Monthly Archives

October 2017

New Research Suggests Friends Can Make Or Break Our Relationship

Interesting Research, Relationship Difficulties

Lots of research has been done around how the opinions of a person’s friends and family can help or hinder their relationship. But now attention has been given to how the couple’s perspective of each other’s friends impacts their romantic relationship. There are important lessons to be learned, especially if some friendships are causing tension in our relationship. 

I have said it before in these posts and I will say it again, I love listening to podcasts. I think it’s a great way to pass the time and a good way to drift off to sleep at night.

One that I listen to from time to time is called ‘Relationship Matters’. They explore lots of different issues to do with relationships of all kinds. But episode 65 caught my eye recently. It’s called ‘I Love You, Not Your Friends’.

I Love You, Not Your Friends

You can listen to the full podcast here. In summary, it discusses new research in the area of couple’s relationships. Specifically, how the perception of each other friends impacts their relationship.

They interviewed and followed 355 married couples over 16 years, and some of their findings were surprising.

That couple was twice as likely to divorce

Shocking Findings 

The main finding that stood out was that after two years of marriage, if the husband thought his wife’s friends interfered in the relationship, that couple were twice as likely to divorce. Twice as likely!

The other equally and shocking finding was that, if the wife thought her husband’s friends interfered in their relationship, it didn’t increase the chance of divorce at all.

The researchers put this down to a few reasons, some of which were majorly playing to stereotypes, but in their words, they thought that:

  • Wives have stronger emotional attachments to their friends, so are less likely to ‘give them up’ if the husband feels threatened. Which makes the husband feel more hurt and disconnected.
  • Wives are more likely to arrange social activities between couples, which means the husband sees her friends more and therefore makes him more aware of any perceived interference.
  • Husbands tend to rely more on their wives for friendship and support, whereas wives have more friends outside of the marriage. This means any ‘interference’ is more of a threat to the husband.

It’s clear that the success of a relationship is majorly affected by how friendships are perceived

These reasonings are just theories, and the researchers cannot be 100% sure why the findings are what they are. However, it’s clear that the success of a relationship, especially a married relationship, is majorly affected by how friendships are perceived.


I found this study interesting, even if it raised a lot more questions than answers. But I do come across people who say things like, ‘I’m not getting on with my wife’s friends’, or ‘My boyfriend’s best mate is a pain’, or ‘They always talk about our problems with other people. I don’t like it’.

Men and women, married couples and people who are dating, say things like this. It can be a real problem when people you care about don’t get on. The research may have focused on the husband’s view, but this can be a problem for anyone.

This research should serve as a warning that in our marriages, and romantic relationships like dating, these issues and feelings can grow into major problems.

If these friendships are perceived as problematic then there is an issue

So What Can We Learn?

I always say that being married, or having a girlfriend or boyfriend, is not enough to fulfil us. No matter what our relationship status is, we need to have wider friendships and hobbies and interests. No one person can answer all of our needs. (Read Have You Fallen Into the ‘Relationship Status’ Trap?)

However, if these friendships are perceived as problematic and ‘interfere’ with the relationship, then there is an issue that needs addressing. Between what I think and what was suggested on the podcast, the advice would be to:

  • Try to focus on the positives. If you have a problem with your partner’s friend, try to appreciate the fact they are also generous, help out, etc. Don’t just focus on the negatives.
  • Don’t give ultimatums. Don’t say it’s them or me. But try to explain why you have a problem. If it’s your friend, listen and acknowledge why it is upsetting for your partner.
  • Come up with fair boundaries. For example, it’s not okay to talk about this area of your relationships with friends because it should be private. Compromise and agree on rules. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed)

Imagine If…

People do not always get on. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes we need to negotiate how to relate to two people we really care about who don’t get on.

Imagine if we didn’t just ignore problems or ignore people’s feelings, but really tried to work through solutions. Our partner’s perception of our friends massively affects the strength of our relationship, so it is something we cannot just ignore.

Have you been in this situation, have any advice? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 30/10/2017

Top Dating Tip For When Your Relationship Become Official. Pt 2

Early Dating

Here is the second instalment of this two-part article. We continue to look at how to enjoy the start of a new relationship while keeping a healthy perspective. This will help us to make sure it doesn’t become toxic, and that we build the strong foundations needed to make it last. 

Part one of this post looked at Joel’s story, who ignored all of his wider friendships and interests and church activities when he started a new relationship.

Relationships that revolve around this intensity of contact end up losing out.

New relationships are meant to be enjoyed, but we cannot be fooled into thinking romance is all we need, or that by obsessing over the relationship, it will just last forever. When people obsess over each other and forget about wider friendships, activities and interests, they cause themselves problems.

(The following extract is taken from page 141-143 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)


Relationships that revolve around this intensity of contact end up losing out.

Spending too much time alone together creates the perfect breeding ground for insecurities to surface. We all feel a bit anxious in new relationships, because we don’t want to mess things up. But rather than helping us deal properly with these feelings, an intense relationship that doesn’t involve the input of friends becomes inward-looking.

Toxic Relationships

Taken to extremes, people in such relationships can mask their fears of losing the other person by becoming controlling and possessive. And possessive relationships are unhealthy.

If you find yourself in a relationship where you are constantly fighting, or finding ways to make each other jealous, you need to seriously consider whether this is a relationship you should be in.

If you are in a relationship where someone is using their words, fists or emotions to control you, or to stop you leaving them, seek out a good friend you can trust to help you find the courage to end the relationship.

We’re not fixers. Only God can truly heal people’s deep pain and hurt

‘Hurt people hurt people,’ says Rick Warren. Even if our partner is acting possessively because they’ve been hurt in a previous relationship, we need to remember that we’re not fixers. Only God can truly heal people’s deep pain and hurt.

A girl/ boyfriend who won’t get help to change their behaviour will never change just because we stay with them.

I’m Fine Though, Right? 

You may read this and think, ‘Hang on a minute! I spend a lot of time with my girl/boyfriend and we don’t act like this! I would never hit them or make them jealous.’ Good! But the problem is that it’s still too easy to put them in the place that’s intended for God.

By only spending time with each other, we are still creating an atmosphere where our confidence, meaning and purpose come from the person we date, instead of from God. It’s an atmosphere that can drain our time, energy and resources, leaving us nothing for anyone else.

The sad reality for many Christian relationships we come across is that they become so narrow that couples lose sight of who they are and cease to live out the mission to which God has called them.

If you’ve waited a long time for a relationship, then it’s understandable that you will want to dedicate every waking moment to this new person. But it isn’t healthy and it won’t fully satisfy. (Read Real Stories From People Who ‘Fell Off Pedestals’.)

Top Tip

There’s a profound fulfilment to be found in sustained intimacy with someone. Nothing builds our confidence like knowing that there is someone who always has your back. But making one person the source of all your fulfilment and security is very bad news.

Just because we are in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are closed to us

‘Dating stronger’ [means] we need a full life, with friends, hobbies, and interests, because no single relationship can fulfil us. We can easily forget this when we fall head over heels for someone. Keeping your other friendships and interests alive will enrich the intimacy you are building with your boy/ girlfriend.

Just because we are in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are closed to us. Remaining open to God and others is the best way to keep a relationship grounded, godly and growing. Whether or not we ever get married, God asks us to stay connected to the wider world, even when we fall in love.

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if when we started a new relationship, or as we work out how we navigate our new relationship, we remembered that romance is fun, enjoyable, amazing, but not enough on its own.

Good healthy relationships realise that wider interests, a focus on God, maintaining friendships, will make their romantic relationship even stronger. (Read Are You Making The Relationship Mistake That Causes Less Happiness?)

What advice would you give a new couple? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 23/10/2017

Top Dating Tip For When Your Relationship Become Official. Pt 1

Early Dating

So you found someone, you are an official couple, you’re happy and getting caught up in all the enjoyment and new experiences. And rightfully so. But it’s important to remember at this moment to not let it draw you away from wider friendships and interests and fulfilments, otherwise, it may be short-lived. 

Dating someone and falling in love is meant to be fun, falling in love is meant to be exciting and give you a rush. It’s meant to be great.

But it’s at this moment, when we feel like we want to do nothing else apart from spending all our time together, that we need to remember this could make the relationship weaker.

I want you to enjoy it, but I also want you to lay the best foundations possible so it can last and grow stronger and stronger. Part 1 of this article will start to explore what this means, and tell you about Joel’s story.

(The following extract is taken from page 141-143 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Good Starts

So let’s think about what happens after you’ve started dating. Imagine that you’ve found someone you’re really attracted to and it appears that they’re really into you too. Yay!

Things are really lining up. You may have been on a few dates, it’s obvious you both like each other, and you have had the chat, laying out what this new relationship is.

So what happens now?

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? You’re together: boyfriend and girlfriend. . . but what does this mean?

It’s amazing how many people think that finding someone is the only bit that requires work! It would be great if, after we had started going out with someone, the relationship just stayed great. Unfortunately, the hard work continues.

It would be a shame if we’d learned to date [well] but then allowed old habits to creep back in

Some of you who are already in relationships are beginning to realise this. If you want to go the distance with a good relationship, there are some things you need to pay attention to. It would be a shame if we’d learned to date [well] but then allowed old habits to creep back in again once we found that special someone.

It’s time to lay some of those foundations that will make dating relationships purposeful, help you keep a healthy perspective on romance and protect you.

Avoiding Fragility  

One of the best things about a new relationship is that everything is new. You’re finding out so much about each other and establishing yourselves as a couple. But with newness comes fragility.

Your feelings about each other might be powerful and intense, but your relationship is not very strong yet; it wouldn’t take much for things to come undone.

As strange as it might sound, nothing stunts a relationship’s good growth in the early days quite as effectively as spending too much time together.

Too much time together? But isn’t now the perfect time to be in each other’s pockets? It’s time to tell you about Joel.

Joel’s Story

Our friend’s brother, Joel, is a great lad: talented, funny, loyal, committed to his friends and passionate about growing in discipleship. Heavily involved in his church, leading worship, part of the evangelism team and a volunteer leader of the men’s ministry. Sure, he was talented, but more than that, he had rich friendships with people that blessed him.

Then he got a girlfriend.

He had replaced everything that mattered to him with his obsession for one person

All of a sudden, if he was not asleep, he was with her. He no longer had time to meet up with his friends. His activity in church reduced to almost nothing. A text from him was a rare event!

She became everything to him. Over a matter of a few months, his balanced lifestyle, which had been full of different interests, hobbies, and social groups, had evaporated. He had replaced everything that mattered to him with his obsession for one person. (Read I Can’t Come, I’m With My Girlfriend, Again!)

Some of you might be reading this thinking, ‘What’s the big deal? He’s found someone he loves –  give them some space.’ The problem was that they forgot to give each other any space.

This didn’t just affect them, but also hurt their friends. It’s so easy for this to become the norm.

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

Imagine If…

As we can see, Joel was worse off because of the decisions he made. He actually missed out, and imagine how he would feel if his relationship ended? (Read How To Tell If You Have An Unhealthy Obsession)

Read Part 2 here, as it continues to explore how to build strong relationships and look at how to stop creating a potentially toxic and damaging relationship too. But imagine if we could build relationships that last, where they are part of rich fulfilling lives filled with friends and social activities that in turn enrich our relationship?

We need to think about how we can do this so that we give our relationships the best possible chance.

What do you think of Joel’s story? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 16/10/2017

Real Stories From People Who ‘Fell Off Pedestals’

Real Life Stories

Anyone can get carried away when they like someone. They can start to think that the person they like is ‘perfect’, and place them on a pedestal. These real stories remind us why this trap can lead to dating disappointment, and why putting people on pedestals can only lead to us falling off them. 

(The following extract is taken from page 123-125 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Strange as it might sound, falling for someone can be a big let-down.

Have you ever seen someone who has stopped you dead in your tracks and found yourself fantasizing about what they’re like? Unsurprisingly, in your head everything is perfect. But equally unsurprisingly, when you get to know them, they can’t measure up to this perfection.

Ben’s Story

Ben fell for a gorgeous girl he’d never spoken to, but from what he could see, she was the funniest, prettiest and cleverest woman he had ever (nearly) met. He dreamed about meeting her and how she would laugh at his jokes, share his interests and be an amazing kisser. Then he got to know her. When he discovered that she was a regular girl with her own sense of humour and interests, he ended it.

Charley’s Story

Charley fell for a gorgeous worship leader. She planned their wedding day and fantasized about their ministry together and the way he would sing lullabies to their children every night. One day, after the service, she plucked up enough courage to go and introduce herself.

She discovered he was a regular guy who was struggling in his faith

They started dating. But when she discovered he was a regular guy who was struggling in his faith as much as she was, she ended it.

Unchecked fantasies, or an inability to see a relationship clearly, can have painful consequences. These stories are extreme (and, sadly, true), but we’re all in danger of doing this sort of thing from time to time.


Pedestals are only good for falling off

We see it happening in the Christian world, where our desire to find the right person plus our strong attraction to someone (especially with the intensity of everyone at church predicting marriage!) means we can end up putting them on a pedestal. And who can blame us? It’s a powerful mix!

But pedestals are only good for falling off, so when ‘God’s perfect partner’ lets us down, we can feel confused at best and devastated at worst.

We need to come back down to earth. It’s time to stop chasing that unattainable guy or girl who will never live up to our expectations (and doesn’t exist!). How do we do that? What does God want us to look for? Let’s turn that question on its head. What does someone looking for a relationship hope to find in us? What would God want them to find?

HE Makes Us Worthy Of Love

Developing clear thinking around dating is a two-way process: we need to see ourselves for who we truly are, as well as understand who we should date (or avoid!). None of us is perfect. The great news is that happiness in relationships isn’t dependent on people being perfect!

Dating someone who likes us when we are being truly ourselves, and who we like when they are being truly themselves, is not only helpful, but godly. God doesn’t ignore the reality of our flaws, but, in loving us as we are, he makes us worthy of love.

If God sees the real us and still loves us and accepts us as we are, let’s not fall into the trap of being someone else when we’re in a relationship. Being real requires vulnerability, which can feel scary. So it matters that you learn to be real with someone who is willing to do the same.

Holly And Luke 

Holly and Luke fell passionately in love with each other, but as they had both just come out of intense relationships and were about to head off to different universities, they wondered if this was God’s way of asking them not to date.

On the surface they were happy with that, except they couldn’t stop thinking about each other! So they decided to limit the amount of time they spent together, but instead of lessening their feelings, it intensified them.

Holly had put Luke on a pedestal, and regularly told friends that she would never find a man as perfect as him. Luke couldn’t go for a moment without thinking about Holly. He was eaten up with jealousy at the thought of her having a good time, just as much as he was being eaten up with longing for her.

Eventually, some good friends suggested that maybe they should stop obsessing about each other and go out on a few dates, to see if they were as perfect for each other as they hoped. So they did.

When we like someone, we will naturally start to build a picture in our mind of what they’re like

To begin with, it was difficult. Luke wasn’t as tuned into Holly’s emotional world as she had thought he would be. And Holly had views on things that Luke found surprising. In their own way, they both felt disappointed. But when they got real and chose to accept each other for who they truly were, they began to build a good relationship. (Read How ‘Decisions’ Along With ‘Love’ Can Create Healthy Relationships.)

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

Imagine If…

When we like someone, we will naturally start to build a picture in our mind of what they’re like and what the potential relationship will look like. The trick is to not stay in that fantasy for too long.

Imagine if we started to talk to them, asked them out as soon as possible. That way we can get to know the real them and they get to know the real us before we put them on a pedestal and get hurt when we fall off it. (Read 5 Rules To Follow When Talking To Someone You Like)

Do you think some churches put pressure on us to find the ‘perfect’ person? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 9/10/2017

How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving

Friendships, Interesting Research

Being present sounds like the easiest thing. But just sitting there instead of checking our phones, getting passed the initial awkwardness to begin a conversation, and carving out time from our busy to do list, is hard. But all our relationships, romantic or otherwise, can only thrive if we teach ourselves to be present in the moment. 

I love a to-do list. Having a plan and knowing what needs to be done next is great for me. This trait is good in many ways. For example, it helps me to focus and get things done. However, like all personality traits, there are also ‘side effects’.

This can cause me to focus too much on the next thing. I say to myself ‘right, after I have done this I need to do that, then go here and…’. So I end up not being present in the moment, and I focus on the next ‘task’ rather than the person in front of me.

Even people who would say they are spontaneous and don’t like to-do lists, can forget to make time for friends, or meet up with specific people, and invest in their relationships because there is no structure. We can all focus on other things in the busyness of life, and unintentionally not invest in our relationships and friendships.

So what can we do? Try to cut things out? Make more time? Maybe, but this is often hard to do and we end up feeling just as busy and guilty about not meeting up with people.

Personal Challenge 

This really hit me a while ago when I was listening to a random podcast.

Essentially, a mum who was starting her own business said she felt guilty when she was at work because she felt she should be spending more time with her kids. And when she was with her kids she felt guilty because she should be spending time getting stuff done at work.

Well why don’t you learn to focus on the moment and be present?

Someone in the podcast said to her: Well why don’t you learn to focus on the moment and be present? Instead of worrying and longing to be somewhere else, focus on the people you are with. Invest in what’s going on there and then.

I thought this was a challenge for me too. Instead of worrying too much about the next thing, or the things I’m not doing, I decided I had to learn to focus on the people I was with.

Relationship Are The Priority 

Whilst learning to be more present with friends, trying to stop my mind from wondering to tasks I need to complete next, I came across a very interesting article.

An 80-year long study from the University of Harvard found, to the researchers’ surprise, that strong meaningful relationships prolong life, increase life satisfaction, and improve mental and physical health.

You can read the article in full here, but it emphasises the importance of relationships. For example, it says:

‘Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.’

‘The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health…Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too… The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80’.

It’s fascinating to see that scientific research also stresses how important relationships are

Now, I truly believe my faith and God’s word stresses the importance of relationships, and we find true fulfilment and happiness by investing in our relationship with Him and others. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality.) It’s fascinating to see that modern scientific research also stresses how important relationships are. The article also said:

‘Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier,…and the loners often died earlier. “Loneliness kills… It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”’

Being In The Moment 

It confirmed to me again that trying to exercise, develop skills for my job, doing life admin, are all important and necessary, but I can’t let it drown out the effort I put into my relationships.

There is something in us which craves intimacy and closeness, and it can only be filled by relationships

Forcing myself to talk and really listen, and not think of the next task that needs to be done. Resisting the urge to pick up my phone and look through social media when I am with people. Making time to pick up the phone or send a text so I can catch-up with an old friend. When I’m talking to someone I really need to look, listen, and engage with them.

There is something in us which craves intimacy and closeness, and it can only be filled by relationships, and I don’t just mean romantic ones, but by having close friendships. We need to learn to invest and be in the moment and avoid the ever tempting distractions.

Imagine If…

We can often assume our relationships will just be strong no matter what. But they only become strong when we invest, make time for the little conversations and the deep ones, and make time for each other.

Imagine if we learnt to be more present and to prioritise relationships alongside all the other things in our lives, like our career, improving our physical health, etc. We may not only find more joy in our lives and support during the bad times, but be glad that we can be there and be a blessing for those people who are close to us. (Read I Wouldn’t Have Survived Without My Church Family.)

What is the one thing you can do today to invest in a friendship? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 2/10/2017