05/30/2014 04:18 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

Engagement Red Flags: Marry or Move on

Ashley Gill via Getty Images

So you're in a relationship and considering the long term. For most, this means marriage and the thought of growing old together -- soul mates for life. But for some, the challenges during dating and into engagement make them wonder. Should we really get married? Should we tie the knot or move on? And how do we know we're making the right decision?

Maybe you've had that feeling in your gut -- a sense of apprehension and the need for some clear markers that tell you how to evaluate your relationship and whether to go on or move on in a different direction. Let's look at some major litmus tests that help answer doubts and that will give clarity to your life.

  • Our first red flag may be the most obvious. When the relationship is characterized by ongoing conflict, something's up. All couples, for the most part, have fights or occasional conflict. The key word here is occasional. When the frequency grows, it's time to wonder why!
  • Another concern worthy of attention happens when there are too many differences in what you want in life. This could be where you want to live, having children or not and how many, religious preferences and how you handle money. Make sure you cover all the bases and discuss what you hope for in the short-, medium- and long-term. These may be orange flags in that they can be resolved. Just make sure they aren't red.
  • Next, make sure you are best friends. Married life is a long and sometimes winding road. Your friendship and the strong bond it represents holds the key to taking those twists and turns successfully.
  • Another huge red flag comes when personal deficits are too many -- such as a reliance on drugs or alcohol; an abusive style; a too demanding partner; when your lover just can't seem to take responsibility and continually blames you; when he or she cheats on you; when there are too many lies and one or both need the other to build their self-esteem.
  • Next, take note when one or both of you can't stand on your own two feet -- when you don't feel you can live without each other and haven't create a sense of individuality and separateness from your lover.
  • And finally, trust your gut -- when you have that erasable feeling that tells you no or you experience ongoing ambivalence. Don't ignore this. Find out what it means and honor the experience.

There are red flags. Sometimes you can live with a few orange ones -- not every relationship is perfect. These represent areas where couples need to grow. And if committed to one another and a meaningful growth process, these orange markers never become red.

Your ability to take an honest look and careful inventory of your relationship's strengths and weaknesses, can prevent you from moving ahead when there are too many question marks. Study those flags and sincerely evaluate where you stand. True love withstands the close scrutiny. You grow a more dynamic love as a result.