I was enjoying a beautiful summer day in the mountains. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and the sound of the nearby brook competed with the crunch of the gravel under my feet. Suddenly, my hike was cut short by a missing bridge. Apparently I was enjoying the atmosphere and scenery so much, I didn’t notice the sign a mile back that read: Bridge out ahead.
Long, beautiful relationships can end just like that. When you’ve been with someone you adore for a year or more, it’s easy to take things for granted. If you’re not careful, you might miss some signs that your relationship with your long-time boyfriend, girlfriend or fiancé might come to a quick and unexpected stop.
Here are some “bridge out ahead” signs to watch out for in your longer-term relationships.
They still “hang out” with other single guys or girls alone
This one seems obvious, but when you’re infatuated with someone you can make up excuses for them. “They’ve always had a bunch of friends of the opposite sex, and I shouldn’t ask them to change their friends just for me.”
Truth is, you should. Anyone interested in forming a meaningful relationship with you will do just that — keep it meaningful. If they hang out one-on-one with other friends of the opposite sex, then your relationship isn’t exclusive. They’re treating you just like another one of their friends.
Talk about it and see if you can reach a mutual agreement about boundaries when it comes to spending time with their friends. It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s an important one.
They keep bringing up past grievances
My best friend was in a yo-yo relationship. They’d take five steps forward and six steps back. Whenever they disagreed, his girlfriend would bring up something that had hurt her in the past. Sometimes it was something my best friend had done to her and since apologized for. Other times it was something others had done to her, and she was scared he’d do it to her too.
One of the powerful things about love is it never keeps a record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5). Forgiveness is a huge part of making loving relationships last. Resentment and guilt are ways to push people away, not keep them together. Ask for forgiveness. Never stop extending it, either.
They don’t introduce you to their family
This is tricky to navigate. There are people out there with broken families. You shouldn’t fault your significant other for not introducing you into the chaos of their dysfunctional family if they have one. They may not want the dysfunction to scare you away or hurt you. Still, you should know about them. You should also see that your boyfriend or girlfriend is doing their part in loving them, maintaining appropriate boundaries, and striving to live at peace with them.
But if their family seems nice, they don’t complain about them and yet they’ve never introduced you to them, that’s worth talking about. Maybe start by talking about your family and see if they talk about theirs. If they do, tell them you’d love to meet them sometime and see what happens.
They lie about insignificant things often
A little lie here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is — especially in a serious relationship. Sometimes people have no reason to lie, but they do it anyway. It’s a destructive habit.
It’s not the size of the lies but the frequency of them that’s particularly destructive. Many little lies are just as damaging as one big lie.
Trusting one another is an important part of making relationships work, and lies, no matter how small, leave room for suspicion. That suspicion only undermines trust and devotion.
They’re not vulnerable with you
Being vulnerable isn’t easy. I still find it hard to be vulnerable around my best friend in the world — my wife. It’s hard, but I do it because it’s important to me and it’s important to her. She cares about me; she worries about me and wants to know how I’m feeling about things, especially when it’s influencing our relationship.
If your significant other has a hard time opening up or expressing how they feel, that’s something worth working through together. But if that’s not something they’re interested in doing, that’s something to consider.
If you’re with someone who remains guarded around you, don’t give up. You earn vulnerability. If you completely disarm yourself and shed all your armor, odds are they’ll do the same.
They don’t treat you like Jesus would
As Christians, we know the love we’re looking for from a spouse because we’ve experienced it to a much greater degree in our relationship with the Lord.
In Ephesians 5, Paul says that Christ’s love for His church is signified in marriage. Think about that. Every believer has felt and enjoyed the intimacy we all long for in marriage because we’ve been united to Christ by faith. We know what it feels like to be someone’s beloved — their one true love no matter what.
Jesus showed just how far He’d go for you, and that’s what He expects your spouse to do too. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, but when you’re both fighting just as hard to make things work, it’s close.
When it seems like your significant other isn’t pursuing you and fighting for your relationship, the bridge may be out ahead. Don’t panic. Pause, pray and talk through things. Share how you feel and ask them to share too.
You can work through almost anything when you’re both working together. The bridge might be out ahead, but together you can rebuild and meet in the middle.
Copyright 2019 Matt Stickel. All rights reserved.