Monthly Archives

January 2018

Why The Bible Preaches Faithfulness, Despite Stories of Polygamy

What The Bible Says

I want Naked Truth Relationships to be a place where people, with a faith or no faith, can get helpful and practical advice for relationships. But it’s unashamedly soaked in Christian teaching. The problem is, some Bible stories contain very bad examples of romantic relationships. We need to tackle these stories head-on,  but place them in the context of God’s wider message as well. 

I often talk about the need for faithfulness and commitment in romantic relationships, in both dating and marriage. In a culture that often downplays the value of commitment, I think it’s fundamental for any romantic relationship to thrive. (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?)

However, when I draw on the wisdom found in the Bible, sometimes people point out the fact that some men had multiple wives. Some even think God commanded this practice! So how can we use the Bible and say it shows us God’s best?

There are stories in the Bible which serve as deterrents

Wider Context 

Well, I think there are stories in the Bible which serve as deterrents rather than good examples. Just because it’s in there it doesn’t mean it’s what God wanted. And in the context of the wider message, we can often see what God really does want.

(The following extract is taken from page 80-82 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Whenever we talk about biblical faithfulness and two becoming one, there is a chance that some bright spark might respond with: ‘Hang on, there are plenty of men with multiple wives in the Old Testament. Were they being unfaithful?’ Well, let’s take a brief look at this.

Bad Examples

While there are stories where much loved biblical characters have more than one wife at a time (like Jacob in Genesis 29), we need to understand that this wasn’t part of God’s original design of ‘one-flesh’ union in marriage.

God never tells anyone to marry more than one wife. As you would expect, it always caused trouble and arguments: Sarah drove Hagar away (Genesis 16:4–6; 21:9–11), and sister-wives Rachel and Leah were always at each other’s throats (Genesis 29:31 – 30:24).

The Bible even says that King Solomon walked away from God because he had multiple wives:

God had clearly warned Israel, ‘You must not marry them . . . ’ Solomon fell in love with them anyway, refusing to give them up. He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines– a thousand women in all! And they did seduce him away from God. As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods and he became unfaithful – he didn’t stay true to his God as his father David had done. (1 Kings 11:1–5 The Message)

Reminding us that it opposes God’s intentions for marriage.

The Old Testament doesn’t reject polygamy outright: instead, it always paints it in a negative light, reminding us that it opposes God’s intentions for marriage.

Natural Conclusion

These subtle teachings gathered momentum over time, which is why the New Testament authors came to the natural conclusion that church leaders should have one wife:

‘The overseer [leader] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife . . . ’ (1 Timothy 3:2 NIV).

But this wasn’t just for leaders; everyone had to pay attention:

‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy’ (Ephesians 5:25–26 NIV).

Love your wife, and not other women. Wives deserve love and respect. As obvious as this may sound to us today, it was radical teaching for the time.

God understands the damage that is brought about by unfaithfulness, which is why the Bible speaks so clearly about being committed to one person. (Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:14).

Our Own Experience 

But people still hurt one another. Even Christians can hurt one another. Some of us might have already experienced the pain of someone cheating on us, or of being in a family devastated by unfaithfulness. God is a loving Father, who can and does restore even the most broken situations.

As our good Father, he longs for us to lay different foundations for our future relationships.

So how do we start building some fidelity muscles? Think about what attitudes may lie dormant in you that, if unchecked, could grow into unfaithfulness.

Jerry and ‘The Wrong Girl’

Jerry had a hunch that there was always someone better around the corner. He was the only single guy in a church of lots of single women. He never meant to get so emotionally entangled with Esther while he was dating Emma.

He always started a new relationship with an embarrassing overlap

But he couldn’t shake off the idea that maybe he was with the wrong girl. The problem was, he had been with the ‘wrong’ girl a few times before, and he always started a new relationship with an embarrassing overlap from the previous one.

Focus Brings Freedom

Focus brings freedom. If we choose to make faithfulness a focus in our lives, we will be free to be in healthy relationships, or see more clearly the unhealthy ones we should walk away from.

Let’s ask ourselves: does this action or attitude demonstrate faithfulness to this person, or selfishness? What films, music or entertainment am I immersed in that undermine my desire to be faithful? How am I practicing faithfulness in my friendships and my family? How have I handled situations where I was the cheater? God is faithful in all his relationships, so by listening to his voice above the other noises, we can start not only to value faithfulness but to live out his high hopes for us here and now.

God is leading his people towards faithfulness, stability, and security in relationships.

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if we trusted that our God, who is love, and the ultimate designer, wants and knows how to bless our romantic relationships. There are some stories that serve as bad examples, but God is leading his people towards faithfulness, stability, and security in relationships.

So let’s ask ourselves: does my action or attitude demonstrate faithfulness? (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks.)

What else can we do to turn down the volume on unhelpful messages in our culture? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 29/1/2018

What No One Tells You About Saying Sorry

Marriage, Relationship Difficulties

In a relationship, when you’re with the person you love the most, you think it would be easy to say sorry. But often it isn’t. Often it’s harder than it should be, and we need to think about why that is. If we don’t, we may regret not saying it. 

I must admit, I’m ‘that person’ who gets really annoyed when people are rude or have a lack of manners. When people don’t say please, or thank you, or apologise. I just think it really isn’t that hard to do, and it just shows respect to everyone.

I’m quite big on saying sorry.

But so often, it can be so hard saying sorry to the people you love most

I think, if we’ve done something wrong, just apologise. I come across people who say they never apologise because it shows weakness. I disagree. Admitting you’re not perfect, taking responsibility, sometimes in awkward and embarrassing situations, shows strength of character.

But so often, it can be so hard saying sorry to the people you love most.

Just Say Sorry 

At a work thing I went to, we were doing one of these ‘games’ where we answer questions to get to know our work colleagues.

One of the standard questions came up, which went something like ‘what would you say to your younger self if you could talk to them?’

One of my colleagues started to say a few different things, but he said above all he wished he could say to his younger, newly married self: ‘Just say sorry to her when you mess up. I don’t know why it seems so hard sometimes, but just say it sooner’.

I wanted to reflect on a few reason why it can feel hard sometimes

I know that sometimes I struggle to say it to my wife. When I feel aggrieved, or when I’m definitely in the right, or we’re both feeling hurt.

It can be just so hard.

I know others who have said similar things to me recently about their dating relationships or marriages. So I wanted to reflect on a few reasons why it can feel hard sometimes, and how we can maybe get over it.

It’s important because all relationships involve imperfect people. We make mistakes, and saying sorry is a big factor in making sure the mistakes don’t cause irreversible damage.

What’s Stopping Us

Some reasons why saying sorry is hard can be because:

  • We Are Feeling Hurt
  • Shows Weakness
  • Feeling Aggrieved

We Are Feeling Hurt

Let’s be honest, often, especially with the more important issues, there is blame to share. We may be mostly to blame, but not completely, or vice versa. This can lead us to think, ‘I deserve an apology too’.

We can quickly be left thinking that ‘I’ll apologise once they do’.

The thing is, saying sorry isn’t about getting something we’re owed, it’s about saying sorry because we hurt someone we care about, and/or done something we shouldn’t have. We may be hurt too, and even entitled to an apology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say sorry.

It can be really hard, but just saying sorry, taking the first step, can really help repair whatever damage has been done.

Shows Weakness  

Some people I come across say they don’t apologise because it shows weakness. Well, in a relationship, we need to be vulnerable.

A good relationship is as much about dealing with the lows as it is about riding the highs. There are low points, weaknesses are exposed and we can do some damage. We need to be able to feel like we can support each other through those times.

Without vulnerability, we can’t build a relationship

This involves being willing to say sorry. Being willing to say we trust each other when we are vulnerable and make mistakes because we know they will stick around anyway. Without vulnerability, we can’t build a relationship. (Read Intimacy Without Vulnerability’, Why It Won’t Work.)

Feeling Aggrieved

If you’re anything like me, you’re good at arguing your corner. You can feel like the way you see a situation is the fairest, and most logical (even when it probably isn’t!). It’s therefore easy to feel aggrieved if you think someone goes against it.

We think ‘by justice alone I shouldn’t need to apologise. It’s the principle of it!’

The thing I’ve learned, the hard way, is that it can come down to perception. We all have different tolerance levels, boundaries, the context affects things, and so on. So, for example, my idea of a joke, may not be funny to my wife for whatever reason (hard to believe I know.)

They can see things differently

We may feel we’ve done nothing wrong, why should we need to say sorry? Well, it’s because of how it was perceived. Sorry is sometimes about being big enough to realise that they can see things differently and it upset them.

Argue your corner if you want, but we should also acknowledge their hurt. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed)

Imagine If…

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all will deserve an apology at some point in life and we will all need to give many too.

Imagine if, in our romantic/close relationship, the place where it can be hardest to do, we made it a priority to say sorry early. And remember, it’s not about making sure we get one before we say it. Or avoiding it because it shows vulnerability. Or forgetting that perception is just as important as what happened.

Remember the last time someone said sorry to you, and how it made you feel, and how it affirmed you and helped you move on. (Read After Your Arguments, You Don’t Walk Out.)

Why is it sometimes so hard to just say sorry to those we care about most? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 22/1/2018


How Successful Relationships Avoid Letting Anger Win

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Everyone gets angry. Sometimes it’s over little things, sometimes it’s over big things. And we can direct these feelings at our friends, our girlfriends, our husbands, in other words, the people we care about. But we can’t let this feeling take control and win, otherwise it’s our relationships that will lose. 

Like most people, I really get into binge-watching TV series online. Through Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or whatever. I enjoy watching them and convincing myself that when it’s too late already, I will only watch one more. Which is what I said two episodes ago.

I was watching one recently, and like all of these binge-worthy series, it had some sort of romantic storyline. The main character nearly gets together with someone, then they don’t, then they do but there’s a break-up, but by series three they’re official. Standard formula.

But as they started to build their relationship, there was a pattern that was happening again and again. One of them would find out a secret or something the other one did, they would sulk for a bit, wouldn’t talk about it, then they would suddenly snap and have a big argument.

It happened again, and again, and again.

Don’t Let Things Slide 

Usually, in a Christian post like this, you may be expecting me to say ‘We just need to forgive and move on’. But I see dating couples, and a lot of married couples, falling into this trap. Getting angry, letting things build up, then fireworks happen. Again and again.

It will build up into resentment

I remember a friend telling me soon after I got married, ‘Don’t let anything slide. If something is bothering you, talk about it, otherwise it will build up into resentment.’

At the time I thought he was mad because there some things you do need to just let go, but ultimately, he was right. Talking about our problems, no matter how small, and listening to each other, means things don’t build up and come out negatively.

I Still Fall Into This Trap  

I must confess, I still end up forgetting my own advice sometimes. Not with my wife, but with friends. Something happens which upsets me, I dwell on it or think I can let it slide, and it becomes a big deal.

It’s something I’m trying to work on.

I’m trying to change because it can mean my relationship with them is affected negatively. And just by talking and getting it out of the way, we can then move on.   

So here are things I would like to suggest, to help us avoid letting anger win.

Stating The Obvious 

I will start by saying something which I hope is obvious, but nevertheless worth saying. We can never let our anger take us to a place where we hit out or act violently.

If the anger that builds up in us is leading to this, we need to think about seeking professional help. Looking for a local counselling service online is a good place to start. And, we cannot allow ourselves to be on the receiving end of this type of anger, for any reason.

It Does Matter

Like I said before, sometimes you do need to let things slide. But often we can tell ourselves it doesn’t matter when actually we know it does.

Make a decision to talk to the right person.

If something happens which is really upsetting you, keeps happening or is a big deal, we need to decide to talk about it. We can’t just go to someone else and complain and gossip, but we need to talk to the person, our friend, or partner or whoever, to sort out the problem.

Make a decision to talk to the right person.

Annoyance Over Anger 

Having said that, I realise talking about it straight away may ultimately do more harm than good. Sometimes waiting for 24 hours is best.

There are loads of times that I’ve instantly responded to an email or comment, and spoken from a place of anger and then the situation has just got worse.

We need to try and address it in the right way

Sometimes, giving it time so you speak from a place of annoyance rather than anger, and a place where you’re wanting to resolve the issue rather than justify why you are totally right, will let you avoid speaking from a place where the instant anger can all blow up.

Stick to the Point 

I’ve written about arguing before.  I always say we need to stick to the issue at hand, and not go on big tangents blaming them for other things or bringing up past arguments. (Read How To Have A Good Argument)

But I would emphasise that again here. Anger can make us want to upset people because we think it will make us better. But we can’t throw lots of things at them to just try and hurt them. Sticking to what has made us angry or upset us, rather than bringing up lots of things, is important.

Imagine If…

There’s lots that could be said. This post is really about not letting anger grow and do damage. I’ve just shared some advice and observations from my experience because I know lots of relationships, romantic and otherwise, that have been damaged because of anger.

Imagine if we realised that sometimes, we just need to talk about it. We need to talk to the right person, maybe leave some time so we go in wanting to resolve the issue, and stick to the point.

It won’t always be easy, sometimes the conversation will be awkward, but we can’t let anger win. (Read After Your Arguments, You Don’t Walk Out)

What other constructive bits of advice would you give? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 15/1/2018

Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?

Finding A Date, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

The notion of ‘compatibility’ is something that is talked about lots when it comes to dating. It’s so important, but it’s about so much more than finding an instant spark, or someone we find attractive. We need to remember it’s about finding a deep connection (which may take time), it’s about more than just looks, and it’s even about things we don’t like! 

(The following extract is taken from page 128-129 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

It’s time to work out what we’re actually looking for in the person we date. If we’re already dating someone, the question becomes: how do we know it’s a healthy relationship? The word lots of people use to describe this is ‘compatibility’.

Being compatible isn’t about being the same

Being compatible isn’t about being the same, and it isn’t just about sexual chemistry either. Compatibility in a relationship means being able to understand each other on a deeper level.

Finding A Real Connection 

There are some people with whom we have an immediate rapport, and there are others we need to work with to discover a deeper connection.

True compatibility isn’t always immediate, so it’s important to enter any relationship knowing that there could be much more beneath the surface attractions that drew you together.

As Christians, we have an added dimension to compatibility in the whole area of spirituality. Dating someone who isn’t choosing God’s mission for their lives can put a huge strain on a relationship, even if you click on other levels.

It’s worth thinking carefully before starting a relationship with anyone who is unwilling to explore your faith in Jesus with you. Will this relationship build towards selflessness, faithfulness, permanence and a deepening relationship with God? (Read Make Sure Your Relationship Follows These 3 Rules For Mission.)

What Do You Look For? 

We asked a few friends what they look for in someone they date:

I want to date someone who loves Jesus a lot! Not in a cheesy way, but in a way that leads them on an adventure in their following of Jesus. In a way that leads them to be crazy and irresponsibly generous, in a way that takes them to dangerous places to love those the world would say are unworthy of loving, in a way that causes them to lend their voice to those that the world won’t listen to, and in a way that messes up any hope of mediocre living.

My friends and I used to battle it out for who could snap up the ‘hotter’ girl. For many years that was all I looked at: a girl’s body. I completely missed out on looking at her personality or whether she had a good heart. What I look for now when dating is someone with a great character, somebody who can make me laugh, enjoys the weird things I love and who has an incredible heart.

I look for absolute honesty at all times. This is the way someone will be the closest person to my heart.

The Bad Stuff Matters 

What about the annoying habits in someone else you feel able to put up with?

Another misconception about compatibility is that it’s only about the good stuff. But what about the annoying habits in someone else you feel able to put up with?

Given that every human being has faults and [this] is endemic to the human condition, deciding whom you are going to marry is just as much about deciding which faults you are willing to live with for the rest of your life.
(Rebbetzin Heller, Jewish writer)

Will you be gracious towards them when they’re lazy because they’re still learning how to be selfless? Will you forgive them for not automatically sensing your mood, because once they do know how you feel they’re a great listener? Will you put up with them getting over-emotional about small things because you love their passion for life?

We Can Still Draw The Line 

But it’s OK to have a list of things that you don’t feel able to put up with. For Rachel, it was a nonexistent sense of humour!

[She] once dated a great guy [she] clicked with, but when it came to humour [they] were on different pages. In the end, something as silly as him not getting a joke was the trigger for [her] realising that knowing [herself] and what [she] was looking for were vital.

It helped make clear decisions about something as significant as who to date. (Read Real Stories From People Who ‘Fell Off Pedestals’)

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

Imagine If…

Dating, and finding someone to commit to, isn’t about finding common ground in a few areas. It’s about finding someone we connect with when it comes to values, views, life, and love. Compatibility is not an exact science, and we can’t reduce it to one thing either. (Read The 3 Best Ways To Prepare For A Date)

Compatibility is not an exact science, and we can’t reduce it to one thing either

Imagine if we remembered it can take time, it’s about looks but also personality, and even about what we’re willing to put up with.

What do you look for? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 8/1/2018

Why I Don’t Think Betrothal Answers Our Dating Questions

Church Dating Culture, What The Bible Says

Dating didn’t exist when the Bible was written. Pre-marriage romantic dating relationships are only actually about 100 years old. However, there was something called ‘betrothal’, where those pledged to be married would be seen as a ‘couple’ in the Bible. Despite some surface-level similarities, it’s dangerous to think betrothal can help guide Christian dating. 

After reading a bit of a controversial article online about Christian dating, I decided to read the comments section, as you do. And as expected, there where a lot of contrasting opinions.

Some were passionately saying that dating isn’t bad and Christians just need to date lots of people and get experience. Others said that dating is ungodly and Christians should jump straight to marriage.

Others said Christian guys are wimpy and non-committal, so it’s their fault Christian dating is problematic. While others said Christian women always spiritualise things and won’t say yes to any guy, so it’s no wonder men feel scared. I could go on.

I have an issue with all of these statements. But one comment said something that I hadn’t really heard a Christian talk about for many years. Betrothal.

Betrothal: Old School Dating? 

To say betrothal is like dating I think is unhelpful

This person basically said Christians need to forget dating and practice betrothal. They correctly pointed out that dating didn’t exist in Biblical times. However, they then argued that we should use betrothal as our guide, which was used by people and cultures from the Bible.

To say betrothal is like dating I think is unhelpful. On the surface, it looks that way, but when you look closer you realise that isn’t the case.

So what exactly is betrothal? Well to understand that we need to understand the arranged marriage culture it came from.

Arranged Marriage 

It’s widely accepted that all biblical cultures practiced arranged marriages. This means that the parents would select the marriage partner for their children. Or sometimes the eldest brother or groom himself would negotiate with the bride’s parents/guardians.

Importantly, marriage wasn’t just for the couple; wider family concerns, mainly wealth and status, would dictate the choice entirely. Families were meant to gain a social advantage through marriage and expand their contacts.

This led to a very simple reality; searching for love and searching for intimacy was not embraced and practiced in biblical cultures by most people.

Just like today in arranged marriage cultures, romantic love and emotional bonds in partner selection were not a concern. Falling in love (if it ever happened) was more the by-product of a happy marriage rather than the prerequisite.

So there was no dating, no period of time when people would search for someone to settle down with. Your parents simply choose the richest and best connected person for you.

The period in-between a marriage being arranged and the couple marrying was called betrothal

Nevertheless, once it was decided that the couple would get married, they were officially ‘betrothed’ to one another.

Betrothal In Biblical Times

In many of the ancient biblical cultures, the period in-between a marriage being arranged and the couple marrying was called Betrothal.

This idea is mentioned/alluded to a few times in Scripture. For example, Jacob calls Rachel his wife even though they had not had their wedding ceremony (Genesis 29:21, 26-28). This is because betrothal/the first stage of marriage had already started when Jacob and Laban had agreed on a bridal price (29:18-21).

Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph in Matthew 1:18. Joseph wants to cancel the wedding when he finds out she is pregnant, even though they aren’t ‘married’ he still needs a divorce (1:19). This is because betrothal was the beginning of marriage.

Surface Level

So betrothal is mentioned in the Bible, and it’s a period where two people are seen as ‘a couple’ before they are married. So does this mean it can help modern Christians find love?

I don’t think it can. Not because God’s word isn’t still applicable and relevant, but because this cultural practice will no longer work in a culture with a very different context and view of relationships because it:

  • Focused on Money, Not Love
  • Practical Arrangements
  • Signalled Marriage

Focused on Money, Not Love 

Betrothal and arranged marriage cultures put the emphasis on money and status, and love and emotions come after the wedding. Today, people focus on love and emotions, and the wedding ceremony comes after this has been established.

We now live in different times

Betrothal was a term used for two people who were being told to marry each other. We now live in different times.

Practical Arrangements

Betrothal mainly existed to allow for practical arrangements to be made after a marriage had been decided by the couple’s parents. For example, the man would prepare the new home for his bride. In Jacob’s case, it allowed him to serve Laban for seven years and complete the bridal price agreement (Genesis 29:20-21).

Dating doesn’t have the same aim, it’s for people to get to know each other and see if they are compatible, not to make practical arrangements for an inevitable outcome.

Signalling Marriage

Finally, this inevitable marriage outcome is what separates it from dating more than anything else. A betrothed woman could be convicted of adultery (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Betrothed couples could be addressed as husband and wife. Which is why Joseph needed to ‘divorce’ Mary even though the wedding ceremony had not happened.

Imagine If…

Dating is not inherently good or bad, but the way we treat people and value others is

On the surface, betrothal has similarities with dating, but as we look closer we see it is completely different. Therefore, it shouldn’t be used to justify dating as biblical, or as a template for dating. This would be unhelpful.

Imagine if instead, we prayed and scrutinised God’s word, and used its eternal truth and wisdom to mould our current culture in a way that would honour him. (Read 3 Simple Rules For Building A Healthy Dating Church Culture)

Dating is not inherently good or bad, but the way we treat people and value others is. I believe dating can honour God, but we need to apply God’s word in a different way. (Read What On Earth Is Dating Anyway?)

What is the best dating advice you’ve heard? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 1/1/2018