Breaking Up With a Broken Relationship – 7 Warning Signs That It’s Time to End Your Dating Relationship

Danny Silk

It always bums me out when I see singles, especially those who have been waiting a while to find a marriage partner, end up in unhealthy dating relationships, which so often lead to spiritual and moral compromise, bad marriages, and divorces. This is why, in my Defining the Relationship course (soon to be updated as a track in the Life Academy), I let couples know from the outset that my goal is to break up as many of them as I can. On average, sixty percent of couples who go through DTR part ways by the end of the course–if they even make it to the end. Most of them realize that they are not going the same direction in life and that their reasons for being together are unhealthy.

Ending an unhealthy dating relationship is painful and difficult. But it is infinitely less painful in the long run than staying in one. If you want to be a powerful person who marries a powerful person, then you need to refuse to settle for anything less than a relationship that can go the distance–a relationship in which respect, truth, and trust are flowing back and forth, and you are both working toward genuine intimacy, not false or illegitimate physical or emotional intimacy.  This means you need to be able and ready to give a powerful “no” to protect the “yes” you desire to make to the right person.

Here are 7 warning signs that will tell you it is time to give a powerful “no” to an unhealthy relationship:

1. They do not respect boundaries.

Boundaries communicate value. When we don’t respect someone’s boundaries, we do not respect them. Physical boundaries are particularly healthy and important while dating. If the other person does not stop when you say stop or tries to pressure you to compromise a standard you have established, it is time to set a firm boundary. If they continue trying to test the boundary, it is time to say goodbye. (Cue Andrea Bocelli.)

2.  They are not committed to personal growth.

One of the best ways to know if someone is marriage material is their commitment to personal growth.  Are they teachable? Can they receive correction without getting defensive and take responsibility for poor choices instead of making excuses? Do they seek to understand and empathize with others, and allow for other perspectives? If not, you’re probably dealing with someone who is not committed to bringing his or her best to a relationship for the long haul.

3. You make excuses for them.

In a long-term relationship, it’s important to believe the best about others and not make mountains out of molehills. However, if you find yourself often dismissing behavior in the person you’re dating–“Well, nobody’s perfect,” or “They were just in a bad mood”–then you need to do a self-check and see if you are being passive and powerless.  Don’t allow a romantic fantasy of the other person to blind you to their irresponsible behavior–they are showing you who they really are. And don’t settle for being irresponsible yourself. Uphold the standard of behavior you require for yourself and the other person in a relationship.

4.  You pursue them, but they don’t pursue you.

In a healthy relationship, pursuit is balanced between two powerful people. One person should not be working harder than the other. Pursuit looks like investment in getting to know the other person–what they like and don’t like, what they hope for the future, and their love languages and communication style. It also means being willing to adjust and make sacrifices to serve and accommodate the other person. Someone not willing to invest while you are dating is likely going to have a hard time doing that when you are married.

5. They are angry, aggressive, manipulative, or controlling.

It should go without saying that anyone who is angry or controlling before getting married will certainly be so after getting married. Look for trigger points, even subtle ones. How do they respond when you need to change plans or something goes wrong? Sometimes someone who is manipulative can hide it for a while, but there are ways to identify it. If you find yourself feeling confused about your own feelings or events, or that you have to struggle to meet an unspoken list of expectations, you are in a manipulative relationship. These warning signs as well as any physical act of violence should be reason for immediate termination of the relationship.

6. You are “missionary dating.”

If you believe someone will change, and you are giving them “grace” and time to do so, this is a clear warning sign that you are not respecting your own boundaries. When you enter into a relationship with someone who does not currently have the same set of core values, you have started your relationship with a compromised standard. By dating them, you are actually in the contradictory position of telling them that you accept them the way they are and that you want them to change, which is not fair or respectful. This is a setup for compromising yourself and breaking their heart.

7. You are ignoring emotions instead of talking through them.

Healthy connection is built through emotional honesty. In an unhealthy relationship, the truth of what is going on inside both people stays hidden–either because they don’t know how to disclose it, or because they have discovered that it is not safe to do so. If you are hiding your feelings from the other person, it’s a sign that you either need to work on some trust issues, or you need to get away from an unsafe connection.

Please remember that you are an incredibly valuable person, and you owe it to God, yourself, and the person you marry to honor and protect that value. The right person will demonstrate that they recognize your value through their words and behavior–and that they are also committed to protecting and honoring the value of their own lives. Only two people who honor their true value can build a  relationship on mutual respect and shared fruitfulness–a relationship that can go the distance.




P.S. We are about to launch a new Life Academy track called People Helping People. I am very excited to get this content out because I wish I would’ve known these things when I first started helping people. whether as a pastor, counselor or even as a friend. Sign up here to be notified when the track goes live.

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  1. Danny, this is so good. Thank you for sharing! What should you do if you find yourself on the marriage side of this? Several of these apply to my situation, which is a very unhealthy marriage for several years now and we have a 4 year old son who will soon notice this. Honesty with kindness is often punished with escalating reactions followed by a day or two of hostility then not wanting to address the root of the problem, she wants to move on and has threatened divorce if I see a counselor. Ideas? Help! Thank you!

    1. In reply… Ryan, seeing a counselor is about discovering yourself and exploring your truth. That can only be a healthy thing. Seeing a counselor, assuming the typical boundaries in a counseling relationship, is really about yourself, and there should be no fear associated. But working with a counselor is typically an emotionally-intimate experience. Maybe there’s some jealousy that arises from it. You’re not alone in your experience. You are also worthy and enough.

    2. It sounds like you are having a hard time with respectful conversations where it’s safe to tell the truth. Keep Your Love On has Danny’s best stuff on how to pursue connection, lower anxiety, communicate assertively, set a boundary with disrespect, and more. It would be worth it to see if your wife would be willing to read through it together. Many couples have read the book together and been able to gain clarity and solutions to stuff that’s been hurting their connection.

  2. Ryan, seeing a counselor is about discovering yourself and exploring your truth. That can only be a healthy thing. Seeing a counselor, assuming the typical boundaries in a counseling relationship, is really about yourself, and there should be no fear associated. But working with a counselor is typically an emotionally-intimate experience. Maybe there’s some jealousy that arises from it. You’re not alone in your experience. You are also worthy and enough.

  3. Wow, this post couldn’t have been more timely! I am just about to step into the dating scene after years of letting Jesus heal my inner man and pretty much isolating myself of any romantic activity with the opposing sex.
    I shall ponder upon these advices so I wouldn’t hurt myself or others in the process!
    Blessings from Finland!

  4. Thank you for this insightful article. Would be able to add scriptures in the future so we can share the biblical principles with others?
    Many thanks

  5. Did this after 10 years of not dating after my divorce. I thought time made me ready. Nope. I ignored all of the signs you listed here Danny. Thankfully, I got out. Not unscathed, but really helped me see how to wait and get healing. No condemnation to myself or anyone else who fell for it out of lonliness. I learned a ton!

  6. What if we went ahead and married someone who hit all 7 points? I wish desperately that I could go back and give true love and wise counsel to the precious girl who excused these warning signs in the name of grace, but I can’t. So what now?

  7. J, Alllison, and Tyler, thank you for your comments and encouragement. I have read KYLO, and it was awesome. My wife has been unwilling to read anything like this with me and has become resentful when I bring up something new like this to her. It’s an incredibly tough spot to be in, and I’m really not sure what I will do. This has been going on several years, and I don’t see the pattern changing anytime soon, which is very scary to me. Praying. Praying. Thank you both 🙂 To those of you out there in tough situations too, you are not alone and He is alongside you – keep your eyes on Him.

  8. Hi All, I am also on the other side of marriage to a man who displays most of the above most of the time. I got sucked in through lie upon lie, misrepresenting himself. I have a good accountability circle but he fooled them too, including the pastor. It would have been a life saver to have known of your material then. I soak up your articles, blogs and material and have put in place many things to maintain my power and support him empowering himself (the question approach really good) but have come up blank in how to deal with lies. God is faithful and committed to covenant more than we will ever know and the lies are always exposed at some stage but what then? He has never confessed a lie of his own accord and when a lie begins to be uncovered he still doesn’t volunteer the whole truth. I now don’t trust anything he says and have to always check the facts. Just when I start to trust again another blooper comes out. The lies are serious and have influenced big decisions and at times affected the safety of my family.
    Regards Lonie

  9. Spending time away from each other seems to be a good test to see if core values are real in the other person or if they’re just doing things to please you.

  10. thank you , quite helpful….sometyms u knw u r in an unhealthy relationship but you seem to b too scared to live it.

  11. Hi Danny,

    Help me understand how to determine whether a relationship is "missionary" in nature as opposed to someone who expresses an apparent desire to clean up their messes. Also, I assume that someone who takes responsibly for their mess has the beginning qualifications, at least in that regard as a powerful person.
    I am in a friendship, not dating, and both see places we want to grow ourselves before moving the relationship forward. This involves both of us cleaning up previous relationship messes.

  12. This is a touchy subject and there is very valuable advice in here. Danny silk is my favorite relationship guider
    However I feel as if some people are using this advice as a reason to justify there "poor me victim" mentality which is in essence giving up their power. Ive been there I know. Personally I would rather get punched in the face very hard then then go back to having the poor me mentality. Also something else to note is; I guarantee everyone of us healthy or not has exhibited atleast some or all of these signs in a relationship. It does not mean that Gods grace is not there and you are not meant to be with them. Especially in a marriage. Understandably so if they show repettitive signs of failure with no want of change after you both seeking out true help and wisdom from people who are truly powerful and wise themselves. A friend is a good resource. But on a subject like this they may not have the outside perspective and Godly wisdom needed. Seek the elders of the church. Seek God above all else. I have heard amazing testimonies from people who have had to work their issues out in relationships and become so strong fierce and unbreakable because of the trials. In all of this Iam referring to long term relationships not short term ones. If your seeing any warrning signs in ealry relationship I would get out asap.

  13. No, I am not a victim. After 27 years of marriage, I find myself married to a man who has been in relationship with another woman, our spiritual daughter, for 3 years. All the signs were there but I chose to believe the best in him. I do not believe in divorce and I have forgiven him. He simply wants out. I am choosing to trust God in the midst of struggling to breathe.

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