after marriage.”
2. You lack community and accountability.
Perhaps even more than with a slowly developing romance, a fast-moving one needs to be laid bare to trusted friends and counselors. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
After a few weeks of dating Kevin and spending most of my free time with him, my best friend, Melissa, stepped in. She told me she was concerned about how consuming this new relationship seemed to be, and she wanted to get to know Kevin.
I was open to her reservations and recognized a need for accountability, so the three of us began doing some things together. I invited her to give her honest opinion on the relationship, even if I didn’t want to hear it. She approved of the match, and in the process, the three of us became good friends. This turned out to be an unexpected blessing to me in my marriage.
One of the dangers of a romantic relationship moving fast is missing some core issues that you may be unwilling or unable to see. When you’re in the throes of attraction, you need an objective perspective to help you proceed wisely.
3. You believe you’re the exception.
Maybe your friends or family members are expressing concern over your love interest. You understand their concerns, and perhaps even have some misgivings of your own, but you’re convinced your situation is different. You will succeed where others have failed. He’ll leave his porn addiction for me. She’ll quit partying with her friends once we’re married. He’ll overcome depression once we’re blissful newlyweds. Don’t be deceived.
I once met with a Christian friend who was planning to marry a man who was not a believer. She told me I was not the first person to speak to her about the matter. Still, she felt that her fiancé would one day become a Christian, and that God was telling her it was OK. She married that guy several months later.
While God is often gracious and redemptive when we choose a disobedient or unwise path, thinking you are an exception to general wisdom (or obedience) is a dangerous mindset that can land you in a bad situation. It’s wiser to recognize that you are not immune to the “worst that could happen” and discern whether it’s wise — or even godly — to proceed.
4. You’re rushing.
There is a big difference between a romantic relationship developing fast and forcing a relationship to develop fast. Lauren describes a fast-moving relationship she experienced last year.
“Within a month of meeting, we were talking about engagement. We didn’t really have a community together, and we talked about deep things too soon, which created false intimacy. We were ultra-focused on our future together. I felt pressure to quit my new job and start a life with him all within a month of our first meeting. I was overwhelmed and anxious most of the time, which should have been a warning sign.”
After Lauren’s boyfriend confessed to multiple sinful addictions, the couple broke up. “I’m scared to think about what might have happened,” she says. “I’m so thankful for God’s mercy. Now I’m working on greater emotional awareness and health so it doesn’t happen again.”
5. The relationship is propelled by attraction.
At times, physical attraction, emotional intimacy and even lust can stoke romantic fires and impair judgment. Shortly after a painful breakup, Alex began dating a young woman he met at church. For the next four weeks they spent every evening together. “It was definitely ‘lust at first sight,'” he says. “She was really cute, and we were attracted to each other physically. But we didn’t know each other well enough to know if we were attracted to each other in deeper ways.”
The whirlwind romance ended abruptly when the couple had their first argument. A few weeks later, Alex tried calling the woman’s land line (after failing to reach her in other ways), and she put her boyfriend on the phone. It was then that he discovered she’d been living with her “ex-boyfriend” off and on for the previous year. Although he hadn’t crossed a line with her sexually, Alex regrets the relationship. “I put her above the Lord because I wanted a relationship in the way and timing that I wanted it, rather than acting on wisdom and pursuing her in a godly way.”
Like all major decisions, choosing someone to spend your life with requires extreme wisdom. Speaking of being drawn into a reckless relationship, Proverbs 7:23 delivers a powerful warning: “A bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” If any of the signs above are present in your relationship, it may be time to slow down and reevaluate.
Copyright 2017 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.