Red Light, Green Light
About the Guest
Dating again has its pluses and minuses. When do you know to take caution? Ron Deal, FamilyLife's director of Blended Family Ministries, joins single mom Sabrina Beasley and Rob and Rhonda Bugh, a widower and widow whose marriage formed a blended family of nine, to talk about the character traits one should look for in a prospective date and future mate. Find out what behaviors should immediately signal a red flag in the relationship.
Rob and Rhonda BughRobert Bugh is a graduate of Southern Methodist University. He received a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served as the Senior Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, Illinois since 1994. Rob also serves as the chairman of the board of Greater Europe Mission. Following the death of his first wife, Rob married a long-time family friend, Dr. Rhonda Williams, a pediatrician who previously lost...more
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
Sabrina Beasley McDonaldSabrina Beasley McDonald is a former senior writer and web editor for FamilyLife, working mainly with FamilyLife's online magazine The Family Room. Over the years she has written of her engagement, wedding, and marriage to David Beasley, her experiences as a mother, her adjustment to widowhood in 2010 when David was tragically killed in a car accident, and her marriage in 2013 to Robbie McDonald. Sabrina has written dozens of articles for FamilyLife. Her articles have also appeared in numerou...more
Dating again has its pluses and minuses. When do you know to take caution?
Red Light, Green Light
Bob: If you are a single parent, maybe you’ve started dating, maybe you’ve gone to an online dating site, and maybe you’ve found a person who looks he or she could be the perfect match. Ron Deal says, “Hang on, a minute.”
Ron: Some online dating programs actually help give you a running start at meeting somebody. People need to understand that that is only “fit, as a couple”. It may not show you they are “fit, as a family”. Those are two separate issues. You meet somebody that way. It does not tell you whether or not there is a fit there, as a family.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are a lot of things a single parent ought to think about before he or she starts to date again—whether you are looking online or any place else for a spouse. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Now, I remember awhile back—this was some time ago when I had heard about a woman who had been widowed. I don’t know how long it was after her husband had died, but she had started dating somebody. The way I heard that she was dating somebody was from a lot of her friends, talking about her dating somebody. They were concerned. It was too soon; or they saw indicators, in that relationship, that they didn’t think she was seeing. I didn’t know the details to know enough of what was going on; but I had to wonder, “Was she aware of the issues, or were her friends hypersensitive to things that they didn’t need to be—were they just gossiping? What was going on here?”
Dennis: Well, I had a situation where a friend had gone through a divorce. He started dating pretty soon after the divorce, and I went to him. I said, “You’ve got to be careful here. Allow some time to occur.” I think it’s easy for someone who has been married before to be lonely—to fall prey to that loneliness. As we’ve talked about, here, this week on FamilyLife Today, to want to fill the gap, to fix it, and to start dating someone and marry them. As a result, end up in a blended family situation.
We have, really, someone who isn’t in a blended family himself, Ron Deal, but has more than 25 years’ experience in the blended-family relationship arena. Ron, how did you get started, in the first place, in this blended family issue?
Ron: Yes, I’m the male obstetrician of the stepfamily world. [Laughter]
Dennis: Hold it. Let me stop and think about that one for a second.
Ron: Never delivered that baby myself, but I do know something about the process. It’s one of the reasons that we’ve surrounded ourselves with other guests on this program who can talk about their world experience. My experience is as a counselor and as a family minister, coming to the table, wanting to help families do blended family life well, preventing problems, and enhancing and growing their relationships. We want to help people do this wisely.
Dennis: You mentioned earlier you brought some of your friends into the broadcast who have had experience here. Sabrina Beasley joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Sabrina, welcome back.
Sabrina: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: She’s a freelance writer, and she’s a single-parent mom of a four-year-old and a two-year-old. Her husband was killed in a car wreck in 2010. It was not really your choice to be at this table with us today. Was it, Sabrina?
Sabrina: No, it was a tragedy.
Dennis: Also, joining us are Rob and Rhonda Bugh who are from Wheaton, Illinois. Rhonda is a pediatrician. Rob’s a pastor of Wheaton Bible Church. Together, they have seven children. They definitely have a blended family. Welcome back to the broadcast.
Rob: Thank you.
Rhonda: Thank you.
Dennis: Let’s talk about the character, Ron, as we talk about someone who is thinking about dating again and perhaps a remarriage. What should a single woman—single man—who has already got some children, be looking for in the opposite sex.
Ron: First and foremost, you want somebody who is more in love with Jesus than they’ll ever be in love with you. You want somebody who is going to be your discipling partner in the process of life and marriage. If they don’t have those values, then, to be unequally yoked with them just makes no sense because it’s not just your life that’s on the line. We’re talking about, “There’s another generation of lives that are on the line.”
Dennis: I just want to say, “Beware of dating someone who just all of a sudden got religion because they found you.”
Ron: Just because you’re in a garage, doesn’t make you a car. Just because you go to church, doesn’t mean that you actually espouse a Christian worldview and lifestyle. We have to be very discerning about this.
Bob: Well, there are some folks who have been divorced; and they are thinking, “I thought I had that last time. When I met that person, I thought they loved Jesus; and I was fooled.” I guess there is no way to have a guarantee; but anything you’d say, “Look for this,” so you won’t get fooled again?
Ron: Well, obviously, you want to see their fruit; right? You want to see how they live their life. You want to talk to their—not just their family, because they are probably biased in their favor, but their friends. You want to know what kind of relationship history they have had—personal, intimate relationships, dating, marriage, and otherwise—but also, extended relationships, work relationships. It’s in those realms that you’re going to have a sense of who the person is and how they really live their life.
By the way, let me just repeat a principle we’ve said on the previous broadcast. Time is your friend. Anybody can be fooled—any of us can be fooled for a short period of time, but in the extended dating process—this allows you to see what’s real.
Dennis: History is the keyword I want our listener to hear. It’s not recent history. It’s a decade of history.
Bob: I’ve watched some people run. They start to hear somebody raise a caution flag and say, “You need to be aware of this;” and they just tune it out. They so want it to work—that if they hear a bad report, they just kind of dismiss it and go, “Well, that’s just your opinion,” or, “I’ve never seen that.” You really have to kind of pull back and go, “I’m going to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly;” right?
Sabrina: Not only that—can I just say—not only that. A lot of single parents that have been divorced—or maybe don’t have any children—you’ve been divorced. You think you don’t deserve somebody good the next time around. They’ve got this mentality of, “I’ve messed up. I’ve been married, and here I’ve ruined myself.” Now, I just have to take whatever I can get.
But I’ve really identified with the story of Ruth and Boaz in the Bible. My mother-in-law was also widowed and never remarried. Now, I’m widowed. Here we are together—kind of on this journey. I’ve come to look for what we call the kinsman redeemer. That’s what Boaz is called in the Scripture. I’m not looking for my actual kinsman—someone I’m related to—but I’m looking for that brother in Christ who is the one who is supposed to be there—who can take care of us, who will be there. I don’t want to settle for anything less than my kinsman redeemer—the one that God has called, and the one that God has placed in my path, and to seek Him out.
We have to remember that Boaz was Ruth’s second marriage; but yet, he is the one through whom was brought the line of Christ. So, a second marriage is not lesser than the first. A second marriage can be that great marriage that you’ve wanted to have all along, whether you’re divorced or widowed, like I am. A second marriage isn’t necessarily something that you have to settle for. You have to find that one God has called you to be with.
Dennis: Rob, you’re a senior pastor of a large church near Chicago. I think we have to talk about, here, how important the Church is in the whole process of a single parent beginning to date somebody again. As you’ve observed singles in your church, especially single parents, what cautions would you have for them?
Rob: Well, I would say this really isn’t a dating-thing—it’s a discipleship-thing. It’s a Gospel-Jesus-thing. We want to be all in, flat out, totally committed to our Lord and Savior, who gave everything for us, and to the extent as the book of Hebrews says.
Those of us that are single—whether we’re single or married, it really doesn’t matter—but if we’re a single parent and we’re wrestling with, “What does God have for us? What’s another chapter?” to the extent we fix our eyes on Jesus—we will be okay. We will be okay in our singleness. If God brings a person in our lives, we will then be in a spiritual place where we can evaluate that.
So, ultimately, I think this is an issue of the heart. I think this is a lordship-thing. I think it’s a matter of living in submission to the wonder of Christ’s love. What I’ve found, Dennis, is to the extent people do that—then, they place themselves in a position to make good decisions and to be attracted to people who are likeminded.
Dennis: I know Ron writes about this in his book. I can imagine there are some single parents who start dating; but the problem is, as you’re dating, you begin to see some— what you call, yellow flags and red flags. I think this is really important for a single woman or a single man who is about to enter into a remarried and a blended family situation to know because the blended marriage—the blended family is not easier. It’s much more difficult.
Ron: Let me say something about the yellow flags that most people are going to automatically know; right? There are yellow flags like—they have some really bad habits. Things like they have some character issues: They’re quick to temper, they’re harsh, or they are easy to anger. You’ve seen that get played out in their other relationships. You’ve heard stories about it. You need to take note of that. You need to back up.
But I really want to attend to the familyness yellow flags because I really think a lot of single parents—or somebody dating a single parent—those are the ones—those are our blind spots. Here’s one of those that’s related to familyness issues: It’s when this person you’re dating—let’s say you’re a single parent—and the person you are dating— you find that they keep trying to alter the nature of your relationship with your children. I’m telling you, “That is a huge, huge yellow flag—if not a red stoplight.”
Bob: Explain what you mean, “alter the nature of your relationship.”
Ron: “You know, you really—your relationship with your daughter—you guys are a little too close. You really ought to spend less time with your daughter,” or, “It’s interesting to me.” “What is that?” “You and your son—you guys are just alike. I’m not—you know, you ought to let him go his own way.”
When the other person starts trying to coach you about the nature of your relationship—I’m not talking about parenting. It is one thing—sometimes, this other person can speak into our parenting. They can be an outside voice and say, “You know, it kind of looks like your daughter is getting the best of you with this one. You need to think about how….” Sure, that’s helpful input; alright?
I’m talking about they’re trying to put space in your relationship and make you less close. Oftentimes, that’s somebody who is trying to find their way into your heart and push your child out of your heart. Let me tell you—that will bring a tremendous amount of conflict. That will destroy any stepfamily, in a hurry. So, you begin to see that sort of thing—it’s time to back way up on that relationship.
Dennis: There are some other yellow flags I want you to comment on. What if a young lady, like Sabrina—got a couple of children—is dating a guy. Maybe she has a friend in the church who starts talking to the guy, and maybe does a little interview of him and finds out the guy, perhaps, is using pornography or has a problem with pornography.
Ron: Yes, that’s a, “Slow down; back up,” in a big sort of a way—simply because that’s not going to go away. If he is working on that, if that is part of his discipleship journey— then you’re going to see fruit, as he tries to manage that sin in his life.
Bob: You’ve got some other red light issues—things you say, “This ought to be—This is over,”-kind of issue.
Ron: Parenting differences. I’m here to tell you. People get married because they fall in love with a person, but they divorce because they don’t know how to be a family. If the other person has a parenting style that is the polar opposite, for example, of yours—they are laissez-faire—let the kids do what they want, when they want, how they want—and you’re a by-the-book kind of parent. You are going to have conflict, after conflict, after conflict. I don’t care how much you love that person, as an individual. You will not get along as parents, and you will just reap all kinds of chaos in your home. That should be a red stoplight.
I realize what I just said to people is, “You should not marry somebody if you can’t be parents.” That doesn’t sound very romantic, and it’s not; but I’m just trying to help you! It’s to your benefit and for the benefit of your kids.
Bob: You’re going to have to deal with this once you get married. So, you—
Ron: You might as well deal with it on the frontend rather than at the back. You can pay now, or you can pay later.
Ron: It’s better to pay now. Here’s another red flag—a horrible ex-spouse. I realize this is kind of unfair, but people just need to understand the complexity of the stepfamily home. If you are dating somebody who has a horrible ex-spouse and that person is going to wreak all kinds of havoc in your life, you really ought to think twice about continuing to date them.
I realize that that’s not the person you are dating; but that person has a whole lot of power in your home, over the course of your life—even, over your kids, your schedules, and your finances—on and on it goes. They will create lots of stress in your world, and you might think twice about not moving forward with that.
Bob: We really haven’t said this, but I think—I hope everybody understands, “If you find out that the person you’re dating isn’t a believer or is just kind of superficial in their faith, that’s a knockout; isn’t it?
Ron: Absolutely. It’s a red flag. It’s a stoplight. You don’t want to move forward with that relationship. Another red flag is, “Let’s hurry up and get married.” What that person is saying is, “I’m desperate. I need you to fulfill me—only when we’re married is life going to be good again for me, my kids, you and your kids”—whatever the case may be. That is a huge, huge warning sign. You ought to back up from that.
Bob: Well, this almost goes without saying—although, in today’s culture, maybe not—how about, “Why don’t we just move in together?” I mean, that gets bantered around; doesn’t it?
Ron: Yes. It’s amazing, to me, that more and more in our culture, we keep trying to find ways of being in relationship with somebody without having to be in relationship with somebody. So, we have cohabiting in relationships. We have stay-over relationships—which are, “We both maintain our separate residences; but I stay at your place two nights a week, and you stay at my place two nights a week. We have our individual places the other nights.”
All of those are people trying to make half-hearted commitments but have the full benefit of a committed relationship. It just simply does not work. It does not work. You’re shooting yourself in the foot; and you’re teaching your children the wrong thing about morality, choices, and decisions that will extend into their spiritual lives—just don’t do it.
Bob: What about the single parent who has just re-upped for another six months with their online dating service? I’m just curious—
Dennis: Sabrina is laughing at you, Bob.
Bob: What’s your take on that?
Dennis: Did you just re-up, Sabrina?
Sabrina: No. [Laughter] No.
Bob: Have you done that, Sabrina?
Sabrina: I have done it. I have done some online dating, yes.
Bob: Okay. Let’s—
Bob: —let’s hear—well, let’s hear what Ron would tell her. Okay, before she makes true confessions.
Dennis: She may not say anything after Ron’s done. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right.
Ron: Well, here are my thoughts about it. First of all, I do think that some online dating programs, actually, help give you a running start at meeting somebody. My emphasis is on that. You meet somebody that way. It does not tell you whether or not there is a fit there, as a couple; alright? But very importantly, people need to understand that that is only “fit, as a couple”. It may not show you they are “fit, as a family”. Those are two separate issues. You have to be wiser than the online dating service. That’s number one.
Number two, lots of people who meet through online services live in two different parts of the universe. When there are kids involved, and we’re talking about you continue this relationship—you live five states away from each other—and to make the relationship actually work—to get married, somebody is going to have to move their kids to another place. Let me tell you, I think that’s a red light for a lot of people. It is a deal breaker.
You are asking your children to make lots and lots of changes for your dating, romantic relationship. I think you ought to rethink that.
Dennis: Alright, Sabrina, true confessions. What happened?
Bob: Or what is happening?
Sabrina: Well, I’ll tell you what’s funny is that someone had finally set me up on another date with someone that I knew that I did not want to marry. I got to the point where I said, “Oh! We’ve hit desperation now. So, I’ve got to open up my world”—
Dennis: And we apologize if he’s listening right now. [Laughter]
Sabrina: I said, “I have to open up my world to more.” It doesn’t really narrow as much as it opens it up. That is what’s dangerous about it because now you’re exposed to a whole world. Now, there are sites like eHarmony® that are very restrictive. They try to do a good job of making that a very narrow focus.
But there are other sites—including Christian dating sites—that are even more dangerous because you assume everyone on there is a Christian. They are all pretending to put on this white robe; and you find out they’re whitewashed tombs, on the inside. It’s a nerve-wracking experience. I have met nice people—genuine, solid believers that are good people; but I’ve met a whole lot of scary ones, too.
One guy—I thought I was going to have to call the police and get a restraining order on. I didn’t know if he was going to show up at my house. Like I told him, I have to be both nurturer and protector of my children, as a single parent. I don’t have a husband, in my home, to play that role—to be the protector. Now, that’s up to me. When you open up yourself on that online world, I’m easily found; and he found me.
I found out later, through some mutual friends, that he’s not the danger that I thought he was; but I will tell you—he came across that way—very aggressively—was even saying at the beginning, “I hope I’m not going too fast for you, but....” and laying out our future together after we had one conversation, over e-mail, talking about how he was going to be there for me and be this shoulder to cry on. Those are the kinds of people you can meet there that are in that desperate mode to, “Let’s get married. Let’s push this thing off.” You don’t know who they are, and they’re manipulating you to try to get into a relationship there.
Dennis: I’m just picturing one of my daughters being a single parent. It would be easy for a single, young lady, being a single mom—that’s a tough assignment—to be preyed upon. I think, really, talking about, again, the importance of the local church and the local church engaging with that single parent as he or she is raising the children—engaging in the decision of the character of the people you date, affirming who they are—
Bob: I think they have their own setup at Wheaton Bible. Don’t you have a complete single dating service that you’ve got set up? I’m kidding! [Laughter]
Rob: Think about Rhonda’s case—the senior pastor of her church, where she’d been there years before I’d been there. The senior pastor of her church was preying on her, as a single. [Laughter]
Bob: Praying over her. [Laughter] P-R-A-Y, P-R-E-Y.
Dennis: Here’s what I want our listeners to hear. Marriage is a commitment. Marriage is hard work. Marriage is a spiritual relationship that is tied to our own discipleship journey as individuals. If you’re going to remarry after a death, after a divorce, you need to do the hard work of preparation. That’s where Ron’s book really provides the experience of his 25 years in this area of talking with folks.
Personally, Ron, I’m really thrilled you’ve written it because I think there are a lot of poor decisions that are made out of panic, out of fear, out of loneliness. You really help someone know how to build their house.
Bob: Well, at the right time, after you’ve read the book and things are moving along, wouldn’t hurt to go to a Weekend to Remember®; don’t you think?
Dennis: That’s a great idea. In fact, I sat down with someone the other day. I said, “You’re going to build your marriage one of two ways. You are either both going to be building your marriage off of two different sets of blueprints, or you’re going to be building it off the same set of blueprints. What the Weekend to Remember will give you—over a Friday night, all day Saturday, and a half day Sunday—it’ll give you the biblical blueprints for the major issues you are going to face in marriage; and it will equip you both to have the same vocabulary, the same lexicon. You’ll be able to have the conversations. It doesn’t mean it will make marriage easy; but it will make it possibly successful, according to God’s design.”
Bob: We have project times that we do at the Weekend to Remember—projects for couples who are married and projects for couples who are in a remarriage situation. So, if you’re past the dating phase, and you are remarried, and you’re trying to work some things out, the Weekend to Remember has some ways to help you do that—have a number of those events taking place this weekend, and again next weekend, and all through the month of November.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about when the Weekend to Remember is going to be in a city, near where you live, so you can attend. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY about more information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
Also, get information about the book that we’ve been talking about this week—Ron Deal’s new book, Dating and the Single Parent—which we also have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy of the book, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. The title of the book, again, is Dating and the Single Parent, by Ron Deal. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
By the way, this month, we are making available some of Ron Deal’s resources for blended and stepfamilies as a way of saying, “Thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.” We’re listener-supported. The costs associated with this program—we don’t run commercials for it. The only way we can pay the bills is if folks, like you, help us out with those costs. We appreciate it when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone.
When you make a donation, this month, you can request a resource from Ron Deal— either his book, The Remarriage Checkup, or some conversations that we’ve had with Ron on CD about stepmoms and stepdads and how they can win in their roles as stepmoms and stepdads. Again, those resources are our way of saying, “Thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.” We appreciate those of you who rally around us and partner with us in this ministry, and we always appreciate hearing from you.
We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when—well, guess who’s going to be here—Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth are going to join us. We’re going to talk about their love, their romance, some of the early years of their marriage, some of the challenging times they’ve been through, as a couple. I mean, you see them, and you think, “Oh, what a life!” You know, they’ve had their times of tragedy. We’re going to talk about some of the times you may not have heard about tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today—his name is Keith Lynch—and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great day. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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