Ask Dr. Merry: Relationship Red Flags

» Posted in Ask Dr. Lin, Marriage and Relationships, Personal Growth | 0 comments

 Fighting couple

My fiancé and I have been engaged for almost six years now and recently, a few of my friends have been encouraging me to break up with him.  They think he’s just stringing me along and that he doesn’t really want to get married.  I’m not sure I can break up with him.  I mean I know that six years is long enough to make a decision about an actual wedding date.  But the bottom line is that I love him and I think he’s worth waiting for.  He treats me good.  He loves God.  As a matter of fact, one of the reasons he thinks that it’s just not the right time to get married is because he really feels that God doesn’t want us to just yet.  Sure he’s not perfect, but neither am I.  We’ve both crossed physical boundaries we set early on in our relationship but we keep trying to get things back on track.  Anyway, my friends think that I should just move on.  So I thought I would ask you what you think. How long is too long to be engaged?  Should I break up with the man I love just because he won’t commit to a date for our wedding?  Am I missing something?


Well, to be honest with you, all sorts of red flags are going up in my mind with respect to your relationship.  I’m really glad that your fiancé is a good man who loves God and that you are confident of your love for him.  But it’s not a good sign if a person can’t commit to getting married after such a long engagement – having known each other for so long, you really should already know each other quite well and be able to make the decision as to whether you want to commit to each other in marriage.

It sounds like your fiancé is having a hard time making this decision and wants to keep his options opened.  I’m concerned that he is using the God card as to why he thinks you should wait – how can you argue with that?  Has he given you specific reasons why God doesn’t think the time is right to get married yet?  And do those reasons make any sense to you or your friends and family?

I would ask you to consider this as a couple:  are there any REAL barriers to getting married now?  Or is the delay based on a “feeling”?  People sometimes have the mistaken belief that everything has to be “perfect” before they can get married, otherwise their marriage is doomed – that’s not true – first of all, there are no perfect relationships, but second of all, marriage itself is part of the journey of life that challenges and grows us.  It’s okay that we don’t have our lives all together financially or occupationally or emotionally before choosing to join our lives with another.

A lot of times, people who have trouble committing to marriage are fearful of making a mistake:  what if they marry the “wrong” person and the “right” person comes along later?  As a Christian, we’re not allowed to divorce so will it mean that I’m trapped forever?  And so we aren’t able to move forward in committing to someone for fear of the consequences of our decisions.

It’s a mistaken belief that there’s the one right person for us out there somewhere that God has chosen for us.  Imagine this with me:  if there was only one right person out there for you, and you somehow missed him or her, then not only have you messed up your life but you’ve messed up the life of the person you’ve missed out on (since they obviously married the wrong person) and you’ve messed up the life of the person you DID marry (whose true spouse’s life is also messed up) – so that’s how many people’s lives who’ve been messed up with this?

I don’t think God intended for marriage to be quite so complicated!  I believe that God uses marriage as a platform to grow us and make us more like Jesus Christ and so he can use ALL our situations and marriages for good in our lives.  That means that in reality, there are many people who can be excellent spouses for us and God will use in our lives to grow us and bring us many blessings as well as challenges.

Your fiancé may simply be too comfortable with your relationship so he may need a wake-up call where you need to set down a choice for him – he may be secretly fearful of his ability to be a good husband or father, and so he’s living in the land of avoidance and putting off having to make a decision in the hopes that somehow it’ll all sort itself out.  That is never a good idea.  And for yourself, don’t be afraid to put your relationship on the line:  if you lose him as a result of asking for a decision, then you can at least move forward in grieving the loss of this relationship, learning from it, and moving on.  I also think it would be really wise for you to understand your own fears that have left you in a stuck relationship for so long and what is preventing you from putting things on the line or moving on.  Why do you say that you “can’t” break up with him?  What’s going on for you?

I would advise you to do some pre-marital counselling where all of this can be surfaced and dealt with so that you can make a decision on whether to go forward or not; that will help you to be at peace with whatever decision you end up making, if indeed you decide to break up with him.

And if he absolutely refuses to do the pre-marital counselling, take it as a sign that it’s time to move on.


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