Monthly Archives

April 2017

One Big Reason Why Dating Feels Overwhelming

Finding A Date, Interesting Research

I heard about ‘The Paradox Of Choice’ theory a while ago. It argues that in our modern consumer culture we have too much choice now, and it’s often overwhelming. We feel the pressure to ‘make the right decision’. When it comes to dating, this can leave us feeling exhausted. I think there are three things we can do to feel less overwhelmed with the whole dating thing.

You know that older family member who regales you with stories from their childhood. They always seem to think things are getting easier and they had it much harder.

They want you to know how lucky you are and they say things like:

‘Back in my day, we had to go to the library to do homework. Computers didn’t exist. We couldn’t surf the internet’. Or ‘Back in my day, we had to wash all the dishes by hand, no machines to help us’.

When I’m Old I Wonder…

I have often wondered what I’ll say when I’m older and wanting to make sure people around me know I had it tough. I might say:

‘Back in my day you couldn’t just turn the T.V. on with voice activation, you had to spend 5 minutes looking for the control; shouting at your brother as you accused him of losing it again’.

Or maybe ‘Back in my day, we couldn’t shop online, we had to get in the car and drive a whole 10 minutes to get to the shops’. Things always seem to get easier eh!

The way we date and settle down seems to be alien to them

In my experience though, the one thing the older generation and older family member ‘admits’ is getting harder is this thing called dating and relationships. The way we date and settle down seems to be alien to them.

They can’t believe the complications and pressures we’re put under as we look for that special someone. ‘Back in my day, it was much simpler’.

The Paradox of Choice 

I listened to a talk a while ago by someone called Barry Schwartz called ‘The Paradox of Choice’. It was very interesting; his core point was that due to advancements in technology, affluence, consumerism and individual freedom, the western world has more choice than ever.

In one of his illustrations he said in his local supermarket he found 175 salad dressing options. 175! He was emphasising the amount of choice we now have. Even for little things like salad dressing.

More Choice More Problems 

He went on to list the positive effects of more choice, but he also listed the negative side too.

My attention was particularly grabbed when he started to talk about romantic relationships. He argued that this ‘Paradox of Choice’ affected dating hugely.

Now there are more questions and more choice

The default assumption a few decades ago used to be that we got married and had kids as early as possible. The only choice to make was ‘Who should I marry?’

But now there are more questions and more choices. People need to ask:

  • Should I even get married or not?
  • Should I do it now or later?
  • Should I have a career or kids first?
  • What is my sexual orientation?
  • Is a traditional relationship too old fashioned?
  • Do I think marriage is for life?
  • Is it a good idea to live together first?
  • Where is the best place to meet someone?

These questions, and more, take up so much head space for those of us who are navigating through the modern dating culture. Your head may be spinning just reading them!

It Ain’t Getting Easier 

It’s important to recognise all of these choices and questions are here to stay.

Whether we like it or not, even if we feel like we can answer some of the questions ‘easily’, we need to answer them before we can really invest in any (serious) relationship. Our modern culture gives us many many options, and we need to decide.

If this isn’t worrying enough, we feel like we really should get it right. For example, if I go to buy a toothbrush and there are over a hundred options and the one I choose turns out to be useless, who can I blame?

That’s the pressure we carry. That’s the reason we feel overwhelmed by it all

It would be the manufacturer’s or shop’s fault if there was only one option which ended up being faulty. But I had the choice to pick from hundreds, so it’s me and my choice that’s faulty. By the same logic, if I pick the wrong person to date, out of all these people I meet, then it must be my fault, right?

That’s the message we’re taught. That’s the pressure we carry. That’s the reason we feel overwhelmed by it all. That’s why it ain’t getting easier.

What To Do

Even if we aren’t asking the big questions about marriage and the future; knowing who to date, when to commit and trying to figure out if it could work with that person, feels overwhelming too.

I want to say a few things that can help us:

  1. We need to recognise the situation we find ourselves in. Dating apps and technology, better transport, more opportunity to move, etc., means we have so much choice when it comes to dating. If you feel overwhelmed, that’s normal.
  2. Having more choice doesn’t mean more happiness. Believing that if we have more options and date more people means it’ll all work out isn’t the case. Reflecting on what type of relationship we really want to build, narrowing the focus, is more beneficial than just getting more and more choices.
  3. We will make mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes in this area. Maybe we’ve had a relationship that ended badly. Maybe we’ve been crippled by fear because we worry it may not work out. Maybe looking back we realise we treated them badly. More choice means we will all have some regrets and not always make the right decision. You need to forgive yourself and try to learn from them. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we accepted that the dating culture is getting harder

‘The Paradox Of Choice’ theory is fascinating. Naturally, some of the change ‘having more choice’ has brought is very positive, but there are negative side effects.

But imagine if we accepted that the dating culture is getting harder. So we were empowered to accept more support and advice. Rather than believing the myth that seeking relationship help is a weakness or something we should just ‘fix on our own’.

Remember, we need to recognise the situation we may find ourselves in. Having more choice doesn’t mean more happiness, reflecting on what type of relationship we really want to build, narrowing the focus, is more beneficial. And we will make mistakes. Dating is harder, but not impossible. (Read 5 Rules To Follow When Talking To Someone You Like)

Are there any other effects you can think of? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 26/4/2017

What I Rediscovered From A Group Of Single People


Earlier this month I spoke at a conference and the seminars I delivered were focused on singleness and the church. Many people asked important questions, many people shared stories, and many people asked for prayer. I was reminded of the need to remove the ‘unworthy’ label and be honest about our disappointments because we’re all struggling.   

I had the pleasure of speaking at a Christian conference recently and co-lead a few seminars. We talked about relationships and dating, but spent most of the time looking at singleness and the joys and challenges single people face.

There was a diverse group in the room. There were people in their late teens and early 20s, all the way up to people in their late 50s. All from different denominations, some were married or dating, but most people were single. Either never married, widowed or divorced.

It was a pleasure to be able to teach and chat about singleness and touch on some of the issues they’re facing. After hearing people’s stories and chatting to some of them at length, I came away with the need to emphasise two key truths again.

  • Marriage Isn’t A Reward
  • Acknowledge Disappointment

Marriage Isn’t A Reward

I spoke to an older single woman who said something along the lines of ‘Well if I was more godly, if I was like my friends, then I would have been picked by now and would be married’.

Another young guy who was single, was telling me that if he was more confident then he might deserve a girlfriend.

There seemed to be a deep view held by some that they were single as a punishment, or because they weren’t good enough. They felt like they weren’t worthy. This is so not true and so unhelpful.

I was really upset by this because no one is perfect. No couple is perfect. God doesn’t reward the ‘holy’ people with marriage. God is not random or mean.

There is no ‘reward-based system’ for finding someone

I made a very clear point that there are many good, funny, spiritual (use whatever adjective you want) people in our churches. Some are married, some are single. There are also many people who are flawed, awkward, chaotic (pick an adjective again) in our churches. Some are married, some are single.

There is no ‘reward-based system’ for finding someone. Married and single people are flawed and amazing.

When we feel ourselves slipping into the trap of clinging to a negative label, we need to remember this and remind ourselves we are more than our relationship status. (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness).

Acknowledge Disappointments 

Having said that, we need to be allowed to be real and honest about the disappointments.

A single person said to me that Sunday is actually the hardest day for them. They go to church and hear about love and family, then go home and are alone. They said it’s hard. Really hard.

There were also people who were divorced or widowed who said they were scared of being alone when they get older. There were also people who were married or dating who shared their disappointment and struggles too.

We cannot dwell on the disappointment, but we cannot ignore them either

In a culture that tells us to be happy all the time, to embrace singleness and freedom, and then have the perfect relationship when the time comes, it’s no wonder we often try to ignore the disappointments. Its no wonder many single people feel the pressure.

Now I firmly believe that being single isn’t all doom and gloom, but if people are wanting to find someone, wanting to get married but aren’t, there will naturally be some disappointment.

We cannot dwell on the disappointment, but we cannot ignore it either. Being honest, being open, listening to each other, telling God how we really feel, is so important but often undervalued. (Read 33 Simple Rules For Building A Healthy Dating Culture)

Being Family 

I came away feeling like God had really spoken to a lot of people. The disappointments and negative labels had been exposed and God was starting to heal and restore.

What’s the one thing we can do this week to practice inclusive hospitality and strengthen the family?

But I also rediscovered, with renewed importance, that as Church we’re called to be family. To support each other through the tough times and know ultimately that we aren’t alone. That we need to listen and cheer on people who are in a different relationship status category to us, and be more honest.

Imagine If…

Imagine if the church was known for supporting people no matter what their relationships status is. As well as being honest about the struggles, especially if people are feeling the pressure.

This week, what’s the one thing we can do to practice inclusive hospitality and strengthen the family? Who could we invite over or grab a coffee with and support more in their situation?

Do you find it easy to share relationship disappointments? Why? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 24/4/2017

God Created Sex and Sexual Desire, Honest!

Sex, What The Bible Says

Often in Christian circles, sex and sexual desire are viewed as a problem, or viewed as wrong or sinful. When we talk about healthy God-centred romantic relationships, we need to remember God invented sex. The answer isn’t to try and get rid of it somehow, but rather, line it up with God’s plan and purposes.

At Naked Truth, we come across people who are struggling and hurting. They feel like they have become dependent on pornography and don’t know how to stop. (See the Naked Truth website.)

Those who are Christian sometimes feel like they want God to take away their sexual desires. That the problem is that God ‘accidentally’ made them with it.

Some even get angry or upset when they ask God to take it away and he doesn’t

At Naked Truth Relationships, we also come across people who are trying to build a godly relationship but feel like their sexual desire is stopping that. They feel God isn’t interested in that part, and they need to overcome it somehow on their own.

Some even get angry or upset when they ask God to take it away and he doesn’t.

But God’s word seems to offer something different.

God Created Our Bodies

Genesis 1 – 2 tells us the story of creation. Importantly, it was written before sin entered the world in chapter 3. It shows us what God’s desires are for his creation and humanity.

Lots could be said about these chapters, but importantly, God didn’t create a realm full of spirits and spiritual things. He created the world, including all the physical elements. He created the human body and everything physical too. He said all of this was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31).

God Even Created Sex

Sex, our bodies, and all the physical stuff are part of God’s original plan

In Genesis 2, before sin came into the world remember, it says that Adam and Eve have sex. They become ‘one flesh’.

‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.’ Genesis 2:24.

This act is seen as being part of God’s good creation. It even says that they felt no shame, it was meant to bless them (Genesis 2:25). God tells them to multiply (Genesis 1:28). Sex, our bodies, and all the physical stuff are part of God’s original plan and intentions.

Our Bodies Are Here To Stay 

Importantly, we will always have a body too. When Jesus was resurrected, he wasn’t a spirit or ghost just flying around. He had a body. He could be touched (Luke 24:39; John 20:17, 27) and could eat food (Luke 24:42-43).

When heaven comes down to earth, Christians will not just be spirits floating around either. We will get a body, and we will always have a physical body (1 Corinthians 15:35-52).

Our Response 

There are things that God doesn’t want us to do when it comes to our sexual desires. Like committing adultery (Exodus 20:14), lusting after others (Matthew 5:27-28) and sleeping with prostitutes (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). And I, like many argue, that the ‘one flesh’ happens after the wedding ceremony and deep commitments being made (Genesis 2:23-24).

But the answer isn’t to treat sexual desire or sex itself as sinful, but to align it with God’s plan and purpose.

We’re meant to re-align them with God’s original design.

Lots more could be said about what that looks like. What that looks like for the church as a whole, and different groups of people (e.g. people who are married, people who are single, etc). However, the point of this post is to remind us to resist the temptation to think sex, our bodies, or our desires are the enemy.

They’re part of God’s creation, and we’re meant to re-align them with God’s original design. (Read I’m Getting Married, I’ll Be Having Sex Soon….Help!)

Imagine If…

Imagine if, instead of seeing our bodies as something that hinders us getting close to God, or something that should control all of our choices, we realise it’s something God made and wants to redeem in his grace for his plan and purpose.

The next time you, or someone you know, is struggling in this area, let’s remind each other that God cares. He isn’t embarrassed by this stuff. He wants to show us his way, bring freedom and transformation to this area, and not just take the physical stuff away.

Do you think God cares about sex? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 19/4/2017

The Four Words Spoken By Jesus You Need To Hear

What The Bible Says

When Jesus was arrested and killed his disciples, (who he had hung out with, taught and invested in for about 3 years) deserted him. After Jesus had died and rose to life again, you’d think he would be angry. You’d think he would say how disappointed he was. But the words he said to them instead when he saw them again, were truly amazing.

Many of us have been reflecting on and celebrating Easter this weekend. It always stirs up passion, humility, guilt, excitement, sadness and joy. It does in me anyway. A bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

Often, when we think about Jesus and the cross, we can place it into a very legal framework. We think something along the lines of: Sin happens when we break God’s law, God forgave our sins, so now we don’t need to face punishment. We are now legally declared ‘Not Guilty’.

This is true and important, but forgiveness means so much more. Resurrection life leads to more than simply ‘Not Guilty’

Wiping The Slate Clean

Forgiveness is about wiping the slate clean, and this includes being allowed to move forward. It’s not just about looking back to what we have done. Put it like this,  when a friend truly forgives us, it doesn’t just mean they no longer hold a grudge, it means we can be friends again. Move forwards knowing the past won’t taint the future.

The resurrected Jesus embodied this truth in a powerful way

The resurrected Jesus embodied this truth in a powerful way. It should affect our friendships and all of our relationships. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Deserted By His Disciples 

What I’m saying is that the way the resurrected Jesus related to his disciples was mind-blowing for many reasons. But one point I am often drawn too, especially over Easter is about how Jesus related to his disciples who had, a few days earlier, left him to die.

When Jesus was arrested, he was deserted by his disciples, his friends. The people he had been teaching and spending so much time with and investing in, left him when he needed them. (Matthew 26:47-56).

Imagine being one of those disciples. Jesus, who you looked up to, who had done all of these miracles and let you be part of them, who had been so close to you, gets taken away and killed, and you ran off.

You would probably be feeling sad, guilty, scared, ashamed.

I’d be thinking ‘I can’t face him, not after what I did’

Then you hear he has come back to life. Unbelievable right? Not something you would believe easily. Then you start to hear rumours and start to realise it’s true.

You probably start to feel excited, then you remember, you deserted him. You left him to die. I’d be thinking ‘I can’t face him, not after what I did, I can’t see him again. Jesus must be angry with me, he must be disappointed.’

More Than Awkward 

I’m always struck by this dilemma. Here is Jesus, their teacher and friend, who they let down, and the only thing worse than having to deal with that is seeing him again! Realising he is the Messiah, he is back, and you need to see him and talk about what happened.

Awkward does not seem to describe the situation well enough.

But Jesus, when he had the right to be angry, he had the right to tell them off, wipes the slate clean. In John 20:19-21 it says:

‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

‘Peace Be With You’

Those four words ‘Peace be with you’. Not angry, not a telling off. Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’ twice.  More than that, he still says he wants them to be involved in his mission. He is still sending them.

This word translated as ‘peace’ is so powerful. The English word doesn’t do it justice. It’s used when someone wants your life to be amazing in every area; in family life, in your job, in your relationship with God, in your friendships, everything.

Jesus is wishing them a life that is full, free from harm and damage, and full of love and joy.

Resurrection life leads to more than ‘Not Guilty’

Resurrection life leads to more than ‘Not Guilty’. It leads to the slate being wiped clean and moving forwards in an amazing way, The disciples are forgiven, and Jesus also wishes them the best, blesses them, and asks them to still be part of his mission in the world.

They are found not guilty, and Jesus draws them back into a close friendship and relationship.

Four amazing words. Words we need to hear when we feel ashamed, when we feel like we have let God down (again), when we feel distant from him, when we feel like life has lost focus, when we question if God is really there, if he really loves us. ‘Peace be with you’ – words you need to hear.

Imagine If…

Imagine if this week and beyond we remembered that resurrection life leads to more than simply ‘Not Guilty’. Jesus not only saves us from punishment but for friendship, for a relationship. He is rebuilding relationships and sending followers into the world to spread the Good News.

Try to Read John 20 and 21, and think and reflect on how Jesus reaches out to people he had every right to be angry at. And how important it is to realise his grace is offered to us, and how this should affect our friendships and relationships. (Read The Cross Deals With More Than Forgiveness, Right?)

Do you think we forget that Jesus saves us for something, and not just from punishment? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 17/4/2017

6 Ways to Break-up Well: Part 2 (No Ghosting or Breadcrumbing allowed!)

Break- Ups, Relationship Difficulties

In the second part of this 2 part article, we will continue to explore how to break-up in a way that really tries to be respectful and takes the other person’s needs into account. It’s never easy, but we’re always aiming and learning to be kind to people and reduce hurting them, and dating is no exception.  

When I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, it wasn’t nice for either of us. But I didn’t just send a text or ignore her. I did it face to face, I explained what was happening, and I avoided blaming her.

She was able to hear why, know it was definitely over, and move on

I doubt she enjoyed it, but we were able to remain on speaking terms afterwards and remain friends (even if we were no longer good friends). More importantly, she was able to hear why, know it was definitely over, and move on. It may have hurt, but it wasn’t devastating.

So here are the rest of the 6 pointers (read Part 1 here) that me, and other people, who are striving towards loving their neighbour in this context, have found helpful. (And there were no phones in sight!)

(The following extract is taken from page 200-202 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Be Courageous

If a relationship needs to come to an end, then you must accept that it’s going to be awkward for both of you. Your primary objective is to make it less difficult for them, not for you. This is what being selfless looks like.

Doing it face to face is a mark of dignity and respect

Try to respect them as much as possible. Would you like it if someone you love dumped you over the phone, or sent you a text? Of course not. You would want them to tell you to your face, to show you that you are important to them, that the relationship meant something. Doing it face to face is a mark of dignity and respect because it makes it about their feelings, not yours.

Sometimes relationships are so toxic and damaging that they need to end. You may need to put a bit of distance between you and the other person in order to keep you safe or to stop you from taking them back.

In these instances, it might be worth getting someone to help or be nearby. Being selfless and courageous also means being safe. If you think that your partner may lash out physically or verbally, don’t put yourself in harm’s way.

Be Clear

When a relationship comes to an end, both people need closure. That can mean different things for different people, but it will always mean having a conversation about why it’s ending.

Some lines to avoid are: ‘It isn’t you; it’s me!’; ‘God told me you’re getting in the way of my relationship with him!’; and ‘You’ll find someone better than me!’

Use ‘I’ statements and own your view of what happened

Use ‘I’ statements and own your view of what happened, sharing how you feel. They don’t need to agree with you, but they need to hear your version of events. This all requires you both to be calm enough to sit down and talk.

Sometimes, after you break up, you can’t be friends, or at least not straightaway. Sometimes you need space to be upset and to heal without them being around, confusing you and making it harder to move on. There is no shame in that. Sometimes ending well means not being friends for a while.

Be Kind

If you get locked into an argument or a mud-slinging competition, you might feel very tempted (or justified) in saying all kinds of hurtful things to get your own back. This never works. It only causes more damage and pain to the person you once cared for.

And this is not honouring to God – so keep your cool and hold your tongue! It doesn’t mean that you avoid saying tough things they might not want to hear.

But think ahead about what you want to say, so that your words don’t run away with you when the anger flares. The chances are that you will bump into them again. You might even have to see them every day! So plan for the long-term and don’t burn your bridges now.

Be Consistent

Saying something that reduces someone to tears isn’t pleasant. Some of us are more likely to crumble when the tears flow. Others might feel OK for the first few weeks, and then all the memories of great times together come flooding back and you wonder if you have made a mistake.

Try not to drag out the ending. Give each other time to talk through your feelings (if you feel able to), but try to avoid endless deep and meaningful chats. It just prolongs the inevitable and can give a false glimmer of hope for you or your ex.

The most important thing is that, if you are the one ending the relationship, you act as selflessly as you can, without going back on your decision.

Selflessness is about putting the other person first

As far as it is within your responsibility, always talk face to face and avoid telling other people you are about to end it. This sort of information has a habit of leaking out. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Sometimes you need to end a relationship because things simply aren’t working out. Either way, selflessness is about putting the other person first. If you break up with someone, do it in a way that puts their feelings first, so you know that, although it might be difficult, you have approached it in the best possible way.

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

6 Bits Of Advice  

  • Their needs come first
  • Be honest
  • Be courageous
  • Be clear
  • Be kind
  • Be consistent

Imagine If…

Imagine if we took dating seriously and strived towards building mutually kind, respectful, and fulfilling relationships. Even if it didn’t work out, we would avoid hurting people by sticking to this goal.

What else would you add to these bits of advice? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 12/4/2017