Monthly Archives

February 2017

What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?

Early Dating, Finding A Date

I always say that dating isn’t marriage, but dating should still involve commitment and intentionality. We all want to be with someone we can trust and build something worth having. Our dating dynamics should foster enjoyment, trust, and commitment, to give the relationship the best chance. Which means: Don’t Look Twice; Stop Filling Our Heads; Watch The Flirting.

I always say to people that as we date, we should be focusing on the person in front of us. Fostering commitment, even though dating won’t necessarily end in marriage, is important for thriving relationships.

I say this because building trust and commitment at the start gives it the best chance of developing into the relationship we crave. Namely, being with someone who we can trust, be vulnerable with, and who will be faithful.

But what does fostering commitment look like practically?

Even if the dating relationship does end with a break-up, one which has been built on honesty and faithfulness means we can foster good relationship skills and hopefully find it easier to move forward. This is because we weren’t cheated on or vice versa, and acted with integrity and tried to build it in the right way. (Read What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?)

But what does fostering commitment look like practically?

(The following extract is taken from page 118-120 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Looking At Your Boy/Girl, Only

So you’ve found someone, you’re growing together slowly, but you have this niggling suspicion that there might be someone better for you out there. But wait a minute, we wouldn’t want our girl/boyfriend to be waiting for someone better than us to come along, would we? If that’s not how we want to be seen, why do we allow ourselves to do it to others?

Being faithful is more than physical stuff

Everyone would accept that, if we went and kissed someone else, it would be cheating. But being faithful is more than physical stuff. Dating deeper challenges us to let our faithfulness run deep, affecting what we think as well as how we act.

I think I would feel more hurt and more betrayed if I found out that my future husband was having meaningful conversations and sharing secrets with another woman than if he had slept with someone else.

What Is Cheating? 

So what do you think about flirting or having deep and meaningful chats with someone of the opposite sex? Is it OK to look but not touch? Even if it is ‘innocent’, this kind of behaviour might still make our boy/girlfriend feel inadequate.

Deciding whether or not we should do something isn’t just about what we feel happy with; it’s also about the impact it has on the person we love and would do anything for. God wants relationships to be marked with selflessness.

It can be difficult to stop our wandering eyes. For us lads, it can sometimes feel like we are hardwired to look at as many girls as possible. With our culture’s focus on sex, more and more girls are struggling as well.

So how do we avoid doing this when for most of us it will be a constant battle? For me (André), lust is always something I’m battling against. We all need God’s grace.

There are three things we can do.

1. Don’t Look Twice

First, remember we always have a choice. If we’re walking down the street and see a gorgeous man/woman and are attracted to them, that’s OK; it’s a natural reaction. However, if we keep looking, or look away and look back again, then we’re feeding the lust and it will grow.

The first look is a reaction; the second look is a choice

If you want to conquer your lust, don’t fuel it by feeding it. Kill it by starving it! The first look is a reaction; the second look is a choice. Dating someone doesn’t mean we won’t be attracted to anyone else, but dating someone well means choosing to starve our appetite for what we can’t have.

2. Stop Filling Our Heads

Remember, our will-power is not enough on its own. We need God’s Spirit

Secondly, we need to stop filling our heads with pictures of sex. Carrying porn – pictures or videos – around on our phones won’t help (See the Naked Truth website for more help on this). Listening to music with sexually explicit lyrics and engaging in sexual banter with friends makes unfaithfulness seem normal, and will cause us to be constantly distracted by sex and to read overtly sexual messages into situations.

Remember, our will-power is not enough on its own. We need God’s Spirit, which is readily available. Right here, right now.

3. Watch The Flirting 

Flirting is another pitfall, because it can so easily be misunderstood. We probably all need to be challenged about this from time to time. Only having eyes for the person we’re dating also means having our ears open to what they’re saying!

Sometimes they may overreact, but we need to be sensitive and humble. We might not think that a meaningful conversation with someone late at night is flirting, but it may look like it to the person we’re dating. We need to balance the intimacy that we foster with other people so that it’s not a threat to our relationship. (Read Should I Be The Source Of All The Romance?)

True happiness . . . is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose

Seeing faithfulness in this broad way might be new to some of us. But whether or not we’ve considered it in that way before, it’s still a huge challenge. We probably all know of relationships that have ended because there was physical unfaithfulness. But how many have ended because someone was tempted to look elsewhere?

True happiness . . . is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
(Helen Keller)

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

Imagine If…

Don’t Look Twice. Stop Filling Our Heads. Watch The Flirting

Relationships that have commitment and faithfulness from the start will have a better chance to thrive. Sometimes it won’t work out despite doing these things, and we need to be honest about that (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks). But it isn’t about knowing if you will be together forever after one date,  but putting in place the best principles from the beginning to give it the best chance.

Don’t Look Twice. Stop Filling Our Heads. Watch The Flirting.

Imagine if this week we decided to improve our faithfulness by doing one of these things, no matter what our relationship status is.

How important do you think commitment is in dating? Comments welcome below.

Originally posted 27/2/2017

What A Fishing Proverb Taught Me About Relationships

Real Life Stories

It’s funny how much impact the stories we hear in passing can have on us. Success in our culture is often defined by money, education, and a good career. While these things aren’t bad, we often forget that building healthy relationships and spending time with loved ones has a massive part in our sense of fulfillment. That’s what a fisherman taught me anyway. 

Sometimes we can get swept along and just go with the flow. Before we know it we’re doing what everyone else is doing, and we can forget to stop and think about what we really want to achieve.

What do you define as success?

We’re told to be so focused on ‘success’ and keeping up with everyone else that we forget to stop and truly think about what we really want from life.

What Is Success?

What do you define as success?

I remember hearing a story a long time ago. I don’t know if it really happened or it’s just a modern proverb, but I definitely learned something from it.

The Fisherman Proverb

‘There was a guy who had just graduated with a Business degree and decided he needed a bit of a rest. So he did what a lot of young people do after uni and went travelling.

This man was from a very poor country but seemed fairly content

On his travels, he met a man who caught fish for a living. This man was from a very poor country but seemed fairly content. The graduate starting chatting to him and asked him what his working day looked liked. He replied something like:

“I get up early in the morning and go out on my boat. I catch about one net full of fish. Then I go to the local market at around midday, sell some, keep some for tea, go home and help my kids with their homework.

“We eat together and then we play for a bit. Then after they go to bed me and my wife relax, chat and enjoy ourselves”.

Making Money (?)

The business graduate’s entrepreneurial side came out, and began to get excited and exclaimed:

“Did you know, if you got up a bit earlier and worked for twice as long you could catch twice as many fish. And if you walked to the market that is further away they would pay you more money. And after one year you could buy another boat and employ someone else.

“Then after three years, you would have a fleet. Then you could buy a car and drive to all the markets in the area. Then after 10 years, you could begin to open shops. Then after 20 years, you could even start supplying most of the country. Then after 40 years, you could go international.

“Then you’ll make so much money you can retire and do whatever you want”.

The fisherman smiled back and said “But I already do what I want.”’

Redefining Success 

From a very young age we’re told by our educational system, our society, and our family, that success means investing in a career, self-comfort, and educational achievement. But success is more than that. Having people we trust, having people to share it all with, people who know and love us, are all part of it.

Our definition of success needs to include building good relationships, and not seeing it as an added extra

Having a good job and education isn’t a bad thing. But most people want to get married at some point, or at least commit to a life-long relationship and be surrounded by friends and family. Yet we can end up putting most of our time and energy into making money or into our career before we realise it.

Our definition of success needs to include building good relationships and not seeing it as an added extra. (Read The Cross Deals With More Than Just Forgiveness, Right?)

Imagine if…

Imagine if we reminded ourselves that success isn’t just found in tangible things like our job title or bank account. And saw that investing in our family, friends and loved ones, romantic relationships and non-romantic ones, as something that is just as important as the other skills we learn.

This week, make half an hour to invest in a relationship. Call or facetime someone you haven’t in a while. Ask someone how they are doing and really listen to the answer. Invest in building a successful relationship. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love)

What other small things can we do to build relationships? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 22/2/2017

What Makes A Happy Couple? Fresh Insight

Interesting Research, Relationship Difficulties

This is one thing everybody wants to know. While I believe every couple is different, there are really good principles we can all apply. New research suggests that couples who build a relationship of equals and share power, and avoid one dominating, are happier. Dominance is linked to feeling less autonomous and less happy. 

When I meet new people they often ask what my job is, as you do. After I tell them I deliver teaching, preaching, and writing around building good relationships they often then ask my wife, with a cheeky smile, what’s it like being married to a relationship expert? It must be a perfect relationship for you?

She often rolls her eyes but stops short of shattering their illusion of me and our relationship. But that’s only because I beat her to it.

I always say there is no such thing as a perfect person or perfect couple

I always say there is no such thing as a perfect person or perfect couple. Every relationship has arguments and issues they need to work through. It’s about learning healthy principles and learning to implement them.

Decisions and Equality

This naturally leads to a list of questions, mainly to do with what bits of advice I give. Sometimes I talk about what healthy relationship expectations are. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know). Sometimes I talk about how to argue well. (Read How To Have A Good Argument).  Sometimes I talk about communication.

But what surprises some people is when I say we make all the decisions together. Or that no-one really dominates the relationships.

Leading vs. Dominating

Some people assume that because of different personalities, one person being naturally more extroverted, or the like, that one person will lead more in a relationship. That’s fine in one sense, but leading is different from being dominant.

Naturally, there are some areas where I take the lead, or my wife does, because we feel more comfortable or confident for whatever reason. But we still talk about it, ask for each other’s opinion and/or check they’re happy. We may not always agree, but we at least listen to each other.

We may not talk about every little thing, but we talk as much as possible Especially with the big decisions.

We both share the power

Neither one of us will dominate, by which I mean, we won’t just ignore the other person’s wishes or do something that will upset them just because we’re ‘right’. We won’t make them do it ‘my way’ if they are really unhappy or have other ideas.

We both share the power. Even if one leads, they never dominate.

The Research Seems To Agree 

Dominance is linked to lower relationship satisfaction

The new research in this area basically says that when someone in a couple dominates and takes control, starts making all the decisions and makes their partner feel like they just need to go along with it, they’re less happy. They feel less autonomous and ultimately have less relationship satisfaction.

The article says ‘Dominance is linked to lower relationship satisfaction because a partner’s dominance can make one feel unhappy and less autonomous. Try to share the power in your relationship. Perhaps this is one reason why people in [equal] relationships tend to be happier in their relationships (and life)’.

Bringing Value 

The way to make/keep your relationship enjoyable, and build/keep building mutually fulfilling relationships is to:

  • Discuss decisions, don’t just make them
  • Listen to each other’s opinion always
  • Empower each other to make choices
  • Don’t let the other person feel forced into a decision
  • If you naturally lead in an area, don’t just assume everything you do is okay.

Imagine If…  

Imagine if we built, and helped each other build, relationships that allowed us to feel like we’re re in it together, empowered and listened to. Research seems to suggest this will increase our relationship satisfaction.

Think about how you like to communicate, and if you’re in a relationship, how they like to communicate. What is the one thing you could do for them, and vice versa, to communicate better?

For example, give them some time to think about what they really think before you discuss it in depth. If they disagree, ask them to explain why rather than just say something like ‘that’s stupid’. Next time you make a decision, ask and talk before you act.

What advice has helped you improve communication? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 20/2/2017

I Dated My Way! (But Some Help Would Help)

Church Dating Culture, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Dating is completely different from the way our ancestors picked partners 100 years ago. Everyone, especially family, are now meant to take a huge step back and not help at all. We date ‘my way’. But people still ask for advice from friends, search online for articles, buy books on relationship tips, and look for some support. We still need help, and that’s okay. 

I had a conversation with someone who was much older than me in church once. I remember saying that I wouldn’t date or marry anyone my parents and family didn’t like.

He seemed shocked.

You may be too. But I wanted someone who would be part of my family, and me part of hers. I wanted us to share similar values too. However, even though I said this, I still wanted to pick them on my own.

It’s a bit odd really. I wanted them to approve of my choice, but it was definitely my choice.

Dating Dilemmas

I spoke to a friend once who liked someone. He came to me asking for advice because of the work I do. He seemed a bit embarrassed. Like he should know what to do in a relationship instinctively.

He said that he didn’t know how to move from liking someone, to actually starting a relationship. How do you go from single to in a couple?

We no longer live in a society which says that parents pick our partners

That’s the thing, over the years parents and family have been told to step right back. We no longer live in a society which says parents pick our partners based on money and status. We get to pick them based on love and emotional bonds.

Under Pressure 

We’re left to make up our own mind, date whoever and as many people as we want, before we settle down. If we choose to settle down. The assumption is that we will use our freedom to make the best decision.

However, we’ve all heard horror stories. First dates that end in disaster. Relationships that end as quickly as they started. People who have been left really hurt as a result of what happened in a relationship.

We don’t want to cause this or be on the receiving end of this hurt. But we’re not sure what to do and not do. So we may just muddle along and can end up in a situation that we don’t want to be in.

We Don’t Date My Way

The point is, we don’t do it on our own. We all ask for help, and that’s okay.

Ironically though, we don’t just date ‘my way’. We don’t just do it on our own. We constantly ask friends for advice, listen to their stories and think about what we would do the same or differently. We also search online for what to do on a first date (Read What Should We Do On A First Date?). We also download dating apps to help us find our match.

The point is, we don’t do it on our own. We all ask for help, and that’s okay.

When we feel like we should do it on our own, that’s when we can end up hurting others or getting hurt.

We don’t need to have all the answers. Whether it was our ancestors relying on their parents or us asking friends and reading online articles to help, we have always needed a bit of advice.

Asking For Help 

I hope you realise that you don’t need to know it all. I made mistakes when I dated, and I’m constantly learning how to be a better husband and foster a stronger relationship with my wife. I’m constantly trying (and failing sometimes) to be a better friend.

People find dating hard. We all find relationships hard.

Relationships are what we crave, and relationships are what we try to invest in. It’s okay to seek some advice and guidance because people find dating hard. We all find relationships hard sometimes. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality)

We are meant to learn, and we are meant to get advice. That’s okay. We don’t need to ‘Date my way’ only. Not having arranged marriages doesn’t need to equal struggling on your own without any support.

Imagine If…

I pray that as you date well, build good friendships, build good marriages, and you know that you don’t need to have all the answers or do it alone, and that’s okay.

Imagine if we truly believed that and told others that, then maybe it wouldn’t feel so bad asking for help when we have a problem in our relationships.

Would you prefer to go to parents or friends for advice? Online or offline? Why? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 15/2/2017

We Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Real Life Stories

My wife and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. We think that being forced to be romantic or affectionate on a specific day seems to miss the point for us. But some of my friends like having a day to remind them to make time, and find it helpful. Our discussions ultimately reminded me that really, it’s about making time for the small constant connections. 

I was speaking to a friend who has a very different view to me when it comes to Valentine’s Day. She is all for it and thinks it’s a good thing, and couldn’t believe that my wife and I purposely avoid it.

Yes To Valentine’s Day

She said that she and her husband celebrate it because the busyness of life, and their natural tendencies, means that they aren’t very romantic. They don’t make romantic gestures often.

She said it helps them because it reminds them to make time

She said that they find it hard to make time to connect in that way a lot of the time. They just forget and/or prioritise other things. So actually, having a day, a mark on the calendar, means that they go out of their way to do something or buy a gift.

She said it helps them because it reminds them to make time and invest in the relationship, and make it feel fun.

It’s Not About One Day 

I do understand what she’s saying, but for my wife and I, we think that we should be trying to make time throughout the year. We should be doing it anyway, and not on a day when we feel like we have to because there’s a sign up in the card shop.

You can feel the need to spend money

My wife is also very aware that our single friends can feel very lonely on Valentine’s Day. That’s not to be patronising, I felt that way when I was single on Valentine’s Day too. It can be another day that makes people feel like they’re missing out because they’re single.

Another friend said that she thinks Valentine’s Day is very in your face, and you can feel the need to spend money. It’s a bit like Christmas, the meaning of it has been hijacked by the pressure to spend loads and make it commercial.

Maybe My Friend Has A Point? 

I can’t see myself celebrating Valentine’s Day this week, or any other year. But looking back, I have probably let the romance slip recently.

Like my first friend said, in the busyness of life, having a reminder to connect and make time for your relationship is important.

People in romantic relationships need to make that time to connect. We can easily think that our partner will be there tomorrow, so we will connect or do something romantic then. After all, there is work that needs doing right now, or the other many distractions mean that we just keep pushing time for the relationship back.

Before we know it, it’s been weeks or months and the time to connect has got lost. (Read Should I Be The Source Of All Their Romance?)

Need A Reminder

After thinking more about our discussion it made me realise that it’s really about making sure we’re feeding that connection.

I know someone who used to travel around a lot doing various talks at churches. He used to always go in to a local shop and buy his wife something, and phone her as soon as he finished on stage so she would feel and be part of his day. He remembered to make time to connect.

If we’re not investing in the relationship, it will be getting weaker

If we’re not investing in the relationship, it will be getting weaker. Intimacy needs time and effort, it doesn’t just happen or get maintained automatically. So whether it’s Valentine’s Day or something else that reminds us to make a connection, we need to make time to connect. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know )

Imagine If… 

Imagine if, in the busyness of life, we made sure we made time to connect. We reminded ourselves to invest continuously and constantly. Relationships are made stronger in the small acts, the small sacrifices, the attention given to the small things.

What could you do to make sure you make time for those small constant connections? Whether it’s being reminded through special occasions, setting aside the same evening every week for a date night, or setting a reminder which prompts you to do something later to build a connection.

What helps you to stop and invest in your romantic relationship? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 13/2/2017