Addressing Red Flags in a Relationship

By Glenn Lutjens
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Focus on the Family

At this point you might be wondering, like the disciples did in Matthew 19:10, “If this is the case, maybe it’s better not to marry.”

That is an important decision. Depending on the severity of the red flag, a friend may be able to address them while remaining in the relationship. And not every red flag mentioned here is of equal importance. For example, a friend’s alcoholism or another friend’s tendency to avoid conflict don’t necessarily hold the same weight. It’s not about looking for the perfect mate; if it were, we would be disqualified ourselves.

Raising a concern in the relationship needs to occur with honesty, humility, and kindness. You might voice qualities about your friend that you do appreciate before sharing your red flag. For example, “I find your kindness and compassion to be great qualities in your life, and I greatly appreciate them. Recently I’ve been struggling with the amount of time we spend together. I know it’s important that we have the opportunity to share time, but I’m feeling suffocated in some ways.” The focus is your experience and the behavior itself, not the trait. “You’re too dependent,” may or may not be accurate, but it’s going to be difficult to receive.

It may help to ask your friend to think or pray about it; maybe you’re the first person who has ever had the courage to voice the concern and it may take some time for it to register. Your friend may disagree with you, but one’s willingness to consider the concern will shed considerable light upon your subsequent decisions.

Remember that you’re not there to fix your friend. Several years ago, a psychiatrist named Dr. Negri tried to do that and failed miserably. He “fixed” his younger patient of thirty years and subsequently married her. Their marriage ended in divorce. When asked why it didn’t work out, he said that he had forgotten to do therapy on himself.

In some cases, you may be wise to take a step back in the relationship, at least waiting until a situation is addressed before moving forward. Keep in mind that a person can white knuckle a problem at least for a period of time; using sheer determination to change behaviors. That type of change is not likely to last, and may lead you back into deeper problems some time down the road. If a relationship needs to slow down or not move forward, you may need to identify the reason, discuss what steps each may take to address the concern, and agree upon the needed boundaries. Communicate clearly: Is the relationship exclusive at this point or not? Is there freedom to see other people? It will be important for you to know what changes will need to happen in order to move forward.

© 2011 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Glenn Lutjens

Glenn is a licensed family therapist who’s been on the Focus counseling team for 23 years. Prior to joining Focus, he spent time in church counseling and pastoral ministry. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have three young adult children. Glenn loves Jesus, has an affinity for lasagna and cheers for the Oakland Raiders.

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.