It seems that when you first start dating someone, everyone has their own opinion about your significant other and they are more than willing to share it with you, whether it is welcomed or not. Depending on your situation, you really need to carefully weigh out what the important people in your life are seeing in your relationship. I am not suggesting that you take someone else’s judgment over your own, but sometimes people can see from the outside what you cannot when you are lost in the haze of new love.

I had my own share of people giving me opinions during the three years while M and I were dating. My mother was one of them. Although she didn’t have any problems personally with M, she wanted me to date a lot of different people and get a feel for what was out there since that is what she did before she married my dad. I, however, thought much differently. Although M was the first person I had seriously dated, I had no desire whatsoever to scope out who else was out there.

I remember making a list in Sunday School when I was probably 12 years old. We listed the things we wanted in a spouse someday. I can still remember the top three on my list: a Christian, funny, and cute. My standards were set at a young age and I didn’t pointlessly date someone just for something to do. If my criteria wasn’t met, I knew it wasn’t worth my time.

And this is where M comes in. I knew him, though not in depth, for a few years before we even started dating. I knew he met my top three. And when we started dating, I knew he was exactly what I wanted for my life’s partner. I didn’t have to date twenty different guys to figure it out either. I’m not saying everyone will find their future mate on their first try. It’s not bad having to date a lot of different people. Just make sure you check your motive. Are you carrying out a long relationship just for something to do, or are they spouse material?

So when are you wasting your time dating someone? My brother has been dating a girl for almost a year now, and to be honest, she is not well received by our family. It’s one thing when maybe one or two members of the family can see a possible issue with a relationship, but when you come from a family of ten and everyone can identify it as a destructive relationship, you can only hope it doesn’t end in marriage. I realize I am going out on a limb saying this about my brother’s relationship. Go ahead and give me the comments like “mind your own business” and “he’s old enough to make his own decisions”. I’m going to speak my peace anyways. They most definitely have a destructive relationship, and I say that with no reserves.

With that said, here are some examples of what causes a relationship to head for failure, unless God gets a hold of it:

Control is a major issue. If one partner always in control of the other, it is definitely unhealthy. I realize some people are “strong-willed” by nature, and some are more laid back. But when it gets to the point that one is stalking the other and constantly needing to be with or know where their partner is, take it as a warning. Everyone needs time to themselves, even when you are in a serious relationship.

Another problem is insecurity. If you are not secure in who you are, know ahead of time that the person you are dating is not going to fill the void in your life. Entering into a relationship will not solve the problem, and in a lot of cases will only make it worse. Insecurity and control may even go hand-in-hand. A person who is insecure may become easily jealous and feel like they have to control their partner or else they will lose them.

These are both red flags my family can see in my brother’s relationship. These issues cause them to be fighting all the time. When I look back to M and I’s first year of dating, we never had one fight. The first year should be the easiest and the most fun. You are just getting to know the person and maybe falling quickly in love with them. Fighting shouldn’t even be on the radar. If you find yourself already fighting even though you are in a new relationship, I would tell you to get out of it fast. It won’t get any better.

One thing I find funny is that many people see marriage as being a quick fix for their troubled relationship. I must go back to my brother’s relationship again. His girlfriend keeps telling him that when they get married things will be better. I don’t know where she came up with that idea, but it’s certainly not the truth. And I’m sure anyone who is married can attest to that. Marriage is not a horrible thing, but if you already can’t stand each other while you’re dating, marriage is not the answer to mend the relationship. Don’t believe the lie that marriage makes things better.

My suggestion to anyone in the dating scene is to make a list of things you definitely want in a spouse, and even things you don’t want. Set your standards high so you won’t even consider someone who doesn’t fit your mold. This will save you from getting involved with someone that will only lead to a dead end. You don’t have to date a hundred different people to find The One if you already know exactly what you’re looking for.

Also, use your head, not just your heart. It’s easy when you are in a new relationship to let your emotions carry you away. But remember to be using your head too. Try and be logical about the person you are dating, and be true to yourself about whether they are really marriage material or not. And date only if you are looking for your life partner. What is the point of getting into a long relationship with someone if you’re only going to break it off and end up with broken hearts? Protect yourself.

Finally, try and be sensitive to what people around you are seeing and saying to you. When it comes down to it, it is ultimately your choice on whom you should marry, but if you are hearing from several trusted people that you need to break it off, maybe you should try and see what they are seeing.

Remember that God really has created someone just for you. Play it smart. Pray about it. Don’t jump into anything that doesn’t feel right. You shouldn’t feel like you are compromising when you decide to be with someone. And if you’re like M and I, one day you’ll look back at the road traveled and be pleased with how you grew together as boyfriend and girlfriend into a happy married couple.