Monthly Archives

January 2017

Guilt Is Individual, Shame is Relational

Friendships, What The Bible Says

Guilt and shame are often linked, but they aren’t the same. We often treat them like they are and this can weaken our relationships. It’s helpful to see that guilt is linked to what we have done or said, while shame is about how we think others see us. Shame is feeling unaccepted and like we don’t belong. Without overcoming shame we will always feel like we don’t deserve good relationships.

When I became a Christian I was told about the cross. Or should I say, the main interpretation of the cross for many denominations (in the west), namely that Jesus took the punishment we should receive because we have broken God’s law. Jesus became sin for us and has taken away our guilt.

Despite what I thought about myself, despite the insecurities, despite the self loathing, God would be there and never leave

This is true and important and biblical. This is something we all need to hear. But for me, looking back, the thing that really made an impact on me personally was hearing about a God who loved me. There was a God who wouldn’t leave me no matter what happens.

Despite what I thought about myself, despite the insecurities, despite the self-loathing, God would be there and never leave. He knew me better than I knew myself and said: you’re part of the family.

This truth reverses the shame, which is different from dealing with the guilt.

Forgiveness Counters Guilt

Guilt is about doing, saying or thinking something wrong. It’s about breaking a rule or law. If we steal someone’s phone, whether we feel guilty or not, we are guilty. We have committed a crime. Guilt and feeling guilty are about the individual. ‘I’ have done something wrong.

A great thing about the Christian faith is that God says we are forgiven

A great thing about the Christian faith is that God says we are forgiven, we don’t need to be bound by punishment because we have a saviour who died for us. It’s an amazing truth.

Shame, however, is better understood in relational terms.

Relationship Counters Shame

Shame is to do with feeling unwanted by others, feeling like we don’t belong. This may be because we have broken laws and feel guilty, or because we have insecurities and low self-esteem. But shame happens when we experience unworthiness and rejection in relationships, or think people will treat us in this way.

Shame is about believing we don’t deserve good relationships because we think that when people see us, they see all of the bad things, and we don’t deserve to be accepted.

Shame is reversed when other people continue to allow us to belong and relate in community

We wonder: will my friends, family, church family, see me with all of my flaws, mistakes, imperfections, and still say I can still belong? Am I still accepted no matter what? We may need to apologise for mistakes, we may disappoint them, we may feel like we don’t deserve to belong. Nevertheless, are still able to build relationships with them?

Shame is reversed when other people continue to allow us to belong and relate in community. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love.)

We all struggle with shame to some extent. We believe we don’t look as good as our friends or the people we see in adverts. We aren’t as funny or clever as the person we work with. We clearly don’t love God as much as those other ‘super’ Christians. So we feel ashamed and undeserving.

Jesus Counters Shame and Guilt

So many people, even Christians in church, struggle to believe that there is no need for shame with Jesus. Yes there is a need for repentance, for learning to grow and do things differently, for learning from mistakes and loving God and others more. Yet shame, separation, and total rejection isn’t part of the Gospel.

When Jesus met Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), an outsider, who stole money from his own people, Jesus still befriended him. Jesus ate with him and said a relationship can happen despite the mess.

Relationships become weak when we let shame have the last say

When the woman was caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), Jesus reminded everyone that they are all guilty and no one is perfect. By doing this, they realised they were all outsiders. We all need to remember we shouldn’t belong, but God says we can anyway.

Relationships become weak when we let shame have the last say. When we believe we don’t deserve love or acceptance. When our insecurities and shortcomings have the last say. (Read After Your Arguments, You Don’t Walk Out).

Imagine If…

Guilt needs to be dealt with. We do need to say sorry and ask God to help change us and change the way we relate to others. His cross deals with our mistakes and it also brings us into a family where we always belong despite our mistakes (Galatians 3:23-4:7)

Imagine if we didn’t let shame win, and reminded our friends, family, church family, spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends, that they belong, are accepted and wanted. The next time someone does something, or comes into our church and looks isolated and/or unconfident, we need to talk to them and let them know they can belong.

What do you think the link between guilt and shame is? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 30/1/2017

I’m Not Jealous, I Just Care!

Relationship Difficulties

Jealousy is something that can destroy a relationship, or at least weaken it and cause major problems. We can’t write off our jealousy as ‘I just care’ or ‘It’s other people I don’t trust’, but we need to be able to spot the signs of our jealousy and learn to overcome our insecurities, anger, and suspicion. Building trust and dismantling jealousy will help make our romantic relationships thrive. 

I remember a friend telling my other friend to keep an eye on his girlfriend while he was away. I asked why, and it was because the boyfriend thought his girlfriend may like someone else. He was jealous and wanted to know if something happened.

A good and healthy romantic relationship is based on trust

I thought that was so sad.

Jealousy Breeds Mistrust

A good and healthy romantic relationship is based on trust. We need to know the person we’re with won’t hurt us by cheating on us, and we’re happy when they’re out with friends having a good time. Instead of worrying what they’re up to.

It can be hard to know what to do when jealousy rears its ugly head

Sometimes relationships do sadly need to end. It may be because of something they’ve done or something that’s happened. But if we find ourselves getting suspicious and mistrusting when nothing has happened, then it may be because of our own insecurities. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know)

(The following extract is taken from page 213-215 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Guys and Girls Ain’t The Same

Let’s be honest, men and women both experience jealousy from time to time, but they often handle it very differently. In a relationship, it can be hard to know what to do when jealousy rears its ugly head. So it’s probably worth thinking about how to handle it wisely.

Green-Eyed Guys – A Message From André

Men, we can suffer from serious jealousy. Often we find it hard to spend time away from our girlfriend and we worry that she might find someone else. Let’s face it, we know how gorgeous she is – and how other guys’ minds work!

Sometimes we think that, by letting her develop her gifts or encouraging her to go on holiday with friends, she might ‘outgrow us’ and upgrade to someone else. So many men want to control their girlfriends, and might not even realise that they’re doing so.

We need to let her explore God’s calling and put that first

But we mustn’t let our insecurities smother our girlfriend’s time and skills and stop her from growing into the confident woman God has created her to be. We need to let her explore God’s calling and put that first.

Moving Towards Trust

If we find ourselves struggling with jealousy: first we need to be open about our insecurities and share them with her, rather than trying to control the situation:

  • [Firstly], we need to be open about our insecurities and share them with her, rather than trying to control the situation.
  • Secondly, we must realise that, even though it might feel like it, this relationship isn’t the source of our confidence and security.
  • Thirdly, we cannot use the excuse: ‘I trust you; it’s the other boys I don’t trust’ to make her feel bad or get what we want.
  • Finally, learning to trust her means we have to let go of manipulating who she sees and where she goes.

Jealousy is something we all suffer with from time to time. Being open and honest with our girlfriend when we are feeling threatened and angry is the only way to deal with it in a helpful manner. Easier said than done, I know, but if she’s worth it, then we need to be open to changing our natural reaction.

Green-Eyed Girls – A Message From Rachel 

Have you ever felt pangs of jealousy when your man is chatting to a girl you think is prettier or funnier than you? Does your imagination run riot? Do you end up confronting the poor guy with: ‘Well, if you like her jokes so much, why don’t you marry her?!’

All women feel jealous from time to time. Those who say they don’t are probably living in denial. We feel jealous because we feel insecure or out of control. But nothing kills a friendship or a relationship quite as quickly as jealousy. So what can you do if you find yourself turning green from time to time?

Moving Away From Jealousy 

Here are some of my suggestions.

  • First, admit to yourself that you’re feeling jealous. If you don’t, you’ll end up blaming him for something he might not have done. Ask yourself why you feel jealous. Where are your feelings of insecurity or being out of control really coming from?
  • Secondly, own your emotions. ‘When I saw you talking with that woman, it made me feel jealous because . . . ’ is very different from ‘You’re such a boy-tart! I forbid you to talk to women ever again!’
  • Thirdly, recognise that your deeper feelings of acceptance and security come from your relationship with God, not your relationship with your boyfriend.

    We need to create habits that don’t feed the jealousy but build trust instead

  • Fourthly, have someone other than your boyfriend to chat with regularly about the jealousies you feel. God longs to do the deep work within you of healing your heart and mind, so let him. Find a friend to support you in that.
  • Finally, develop your own wide life, and encourage your boyfriend to do the same. You will have so much to share with each other and to be involved with together. It will enrich your relationship and stop you from having endless nights on the phone or sofa, chastising your boyfriend for past grievances.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. ( James 3:16–17)

(Read the introduction of The Dating Dilemma book for free now, or buy the book here.)

Imagine If…

We all get jealous from time to time. But we need to stop and ask ourselves, why and when we get so jealous and mistrusting. If it’s because of a past relationship, our own insecurities, or the like, we need to create habits that don’t feed the jealousy but build trust instead. (Read How To Have A Good Argument.)

Can jealousy ever be a good thing? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 25/1/2017

If A Relationship Doesn’t Change Me, Then It’s Not A Relationship

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Marriage

Many people think or say that they don’t want a romantic relationship to change them because they want to be themselves. While the last bit is true and we do need one that allows us to be our true selves, any relationships will change us. Remembering this is key for building a good romantic relationship.

I find the idea of not wanting to change who we are after we start a romantic relationship fascinating. In a culture which is very focused on telling us to find our own unique identity, making sure you are true to who you are no matter what, the advice about not wanting to change sounds wise.

But it isn’t really that simple.

Change Is Inevitable 

I say that because people naturally change over time. The ‘me’ of three years ago is different to the current ‘me’. You will be different in 5 years. Whether we’re in a romantic relationship or not, people change over time.

In relationships, change is unavoidable, especially in romantic ones. Partners serve each other and make sacrifices for each other all the time. In small and big ways.

In relationships, change is unavoidable

I know a few couples who eat less/no meat because they started a relationship with a vegetarian. Something they thought they would never do.

I know people who watch a lot of sport even though they don’t like it, because their partner does. There are friends of mine who moved cities, even countries, to support the job of their partner.

All these things, big or small, reflects the fact that people change. They compromise and they make sacrifices to make the relationship work. Relationships affect the way we think and what we can and can’t do.

So What? 

So what does this mean? Obviously, we don’t want any relationship, romantic or otherwise, to go against our deeply held values or change us for the worse. But we need to be aware that change is inevitable.

Without this mindset, it can stop our relationship from working.

I remember a relative telling me that someone he knew broke off a relationship because she wanted the windows open all the time but he wanted them closed.

Sounds mad right?

To be fair, this issue was more like the final straw. He just wasn’t prepared to adjust and make changes in general, and this was the breaking point. I remember someone else sitting down with a long list of requirements that his new girlfriend had to adjust to, and he had absolutely no sense that she may also have a list for him.

(Net) Positive Change

We won’t always change purely for the better either. My wife would say that I’m very laid back, and this has allowed her to be more relaxed too. She says this is a good thing. But I would say I have also made her a bit more cynical too.

We can strive towards it being mainly positive by being intentional

Overall, we both believe being in this relationship has changed us for the better. But no one is perfect, no couple is perfect, so not all the changes will be positive. (Read ‘The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship)

But we can strive towards it being mainly positive by being intentional, and thinking about what we want to build.

Lesson For Love 

The real thing to remember as we build is that a relationship isn’t about the other person fitting around all of our needs. And change is inevitable.

This is why it’s so important to be intentional when it comes to romantic relationships. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know). We need to think about what we want to build and what our deepest values are. We need to communicate and make sure we can trust each other to allows us to be real, honest, and grow.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we went into romantic relationships with the aim of enjoying them, but also with the realisation that we will change. So we had the intention to find some who will allow us to grow closer to our core values and vision for our lives.

Think about three things you would be/are willing to change, and three things you would not be/are not willing to change. It can help us think about what type of relationship we want to build.

How do you think you stay true to yourself and grow in a relationship? Romantic or otherwise? Comments welcome below. 

Originally posted 23/1/2017

I’m Getting Married, I’ll Be Having Sex Soon…Help!

Marriage, Sex

Often, soon-to-be-married couples in church worry about sex. They’ve waited ’til marriage or re-committed to waiting, and then worry they won’t be good enough or believe sex needs to be a certain way. The wedding night is then feared. But actually, approaching sex thinking it just needs to be fun means it will be, despite what actually happens. 

I remember chatting with a close group of friends, and one of the girls who was getting married soon starting talking about sex. She said she was very worried and scared about the wedding night. She liked to talk and share her problems a lot, as you can tell. But we all started discussing the topic. It was clear there was a real concern there.

This is something that lots of people I know have struggled with or are worried about

This woman and her future husband were Christians, and he had never had sex before. She had become a Christian and eventually decided not to have sex again until marriage. She was now nervous and worried because he had never had an experience of it and she hadn’t had it for a very long time.

Fearing The Worst 

She was scared because:

  • She wouldn’t be good enough
  • It would be bad
  • They would do it wrong.

This is something that lots of people I know have struggled with or are worried about. They have navigated the tough dating stages (Read I Wasn’t Sure When We Were An ‘Official Couple’), and are now faced with another worry.

People worry because they either have never had sex, or had it but decided to wait ’til marriage for the next time. Then the fear builds towards this specific event; Is it going to be good? Will it live up to expectations? Will I be good enough?

Sometimes people think ‘I’ve waited all of this time so God owes me a fantastic wedding night’ (Yes, people have actually said this). But then worry after hearing a few horror stories and are fearful it isn’t that easy after all.

Our culture tells us that it’s crazy to wait until marriage to have sex, for many reasons. One reason is because sex is an important part of marriage, so you need to know you are compatible in that way. You need to know you can have good sex before you commit. (Read How Important Is Physical Attraction)

This belief has caused many Christians who do wait to feel like they are taking a risk, and/or worry that they may end up having a bad sex life. This is a real concern among couples soon to be married in the church.

We Need to Talk About Enjoying Sex 

There are Christian couples really struggling with this and no one is talking about it.

Similarly, the newly married couple may find out that sex is not what they expected, not as easy so initially not as fun, and feel let down. This is understandable if they had a different expectation in their head.

Our perception of sex is more important than the actual reality.

However, new research can show us how to make sure sex is fun, and not something to fear. It suggests one simple truth that can transform the fear and worry into excitement: Our perception of sex is more important than the actual reality.

What this means is, if couples approach sex thinking it will be fun and enjoyable, then they will enjoy it no matter what actually happens. Whereas if they approach it thinking it may be bad, hard or a let down then it will be, no matter what actually happens.

We Can Give Good Advice 

This is important because if newly-married couples and soon-to-be-married couples approach sex with worry, angst, and fear, then it will be a let down. But if they approach sex knowing that it may take a bit of work, it may not be simple but it’s meant to be fun, and sex is a journey and not a destination, it’s more likely to be enjoyed.

The advice I gave my friend who brought this up was simple, sex isn’t something that has to happen ‘one way only’ with both participants ‘following these steps’ otherwise it’s rubbish. People learn together and grow together. Even if the first time is a bit awkward, you can still improve together.

We need to see sex as fun rather than a test

I think God has a lot of things to say about sex. Ultimately he created it to be a blessing. This research seems to say that our approach to it is more important that the act itself.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we, and everyone in the church, reminded each other and dating/engaged couples that the perception of sex is more important than the act. That fear and struggles really don’t need to dominate our thinking.

The next time a newly engaged couple is approaching the subject of sex with fear, we need to remind them that God wants sex to be a blessing and a gift in marriage, no matter what our sexual history is. And they need to remember to see sex as fun rather than a test.

How easy do you think it is for people in church to believe sex is meant to be fun rather than something to fear? Comments welcome below 

Originally posted 18/1/2017

Technology and Relationships: Swipe Left or Right?

Early Dating, Finding A Date

Technology has revolutionised our society in many amazing ways. With it has come some new attitudes and approaches to life too, like instant access to information and interaction with more people. It’s important to know how these new attitudes affect romantic relationships, and if they’re worth keeping or ditching. 

This issue raised its head when I was watching a tv program called ‘Married at First Sight’. It’s literally what it sounds like. People get married to a complete stranger that they have never met, but they’ve been matched through the power of experts, technology, and science.

The concept of the show is strange, but it’s fascinating to hear about why some people signed up to get married like this. What was a bit worrying for me though, was that many of them believed that technology and science can bring them their perfect partner.

This approach reminded me that technology has a profound impact on how we now approach life and romantic relationships.

Lots could be said about this, but I have said many time before that I do not believe in ‘The One’ myth, that there is one perfect person out there for us and all we need to do is find them (Read more in the introduction of my book for free now). 

I think that hinders us building healthy relationships and robs us of a better ideal and approach to relationships. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know)

This show reminded me that technology has a profound impact on how we now approach life and romantic relationships. It’s worth thinking a bit about how some of these beliefs shape our romantic relationships in good and bad ways.

The Technology Affect 

We can list some of these effects, and say that due to technology, we can now:

  • Contact more people
  • Contact people whenever we want
  • Get information instantly

Contact More People 

Due to social media, webcams, the spread of the internet, apps, etc., we can meet and interact with more people than ever. Dating apps and dating websites mean we can talk with more people in a week than our great ancestors in small towns and villages probably did in a whole year.

The good thing in terms of romantic relationships is that you can meet more potential partners than ever. If you’re in a church with no suitable single people to date for example, you can now chat with people online that you wouldn’t meet otherwise.

The downside is that unfortunately, more people doesn’t mean more suitable partners.

If we think technology makes partner selection as quick and easy as online shopping, it can hinder us

Dating is exhausting, technology can definitely bring more introductions than ever before, but it cannot guarantee to set you up with someone suitable quickly. More introductions and more dates mean more possibilities, but more time and energy too.

This downside isn’t a problem necessarily, but it will be a problem if we think technology, dating apps and websites, will somehow deliver the perfect partner. If we think technology makes partner selection as quick and easy as online shopping it, can hinder us.

Contact People Whenever We Want

Another thing technology has brought is the ability to contact the person you like or are dating, whenever you want. You can send a text, email, social media message, give them a call, send a picture, face time, etc. As long as you both have a phone and a signal, you’re good to go.

This can be good, especially if you’re in a long-distance relationship for example (Read Can Our Relationship God The Long Distance?) or apart for a while because of work or whatever. It can mean you can still keep in touch.

The downside is, that this can create emotional intensity and investment before we are aware of it.

This communication, little and often, eventually adds up to lots of emotional energy and investment before we even realise it

Sending a text or picture takes a few seconds, but before we know it, we’ve sent six texts or so to the person we like or are dating or are married to, and checking our phones constantly for the reply, getting excited when they reply and worried when they don’t.

This communication, little and often, eventually adds up to lots of emotional energy and investment before we even realise it. This can become a problem. For example, if you haven’t made it clear you are an ‘official couple’ and the communication suddenly ends.

Get Information Instantly 

I remember hearing someone a lot older than me saying he saw a t-shirt with the words: ‘Go easy on your parents, they did their homework without google’. It’s true that things have changed a lot. We can now access so much information whenever we want through our phones, laptops or tablets.

We can, for example, find more advice on relationships now. More websites and online courses are available, (some good, some not so good) and there is more support out there.

But people are complicated, no two couples are the same

However, this instant access can make us sometimes feel that good relationships should be instant too. After typing ‘my’ requirements into an online dating app, the search results and ‘perfect partner’ should come quickly.

But people are complicated, no two couples are the same. Technology doesn’t bring quick ‘one size fits all’ relationship solutions because we’re all different and complicated. Problems and issues take time to sort out. Couples learn to grow together through those times, there is rarely a quick solution.

Technology: Keep or Ditch?

Technology is amazing. And whether you’re a technophobe or tech-expert, there is no going back. We’re in a technological revolution and it changes the way we communicate and impacts romantic relationships.

Technology and the attitudes it builds impacts every area of our lives. Knowing the effects, and knowing what elements are worth keeping and worth ditching, are important as we navigate through our modern romantic relationships.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we actively countered one of these negative effects that technology brings to relationships. If we committed to doing one of these things this week, it could make our relationships much stronger.

How has technology helped or hindered your romantic relationship?  Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 16/1/2017