Engagement-Ending Red Flags

Can your gut tell the difference between cold feet and accidentally marrying the wrong person? These red flags can help you decide whether it’s time to end things before you walk down that aisle.

By Chelsea Kaplan

t’s entirely normal for anyone to report having pre-wedding jitters — heck, you’re committing to one person for the rest of your life! But if you can’t shake the feeling that your impending nuptials (or moving in together) is a big mistake, it might be time to re-think making such an important commitment
Many couples enter into a marriage with completely different notions about family.
right now. Below, you’ll find five scenarios where ending your relationship may actually be a good idea... and doing it sooner could spare yourself from heartbreak down the road:

Reason #1: You and your partner have differing views on family
If you love having weekly Sunday dinners with your folks while he’d rather spend them at home watching football (or your fiancée would like to have six kids, but you’re not even sure you want one), these issues won’t likely get resolved — or even slightly change — once you’re married. In fact, they’re probably going to become more contentious as your marriage continues, says Patrick Schneid, a dating and relationships coach in Washington D.C. “Many couples enter into a marriage with completely different notions about family — including how they relate to their parents and siblings as well as the future family they hope to have with their husband or wife,” he explains. “These couples usually assume that everything will work out because they love each other. However, love isn’t always enough to make that marriage a healthy one. You and your partner must essentially be on the same page about the roles you’d like your respective families to play in your own lives as well as the family you envision creating together as a couple. If you’re on different wavelengths when it comes to these issues, I can almost guarantee your marriage will be a rocky one — if it lasts at all.”

Reason #2: Your partner has a history of being unfaithful
According to Dr. Terri Orbuch, relationship expert and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, trust is perhaps the most important and essential aspect of any successful marriage. “When you trust someone, it means that you believe that person tells you the truth, won’t hurt or deceive you, and has your best interests at heart,” she says. “If a betrayal of trust happens, you probably want to take a step back and either end or postpone the wedding so you can see what’s going on with your relationship, your partner, or your partner’s inability to be honest and dependable.” Take this time to discover what’s really happening with your beloved and consider whether he or she is sincerely remorseful and apologetic about any questionable behaviors before you commit to being married to each other for eternity.

Reason #3: Your partner’s routinely engaging in risky behavior
It should go without saying that if your partner is routinely engaging in sketchy, scary or harmful behavior, it’s a good idea to reconsider marrying this person. However, many engaged folks believe that these behaviors may abate
Before you walk down the aisle together, take a good look at how the two of you manage stress and disagreements.
over time after they’re married, or that their love is enough to inspire their partner to change for the better. Not so, says Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole, coauthor of Dangerous Instincts: How Our Gut Feelings Betray Us: “If your partner is demonstrating signs of physical aggression toward others, drug and/or alcohol abuse, criminal behavior or other unsavory or even illegal activities, choosing to partner up with this person for the rest of your life isn’t just unwise — it’s actually dangerous.” If this sounds familiar to you, it may be time for you to get out — and the sooner, the better, O’Toole advises, because finding a way to break up now ensures he or she can’t put you in harm’s way later on.

Reason #4: Your partner is unable to handle conflict or stress in healthy ways
Before you walk down the aisle together, take a good look at how the two of you manage stress and disagreements. “How both of you behave when you have a disagreement now says a lot about how you will — or won’t — resolve problems in the future,” says Dr. Orbuch. Because life constantly throws curveballs at us, the odds are good that both you and your partner will encounter stressful situations once you’re living the married life together. Weathering those storms in a positive way is essential, says Dr. Orbuch. “If your partner handles disagreements with others (or with you) in a destructive way — i.e., by cursing, screaming, or talking down to the other person — you may want to reconsider whether this is really a future you’d like to sign up for,” she says. “A good relationship is one where the two of you fight fair,” asserts Dr. Orbuch. “My research also shows that you are more than twice as likely to break up over time if you handle conflict in a destructive way.”

Reason #5: Your family and/or friends really dislike your partner
While even the most charming, genuine people can occasionally rub others the wrong way, if the majority of your family and friends think that your partner isn’t nearly good enough for you, don’t assume they’re just trying to give you a hard time (or simply aren’t happy for the two of you). “Often, when people are coming to love from a desperate place — perhaps they’re on the rebound, or worried that this may be their last chance at love before they’re too old to have a family — they choose partners who aren’t right for them,” says Schneid. “The problem is that because they’re seeking love out of a sense of desperation or loneliness, they’re able to convince themselves that this person is the key to their future happiness and therefore overlook that person’s deficiencies (however big or small they may actually be). Sometimes, the only people who can help pull someone out of this kind of delusion are that person’s family members or friends.” So if loved ones that you trust and whose opinions you value highly tell you that they’re not as sure about your choice of partner as you are, listen to them. “It’s worth hearing them out — especially before you walk down that aisle towards spending a lifetime with someone who may not be your true Mr. or Ms. Forever,” advises Schneid.

When DC-based journalist Chelsea Kaplan isn’t helping you solve your relationship problems, she’s making jewelry. Check it out at
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