Unfortunately, these may not be evident even in a close, long term dating relationship. Life-dominating sins can cause a person to adopt two or more private life styles which might very be successfully disguised even from the most observant.
Drinking, doing drugs and a fixation on pornography all have been discovered only after marriage.
As a Christian counselor I am often asked, “What are the most difficult issues you deal with in counseling?”
The most difficult issue is surprising to many who think Number One would be pornography. Pornography is the most insidious sin I deal with because it becomes so deeply controlling and those who indulge in this sin work overtime to disguise their involvement.
The Number One, i.e. the most difficult problem I encounter, is teaching against false teaching. And unless, during the process of premarital counseling, Religion is dealt with the lack of religion can be a life-dominating sin also.
What then are the safe guards?
Don't become too close too soon. Meet in groups. Date in groups. This will allow you to be a casual observer of other’s behaviors, and from this vantage point you can meet people who perhaps know the person you are dating and getting to know and observe them functioning openly.
Read books on what a good husband should be and what a good wife should be. Then look for those characteristics in the person you would like to date. Genesis 24 is an outline of what to look for in a spouse if you are looking.
It is not too late to do this even in the premarital counseling stages of any relationship.
In this series, Six Reasons Marriage Fail, we spoke first about Role Models and role reversals. If you, or the person of interest to you, did not have good role models then you both definitely need to learn what the attributes of a good role model are. This may best be done through studying Scripture and reading books built upon Scripture. Role Reversal definitely falls into the category of life-dominating sin that is practiced openly.
Are there any unaccountable or unexplained blocks of time in your date’s schedule or calendar?
Observe habits. Would you like to live with the obvious ones you observe in him or her for the rest of your life together? Gossip is not a biblical trait, but a good listener may pick up clues about a person’s public and/or hidden behavior habits and patterns.
As a minister I do not give advice. As close as I come to doing so is suggesting, in the face of any decision-making is this, listen to your inner voice. If in doubt – don’t. This is not to say you never will, but I see that as the work of the Holy Spirit holding us up until the doubt is gone.
People who have nothing to hide, i.e. hidden life-dominating sins, are usually very open to being questioned by those they themselves are interested in knowing better.
Rev. Thomas (Tom) C. Lacy, Advisory Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance and Founder and Director, of New Hope Counseling Service.