I'm gonna be honest. When I first heard that singer Michelle Williams was going to do a reality show about her relationship with her fiancé and pastor Chad Johnson, the very first thing that came to my mind was, "Why do people do this to their relationships?" (Michelle and Chad actually touch on this very topic here).
Trying to make things work is hard enough without the relentlessness of social media trolls and blog commentators. Still, Michelle is a grown woman, so when she said that she wanted to tell her story herself, I took it for what it was.
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Fast forward to (literally) today and all you have to do is put "Michelle Williams" in Google and you're gonna see everyone and their grandma comment on her IG story announcement about breaking things off with her fiancé. Of course, we all have an opinion about it. Pardon the pun but, for better or for worse, we always do.
I watched the series, and as a marriage life coach, I must admit that I saw quite a few red flags. At the same time, when I read Michelle's break-up post, I couldn't help but say, "Good for y'all!" because, in my humble opinion, I believe it is far better to break-up with someone before jumping the broom than divorce them afterward.
A particular episode of A Different World, "Wedding Bells From Hell", breaks it down best. If you ever saw it, you probably recall that while Jalessa and Walter made it down the aisle, they didn't officially get married. During the ceremony, they realized that while they loved each other, the way they saw their future was not the same. In honor of that last-minute revelation, their wedding reception turned into an impromptu "Whew! Boy did we dodged a bullet or what?!" party.
And you know what? GOOD. FOR. THEM. Good for Michelle and Chad, too. I say that because I and my brother are products of unions where our parents wanted to call things off the night before (I know this for a fact, BTW) and didn't. All that did was lead to two miserable marriages, two divorces, and two children who are still healing from the fallout.
While some people may see Michelle ending her engagement as being an epic fail, I'm on the other side saying,
"How brave and beautiful it is to accept that what you initially thought was right for you, isn't. How much self-love you've got to have to not allow pressure, expectations, and even your feelings for another person cloud your discernment and better judgment."
That's why, in honor of Michelle's announcement – and also in remembrance of some premarital counseling sessions I've been in where I've said, "You two have NO BUSINESS getting married!" – here are five quick red flags that no engaged couple should ignore:
You Don't See Day-to-Day Life the Same Way.
While watching Chad Loves Michelle, things like race, how to handle Michelle's depression, as well as family issues, communication, and different views on gender roles definitely came up. Not because of the relationship per se, but due to the premarital counseling that was involved (if you're engaged, please make sure you get some!). What you got to see was, it's one thing to deeply care for someone. On the other hand, it's a whole 'nother ball game to try and build a life with them.
If you're engaged (or considering getting engaged in the near future) but your values, the way you see your future, and/or your lifestyle doesn't complement your significant other, you better believe it's a red flag.
There are a whole lot of good friends who would be straight-up enemies if they were roommates. The same thing applies for couples who are in love but don't see life the same way.
Your Motive Is Rooted in Fear.
For those who rock with the Bible, I John 4:18(NKJV) says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." There's a lot of ways to take this.
Love keeps you from having the fear of loving another individual. Love also keeps you from experiencing the fear of caring what people think should your relationship with someone come to an end.
There are so many dysfunctional relationships that are rooted in nothing more than fear—fear of being alone, fear of having to start over, fear of what the future holds without the other person in their lives. They're automatically dysfunctional because you can't relax and totally be yourself if you're fearful all of the time.
If you're staying with someone because you're fearful of what will happen if you got out of it, what you're saying is, you're afraid or overly anxious in your relationship. What sounds even remotely healthy about that?
You Spend More Time Convincing than Celebrating.
There's someone I know who had drama-on-top-of-drama in the days leading up to her wedding. It actually seemed like she spent more time trying to convince everyone that her fiancé was the best man for her than actually enjoying her season as an engaged woman.
She married him. They've been together for several years now. But she spends so much time wondering where he is, crying over their disconnection, and doing whatever she can to keep him interested (including sexually-attracted) that I can't help but wonder if she wishes she had heeded the warnings she was given on the front end.
I know folks think taking the Tupac approach to marriage (you know, "you and me against the world") is all romantic and everything, but there are folks who loved you before you ever met your fiancé. If ALL of them are like, "Hold up, now"…that is probably exactly what you should be doing. At least until you figure out why they feel the way that they do.
You're Rushing Things.
Once upon a time, I was a teen mom director for a non-profit. While in my sessions, I would ask the teen girls, "How long do I need to know you before I can borrow $50?" I would hear everything from "a year" to "10 years". I would immediately retort with, "OK. When it comes to the guys you've had sex with, how long did it take for them to know you before they got some?" Talk about crickets.
It's always been odd to me that we'll pressure a couple who's only known each other a year or two to get married but we'll think it's crazy for two individuals who just met six months ago to call each other best friends. My point? Mariah Carey said it best – "love takes time".
If you feel like you're moving faster than your mind, heart, or even budget says that you should, this is another indicator that you should pump the brakes. Marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. There's no rule that says you have to make the call to do it in 365 days or less (there's no million-dollar prize that comes from doing it either!).
You Lack Inner Peace.
There's a couple I know who, after going through six months of premarital counselingand passing with flying colors, ended up breaking off their engagement anyway. They said that it was the counseling that showed them some things about each other and their relationship that made them want to call things off. They're both happily married now – to other people. Talk about making a boss move. #dope
They are a great reminder to not get so caught up in butterflies in your stomach that you overlook the need for inner peace. Peace is about clarity. Peace is about calmness. Peace is about harmony—within yourself and with another individual (in that order, by the way).
If you don't have this at the very core of your being, do yourself and your significant other a favor and at least postpone the wedding. If a few months down the road you still don't have that inner peace, love both of you enough to call the engagement off.
Again, ending an engagement/calling off a wedding is not a bad thing. It ultimately means that you love yourself and them enough to make room for something better.
You've gotta respect anyone who has the courage to make a decision based on that.
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