Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Red Flags: When You Know You Need to Dump Him

by Jeff Bethke

In this post I hope to give you some practical advice from a guy’s perspective on how to spot red flags in your dating relationship (ones that would be detrimental to a marriage in the future).

Ladies, it’s important to remember that marriage is a lifelong commitment before man and before God. When you enter into that covenant, it is permanent. The relationship no longer is about the feelings, the attraction, or whether you’re still “in love,” but rather it becomes about the vows, the promises, and the commitment to a lifetime together. Unfortunately, couples don’t usually ask the hard questions until after they get married! This leads to huge marital strife, disconnect, and false expectations.

The first piece of advice is to always remember that a guy is on his best behavior while dating. Whatever weaknesses he shows and whatever flaws you see most likely will be amplified in marriage, not stifled. Now of course if Jesus is the center, and confession and repentance is a habit in the relationship, then growth will certainly happen. However, it’s important to consider any flags that might show up during your dating season that are usually only the tip of the iceberg for problems in the future…

1) He wants to read your texts, have all your internet passwords, and keep tabs on what you are doing at all times. If this is the case, he probably has a controlling heart that will only grow in marriage. I was that guy before I knew Jesus. Usually this type of guy is extremely insecure and to combat that he tries to keep every possibility or piece of information in view. It’s a bad sign, and can be extremely destructive.

2) You regularly catch him looking at other women. This is a huge sign of what’s going on in his heart, mind, and soul. I wouldn’t be surprised if a guy who has a habitual wandering eye also has an addiction to pornography. It’s important to note that confronting your guy about pornography usually should be brought up only when you’re in a serious relationship, but ladies you definitely need bring it up before you tie the knot, and even get engaged (to be honest, it’s usually not an issue of if your boyfriend struggles with it, but rather how much he does).

Nothing wrecks marriages more than porn. It’s idolatry at the deepest level and causes myriad destructive problems. My advice is to prayerfully discern if he is living a life of repentance and pursuing Jesus daily, or if he is living in secret sin that he wants no one to know about. If it’s the latter, then break up with him for good. You don’t want that.

3) He doesn’t like to hang out with your friends and family, and you’re constantly struggling to convince him to hangout with your group of acquaintances. If a guy wants to go out with you and then isolate you from your family, your friends, and your peers, it’s usually because he is shady and doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. He knows others who aren’t blinded by the relational love will see things he doesn’t want them to see.

4) He plays the church “game” so he can date you. The biggest red flag in my opinion is if he pretends to love Jesus so you’ll like him. Do you have to babysit him (paying for his stuff, dragging him to church, etc) or does he lead like a man truly should? Does he have a fervent, growing relationship with Jesus, and even though he might mess up, does he constantly lead a lifestyle of repentance and grace? Is he quick to apologize when you two argue? Does he pray with you? Does he talk to you about the scriptures? If so, that man is a keeper. No matter how much he messes up, if his face is set towards the King of Kings then you’ve got yourself a winner! But, if he is merely a responder to spiritual things, and not an initiator, break up with him, and call the daycare to come pick him up.

Do you have any stories of seeing a red flag and getting out before it got worse? What are some other red flags not on this list?

59 comments:

  1. Amen! <3 *high five!*

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  2. Nice post. Good luck at NLC tonight. I used to live in SWFL and attended the church. There are some great leaders there that you'll meet and it will be really cool for you all to connect.

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  3. #4 should in my opinion be #1 but all of these are great tips.

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  4. I actually just want to comment on #1.
    So are you saying as a couple you should NOT have each others passwords to like email?
    Maybe I am just directing my question for during marriage due to my own past situations. But even in that sense. Are you saying it's wrong for a husband and wife to know each others passwords to, for example: email, facebook, myspace...whatever? I understand the texts and always wanting to keep tabs and the whole controlling thing.

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    1. When I was married my wife had all my passwords however I think a guy needs some male friends that have this information and that he can be accountable to and that will call him out on the table. I do believe in marriage there should be no secrets but if someone is controlling before marriage like that they are an insecure control freak and will mora than likely be jealous in any situation.

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    2. What Jeff is saying has more to do with the jealousy that is demonstrated when a boyfriend demands that information from his girlfriend--not a husband and wife willingly sharing that information.

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    3. second what Natalie said. I was more referring to the controlling obsessive nature a relationship can take on sometimes. there is nothing wrong with willing transparency in a marriage. in fact i'll probably do that!

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    4. I think its good for married couples to know each others passwords. Not so they can snoop, but it shows openess and honesty.

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    5. Thanks for the clarification:) I completely agree with being open and sharing passwords to email and everything in a marriage...in fact I think everyone should be. I was in an abusive (emotionally, mentally, and almost physically) marriage where my ex-husband was very controlling. It was not a fun situation and I wish I saw these signs in the beginning. The fact of my question is because I found out what was really going on by my ex-husbands email. Went to marriage counseling and was told I did the right thing.

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    6. xxxchurch has a program available in which anytime you visit questionable sites it sends links to your accountability partner, so they can hold you accountable. The program is called x3 watch

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  5. Now if only there were more men that fit this description...

    sigh. :)

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  6. @Jeff Good Stuff! Keep it real!

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  7. From someone that ignored the red flags, I completely agree.

    I would add:
    1. Co-dependency with his parents.
    2. You are his rebound.
    3. Premature or unfulfilled promises
    4. Avoids conflict at all cost (refuses to communicate when an issue arises)

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Yes! ESPECIALLY number one and two, haha

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    3. #1...when my husband committed adultery, and I, in shock, called to tell my mother-in-law what was happening, she said, "I'll say neither yea nor nay." I couldn't believe it when she said that, as if she didn't believe me. So I said I found a receipt for condoms...and she said, "Well, you don't want him to get a girl pregnant." And I said he didn't need them, he had a vasectomy and she said, "Well, you don't want him to get an STD." She also later said she didn't care that he committed adultery and didn't care that he did porn. This all from a woman that claims to be a Christian.

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  8. I had a "man" who was #4 and a few of what WRYLY posted as well. Keep up the wonderful blog Jeff!

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  9. I do not entirely agree with #2 - "looking at the opposite sex" is a natural reaction to beauty...you see something beautiful, you look at it ~ staring,making rude comments,etc. while looking at "other women" is what I would consider to be a red flag....just sayin'

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    1. other than that - This article is very good!!!! (:(:(:

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    2. nothing wrong with recognizing beauty. i was more referring to an obsessive lure and lustful look that destroys a relationship. a man's standard of beauty should be his spouse, not the 10 girls he sees every day on the street.

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    3. The wandering eye. From the corner of my eye I sometimes see men looking at me while they are with their girlfriends. I tell myself that is the type of man I do not want to date! It's horrible, a man should learn to avert his eyes. It's honoring to his girlfriend/wife. The book -Every Man's Battle- talks about this.

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  10. I see a common attitude among many men I know, that there seems to prevail a general disrespect for women. They say they respect them, but often, a contradictory attitude becomes present in conversation and various dating scenarios. Mind you, the men I am referring to are often not followers of Christ. That makes a major difference, because he transforms sinful hearts. I know, even as a Christian, he is still at work on me, and making me aware of my shortcomings, so I can align my will with his to repent and change them.

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  11. Wow! I just recently experienced #2. I caught him answering to adds on craigslist and found out that he has struggled with porn addiction. Although he didn't meet up with anyone, I had to end it because I felt emotionally cheated on. It was difficult to end because he has repented and has come to God for forgiveness. He knows God and we used to attend church, pray and read the bible together. I have a question Jeff...Do you think that it is possible for a man who's had a wandering eye like this to change if he has come to God? Can a women trust someone like this again?

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    1. wow. thanks for sharing. in regards to your last question I do think it is possible. I know tons of men who by the grace of God have allowed Jesus to change their heart and thus making them more like Him. A man will never be perfect and to some degree he will always have the possibility of messing up but a woman's identity should be anchored more in jesus than the man because jesus is secure and will never change. you have to be wise though too. if you see some of these signs, break up with him, but if he is actively pursuing jesus and is showing fruit of repentance then thats a good sign.

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    2. Anonymous,

      I was that man. I used to look at pornography for 10-15 hours/week at some points in my life. Then I met Christ and continued to struggle with it for quite some time. I finally got out of pornography and have been free of it for 4.5 years. I have to admit, it is extremely difficult in our world to flee sexual immorality. I'm married now, and I still struggle daily with the "wandering eye" point Jeff made. There is hope. Please do yourself, your children, and your friends a favor and don't settle for a guy that won't honor you in this way.

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    3. Thank you for your responses! It has given me hope to trust one day again.... He says that me catching him do these things have embarrassed him but have also made him feel free. He has carried this addiction secretly and now that I know, he is trying to get help. Thank you for posting this blog because there are other women who may be in a relationship like mine. I am praying that he is able to change because no one, man or woman, needs to depend on anything to fill their emptiness. God should be enough!...and no women deserves to feel disrespected or made to feel that they are not enough! Thanks again:)

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    4. I listened to a really good teaching on sexuality today and I'd love to forward it to you. One of our pastors here in Columbus Ohio taught on this a couple weeks ago. It's really good. He has a lot of other good stuff.

      http://conradhilario.podomatic.com/entry/2012-03-06T22_10_55-08_00

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    5. Thank you!:)

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  12. the love of my life or so I thought had a great relationship he was sweet, thoughtful, and attentive. but we then had to have a long distance relationship and well...lets say a lot of bad things started happening between us lies and cheating and just a lot of emotional abuse. Ive never been ao heartbroken so we gave each other up now after 3 yrs hes back and of course I still love thia guy. but now it juat seems all he cares about is sex and I know forsure he watches porn a lot. it sucks Ive tries talking to him about God but he just wont liaten...its hard to let him go...but if this is the person he chooses to be I cant do anything about it. hes talked about marriage but I cant marry a guy like that. i just pray for him.

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  13. I'm dating a guy now who is super secretive... Has a lot of girl friends (which I'm ok with to a point.) Until I found some messages to an ex and they plan on meeting up and doing sexual things to each other. Everything was very detailed and more then anyone or I would want to know and find out... Sooooo thats a HUGE RED FLAG and things have to end. I don't (nor does anyone) deserve that kind of treatment in a relationship. Especially after a year of being together. Breaks my heart, cried all day, and now I have to do something about it... Thank God for His love or I would have a hard time doing this.... I'm sick to my stomach and can't stop thinking about it.... Just found it this morning before work =/ Please pray for me...

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    1. I'm so sorry you are having to go through this... I've been there. I am praying for you, though. You're very wise to stop it.

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    2. I'm sorry :(( I've been through similar :(

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  14. I totally agree with #3! In high school, I had a boyfriend who was in the military so we were not able to spend much time together because he was overseas. We talked about getting married when I was in college. However, when he was home he never tried to meet my parent no matter how much I asked and he would always come over to hang out late at night. Looking back on the situation, he really was just trying to hide his inadequacies and motives from the people who loved me the most. Later on he did a lot more destructive things to the relationship, and I told him I was done. After that phone call he got another girl pregnant several days later. I truly believe God saved me from a marriage and life that would have been extremely destructive to myself, my friends and my family. Do not ignore the red flags, ladies!!

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  15. My ex boyfriend hated my family and hated my friends. I would have to try to talk him into going to social dinners and just to go out at all. Our last month of the relationship was me trying to get a hold of him and him ignoring me. In the end he broke up with me. I couldn't be happier with the person I am currently dating. We have our bickering and little arguments, but none based on the above.

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  16. Hi Jeff,

    I want to thank you for posting this. I hope that if there are any girls or guys in such a type of relationship, they can take your advice regarding these "red flags." I hope they open their hearts and take these words and not allow such a relationship to run their lives.

    I was recently in a relationship with a guy with everyone of these characteristics. I wish someone could have told me these things sooner so that I could have made the decision to leave him sooner. Three years of dating him was really something so difficult and it really took a toll on my spiritual life.

    I was working at a casino pool and I met this guy at work. He was very attractive and many girls liked him. We started talking and I fell for him easily. I continued to pursue him and we were constantly talking. I knew I wanted to date him. I asked God to please let me have him, but God knew better than I did. A couple of days before he asked me out, I was at church and I was attending a youth discipleship class, and I remember clearly we were reading a passage from 2 Corinthians 6. Then God hit me with his words, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers." I knew God was talking to me and he was telling me that he was not the right person for me. I decided to be stubborn to go against God's will and eventually I had to deal with the consequences for my disobedience.

    First couple of months together things were going pretty good except I decided to have premarital relations with him. After he had me wrapped around his finger, he started doing things in order to control me. I was a senior in high school and he made me delete myspace and facebook, he wanted my passwords, and occasionally would try to check my texts. Next, he started getting mad at me every time I talked to any other guy. He would become so frustrated and overly jealous. He started telling me that he was doing this because he cared. I was completely isolated by the end of my high school. I didn't get to go to prom and during graduation he was watching me from the audience and I was not allowed to say one word to anyone. My freshman year in college, he started controlling what I wore, hair, and makeup. I was not allowed to wear anything that was tight fitting, I wasn't allowed to wear make up, and I was to wear my hair in pony tails every day so that other guys would not find me attractive. To control me, he would make me send him pictures where ever I was to show him that I was obeying him.

    After controlling me in those ways, he decided to take it a step further and began to control me emotionally and mentally. He would call me names. Called me every curse word possible, fat, and ugly. He made me feel so low about myself. Yet, he continued to tell me that he loved me. He would stare at other girls right in front of me and do it purposely. I remember he would play softball with his co-workers and I would sometimes get to go to his games. One day, his mood had automatically changed, and while standing next to him, he started whistling at another girl. As bad as this made me feel, I still wanted to stay with him. I thought he would change and go back to being the nice guy he was when we were first talking.

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    1. And as if it wasn't bad enough he started hitting me. The first time he hit me, he said he was awfully sorry and that he would never do it again. Any time that I decided to get mad and start sticking up for myself, he decided that he needed to hit me to control me.

      I started hating myself. I stopped praying and reading. I stopped attending church for about a year during this relationship. I felt God didn't want anything to do with me since I had disobeyed him in the first place. I thought that since I decided to go my own way, I had to take myself out of it without any help. I started self-mutilating and I wanted to kill myself. I was in such a horrible state that I felt nobody could relate to me.

      He left me bruised inside and out. I had no hope. I remember one time, my sister was calling me from a different number and he got so angry that I was getting random calls. We were eating at the time and he spit in my food, dragged me across the living room floor, and spilled my tea all over me. Even though no one was there at the time it was so humiliating. I ran to the bathroom to hide and he followed me. It was such a scary moment.

      I still did not get out of this relationship. I stuck with it and thought things would get better. Another time, we got into an argument in his bedroom and he had a pocket knife on his bed stand, and he started choking me, picked up the knife and threatened he would use it.

      During this time, he also decided to sleep with another girl. I hated myself and her, not him. I became to know an anger that consumed my life.

      This practical advice, can help many. As "practical" as it may seem, not everyone is strong enough to simply dump the person. You may think these type of people who stay in these abusive relationships are stupid for staying in them, but sometimes that is all they know and can get stuck in them. They start to believe it is "normal."

      By the grace of God, he pulled me out of that relationship. He taught me my value and his love for me. Even though I had known His love for me before, I thought that this guys love would be better and what I needed. I can assure you there is nothing greater than His love. Through my healing process, I learned as to why I was so in "need" of this guys love. My dad was abusive growing up and he was an alcoholic. He sometimes hit my mom. I wasn't always accepted by my dad, so I went looking for it somewhere else. Even though my dad made a lot of mistakes while I was growing up, I love him dearly. He wasn't strong in the ways of the Lord, and he is still on his walk with Christ.

      I ask that you pray for these people who are weak to leave these types of relationships. Many people are abused daily and do not seek help nor do they have any hope.

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    2. Amen! No one, and I mean NO ONE deserves that kind of treatment and as you now know....you are NEVER alone. God will never walk away from you. He may be silent, sometimes, but only to get our attention :) I am so glad that you are no longer in that relationship. God has someone perfect for you and has wonderful plans for your life. You have much to say to other women (and men) who are or have been where you have. God bless you.

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  17. Jefferson, you are point on when you suggest that a man with a wandering eye more than likely has a porn addiction. Men are visually stimulated. And no! they do not have to "stare or make rude comments" for it to be a problem or to be fulfilling a sexual/lustful desire from it. It is true in my own situation. My husband and I have been separated for over a year, in part, due to his "wandering eye" that indeed, was indicative of a much deeper problem...porn addiction. Along with this type of behavior, typically, is lying and other forms of deception. Even after working with three different counselors, the bottom-line issue is trust. Due to all of the lies, unfulfilled promises and etc., it is nearly impossible for me to trust this man again. These were ALL things that I noticed before saying yes to marriage but thinking marriage and church would change it. PLEASE LADIES, DON'T KID YOURSELVES! TAKE JEFFERSON'S RED FLAGS TO HEART. THIS IS INFORMATION ABOUT MEN COMING FROM A MAN!!

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    1. I am going through a divorce after 21 years of marriage. My husband also had a wandering eye and was addicted to porn. We have five children and he committed adultery with a woman half his age. I also ignored the red flags. It's a lot easier to break with someone that is exhibiting these problems early into the relationship, than to get divorced years later with children.

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  18. Thanks for posting, Jeff! You make great points that I hope other women will take to heart!! it's not worth it to ignore the red flags! I've been thinking a lot about this only opposite--what men should watch out for when dating a girl. It is sad to say, but a lot of women are pretenders too, i've seen it MANY women, including some of my close friends. Hiding controlling, and manipulative ways that many men don't realize until well into the marriage. It is incredibly damaging and heartbreaking to see.
    Maybe you or one of your friends could write a similar post? red flags that guys need to watch out for? i've wondered if it could be helpful from a woman's perspective but I figured it would be taken more seriously if written from a fellow man...

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  19. The two most important decisions you will ever make is accepting Jesus and choosing your spouse. Keep God at the center of your relationship and He will keep your relationship centered. I hope young men and women print off Jeff's words and refer to it often. After 24 years of marriage I can attest that this is ALL true. One of the greatest gifts you can give your marriage is a marriage seminar/weekend and REALLY find out what makes your spouse tick and how you can tick better together. God made men and women SO very different, spend time with God and put time into your relationship. I know God has a sense of humor... he must really enjoy watching us men and women try and love and live with one another :)

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  20. This is dead on! I agree with everything on this list. Last year I got involved with a guy who was dealing with every single thing talked about above. I was so blinded by my love for him that I didn't even notice. Eventually after standing back and taking a week to really get away, I saw what everyone else was seeing and that was a controling man who just wanted to have a piece of arm-candy. We broke up and that was definitely the best decision made last year. Thank you for sharing this! More people need to be aware of the red flags. God bless!

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  21. I really like what Mark Driscoll of Mars church said that God gave man a job before he gave him a wife. Men, get a bible and a job and let God bring the girl

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  22. I'm all about discussing porn usage with your man...but what if, when confronted, he lies to you to cover it up? honestly, i don't think it's realistic to think that a man would openly admit to looking at porn when asked about it. how can you ever really know?

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    1. Then that's probably not the guy you want to be with. Let's be honest, who wants to brag about their man who, when confronted with his issue of using women, hides it? I've found that by growing in real relationships and discernment that I can usually tell when the men in my life have been in porn. (I'm speaking as a guy) It's not surprising when they finally confess it, the signs are all there if you know what to look for.

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    2. Oh and by the way, it is not unrealistic to have a guy who is honest about this area of his life. It's much more difficult to discuss it with your girlfriend/wife (believe me, I know), but it is completely realistic; it just depends on your expectations. Please don't settle for a guy who won't be open with you about this stuff.

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  23. Thank you for posting this. There are many girls out there who need to understand this. The previous relationship that i was in had many of these red flags, although i didn't notice them until towards the end of it. All alongof course, the holy Spirit warned me against these things, but in my stubbornness i ignored Him, which caused me a lot of emotional bondage. There are some lessons that God knows we've got to learn the hard way......but He is good to deliver us just in time! Girls: Don't ignore the voice of God....He truly knows what you NEED, even if it's not what you want at the time.

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  24. While you are dating you keep your eyes wide open but after you get married you shut them. A woman should be so lost in God that a man has to seek Him to find her.

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  25. "it’s usually because he is shady and doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. He knows others who aren’t blinded by the relational love will see things he doesn’t want them to see." beyond true. this was a great post!

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  26. Amazing points!!! (love the line about the daycare lol) Also, I think one other important factor is the friends that he has. It is sooooo important to choose a guy who has close friends that are also followers of Jesus.

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  27. This ws a gud post. #1.its not wrong to have each others passwords but the question is,is it even ecessary to have them?before u love someone,make sure u can trust that person and if u trust him,there is no need to be keeping track of what he is doing.plus evryone deserves a little bit of their own space.being in a relationship wid u,he sudnt feel like he just got into a prison but he sud feel like he is even more free with u n thus happier.#2.i dont really agree coz some ppl just have wandering eyes and its not their fault.and its not right to judge him according to how he moves his eye balls.coz honestly I have a super wandering eye.evrybody looks longer or twice or turns head when they see something pretty,be it another person or just a pretty dress or a nice car or whatever.but I dont watch porno and yes,im single but the past relationships that I had were long lasting and without cheating.but yes,i do look at pretty looking guys and even tell my bf "hey look,that guy is cute"..dat doesnt mean I wanna cheat on my bf with him.that doesnt mean anything..all it means is that "he is cute".#3.personally id never introduce my bf to my family unless he proposes me,dats just out of respect for my family coz if incase we broke up,i dont want to introduce the next bf too wid my family..as for frens,yeah he should try to hang out wid my frens but if he doesnt feel comfortable,i can totally understand coz not all people are outgoing.#4.i have had someone playing the church game in the past but honestly as a christian,u can easily n totally tell if someone is really a christian or just faking it in front of u.and even if he goes to church with u,u cant marry him.lol..he has to have a spiritual and personal relationship with jesus just like u do and then only u can actually call him a christian.and no,even if that guy baptized,sometimes its just to date u,dat happened to my sister. Lastly,in my opinion,the biggest red flag is when he doesnt let u be urself coz a man who truly loves u thinks even ur flaws are cute.there is nothing called "compromising"in a relationship.there shud be only "love" and true love will never have conditions.when u love a person,there is no this and that,u simply love evrything about him.dating a christian guy doesnt mean ur dating the rightguy and dating a non christian dosnt mean ur dating the wrong one.it just depends on the person how he is inside n ofcourse the name or title on the outside doesnt really tell how he is inside.but as far as I know,a guy who lovs jesus

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  28. ..continue..with all his mind,body,soul n heart knows what is true love and will love you too like u deserve to be love.another red flag is having no respect.if he doesnt respect other human,most likely,he wont respect u either in the future.and u can see by his actions if he respects others or not.others means evrybody.does he respect them in his language,actions?or is he inconsiderate and selfish n rude?the right guy is the one who pushes u towards ur success and not the one who discourages u,pulls u down the ladder and tells u to stop dreaming,be realiztic and start making him happy instead of making urself happy.true love is all bout giving,not bout taking.does he give n give or does he just expects and takes?..anyways folks,hope u find the right one n if u have the wrong one,hopefully u realize before its too late.best way to find the rght one is pray hard and have patience n trust in the lord and h will show u the one he chose for u.marriages r indeed made in heaven.

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  29. Thankfully, my boyfriend doesn't fall into any of these categories. He loves Jesus (I'm sure) and probably goes to church. I need to check in on, that by the way! Great reminder, and AMEN! :)

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  30. Number 3 is so true... I lived that one out and it caused a miserable relationship that was more like a countdown to the inevitable break-up. You should always watch for a guy who refuses to do anything you suggest or is only interested in people, activities, and date nights that he likes. It gets really old, really fast, and it's a sign that he's more concerned with himself than building a healthy relationship. If he doesn't like your family, your friends, or your hobbies, you have to ask yourself why you're still together.

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  31. Thank you so much for writing this. It blessed me greatly during a tough time with my now ex. You nailed it when you said you wouldnt be surprised if a guy with a wandering eye problem had an addiction to porn. That was one of the problems in our relationship. Thank you again.

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