Monthly Archives

May 2017

Lots Of Dates Vs. Selective Dates: Which Is Really Better?

Finding A Date, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Some think we should date lots of people, get lots of experience, then it will all work out. Sadly, while the ‘shopping around’ rule may work in many cases, it won’t with romantic relationships. This can cause more hurt and confusion and reinforce unhelpful myths. Thinking, pursuing, and selecting the right experiences and dates seems to be better.

After delivering a talk a while ago, one guy came up to chat with me. I always say and believe that dating is meant to be fun, but not at other people’s expense. So we need to think through why we’re saying yes or no to people and what kind of relationship we want to invest in. In other words, we need to think through how and why we date before/as we date.

This guy, politely but fairly bluntly, said he disagreed. He thought people need to go out with lots of people, date lots of people and then see what happens. He had had lots of experiences and it helped him decide what he wanted.

‘Me Me Me’

Let me say again, dating is meant to be enjoyable, we’re meant to enjoy meeting someone and enjoy falling in love. But when we do it with only ‘me’ in mind, people get hurt.

If we date someone and just think of our needs, lead them on, dump them when we like, use them short term, so that ‘I’ can decide what ‘I’ want, people will inevitably get hurt and become collateral damage.

Playing with a phone in a shop, or downloading a beta app, or trying on a pair of jeans in the store, is fine. Shopping around and testing items before you buy is fine. But when we treat people like that, as if they’re just there for our needs, and can be returned with no fuss, it’s not fair.

People will inevitably get hurt and become collateral damage

We wouldn’t want to get hurt or led on, so we shouldn’t do the same to others.

But We Need Experiences, Right? 

I hope this guy I spoke to would agree that we should not intentionally hurt people in any type of relationship, including romantic ones. But when we just think about ‘getting experience for me’, we often unintentionally hurt people.

Now I do think we need experience in one sense. I mean, we can’t marry someone or say we’re in love with someone we haven’t spent time with. But getting experience for ‘me’ is different to trying to build a relationship with someone, where you both think it could work.

Getting experience for ‘me’ is different to trying to build a relationship where you both think it could work

If experience is all about ‘me’, then I think it can be damaging when it comes to a relationship, but if the experience is about trying to build a relationship which is mutually enjoyable with someone you think it could work out long term with, that’s different.

This way is about trying to build, pursue, and experience a mutually healthy relationship. Now, this way may still lead to some problems, or even a break-up (Read What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?). I’m not saying this way is foolproof. But when it becomes about ‘us’ rather than ‘me’, we don’t treat people like items.

Unhelpful Reinforcements

If we do just jump from one relationship to another, it can actually reinforce unhelpful myths too.

I know those who’ve said that because they have dated lots of people and been on loads of dates and experienced more break-up, they know more about dating.

However, many suggest that this can actually reinforce negative behaviour. For example, if a relationship ends after someone gets bored, or the relationship starts to take more hard work, then it teaches that this should always signal the end of the relationship.

But all relationships take hard work, all couples need to work through tough situations. If these low points always signal the end, then we will never be able to turn our dating relationships into long-term stable relationships.

It can cause us to have less chance of committing to one person

Also, there is research that suggests that too much choice, too many dates can be overwhelming. And it can cause us to have less chance of committing to one person and one relationship. (Read One Big Reason Why Dating Feels Overwhelming.)

Selective Dates

There are people who do overthink too much or are crippled by fear of getting it wrong. So they avoid asking people out. If so, we may need to think about why that is, and how we can begin to change that (Read 5 Rules To Follow When Talking To Someone You Like)

But what I was trying to say to the guy who wanted to chat to me was that just having experience without thinking through our mistakes or what type of relationship we want, can mean we get hurt and hurt others. We can be left more confused while reinforcing unhelpful myths.

Taking the time to think about what a mutually healthy, enjoyable, and God-centred relationship looks like, can really help. Selecting the right dates, instead of just any dates, can help us avoid the dangers and give us the chance to build something special with someone. Which is what we all want really.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we did take the time to stop and think through how we are dating/want to date, and why. Then we can try to build something with the best people for us, rather than with just anyone.

Do you think selective dates may be better long term than loads of dates? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 31/5/2017

5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?

Church Dating Culture, Singleness

In church many single people hear throwaway lines and clichés about their relationship status. They say it’s unhelpful, sometimes painful, and leaves them thinking ‘What just happened?’. See how many have you heard, and how many you have said, and then we can make sure it’s not something said again in our community.  

Due to the fact that I spend my time talking and writing about relationships and singleness, I always think I’ve heard all the clichés. But people always like to take it to another level and surprise you.

God Doesn’t Want To Share 

I heard a story from my friend recently, which still shocks me every time I think about it.

When she was talking to her church leader as a single and never married person, they said ‘You’re single because God doesn’t want to share you with a boyfriend. You’re so special God wants you to himself’.

How messed up is that?!

Does it mean wanting a relationship is wrong because God doesn’t share?

So if she finds someone that means she’s less special to God? Or does it mean wanting a relationship is wrong because God doesn’t share? Or does it mean wanting a relationship is wrong because it rejects God’s affection?

It’s so unhelpful. And my friend said that comment messed her up for years. And, unfortunately, other people said they’ve heard similar unhelpful things.

The problem with clichés is that they’re usually said without much thought, even if well-intentioned, and can really hurt the people who hear it. If we stop and think about it, we realise they really are flawed and not good. So let’s think about more of them:

You Should Pray More

One sentence many single Christians get told is:  ‘You aren’t praying enough for a spouse’.

What this communicates is: It’s your fault. You’re not holy enough. You haven’t trusted God enough. Which is rubbish because married people are flawed, no-one is perfect. We’re all trying to make God a bigger part of our lives.

People are often not married because there is no-one suitable around, not because they’re undeserving.

The idea that God is punishing the unholy singles, or judging them because they haven’t prayed enough is unhelpful. Never does the Bible say you get married when you have prayed enough.

People are often not married because there is no-one suitable around, not because they’re undeserving.

Marriage involves two flawed people building something together. It isn’t a reward from God for those who have reached the prayer quota. (Read Single For Now, Or Single Forever, What’s God’s Plan?).

Be Content With/Enjoy Your Singleness

The idea that people need to be happy in their singleness and should enjoy it gets said a lot too. Or even more harshly, people say they haven’t found marriage yet because they’re not a content single. These two can really hurt.

Again, no-one is perfect. I know lots of people who are married and were far from content in their singleness. Yes, it can cause some problems, but it doesn’t mean the marriage is bad or that God isn’t using them as individuals, or as a couple.

Also, there’re different types of singleness. Some people are called to life-long singleness, some people are widowed, some people are divorced.

We need to be more sensitive because some people are really struggling

Yes we should all make God our foundation in all situations, but some people have a desire to get married, and some don’t. They can’t all be grouped together and told to just enjoy singleness. We need to be more sensitive because some people are really struggling and have a real desire to find someone. (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness.)

God Is Preparing Someone, Just Wait

Another ‘classic one’ goes something like ‘God is preparing someone, just wait’. Or it could come in the form of ‘God’s timing is perfect’.

This communicates the idea that God is taking care of it all. As if our thoughts and actions don’t matter. Or that God is making some of us wait for a random reason.

I think God has a better plan. He doesn’t want us sitting on the bench, but wants us involved in the game. He isn’t randomly making some people wait because he is punishing them (Read Our Post About Activeness).

Imagine If…

Most people say clichés because they want to say something helpful. They’re trying to help someone in a situation they can’t always relate to. While the desire to help is a good thing, we need to avoid saying unhelpful comments.

So whether we have said them or not, whether we have heard them or not, imagine if we now tried to be a family that avoids the throwaway lines that can do more harm than good.

What other clichés can you think of? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 29/5/2017

What’s The Church For? What’s Our Yes?

What The Bible Says

If you asked most people, Christian or Non-Christian, what the church is against, they could easily give you a list. They could tell you what they say no to and what’s not allowed. But listing what the church is ‘for’, what it’s big yeses are, is harder. We need to encourage people to pursue the better song. Good relationships should be a big yes we shout about. 

Naked Truth Relationships is part of the wider Naked Truth Project. The aim of the charity is to ‘Open Eyes and Free Lives’ from the damaging impact of pornography. We want to come alongside those who say they are struggling in this area and need help.

But we don’t just give them a list of don’ts and simply shout at them to stop

We enable people to stop habits and patterns of behaviour. But we don’t just give them a list of don’ts and simply shout at them to stop. We want to equip, inspire, and enable them to pursue the better song. To pursue the things that will bring true fulfillment and intimacy.

We often talk about the story of Jason and Ulysses.

The Legend Of Jason And Ulysses

In greek mythology, they believed in dangerous sea creatures called sirens. These creatures lived on the rocks. It was said that they used to sing and call out to the sailors as their ships went by. These sailors would then feel an overwhelming desire to sail towards the treacherous rocks and their ships would get destroyed.

However, the myth goes on to say that two heroes, Jason And Ulysses, came up with clever solutions to the siren problem.

Jason filled all of his sailors’ ears with beeswax. He blocked their ears so that they couldn’t hear the sirens singing and calling to them. The sailors, therefore, wouldn’t get tempted to sail over to the rocks. They stopped doing something.

Ulysses however, responded differently. He brought along the best musicians in Greece and got them to play when the sirens were singing. This meant, that even though the sailors could hear the sirens. They heard a better song.

Watch our video we made about this story

The Better Song 

Ulysses’ men heard a better song and it meant they were not tempted by the sirens. The sirens lost their appeal. The sailors survived and enjoyed the better call, and had a fantastic story to tell.

We’re not designed to just be avoiders who do nothing. God designed us for more

So what’s our better song? What do we need to pursue to get fulfilled? What’s our big yes?

Sometimes we need to avoid things which seem good but can harm us. Sometimes we need to fill our ears with beeswax. But we’re not designed to just be avoiders who do nothing. God designed us for more.  We’re designed to pursue the better song.

Jesus said ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10). We need to know what we are for.

Pursuing Good relationships 

I believe building healthy long-lasting relationships, romantic or otherwise, is part of that better song

The big yes is different for different people and different churches. It depends what God is calling us to, what we enjoy, where we’re meant to serve, etc. But I think building good relationships, loving God and our neighbour is part of it. (Read Reflecting God’s image Is Found In Plurality). Jesus said this in his greatest commandment.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

He wants us to build loving relationships with God and those around us. He says that we’re his friends and not just servants (John 15:13-15). He wants us to serve those around us and help them when we can ( Matthew 25:31-46).

I believe building healthy long lasting relationships, romantic or otherwise, is part of that better song. It can bring fulfillment, intimacy, and we can live the way God designed us to live.

Imagine If…

Imagine if whenever we interacted with people we stopped to say, how can I be a bit more loving?

The church is called to help people avoid the rocks and avoid damage, but we’re called to play the better song too. Our yes should involve loving God and loving people. To let people know they are loved and can have a loving relationship with God and those in his family.

Imagine if whenever we interacted with people we stopped to say, how can I be a bit more loving?

I think our relationships would get stronger, we would feel closer to people, it would be easier to avoid the rocks, and everyone could say that the church’s yes is to love people and build them up. We could be known for the better song. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love).

What else do you think should be part of the better song? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 24/5/2017

Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Marriage

Sometimes we can think ‘When this happens, I’ll be happy…’ Or ‘When I get to this point, things will change…’ I used to think my romantic relationship would one day just be strong and amazing. But I realised, thinking that it will eventually just be different is unhelpful and can weaken our relationships.  

I love a good quote. I often forget who exactly said it and sometimes I need to do a bit of paraphrasing, but I’m a sucker for a good quote.

One that sprung to mind when I was thinking about writing this post goes ‘Madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ (I think this one’s from Albert Einstein).

Plan vs. Plan Maker 

To give you a bit of context, I’m someone who always falls into the trap of thinking that when I achieve ‘this goal’, or reach ‘this point’, then I’ll be different and I’ll be happy and satisfied.

Recently, God has really been challenging me to avoid this thinking. To put my faith and fulfilment in him, the plan maker instead of the plan.

How do I live like He is enough

God has really been humbling and challenging me on this recently. Take this website for example. Instead of running after a goal to find fulfilment, like having a website that gets ‘X’ number of visitors, I try to focus on how to seek God more in the process and see what he’s doing now.

How do I live like He is enough because nothing in this world will satisfy?

One Day I will Change

I’ve been thinking about this and I realised that I used to think this about my romantic relationship too. When I was single I thought, ‘If I get a girlfriend things will be different and I’ll be happy’.

Take prayer for example. I always struggled to get into a rhythm of daily prayer. I used to say to myself that when I get a girlfriend things will be different. We will spur each other on to pray more and I will be closer to God. Well, it didn’t happen like that. (Read Should We Be Praying Together?)

And when it didn’t change I thought that once we got engaged it would change. When it didn’t, I thought that when we’re married it will change because then we’d be living together and it would be easier. Then when it didn’t, I thought maybe after next year it would change.

It didn’t just happen. We had to sit down, make a plan, fail at that plan, make another plan, and get it to work. We’ve thankfully got into a good rhythm this year, but it didn’t just happen.

I couldn’t just do the same thing and expect a different result. I couldn’t expect things in my relationship to just be different, I had to work at it.

What About Today 

I had to come to this realisation a few years ago when it came to relationships. The way I dated, the way I view my marriage, I couldn’t just believe that one day it will be different. I couldn’t keep moaning about the same thing, or hold grudges. I had to make the change happen.

I had to communicate more. I had to work out why I was getting upset. I had to realise that some things I did made the relationship weaker and act differently next time.

We need to realise relationships take work and we all need to learn the skills needed

Real Stories

I have some friends who are in a relationship with someone and they seem to argue all the time. They both seem to blame each other, but both say it will all be different one day. They have the same arguments and same frustrations over and over, hoping for a sudden and different result.

It’s upsetting because if we want it to work, we need to realise relationships take work and we all need to learn the skills needed. No one can just play an instrument or read and write, we have to learn that skill. (Read What Makes A Happy Couple? Fresh Insight.)

Think Differently

In films, on T.V., in books, we seem to get told that the ‘hard part’ of the relationship is finding someone, then it’s easy. People struggle in films to get together, but when they do, they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Really?!

It’s okay to admit we need to learn the skills

Relationships take work. I had to decide to think differently. To put the work in, to learn what made a great relationship, and what made a God-centred relationship. Instead of relying on future ‘sudden changes’ and future achievements to fill me up.

Imagine If…

We all need to learn to build good relationships, it’s okay to admit we need to learn the skills. It okay to realise we need to start implementing them today if we want to change things. ( Read Dating Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint.)

Imagine if, instead of hoping that ‘that issue’ will sort itself out, we paused to think about what it is that’s upsetting us or annoying us. And what we can do now to change that.

Why are people sometimes passive about relationships, but more active about learning skills in other areas, like to further their career? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 22/5/2017

‘Should We Be Praying Together?’ Part 2

Church Dating Culture, Relationship Difficulties

In part two of this post, we take an honest look at some of the struggles couples who want to pray together have. Some just find it so hard and often feel bad because we think it should be easy. So let’s look at some practical steps to making it happen. Namely: Have a rule, See it as a discipline, and Have a plan.  

In the last post, we looked at why some dating couples hesitate to pray together. However, we saw why we shouldn’t let that stop us (Read Part 1 here).

This post will look at why some couples find it hard to get into a rhythm of prayer, and some practical tips to getting there too. Namely:

  • Have a rule.
  • See it as a discipline.
  • Have a plan.

(The following extract is taken from page 146-148 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Most Couples Struggle 

It’s inspiring to meet couples who support each other in God’s call for their lives. But this only happens because the people involved are seeking God for themselves, as well as together.

They’re responding to Christ’s call to ‘take up their cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34). If you’re not dating, you have a great opportunity to do this before you meet someone, but it’s never too late to start if you’re in a relationship now.

Imagine sharing this purity of focus with the person you’re dating!

Spending time with God as a couple and as individuals can feel like a habit that’s difficult to get into. If you’re like us, you will probably find it hard to maintain. We all have our periods of struggle, but we know that, through it all, God’s unchanging desire is to draw us close to him.

The Almighty, drawing close to you and me! Making space for this kind of interaction with God should become our priority, not because we’re told to do it or we are trying to earn Jesus-points, but because we crave God. Imagine sharing this purity of focus with the person you’re dating!

Most Couples Think It’s Strange

Many people we know find this strange. They tell us that they don’t want to pray together or find it hard to initiate. Justin wrestled for ages over how to get him and his girlfriend praying together.

If you make it a barrier, it will be a barrier

In desperation, he sought out his youth leader: ‘How do we start praying? What do I say?’ His youth leader paused for a bit, and then said, ‘Justin, you simply say, “Let’s pray”!’ They did, and it transformed their relationship.

So many couples never quite get round to praying and reading the Bible together. What should be a natural activity feels strange. This is where being single brings another advantage. If you can get into the habit now of establishing a good rhythm of prayer, you’ll find it easier to keep it going.

If you’re in a relationship and don’t yet pray together, you can still start. If you make it a barrier, it will be a barrier.

Most Couples Just Need To Do It

Praying is something everyone finds easier to do by doing it. One of you will need to suggest it, and then you will both need the commitment to explore this new and powerful area of your relationship together.

In our view, there is nothing more powerful for a couple to do than pray together, for each other and for the people in their lives. Tasha and Joe found that praying together each time they met up really helped them focus on keeping God at the heart of all they got up to, especially when they spent time together on their own. (Read Marriage Isn’t Really About ‘Us’)

To me, there’s nothing more attractive than when I see my girlfriend praying and prophesying after the service, knowing we’re doing God’s work together. (Paul)

Why would I spend all my time with him?! We would suffocate the relationship. Besides, he needs time to serve at church and home group, and to mentor people. (Cerry)

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

Prayer Tips

There are great charities, blogs, and books out there which are far more qualified to offer up support for prayer than this one. And no one rule will work for everyone, but here are some things I personally have found helpful:

  • Have a rule. My wife and I have finally established a rhythm after many years of struggle. We simply pray and read our Bible together every day as soon as we can. So it’s often after we get back from work, or after we get back in the evening after going out. But the first time during the day that we have spare time together, we pray. Before the TV comes on or anything else. Having a rule or set time helps in the busyness and ups and downs of life.
  • See it as a discipline. Until we see it as a discipline, we won’t do it. If we wait until we feel like it, or when we feel close to God, rather than something we have to do no matter what, we won’t do it.  For me, switching mindsets helped me make it a priority.
  • Have a plan. I know a couple who get a daily devotional magazine, others have a set Bible reading, others keep a prayer list. Whatever works for you, so you can just do it, rather than sitting there worrying what to read or say.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we prayed more with the people we loved, how much of an impact would that have?

Have a Rule, See it as a discipline, Have a plan. How can you start doing at least one of these things today?

What has worked for you in regards to praying more? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 17/5/2017