Getting to know someone for marriage can be a nerve-racking and an exciting experience all at the same time. Through conversations, a couple seeks to learn about each other and determine compatibly for a lifetime together. However, many couples get so emotionally attached in the early stages of the relationship that they cannot see or choose to deny red flags that arise. Being self-reflective and in tune with your feelings is important in identifying potential problems in a relationship. Divorcees and married couples with significant problems always cite early signs or red-flags that they did not realize were important or did not know would have a major impact on the relationship. Red flags are signs that something is not sitting well with an individual and can become a source of conflict within the marriage. Not all problems before marriage are signs of a doomed relationship. Some issues that arise before marriage can be discussed and compromises can be made. Open communication and problem solving are foundational to a healthy, successful, and happy marriage. It must be said that there are some problems or red flags that indicate deeper personal issues that can only be addressed through individual or pre-marital counseling.
Communication before marriage is vital because it is the only way one can connect with a potential spouse and understand his or her viewpoints. Communication is not only about the ability to talk, it is also about the ability to listen. Red flags in this area of the relationship are that you do not feel like your potential spouse understands you, nor seeks to understand what is important to you in your life. If your feelings are dismissed or you are constantly being cut off, then you may be considering someone for marriage who is not a good listener and is not in tune with the feelings of others. In addition, being criticized and/or spoken to sarcastically are signs of disrespect. This is a problem because mutual respect between spouses is the cornerstone of a successful marriage.
On the other hand you may feel like thoughts and feelings are shared and heard, but your potential spouse does not share his or her own views and feelings. This may be an indication that your potential spouse is emotionally unavailable and not ready for the emotional attachment required in a marriage. A requirement for a successful marriage is that each spouse is emotionally ready to be vulnerable and intimate with another human being.
The way a couple communicates and resolves conflicts are important aspects to consider before marriage. If a couple is constantly arguing and leaves arguments unresolved, they face serious problems in a marital relationship. If you find yourself consciously avoiding certain topics out of a fear of your potential spouse’s reaction, then you are not being fully honest in the relationship. In order to be in an authentic marriage, each spouse must be able to be his or her true self and not shy away from discussing difficult topics.
A potential spouse that expresses extreme emotions, such as uncontrollable anger, excessive fear, or irrational jealousy is a major concern because these could be signs of an abusive partner. A person that tries to control and manipulate another person’s behavior, such as how to dress, how to interact with family and friends, how to live, etc. all signify that this person desires power in the relationship. When getting to know one another, couples usually mistake this classic red flag as a sign of care and concern rather than a pattern toward an emotionally or even physically abusive relationship. A potential spouse who is unable to resolve conflicts, admit mistakes, or deal with constructive criticism is likely to be someone who is not able to take personal responsibility in their life. All of these personal issues are signs that the individual is in need of personal growth and change before attempting to have a healthy marital relationship.
The adage “actions speak louder than words” cannot be truer than when observing the behavior of a potential spouse. Lack of consistency between what a person says and does is a red flag that the individual cannot be trusted and/or that there are major character flaws. In addition, if your potential spouse says and does things that do not reflect your own values, this is a wake up call that you may not be compatible. Any pattern of dishonesty, rationalizing questionable behavior, or twisting words to his or her benefit is a red flag that the individual has difficulty with personal responsibility and needs time and support to mature emotionally.
Many times, problems in marriages arise because of in-laws and couples do not pay attention to the early predictors of these issues. A potential spouse that is overly dependent on parents for finances, decision-making and/or emotional security is someone who may not be ready to get married. A potential spouse who is in an overly dependent family relationship will have difficulty moving into an interdependent relationship with a spouse. While it is of course natural that both families remain connected to the new couple, the shift to emotional independence from the family is a growth process that is necessary so that the new couple can begin creating their own life together.
Trusting your intuition and addressing uneasy feelings that arise during the process of getting to know someone is important. Intuition is your compass and is alerting you that something may be wrong in the relationship with your potential spouse. One must find the courage to follow this intuition. To continue getting to know someone or proceed toward marriage with these uncertainties can be disastrous. Many choose to ignore the red flags out of a fear of hurting a persons feelings or what the family and community may say. Getting married out of a fear of letting others down or because of pressure from others are signs that the relationship is unstable and that is not a foundation for a healthy marriage. In order to be in a healthy marriage, individuals need to grow up and grow emotionally before they can be in a relationship with another individual. No one is perfect, but each individual has a responsibility to work on his or her own personal issues and flaws. As ibn Arabi says, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” Self reflection is vital to help you understand yourself, your relationship with others, and ultimately help bring you closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).