Couples marrying today face a substantial lifetime risk of divorce. While some people truly face a higher risk of divorce than others, many who have a very low risk nevertheless worry about divorce happening to them. Some who are dating avoid marriage all together because of their fear of divorce. Society places so much value on staying married. There is pressure there.

Some of that pressure is good, because it keeps people from taking marriage too lightly. However, there are those on the other end of the spectrum who are too afraid to fully commit to a relationship because they are scared. Divorce is stressful. Facing the unknown and facing fears head-on is tough.

Today’s dating culture is more likely to prepare you to get divorced than to enjoy a lifetime of marriage. If you have not yet married or even chosen a partner, you have, by far, the most power to affect your eventual likelihood of divorce. For those who are not married, here are five tips to keep in mind before you proceed:

Take the Relationship Slow

Before you decide to get married, really get to know the person you’re dating. We all know that there are people who fall in love at first sight and marry within months who have done well over many years in marriage. But there are many other couples that marry fast and fell apart. By taking more time, you can see how a potential partner treats others, responds to stress and handles disagreements with you on things that matter. Also, if your relationship is moving toward marriage, take some time to clarify expectations about marriage, family and life.

Pay Attention to Red Flags

One minute your significant other is loving and the next, punishing you for not doing things correctly. This is a major red flag. Manipulation plays a huge role in most abusive relationships. This constant emotional roller coaster ride of arguments and apologies is definitely unhealthy. If you see evidence of controlling or abusive behavior, don’t move blinding ahead hoping things will work out or those things will go away. If you have trusted friends or family, listen to them about concerns they see in the person you’re dating. Don’t date someone who you believe is a makeover project – or, at the least, don’t do so until there is great evidence of real, lasting change when there are concerns. If any of these red flags are showing up in your relationship, it’s a sign that it's time to walk away.

Find Someone Who Shares Your Beliefs and Values

The relationships that tend to last the longest are the ones where there is a deep level of shared values that keep them solid and incredibly compatible. Having shared interests is important. You want a partner you can experience life with and create memories with but, as well as other important elements of a good relationship, including communication, intimacy, respect and love, shared values will strengthen the foundation of your relationship immensely. Values are a key part of you that are so important to match with your chosen partner because when our values aren’t aligned with the people we share our life with, it can cause all sorts of problems. A lack of shared values will often be the underlying basis of those really heavy arguments you have, or those ongoing frustrations that come up every now and then, and can ultimately cause a total breakdown in your relationship.

Find Someone Who is Mutually Dedicated

You should be with someone who is equally devoted to the relationship. There shouldn’t just be one person willing to make sacrifices in the relationship. If you consistently think you are more dedicated to the relationship than your partner, consider moving on. That’s a bad sign for the future quality of your marriage.

Find Someone Who is in a Personal Relationship With Christ

Following Christ is the most important decision you’ll ever make in life. The next is choosing to be with someone who is in a personal relationship with Christ who will support your spiritual growth. Christ comes before all other relationships. Too often we place our love, or desire in finding the right person before God. But Jesus tells us that the first and greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:29-30). Both you and the person you are dating should desire Christ more than you desire anything else. When we love Christ first, we see love differently, and can love the person we are with, in extraordinary ways. Be wary of those who claim to be in a relationship with Christ, but don’t reflect Christ in word, deed or action. Just because a person professes to be a Christian, doesn’t necessary mean they have Biblical-beliefs or Christ-based values. Jesus warns: “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules by rote” (Isaiah 29:13). It is important that we choose to date people who truly know God, and model this in their life choices.

Also, find someone who you can pray with. Prayer is an extremely powerful tool, particularly in the lives of those who believe in Christ. Couples in true Christian relationships lift each other up, particularly in prayer. Prayer can be a powerful tool in your relationship life. It promotes unity. The two of you become one in God by constantly seeking His counsel and fixing your eyes on him. Prayer also promotes emotional intimacy. Just like physical intimacy reaffirms oneness, praying together does the same. You better communicate with each other when you actively community with God. You can learn so much about each other through the listening of each other’s prayers to God.

While divorce is a scary thought, don’t avoid positive relationships because you’re afraid of the outcome. While today’s dating culture prepares us for failure, we have the power to create our own destiny and be in a lasting relationship.

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