Monthly Archives

August 2017

How To Tell If You Have An Unhealthy Obsession

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

Dating is full of great feelings like excitement, anticipation, love. But it can also produce negative feelings like sadness, heartache, and disappointment. Unfortunately, these can all be mixed in together sometimes and lead to confusion. It’s important to know how to keep a healthy perspective and make sure pursuing someone doesn’t become an obsession.   

I was chatting to friend the other day who was telling me about, in her words, her new boyfriend.

He had a good job, he also volunteered for charities, he was polite, funny and good looking. So I asked how long they’d been going out, and she said they had been on one date.

One date!

Now she realised she was getting a bit carried away and was making a joke about it. But I feel like a part of her wasn’t joking. And many people I know get carried away in this situation. We all have/can when emotions are involved.

It just reminded me of how important it is to keep a healthy perspective and avoid unhealthy obsessions when we are dating and looking for love.

(The following extract is taken from page 102-104 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Head Space and Energy

Have you ever felt so desperate to make a good impression on someone that you’ve found yourself acting a bit odd around them? Falling for someone has a habit of making fools out of us all. But there’s a more serious consequence to this pitfall.

We pin all our hopes on one person and we can begin to compromise

Obsessing about finding a relationship or being with a certain person takes up head space and energy. It distracts us from finding fulfilment elsewhere.  (Read Are You Making The Relationship Mistake That Causes Less Happiness?)

We pin all our hopes on one person and we can begin to compromise who we are, to lose sight of what God has called us to. This weakens us and any relationship we start, because no-one can fulfil us to that degree.

Tough Questions 

So how do we date without obsessing? Before we answer that, see if you recognize yourself in any of the following:

  • You long for a relationship so much that you’ll go out with anyone.
  • You never talk with God about your relationships or ask him to guide you.
  • You never talk with God about anything except your relationships and future girl/boyfriend.
  • Now you’re dating, everything is about them. You dismiss singleness as ‘God’s waiting room’.

The chances are we’re probably all guilty of some of these things. We have all made our search for love an idol at some point. If you’re obsessing about someone you’re not yet dating, the worst thing you can do is start going out with them!

Bigger Picture

You may well be great for each other in the future, but right now you are about to build a weak relationship because you are asking them to be everything they can’t be. When we find ourselves obsessing about someone, to the point where it’s taking over, we need to bring it to God. A friend told us:

When I’m in a relationship I often ignore God. I lose sight of the bigger picture. If it was the other way round and I ignored my boyfriend this much, I would get dumped! (Hannah)

She realised she needed to change, and that was the beginning of things shifting for her. It may also mean that you need to take control of your thoughts and distract yourself, not in an ‘I’ll-avoid-the-issue’ kind of way, but rather in an ‘I’ll-stop-sitting-here-wallowing-in-my-obsession’ way.

Go out with other friends, or spend evenings on your own, reminding yourself that you are a complete person, with or without someone to date.

Time’s A Keeper

If you fancy someone at 9 am but have gone off them by 9 pm, it’s probably best to leave them alone!

Many bad decisions are made in haste, so often the best thing to do is to wait. If you fancy someone in March and still feel a connection in May, then perhaps there is something there. If you fancy someone at 9 am but have gone off them by 9 pm, it’s probably best to leave them alone!

Imagine how unkind and self-centred it would be to put someone on a pedestal, date them and then drop them – all because they had the audacity not to match up to the crazy ideal you had of them in the first place. (Read Why I chose to reject finding ‘The One’)

You could even spend time away from them and chat to some wise friends about your feelings, to see if it’s right to continue. We can sometimes obsess about our friendships too. Recognising if this is our weakness will help us do something about it.

Being free from romantic obsessions means we don’t need to:

  • Make them the reason for our existence
  • Put our life on hold until they show up
  • Be afraid to face the truth of how unhealthy this (potential) relationship is

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

Imagine If…

There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, and we can all get carried away when we meet a potential partner. But in order for a relationship to thrive, you need to avoid obsession and make sure you’re both involved in building a mutually enjoyable relationship.

Imagine if we allowed ourselves to enjoy finding and building a romantic relationship with someone worth committing to. But also kept a healthy perspective and avoided obsession so a relationship could thrive.

What else can help us avoid obsession? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 28/8/2017

Why Single People’s Relationship Advice Shouldn’t Get Rejected

Relationship Difficulties, Singleness

Modern wisdom says experience is king. In other words, unless you have an experience in that area, your opinion doesn’t count. But Jesus was never a sinner, and look how much he helps sinners! When single people feel like their relationship advice is completely invalid, I think everyone loses. 

I have written about this before, and there is a much older version of this article on the fusion website. However, this topic was brought up recently in a roundabout way through some random conversations with my friends.

I was basically saying that in churches (at least the ones I have been to/are linked with) there are rarely any single people in church leadership. The exception can often be the youth worker, who is often younger and therefore more likely to be single. Or the church leader can be single sometimes.

However, in most churches I come across, the people on the leadership team come as a couple.

As I said, there will obviously be exceptions to this, but I was saying that I think this is a massive shame. It can make single people feel overlooked and like they don’t fit in, and churches can miss out on using very talented people just because of their relationship status. (Read 3 Mistakes That Lead to Less Singles in Church)

In churches, it can also make single people feel like they cannot help their friends with their relationships because they are single.

Should I Say Something?

‘I know this couple who I think may have a problem… should I say something?’

This is the exact question a friend asked me when I was chatting to her about a couple she knew.

Yet the problem the couple had isn’t the focus of this post. Neither is whether I answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

This post addresses a deeper issue, namely the two ‘beliefs’ my single friend held. They made her feel disqualified from saying something to her friend because they had different relationship statuses. I think this troubles many people in our churches.

I’m Single, So What Do I Know

As we chatted, the first belief surfaced when she said: ‘I could say something, but I’m single, so what do I know’.

My heart sank.

This belief always upsets me. But is it a surprise she has it? In church single people frequently hear ‘Have you found anyone yet?’ or ‘God is preparing someone for you’. As if we’re outside God’s will until our next date. (Read 5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?)

There sat my friend, full of love and genuine concern, believing her relationship status made her irrelevant.

Jesus was never a sinner, but made them feel welcome and transformed their lives

This really upset me because as a Christian, I believe God qualifies the called. I don’t think God will only use the people who come to the altar with everything sorted, who have all the answers, or have reached a certain status in life.

I mean, Paul was never a Gentile but managed to reach many Gentiles with compassion and understanding. Jackie Pullinger was never a drug addict but has saved thousands from drug addiction. Jesus was never a sinner, but made them feel welcome and transformed their lives.

So I challenged my friend’s belief because our relationship status doesn’t automatically disqualify (or qualify) us from being a supportive friend with good relationship advice. Singleness shouldn’t stop us feeling relevant.

We All Need To Learn 

As our conversation progressed, another belief arose when she said: ‘I’ll just leave it, they’ll probably fix it on their own anyway’.

Why should we assume that?

No-one is born knowing how to build and maintain a loving relationship. No-one has a relationship manual which fixes every difficulty. I have unfortunately seen many couples feel trapped because they believe they should ‘instinctively know’ how to fix their problems, so won’t get help.

No-one is born knowing how to build and maintain a loving relationship

We are all learning. We all need help. We all need friends around us who can help, support, pray for, and challenge different areas of our lives. In my experience, a loving and concerned friend is just as, if not more important, than their experience and relationship status.

Something Worth Saying

I said to my friend that our relationship status isn’t inherently linked to good or bad advice (or self-worth). No-one has a manual, we all have problems and need help occasionally. By helping my friend take hold of these new beliefs, she realised she may indeed have something worth saying.

I love church. I think the local church is amazing and has lots of things to think about and try and implement. But I think we need to make sure we don’t inadvertently devalue single people in our churches, or in our love lives. (Read, Have You Fallen Into The ‘Relationship Status’ Trap?).

Imagine If…

Imagine if we all supported each other and allowed our friends to support and challenge us, knowing they have a genuine concern for us, and we didn’t ostracise people because of their experience or relationship status.

We can do this by not letting some assumptions influence how we interpret their advice.

Do you think experience is the most important thing? Comments welcome below.

Originally posted 21/8/2017

How ‘Decisions’ Along With ‘Love’ Can Create Healthy Relationships

Early Dating, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

I always say dating is meant to be fun, but we need to remember no one is always happy and easy to be around, and no one is perfect. So what does dating look like in the day to day and mundane bits of the relationship? It means deciding to love when it’s hard, and deciding to stick together when every change you want doesn’t happen. This is hard to remember after the ‘romantic rush’ dies down. 

‘You need to realise that you can’t force a change in the person you’re with. If your relationship is based on a hope that they will change this “flaw” and that “imperfection” and that “thing I don’t like”, it just won’t work’.

This is what a friend said was one of the best bits of advice she got while dating. She mentioned it to me while I was thinking about this post. It reminded me that being compatible is as much to do with what you can ‘put up with’ in someone, as well as what you admire in them and are drawn to.

Yes, the aim is to be more loving over time, to be more sacrificial, and to serve each other more. But that doesn’t mean we will ever be perfect. That everything will change, or lots of things will change instantly.

That is why love needs to come alongside many decisions to stick with each other as you grow.

(The following extract is taken from page 131-132 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Love in Action 

Compatibility matters, but on its own, it’s not enough. It needs to be twinned with a clear-headed decision to grow in love with each other.

Deciding to be together, not sliding into something

You might think it sounds a bit odd to put the words ‘decision’ and ‘love’ in the same sentence. But the truth is that loving someone takes commitment and energy. It doesn’t just happen.

The relationships we aspire to tend to be defined by people deciding to be together, not sliding into something they hope will work out OK.

Steph And Charles 

Steph was slightly bemused when Charles started showing an interest in her. They couldn’t have been more different. Right from the start of their relationship, they realised that this wasn’t going to be plain sailing, so they had to decide early on what they were going to consider essential in the compatibility stakes, and what they were going to let go of.

They found that their determination to understand and appreciate their differences deepened their love for each other.

Self-giving Love 

Love is defined by God himself as this kind of self-giving gift (1 John 4:8–12). His whole being is a complete picture of true love. It’s who he is and what he does. God acts powerfully out of this love: he gave his Son because he loved the world so much (John 3:16).

In many ways, God and human beings are pretty incompatible!

God’s love is always enough. It’s our love that often falls short

We are sinners, self-interested mortals, whereas he is the holy, immortal giver of life. But he created us in his image to be in perfect relationship with him. So because of his great love for us, he crossed the divide caused by our rejection of him and brought us home to him.

God’s love is always enough. It’s our love that often falls short, which is why Peter encourages believers to commit themselves to seeing one another clearly with God’s eyes of love:

‘You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart (1 Peter 1:22 NLT).

Love Grows In A Healthy Relationship 

If our relationship isn’t healthy, we shouldn’t hold on regardless

Our attitude to loving whoever we date should be defined by God’s love. None of us is a perfect ‘lover’! But God teaches us to love unconditionally – even when it might not feel good.

We need to handle this wisely because if our relationship isn’t healthy, we shouldn’t hold on regardless. Love isn’t blind!

But if we’re thinking of ending a relationship because we don’t feel as romantic as we once did, we need to check ourselves. Love isn’t a feeling. First and foremost it’s a decision. Imagine seeing the person you date as someone you could grow to love in this way.

It’s a love that is gentle, self-controlled, patient and faithful (1 Corinthians 13). It has to grow steadily over time, as you get to know each other. You don’t love-ambush someone on the first date!

And when choosing who to date, you’re still going to be looking for someone you are compatible with. That’s good sense. But you’re also going to be asking God to teach you how to grow in love.

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

Finding Vs Growing

Finding love is one thing. Growing in love is another. We need to decide to love and show patience and understanding every step of the way. It isn’t about making one decision at the start. We will all change because of the relationship, but trying to control it or demand it isn’t loving. (Read If A Relationship Doesn’t Change Me, It’s Not A Relationship)

Having said that, it must be stressed that both people in the relationship need to be gentle, patient, respectful, if only one person is then it isn’t healthy and it isn’t a relationship we should stay in. Staying in a toxic relationship is unwise, but trying to change every little thing about someone is unwise as well.

Grow together instead of demanding changes

Imagine If…

Imagine if we reminded ourselves that no one is perfect, and no relationship is either. So we allowed ourselves to grow together instead of demanding changes; we decided to love every day and we decided to put each other first. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love)

Does deciding to love in the little decisions get easier or harder over time, why? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 14/8/2017

Revealed: Why Some Break-Ups Actually Feel Good (After A While)

Break- Ups, Interesting Research

The words ‘break-up’ and ‘feeling good’ don’t often go together. Just thinking about saying them together seems crazy to lots of us. But some people are happy about their break-up. They feel liberated. So why is that? And what can those struggling with a break-up learn from them? Well, some research shows ‘self-expansion’ is key.

I recently came across a very interesting video about break-ups. Someone called Gary Lewandowski Jr., a professor of psychology, gave a short talk on break-ups based on his scientific research. (Watch it here)

He clearly has a lot of experience in the area of relationships and has done lots of experiments too. I found the main point in his short talk really surprising and intriguing. One that could really help those who have recently ended a romantic relationship.

Surprising Twist

He started off by saying things I wholeheartedly agree with. Emphasising that ‘our relationships build us, they define us, they sustain us’. And that ‘relationships are the source of all of your best memories and the source of all of your worst memories.’

Relationships are often sacrificed at the expense of career or pursuit of other things, so we were on the same page saying that they are often undervalued but so important.

He went on to make it clear that break-ups can cause a lot of harm though. They can cause increased loneliness, depression, drug taking, crime. People often feel a ‘loss of self’ because when a relationship ends, a part of themselves goes with it. This is never good.

Most people think a break-up isn’t as bad as they feared

However, his research showed that more often than not, most people think a break-up isn’t as bad as they feared, and actually felt more positive than negative about it. Surprising right? So why is that?

Lewandowski Jr. was arguing that it comes down to one main factor: Self-expansion. The question to ask is: Is the person you’re in a relationship with building you up or holding you back? Are they helping you grow or preventing you reaching your potential?

A Good Break-Up

When your relationship doesn’t help you become a better person, ending it does

Self-expansion allows people to thrive and rediscover the things that bring them fulfilment. If the relationship, for whatever reason, causes someone to feel trapped and unable to thrive and grow, then when they break up they are able to do the things they love doing and rediscover the things that bring them fulfilment and happiness, they will feel positive.

He summarised it like this: ‘when your relationship doesn’t help you become a better person, ending it does’.

Now lots could be said about this, but I always say a relationship should be mutually fulfilling, mutually enjoyable, and mutually beneficial. Yes, everyone will need to sacrifice something, yes, it takes hard work, but at its core, both people need to be selfless and other-person-centred for it to truly thrive. (Read If A Relationship Doesn’t Change Me, Then It’s Not A Relationship.)

Both people should be helping and supporting the other one to grow. This research suggests that if a relationship that isn’t characterised by these things ends, people feel better as a result. They go from feeling trapped, to liberated and see it as a good break up.

What Can We Learn   

But what about if we break-up after a relationship, whether it’s was a good or bad relationship, and feel rubbish. And don’t feel better off as a result?

Well, the best practical tip is to invest in this idea of self-expansion.

Do something that you love doing but didn’t do while you were in the relationship. So if you love dancing and your partner didn’t, go dancing again. If they stopped you investing time and money into a hobby, start now.

Rediscovery of self activities, doing the stuff you couldn’t do in the relationship, helps accelerate coping

In his video, Lewandowski Jr. discusses experiments which prove this theory and helped real people experiencing negative emotions cope a lot better with their situation after a break-up.

A rediscovery of self-activities, doing the stuff you couldn’t do in the relationship, helps accelerate coping. It reduces negative emotions like loneliness and increases positive feelings of purpose and self-acceptance.

Imagine If…

Break-ups affect people differently. Either way, they’re never fun or simple. The way we do it is important (Read 6 Ways to Break-up Well: Part 1 (No Ghosting or Breadcrumbing allowed!)). But for those of us who are struggling, a good piece of very practical advice is self-expansion.

Imagine if when we’re in that situation or have friends that are, instead of feeling helpless, we encouraged them to do things we/they love but haven’t done in a while. This will help to accelerate coping. It will most likely help turn a very negative situation around quicker than expected.

What other good bits of advice have you heard about break-ups? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 7/8/2017

Make Sure Your Relationship Follows These 3 Rules For Mission

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

If you’re married or been dating for a while, we can often find ourselves thinking about where God fits in. Specifically, how we can use our relationship to serve Him. Some couples are still working out what that looks like, but we need to avoid the idea that it needs to be something big and grand to matter.

I went to a friend’s wedding recently. I really enjoy weddings, seeing the vows being made, celebrating marriage, catching up with friends. I think it’s always great to be part of someone’s big day.

When the couple are Christians, they’ve often spent lots of time thinking about how they’re going to serve God together or do it in new ways once they’re married. It’s great to see them getting excited about it.

At this same wedding, I was talking to a friend, who was saying that he and his wife were about to take a year out from work to go travelling and serve with some Christian charities overseas.

It sounded very amazing and it’s great they have the time and space to do it. But what about couples who are still trying to figure out how to serve God together? And what about those who can’t take a year off and jet around the world? How do you serve God in the day to day?

Daily Decisions 

For those of us who are married, or been dating a while, this is an important question. Ephesians 5 makes it clear that marriage isn’t just for the benefit of the couple, but it’s used by God to demonstrate his love to the world. (Eph 5:21-33)

Thinking about how to serve God together may be something you’ve thought about before, but in the busyness of life, or stresses along the way, we may feel like we’ve shelved it. Or maybe our original plans didn’t materialise and a bit of focus and hope has dwindled.

We need to re-think what mission could look like for us

It’s in the mundane daily bits of life where it can get hard. To juggle your own calling, along with work, life admin, friends, family, and doing mission together.

We need to re-think what mission could look like for us, in a way that avoids making us feel scared that we haven’t got it all sorted right now. Often the answer isn’t in starting a big new thing but in the small daily decisions and actions.

3 Tips 

I think there are three things that can help us

  • Small Support Is Better Than No Support
  • Carve Out Time To Do Something As Equals
  • It’s Okay To Want To Do More

Small Support Is Better Than No Support

My wife runs a kids club in the local area. Now, I’m not good with kids. I don’t find it easy or natural engaging with them, and I wouldn’t say I see it as a calling.

But my wife is amazing at it. She is really creative, enthusiastic, positive, and makes it very fun.

So I pray for her, let her bounce ideas off me, we buy stuff for the kids club, and I go and help and do what I can to make it fun and safe for the kids.

This is how I can support her.

She is definitely taking the lead and I’m just helping, but this is the support I can give. I know friends in similar situations who just ignore what their partners are doing because they don’t naturally fit in. (Read 2 Questions Every Married Couple Should Ask).

Maybe, instead of worrying about what new thing you can do together, start to think about how you could start supporting each other more. Praying for good conversations at work? Asking more about their role at church? Helping out every now and then? Any support is better than no support. Why not join them on their next adventure?

Carve Out Time To Do Something As Equals 

Now, finding time to do something as a couple can be really hard. I totally get that it is often easier said than done. So finding the time and committing to something has a better chance when you are on the same page.

Now I know this advice sounds like it’s contradicting the first tip, but that isn’t the case.

God has called us to do things as individuals. And that’s fine. We should celebrate and support each other in that. But it is important to commit to doing things together too. So that you can both get excited about something and seek God together.

Just do something where you are then you are both learning and getting excited together.

It doesn’t need to be big or directly linked to your calling, just do something where you can both fit in and join in with what God is doing. Like serving in a soup kitchen. Or both joining the welcome team, or helping at alpha.

It doesn’t need to be big, or a new ministry, or unique. Just do something where you are then you are both learning and getting excited together. When you are both starting from a fairly equal position you’re more likely to commit to it and make time for it. (Read Who asks ‘Have You Spent Time With The Poor?’)

It’s Okay To Want To Do More

Sometimes we can feel guilty and think we should be doing more, want to support each other more, want to be giving more to God. We will always be striving to do more.

That’s what mission does to you. It makes you want to do more and more, help more people, reach more people. Whether we’re doing next to nothing or lots of it already.

The trick is to just do something

We can easily look at what we’re not doing and be demotivated. The trick is to just do something, support each other more and try to do something together, even if it’s small. Then build on that little by little.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered in the busyness and stress of life: Small Support is Better Than No Support, Carve Out Time To Do Something As Equals, It’s Okay To Want To Do More.

Every small decision or act, to support what God is doing both individually and as a couple, is valued and important to him, no matter how small.

Which one of these tips could you start to follow today, and how? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 2/8/2017