Monthly Archives

March 2018

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Dating

Church Dating Culture, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

The principles we learn from the romantic stories we see in films, on TV, or in the media, promises us everything, but often deliver lots of hurt and confusion. Finding someone and falling in love is meant to be fun and enjoyable, but we need to know what good principles look like, and call out the lies we often get told. 

Looking back, I made so many mistakes when I was dating.

There can sometimes be so much pressure in church culture to be perfect in the area of romance. To not even go out on a date unless you hear ‘wedding bells’. To just ‘know’ if you are a good match, and to never break up with anyone because that implies you made the biggest mistake.

But when I dated, I liked people and went out with people that it just didn’t work out with. And it was really messy sometimes.

The way I dated was really messy sometimes

When I talk to people about dating now, they are often aware that it’s confusing and people can get hurt, they aren’t fools. What they want to know is how to do it well, and how to bring God into it, instead of just going with the flow and making lots of mistakes. And for someone to tell them it isn’t always perfect and easy.

Love Is All Consuming

I remember being single and desperately wanting to find someone. I remember praying about it, thinking constantly about it, being distracted by it.

Most of the time, when I asked my friends about it and my church leaders, they would just say clichés that were just not helpful (Read 5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All? ).

So I would go along with principles culture fed me, like: do whatever you think will make you happy. It will be so easy and natural. Just follow your feelings. You can use people, as long as it makes you happy. Just sit back and God will sort it all out when he brings ‘The One’.

I now know better, and I’ve been researching, writing, and teaching in the whole area of dating and faith for all most 10 years now (that makes me feel old). I wish someone had just told me some good principles back then. Something I could have put into practice, to reduce the confusion and be more God honouring.

So here is a snippet of what I wish someone had said to me, which may be able to help you:

(The following extract is taken from page 204-206 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Do It Differently 

First, remember it may be hard to put into practice the changes you’re inspired to make. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship.)

This doesn’t absolve us from making plans and setting goals though. Good ideas that aren’t implemented help no-one.

Relationships are hard work; there’s no getting away from that. And you don’t need to be in a relationship to get to work on areas of your character or expectations of a relationship.

Perfect Doesn’t Exist 

Secondly, we give you permission to fail! No-one is perfect. We all need to be kind to ourselves and each other as we work on our inclination to be selfish.

We give you permission to fail! No-one is perfect

In fact, accepting that about ourselves and the people we will date is a key point. There is no way we will change overnight, and there’s no way we will ever be perfect. Our goal is to grow in maturity in our love for God and others.

Someone who can truly say after every date or interaction with someone that they are not what they should be, but they are better than they were, is surely moving in the right direction.

God Can Help

Thirdly, ask God’s Spirit for guidance. He is given to us to lead us into all truth, and this includes our relationships. He has the power to transform us:

‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:1).


Where our culture seeks to build relationships on the power of romantic feelings alone, we will build on the rock of faithfulness and commitment.

Where our culture encourages selfishness, we will practise selflessness.

Where our culture says ‘the one’ will come to you, we will exercise our God-given intellect and take responsibility for our hopes and choices, and be open to his guidance

Where our culture says feelings can justify anything, we will draw on God’s Word before rushing in.

Where our culture says, put yourself first, and if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen, we will choose to date stronger, deeper, clearer and wider. We will protect our hearts, intent on dating as a way of finding someone we can commit to for life.

Where our culture says that dating their way is great, we say they haven’t seen anything yet!

Good foundations that lead to fulfilled singleness or fulfilled marriages

So go for it. Invite that guy out. Drop that girl a text saying you’d like to get to know her better. (Read What should we do on a first date? Part 1) Ask the God of all love to pour into your hearts and minds the courage and wisdom you need to build your pre-marriage relationships on good foundations that lead to fulfilled singleness or fulfilled marriages.

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if we questioned some of the principles our culture fed us, and remembered that dating and falling in love is meant to be a blessing, but God has a way that can help us avoid confusion and hurt as much as possible.

What would you say to your younger self about dating? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 26/3/2018

Stories From The Dating Scene: God (Sort Of) Found Me ‘The One’

Real Life Stories

Lots of people ask me about finding ‘the One’. They want to take romantic relationships and marriage seriously, and they want God to be involved in the process. So they want him to show them ‘the One’ so they get it right. Well, someone I know got a very surprising answer after praying this prayer. 

I remember growing up with the idea of finding ‘the One’. Finding that one perfect person. Thinking she would sort me out and help me overcome all my problems.

But as I grew up, I realised life wasn’t that simple.

No-one is perfect, just like I wasn’t perfect

No-one is perfect, just like I wasn’t perfect. No one could come in and ‘sort me out’. I had to be honest, and real, and work through my issues and work to make better relationship choices. I got help and support of course but someone else couldn’t do this hard work for me.

But many people still do and still want to believe in ‘the One’.

I Don’t Believe In ‘The One’

I have written many times about why I don’t believe in finding ‘the One’. (Read The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship and Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’).

But I still meet people who like the comfort this idea brings, or think this is the way to make their relationship God-centered.

I was talking to someone the other day who shared this story with me. I want to share what he said with you, to the best of my memory, because he learned such a vital truth about God and relationships.

Story From The Dating Scene

‘I became a Christian in my mid-twenties. I had had lots of relationships, many were messed up. I had one night stands and never really have a good or steady relationship.

‘When I became a Christian, I was single for nearly ten years afterwards. I didn’t have any romantic relationships and didn’t really pursue any or come close to one, with one or two exceptions.

‘Then I got to know a woman in my church. She was godly, she was servant-hearted, and really passionate about God. But she wasn’t ‘my type’. She wasn’t the person I would usually go for, but I was attracted to her.

I Prayed, and God (Sort of) Answered

‘So I went away and prayed about it. I wanted to get the relationship right, I didn’t want to get hurt or hurt her, so I said: “God, is she the One?”.

No Answer. So I prayed again “God, is she the One?”. And nothing happened again, so I prayed again.

‘Then He said “Well, is she your one? Are you going to pick her?

If you pick her, you can’t blame me

‘When I felt like God was saying this to me, I got confused. I thought surely he would bring me the One, why is he asking me this. Then I felt like he said: ‘If you pick her, you can’t blame me when it gets hard!

I Get It Now

‘I think that God, in his unique way, was teaching me something. He was telling me that relationships take work. I need to make a decision to commit and keep deciding to commit.

‘God won’t click his fingers and make me the perfect person for her or vice versa.

15 years later, we are married, flawed, but happy

‘I started to think about what I, and we, needed to do to make the relationship work and if we were suited, rather than waiting for God to just do all of the work for me.

’15 years later, we are married, flawed, but happy, and pushing each other closer to Jesus’. (Read Marriage Isn’t Really About ‘Us’)

Imagine If…

I really value this story because I think it’s empowering. Obviously, God is with us, and challenges and transforms us, but we are involved in the change. We make decisions along the way and must choose to be more God-centred in our thinking and actions.

Imagine if we remembered that we need to make the relationship work. We need to choose compromise, learn to work through issues, enjoy the highs, and ‘make the one’ rather than just ‘find the one’. (Read Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us)

Why do you think about ‘Making the One’? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 19/3/2018

Quick Guide: When Saying ‘Being Content With Singleness’ Is & Isn’t Okay

Church Dating Culture, Singleness

This phrase is said a lot in Christian circles. It does reveal an important Biblical teaching, but for some single people it can sound like a harsh rebuke. Knowing what this phrase is meant to communicate, and the correct context for it can help us to know when saying it will help or hurt someone we’re trying to support. 

‘If you’re single, going to church and finding it a bit hard, you’re not the only one. It can be difficult in an often family orientated context and culture. It’s okay to say it’s a struggle sometimes.’

‘And wanting to get married isn’t wrong. You’re allowed to want a husband or wife. You can be single, love God, be seeking him, and want to get married. One doesn’t automatically cancel out the other.’

You’re allowed to want to get married

These were some of the words I said at a recent talk. I could see on people’s faces a sense of relief. To hear someone say on stage that if you’re single, you’re allowed to want to get married and you may struggle a bit in church, clearly meant a lot.

And I believe all of this is true and not said enough, but it isn’t the full picture either.


I said these words after an earlier talk, in which someone said you need to ‘be content with singleness’ and find peace in God.

And I couldn’t agree more.

If we’re single, (or married, or dating,) we’re told to trust God and depend on him. Our relationship status doesn’t change the fact we should be rooted and ultimately fulfilled in God.

But does this mean there’s a contradiction? Does that make me or the other speaker wrong? Or is it a bit more complicated?

Context is Key

The thing is, I’ve spoken to single people in church who fully love God. They do find peace in him and are pursuing him with a passion. But they still want to find someone, date, and get married. They are content in God, but that doesn’t take away the struggles of life.

When they hear the phrase, ‘be content with singleness’, it’s like a slap in the face. They are truly seeking God and loving him,  and just need help and support in this important area of life from others. Maybe a bit of guidance when it comes to dating, or a bit of help overcoming some of the fears that surround it.

It doesn’t automatically mean they are taking their eyes off God

It’s like saying to a dedicated worship leader who is wanting singing lessons to improve some habits, that they should just focus on God and not learn new skills. Just because they need help and support to affect a situation, it doesn’t automatically mean they are taking their eyes off God.

Having said that, I’ve also chatted to single people who admit that they’ve focused so much on finding someone that they’ve stopped finding peace in God. They forget to rely on him and find peace in him.

They also say being reminded about ‘being content with singleness’ is helpful. Remembering that even if they’re not in the position they want to be in, God is still good and still using them to build his kingdom and is with them through it all.

Quick Guide

We may relate to one of these situations, or know someone who does. Or we may have said something to someone at the wrong time in the past and caused a bit of hurt.

I do think there are some things to think about, which can remind ourselves and each other that we need to ‘be content with singleness’, but that doesn’t mean our desire for marriage and seeking support in our romantic search is wrong. Namely:

  • There’s Not A Single ‘Singles’ Category
  • Actively Give Good Dating Advice
  • What’s The 5 Year Plan?

There’s Not A Single Category

Firstly, not all single people can be put into a ‘single’ category. Some people have never married, some are widowed, some are divorced.  Some are old and some are young. All these situations bring different challenges, opportunities, and experiences.

Whether we’re single, dating or married, we cannot just assume one ‘magic phrase’ can be applicable to every single person and their context. (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness and 4 Trends That Characterises Singleness In Our 20s, 30s, and 40s)

Good Dating Advice

Equipping single people/ourselves with good advice is important. Helping each other to think through healthy God-centred dating doesn’t mean our fulfilment will stop coming from God. It just means we can do it with God instead of feeling frustrated with our situation. Single people in church often feel overwhelmed by dating. So getting some practical tips can help bring God into this area. (Read 4 Strategies For Overcoming Our Biggest Dating Fears).

What’s The 5 Year Plan?

Another good thing to do would be to ask each other the question: ‘How do you want your life to change in 5 years?’

If we’re only focused on finding someone and settling down, we’ve missed something. God’s plan for us is bigger than our relationship status. What business ideas, hobbies, ministry, friendships do we want to grow and improve? What is God calling us to do?

Being content in singleness can still mean pursuing someone to fall in love with

Being content in singleness can still mean pursuing someone to fall in love with, but it should involve pursuing many other things besides just one person.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered that God is ultimately where we find peace and fulfilment. He’s the one we should be seeking no matter our situation. But this doesn’t mean we can’t be honest about the struggles and seek support and help.

I hope we can remind ourselves, and each other, that ‘being content with singleness’ is an important principle, but it doesn’t discount pursuing marriage or romance. When we give this advice, we need to be aware of the context, and remember that: There’s Not A Single ‘Singles’ Category, Actively Give Good Dating Advice, What’s The 5 Year Plan? (Read Being Cautious Vs Jumping In: Which Dating Habit Is Best?)

Are there any other good phrases, that are unintentionally said in the wrong context? Comments welcome below. 

Originally posted 12/3/2018

Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us

Church Dating Culture, Relationship Difficulties

After only recently talking to someone about a break-up they just went through, it was clear that knowing the difference between change and a cure was vital. She said she learned valuable lessons along the way, and she said these were worth sharing. 

So there I was, giving a talk on dating and relationships to a group of students, and it really felt like they were taking in what I had to say. You never know how it’s going to go, and I’m always a bit worried because I just want to help people and get it right. But they were definitely responding.

We had a great Q&A, some people opened up about their own situations and it felt like God was really connecting with people in this important area. It was great.

She had just broken up with her boyfriend

At the end though, a young woman came up to me and said she had just broken up with her boyfriend, and she was still processing it all.

She asked if we could meet up to discuss it more in depth, so my wife and I invited her round to help her think through what happened and offer some support.

Now I wouldn’t usually write about what was shared in a situation like this, but this person involved actually asked me to write something. She wanted me to because she wanted to help others in a similar position.

He Wanted Me To Just Know  

She said that this relationship had started with him saying to her that he is very emotional. Nothing wrong with that, men can show emotions. But then he said he expected her to just read his emotions instantly, and that she should react in the right way.

She thought it was strange, but they began a relationship.

Unfortunately, over time, she realised that he was very, very emotional. His mood could change very quickly, it was always very intense, and she found it hard to keep up.

He wanted her to cure him

Now I always say no one is perfect. A relationship is about two imperfect people committing to each other, making it work and making sure they enjoy it along the way. But he expected her to always know how to react, to say the right thing, and to sort him out.

Above all else, he just wanted it to happen without any conflict. He didn’t want there to be any tension, but for what he needed to just happen.

He wanted her to sort out his issues. He wanted her to cure him. (Read more of her story in her own words here)

Change Vs Cure

I’ve written before about how relationships will change us. We cannot build a healthy relationship without compromise, seeing the world a bit differently, and changing as we journey together. Knowing what we are willing to change is key. (Read If A Relationship Doesn’t Change Me, Then It’s Not A Relationship).

We will change each other in a relationship, but expecting someone to cure us, to deal with all of our problems is unfair on us and them.

Both people need to be willing to work through the lows and navigate their relationship dynamics so that they can enjoy the highs and thrive in their relationship. Expecting a cure won’t allow that to happen, and can become toxic.

What We Can Expect

My wife and I explained to this young women that you cannot just know, to be expected to say the right thing all the time. In your relationship you need to talk, communicate, and express how you’re feeling, especially when there is tension. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed).

We told her that people in relationships talk, and offer grace because there are no instant fixes

My wife and I can’t always know what each other are thinking. We can’t read each other’s emotions all the time. We still have conflict. Two people in a relationship will have disagreements and arguments, that’s just what happens.

We told her that people in relationships talk, and offer grace because there are no instant fixes, and change a bit along the way.

We told her that we can have this expectation, but we can’t expect a cure.

She seemed to understand, and she said later that it really helped her to discover which expectations were not right, and what dynamics she wanted to build next time. She learned something along the way, and I hope this guy, who I never met, did too.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered that we can’t expect people to cure us. We don’t need to be perfect, but we do need to be honest and realistic. You can expect your partner to support you, and work through the issues, and they can expect you to do the same, so that you build an enjoyable relationship together.

We need to be ready to spot it when people want cures, and remember that a better perspective will bring better relationships. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know.)

What are the other differences between change and a cure? Comment welcomed below. 

Originally posted 5/3/2018