Monthly Archives

May 2018

How I Responded To Friends Who Hurt Me, And Why It Matters


I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes through those weeks where your close friends rub you up the wrong way. They manage to hit on all your insecurities and make you feel really bad. So what do you do, talk to them? Ignore it? Remember we all make mistakes? Different people say different things, but actually, all of this can help.

I know I’m not the only one who has experienced all the stresses piling up at the same time to create a few weeks we would rather forget.

You know those times, when there are a thousand things to do at work and commitments at church and with friends need juggling. Then a delightful bill from the garage to fix your car arrives to go with the bill to fix a problem in your house.

Fun, fun, fun.

It seems to be during these times everything else seems a bit harder, and takes more time and effort. This is when you need a bit of support from your friends, but sadly, it doesn’t seem to happen.

2 Sides To Every Story

What I’m about to share isn’t from my ‘high horse’ or from a place where I think I’m perfect. I know I have let friends down and make mistakes. I also know there are two sides to every story, and you’re only hearing my side.

But I do want to share these stories. Not so I can rant, but to be real about the fact that we get hurt. Friends can say and do things that seem ‘little’ and not worth making a fuss about, but can actually cause a lot of hurt.

We need to be honest about it and think about how we can choose to respond.

‘Really? That’s Not Good’ 

This first occasion happened at church recently. There was a social action project happening which I couldn’t do because I injured my back, and because I spent hours in the kitchen washing up after the church’s community lunch, which took ages.

I went to church again later on for the evening, and the first thing someone said to me was ‘Did you help at the social action project?’ I said ‘No I wasn’t there’. Then they said ‘Really? That’s not good’ and walked off.

I was so annoyed

They were kind of half joking half not, and I was so annoyed. They didn’t say ‘Why couldn’t you make it?’, or ‘Are you OK?’. They simply judged and assumed I wasn’t there because I’m not a ‘good Christian’.

I was really hurt by it, and it played on my mind for a big part of the evening service.

Did You Hear This?

Later that week something else happened. Now, let me say that I’m all up for banter, and ‘taking the mickey’ with friends. We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and we all do silly things. But when our friends are essentially making fun of us, and then talk about us as if we aren’t there, that really hurts.

It always hurts more when close friends go a bit too far

This happened a few times with the same group of friends. You know the difference between someone including you in the joke, and someone making you the joke. When they’re saying to each other ‘Did you hear this?’, and are essentially pointing and laughing.

It always hurts more when close friends go a bit too far, and manage to intentionally or accidentally, make a joke about a big insecurity.

Sadly, we can probably all relate to (similar) incidents like these ones.


Sometimes you think it’s so minor, if you bring it up or make a big deal out of it it will make you look petty. But words can be really hurtful, and it can breed negative feelings in us.

So what can we do?

Firstly, I want to say you aren’t the only one. When these things happen and you feel like it’s a big deal even though it was just one word that was said, it matters, and it’s not OK.

This stuff matters, because these are the type of things that can cause us to withdraw. To think that we are alone. Or that our friend isn’t as good a friend as we thought. Here are some things we need to remember to make sure this stuff doesn’t weaken our relationships.

  • A Bad Moment Doesn’t Define The Relationship
  • Remember The Positives
  • Sometimes An Awkward Talk Is Needed

A Bad Moment Doesn’t Define The Relationship

A bad moment or bad joke doesn’t define the relationship. This is hard when in the moment we feel angry, but we need to hold on to the fact that a moment doesn’t mean everything is tainted.

This is hard to do, but remembering why you’re friends in the first place, putting this incident into context and remembering they may be going through a bad time or may have a different sense of humour or way of communicating, is important.

Otherwise, the negative feelings may just keep growing.

Remember The Positives

Following on from this first point, something that has really helped me recently is remembering the positives about my friends when I’m annoyed by them. And not letting my mind just wonder to the negatives.

So I remember that although they have a cutting sense of humour, they are very generous. Or even though they say things in a bad way sometimes, they are always ready to meet up and listen when I have a problem.

Love is choice at the end of the day

Love is choice at the end of the day. We may feel bitter, but we can choose to remember they’re a good friend and no one is perfect. We can choose to rebuild the friendship and forgive. (Read The Four Words Spoken By Jesus You Need To Hear)

Sometimes An Awkward Talk Is Needed

However, sometimes, we do need to talk about it. Especially if it really hurt us, or it’s a pattern and something that keeps happening.

Awkward chats aren’t fun. But sometimes a friendship needs a frank conversation. Otherwise, things will keep weakening the relationship. We can’t just say it’s not a big deal when it is. (Read How Successful Relationship Avoid Letting Anger Win)

Imagine If…

I used a mixture of these responses with my friends and in my recent situations. I know I’ve made mistakes and had to apologise to friends for things I have said and done, and will no doubt need to do it many more times. But when it happens to me, I can choose how I respond.

Imagine if we remember one bad choice can’t define everything, that people are a mix of good and bad and we can choose to focus on the positive, and sometimes we need to have awkward conversations. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving)

What else can you do to respond positively? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 28/5/2018

Why The Royals Invested In Marriage Prep, And So Should You


Prince Harry and Meghan decided to take up the offer of pre-marriage counselling, or marriage preparation, before they got married. We may think this signals a crisis or a problem, but that isn’t true at all. It sets people up for a stronger relationship, helps protect against issues before they become problems, and we should all follow their lead (even if we are dating or already married). 

There was such a feel-good vibe over the weekend. I don’t know if you were part of a street party, managed to get to London, or just saw some clips from the wedding at home, but it was a great day.

I must admit, I have always enjoyed weddings. I really enjoy watching two people who are happy and excited about their relationship, make a commitment to God and/or each other in front of friends and family.

And we all know, but it’s easy to forget, that while the day is meant to be fun and a great celebration, a marriage is really about more than the wedding day. It’s about the decisions that are made over the next few weeks, months, and years, that will determine if a happy and long-lasting relationship is built. 

Prince Harry and Meghan decided to go through marriage perp

This is why I was so happy to hear that Prince Harry and Meghan decided to go through marriage prep, and by doing so have highlighted why it’s so important. 

Not Just for A Crisis

My wife and I did a marriage preparation course. Most of my married friends did it too. Not because we had a crisis or any obvious or big problems, but because we didn’t want any to develop. 

I found it valuable talking to someone outside of ‘us’, who challenged and questioned the way we relate to each other, the way we communicate and asked us how we reacted in certain situations.

It meant that when problems arose later on, we had thought about them beforehand and not just in the heat of the moment. More importantly, we have also been able to spot issues and deal with them before they become problems. This all means we have been able to enjoy our relationship more.

Not Just for A Marriage 

The one thing that really upsets me though, which is partly why I oversee Naked Truth Relationships, is that so many people wonder why they only start to seek relationship advice (if ever) once they’re engaged. When they were dating, they say they needed some guidance and some help, possibly even more so, but couldn’t find any. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

None of us are born with relationships skills. We don’t automatically know how to create a long-lasting relationship.  No one is born knowing how to drive a car or speak a language either, we need to learn these skills. Whether we are hoping to date soon, are dating, engaged or married, we need to learn relationship skills. 

Prince Harry and Meghan have realised that thinking through relationship dynamics is important, me and my wife and many others do too, and it’s so important to talk about this truth more.

3 Things I Learned

There are loads of things I have learned and could say. But the three important things that I want to highlight, whether we are dating or marriage, are: 

  • I’m The Biggest Issue  
  • Address Problems While They Are Small 
  • Learn How To Communicate 

I’m The Biggest Issue

What I really valued in my wedding prep, which is relevant to other relationship stages too, is that I had to realise I was the biggest issue in my relationship.

What I mean is, it’s easy to blame the person we are in a relationship with. It’s easy to say ‘If only she did this more…’ or ‘If he started doing that instead then…’. We need to realise we are part of creating the dynamic of our relationship; no one is perfect, we all make mistakes and that is allowed, but we are part of the issue.

Both people need to reflect on their actions, and both people need to be gracious

By realising that we needed to reflect on our own actions, we needed to be gracious, and we needed to know that we can both cause upset, meant that we could both take responsibility. We could then start to put the effort in constantly and not just on the wedding day, to make sure we were fostering a mutually happy and long-lasting relationship. 

Address Problems While They Are Small

Many people say to me that a relationship is about letting things go, but I disagree. Little habits and problems build over time and become big problems. Learning to address them while they are small means there is a better chance of overcoming it. 

I have no doubt Prince Harry and Meghan would have been addressing habits or concerns they had. Not because they were worried or had doubts, but so they could talk about things before they became too big to solve.

In any relationships, we want to be happy and enjoy it and fall in love and have fun. But taking the time to take stock of our dynamics won’t take the fun out of it, but ensures that we can go on enjoying it. Spotting small problems means they can be dealt with before they become too big.  

Learn How To Communicate

I always say communicating is key. And it seems so simple, yet it’s so hard. 

People can just assume what the other person is thinking. Or they want the other person to just know what they are thinking, and are disappointed when they don’t. Or they have the same argument over and over, without actually talking about the underlying issue. (Read How Successful Relationship Avoid Letting Anger Win)

Marriage is a continual learning process

Learning how to talk to each other and get onto the same wavelength, amongst the changes and busyness of life, is key to building a long-lasting relationship. (Read 2 Questions Every Married Couple Should Ask)

Imagine If… 

Marriage is a continual learning process. 

The wedding day doesn’t mean we have got it all sorted, or there will be no more problems. We are all learning, we all make mistakes, and we all need help and advice. (Read 1 Big Reason Why People Get Bored In Relationships Explained) 

Imagine if we followed Prince Harry and Meghan’s lead, where we reflected and thought about our own relationship dynamics no matter what our relationship status is. And remembered: I’m The Biggest Issue; Address Problems While They Are Small; Learn How To Communicate.

Do you think people are willing or unwilling to get relationship advice? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 21/5/2018


Church Dating Culture: Is Yours Helpful Or Hindering?

Church Dating Culture, Relationship Difficulties

Many single Christians want to date, do it well, and eventually get married. Many churches want to help and enable people to do it well too. Yet in the busyness, cultures can just spring up around us and start influencing us before we know it. So it’s always worth pausing to reflect on helpful and unhelpful dynamics, as we move forward together.    

I was talking to a friend the other day who recently got engaged. I was very happy and excited for him, and pleased they decided to take this step.

It’s such an important decision, and when I did it, I appreciated close friends asking some tough questions to make sure it was something I had thought about and was preparing for properly. So with close friends, I often ask some probing questions too, to help them think it all through.

I always say no one is perfect and no couple is perfect, but being intentional and thoughtful means we can enjoy more highs and experience fewer lows in our relationships.

‘My Church Culture Really Helped’ 

Now, this friend is very mature, but nevertheless fairly young. And I was asking him about why they wanted to get married, his expectations for marriage, if he and his fiancée have talked about X, Y, and Z.

They had clearly thought a lot of things through, and discussed the very hard questions and were very open and honest with each other. Then he said something that really stuck with me:

‘Even though I’m young, my church culture really helped me to approach relationships intentionally. The culture is making me ask “What are you doing and why?” and “What happens next?” It made me approach this relationship in the right way’.

He went on to explain that his church culture of ‘intentionality’ wasn’t just helping his relationship but in every area of his life. It was a culture that asked ‘How can we press into God more?’ and ‘How can we make sure we are heading in the right direction?’.

He developed a long-term and thoughtful mindset

Obviously, taken to the extreme, these questions can mean people forget to just enjoy the moment. Or feel like they need to reach the next step before they are worth something. And in regards to romantic relationships, people can feel like they need to be married soon.

However, it can help when it’s not taken to the extreme and kept in perspective. And my friend said this context help him a lot. It helped him to take God seriously and take his romantic relationship more seriously. He developed a long-term and thoughtful mindset, rather than a short-term and inward-looking one.

Am I Wrong?

I had this conversation the very same week I heard an upsetting story.

There was a woman who started dating someone in her church. She was in her mid-twenties, been a Christian for less than two years, so was still working out what her faith and new relationship should look like. She decided to join the same mid-week Bible study group as her boyfriend.

Some people in the group told her that was a bad idea, and they shouldn’t be in the same groups or be praying together while dating (Read Should We Be Praying Together?). Others said it was a great idea and they should be in the same group.

No matter what people think about this, for me, the problem is that people were telling this couple what to do, but not why. They were not discussing it with this couple and trying to enable them to think things through. They just set hard and fast rules with no explanation.

The culture we build around us matters

The way it was done was upsetting for this woman. She was hurt and confused. Whereas my friend felt enabled by the culture around him when it came to relationships.

The culture we build around us matters.

Creating Culture 

As I reflected on these stories, I was thinking about what lessons there were to learn for creating healthy church dating cultures. I want to highlight two key questions:

  • How are we demonstrating intentionality?
  • What are our guiding principles?

Demonstrating Intentionality 

I think it’s important to ask ourselves how we are building a culture of being intentional in all our relationships, and not just in romantic ones.

How are we spurring each other on to be better friends? Are we challenging each other and ourselves when we cancel last minute on a friend because a better offer came up? Are we making time to do things we don’t enjoy because it will really help someone out?

How are we helping each other to have better church relationships? Are we being flexible with our time or skill, or gracious with each other? Are we intentionally going out of our way to encourage each other?

We need to be demonstrating intentionality, thoughtfulness, and selflessness in all relationships. This will naturally begin to help and influence people in church as they build romantic relationships.

Guiding Principles

I think it’s so important to remember that no two people are the same, and no two couples are the same. Helping people to date well is more about enabling them to apply good principles to their context, because setting hard and fast rules often end up hurting people.

So we need to decide what our principles are for dating, what we think God is saying, and then help people/couples to apply them instead of just barking orders at them.

Take the above story about the couple in the same study group. The principles for their church may be that they don’t want dating couples to do all their ‘spiritual stuff’ together as they could become too dependent on each other in this area, rather than seeking God first.

Same principle, different application

The couple may then decide being in the same group isn’t a good idea because it’s getting too intense. Or they may decide to be in the same group, but have friends they meet up regularly to pray with so that they don’t depend on each other too much.

Same principle, different application. And a couple has been empowered instead of just being told they’re doing something wrong. (Read Top Dating Tip For When Your Relationship Become Official)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we, as a community who want to support new couples, asked ‘How are we demonstrating intentionality?’ and ‘What are our guiding principles?’ as we helped and enabled people like my friend to build healthy relationship dynamics. (Read What On Earth Is Dating Anyway?)

What is the one thing we can do this week, to demonstrate intentionality more? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 14/5/2018

Warning: Dating Is Not A Simple Seven-Step Process

Finding A Date, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

No one can outline a simple, one size fits all approach to dating. We all have different dating histories, hopes, personalities, baggage and unique stories. I always try to give principles over rules that we can then apply to our own contexts. I was recently confronted with a story that reminded me why this is so important. 

So there I was, lights in my eyes, sitting on stage, bracing myself for the questions, wondering why I had agreed to be on a Q&A panel.

It’s not that I don’t like them per se. I really do think it’s important people get to ask questions and learn by chatting together, rather than just being preached at. But you just never know what the others on the panel are going to say, and vice versa.

Often people have such different points of view, that trying to delve deep into a subject with a 30-second answer, then getting someone else saying something that sounds totally contradictory, can leave everyone more confused.

I’m always a bit wary and worried about what may happen.

Surprising Question  

Nevertheless, my fellow panelist and I were getting into the swing of it. I had answered a few questions so thought it’s best to sit the next one out. I don’t think people just want to hear from one person, and it’s important to respect other members of the panel and let everyone answer.

Why would you start a relationship by not spending time together?

The next question came in: ‘After you agree to start dating someone, should you not see each other for a week or so in the beginning?’

Now, this really confused me. Why would you start a relationship by not spending time together? I found the question quite odd and it seemed counterintuitive.

Surprising Answer

Yet my fellow panelist proceeded to say that this is what he did. He and his then girlfriend, now his wife, spent two weeks apart at the start of their relationship.

I thought, ‘What?!’

He made it clear that they became a couple and then didn’t really talk for two weeks. Instead, they went away, thought about it, prayed about it, clarified their intentions and expectations.

To me, this sounded odd and very different to what I would suggest. If you’re at the point where you want to start a relationship, then start that relationship. It seems strange to put it on hold.  However, having thought about it, I realised that really, it’s a principle I always talk about that’s just being applied a bit differently.

Not one model

I always say being active is important. We can’t just drift. (Read Stories From The Dating Scene: An Exciting Start, Then We Drifted.) We need to be intentional and think about the relationship decision we’re making.

I say that being intentional, thinking it through and praying, is all part of being active. And all of this should come before you go out, then you make the active decision to commit to each other and to the relationship. However, my fellow panelist and his girlfriend simply did it in a different order.

They applied the principle in a way that worked for their situation

They said they liked each other and started going out, then decided to go and pray individually, think it through, get some perspective, etc. He didn’t go into why he did it this way round, but different doesn’t mean wrong, because there is no one-size-fits-all model.

What clearly came across is that in his mind, he didn’t want to hurt her. He wanted her to be as sure as she could about the relationship, and he wanted to seriously think about how he was going to approach it. How he was going to make it Christ-centered

They applied the principle in a way that worked for their situation.

Different Reasons

Because of how we’ve been hurt in the past, because of our personalities and imperfection, a principle applied in a certain way by one person, will look different for another person.

Application in our individual contexts will vary. Perfect seven step plans do not work.

It reminded me again, why having the conversation is so important. Having a rigid system, that everyone needs to follow, doesn’t work. Even though leaving people with absolutely no guidance is just as bad, so discussing the application is key.

Which is why I did actually really enjoy doing this Q and A in the end. (Read One Great Dating Tip From Ruth and Boaz. Really?)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we realised people want help, they want guidance, but we are all different too. Application in our individual contexts will vary. Perfect seven step plans do not work.

We need to get away from the ‘rigid system’, and help each other not only discover good principles instead of bad ones, but also, how we can apply them in a way to make our relationship thrive in our situation. (Read Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters)

Do you think principles are better than a ‘seven-step plan’? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 7/5/2018