So, after years of dating and fantasizing about meeting and marrying your perfect life partner—you’re engaged! It’s a big moment. And ideally, by the time your S.O. pops the question and you say yes, you’re both pretty damn confident that you want to spend the rest of your lives together.
But sometimes, life isn’t quite so straightforward, and certain traits and feelings about your partner don’t come to light until after the ring is on your finger. So, if you’re having any nagging gut feelings or major doubts, you should probably take a look at these nine major red flags and make sure they don’t sound a lot like your own relationship—ideally before you walk down that aisle and say those vows.
A little anxiety and cold feet are normal before getting hitched. But if you find that you can’t get remotely excited about even the most fun parts of wedding planning (your bachelorette, trying on dresses, hair and makeup trials), that could point to a bigger issue, says Carolyn Wagner, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist. “These are some of the most joyful times leading up to the wedding, so it would be wise to examine what’s getting in the way of you enjoying them like you deserve to.” Some women might not like all the pomp and circumstance of the event, but there should be the excitement of marrying the love of your life. If you don’t even have that, you need to strongly consider canceling the engagement.
Maybe you thought that taking your relationship to the next level would help your S.O. drink less, spend more time with you, give up that expensive/unhealthy hobby, or any other issue you were hoping would resolve while dating…but hasn’t. “Unfortunately, problematic behaviors while dating rarely resolve themselves just because you get engaged, married, or have kids,” says Wagner. “These things need to be addressed directly and mindfully worked on. If something is still troubling you, it’s time to have a serious conversation and possibly delay or call off the engagement until it’s resolved.”
It’s not just a movie cliché—some people actually do live their last night of “freedom” to the fullest. In fact, a study shows that a full third of bachelors cheat at their bachelor parties. “Surprisingly, this is one of the few times a man will admit to cheating because it was his ‘last chance’ to have sex,” says Dr. Caroline Madden, an author and a therapist who specializes in infidelity. “He did it because he’s not ready for the responsibility of marriage and could be too much of a coward to break off the engagement, so he’s hoping that once you find out he cheated on you, you will do it for him.” Sad but true (and effective).
Before you’re married is too soon to see your sex life fading away. If you find yourself cringing through it, doing it as little as once every month or few months or have to fantasize about another hottie to get turned on, your next stop shouldn’t be the altar. A lack of sex is not a good indicator about your sex life for the next 60 years, says dating coach Josie May. If the attraction and desire are already turning cold, it doesn’t bode well for your marriage and could eventually leave one or both of you to seek sex elsewhere.
Maybe to your partner, the engagement ring is almost like a bargaining chip: “I give you a ring, you stop/start doing this.” Break things off if your partner doesn’t love and accept who you are—flaws and all, says life coach Samantha Siffring. “If your partner blows up your phone while you’re out, criticizes all of your friends, or restricts when you can go out, it’s a major red flag of future abusive behavior when your partner tries to ruin your relationships with other influential people in your life and wants to be your only person.” Consider ending an engagement with someone like this dodging a serious bullet.
Does this person really jibe with the happy future you envision for yourself? Any doubt is a reason to stop and think hard. “This isn’t about lack of imagination, but rather, you can see the party, glitz, and glam of the wedding, but you don’t actually want to be married to the person you’re with,” says licensed therapist Dr. Donna Oriowo. “Having a great party on your own with you as the center of attention might be what you could try instead of saying words you don’t mean to someone you don’t love—or at least not enough to spend your entire lives together.”
Even if you both want a longer engagement, if there’s no general timeline established, you haven’t solidified the engagement—and it could be for a reason, says relationship writer and author Samantha Gregory. “Too many times the engagement lasts for years. The engagement shouldn’t be a permanent state of affairs.” For some, getting engaged is the goal and they don’t have any plans or focus beyond the ring. Call it off if you feel like you’re in permanent limbo!
Maybe you feel like you spent your 20s worried about paying off student loans and then traveling the world or getting a law degree. This could lead you to become resentful later in life. “If you haven’t yet had the time to develop yourself and grow enough into the person you want to be without other people dictating your life to you, you might not be ready to tie the knot,” says Oriowo. “You want to know who you are, what you like, what lights your passions before you trade ‘I’ for ‘we.'”
Prenups are common and not a red flag, assuming you’ve talked about establishing one before or shortly after the engagement, says Gregory. However, it is a sign of distrust to demand one shortly before marriage. You may feel like you got tricked into saying yes and now don’t agree with the terms of the prenup. “This is a big topic that should ideally be discussed before the engagement if one or both are persons of wealth/means and/or involved in a family business,” says Gregory.
Sometimes you might just feel like something’s wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Marriage is one of the biggest decisions you can make in a lifetime. While there are many reasons people may have to call off an engagement, these signs don’t necessarily mean the relationship is over, so at the end of the day, it’s always wise to trust your intuition and take a long look at any lingering doubts. Remember: It’s all about the right person and the right time—not just one or the other.