Monthly Archives

June 2018

Why Esther’s Story Should Still Impact Our Relationships

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, What The Bible Says

The story of Esther in the Bible is about a woman who actively made God-honouring decisions. She didn’t let her new relationship status change her outward-looking perspective or what was important to her. It’s a story we can all learn from, and helps us to examine our own perspective, no matter what our relationship status is. 

I was speaking to a woman at a conference I recently delivered a talk at. She had read my book and heard about Naked Truth Relationships and was very complimentary, which was nice to hear. She said she found it all very helpful.

Powerful Story 

She then shared some of her story with me, about how she used to see marriage as an idol. That she thought finding romance would sort all of her problems. And how she had to change her perspective, with God’s help, and see relationships differently. 

It was a really hard-hitting story, and it was great to hear her talk about it so passionately. 

Finding Purpose

It really got me thinking, because if we fall into the trap of thinking getting to our wedding day is our purpose, then when and if we do, what are we left with? What happens next? 

Wanting to find someone is fine, but if our life is also about investing in friendships, pursuing God, serving the community, etc., then we will still have a purpose no matter what our relationship status is.  

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

It reminded me of Esther’s story from the Bible, which I often use to illustrate to guys and girls, why it’s so important to keep focused on Jesus, even if we start dating or get married:

(The following extract is taken from page 143-144 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free here)

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.

Esther’s Legacy

Esther, the only book in the Bible that never mentions God’s name, tells the story of how one woman’s ability to look beyond her own interests saved a whole ethnic group. 

Esther was married to King Xerxes, the most powerful man of his time. When his first wife publicly humiliated him by defying his request to stand and be gawked at by him and a bunch of drunken men, he thought nothing of getting rid of her and replacing her with a Jewish girl, Hadassah (better known as Esther). 

He ruled his palace and nation with fear, insisting that men knew their place as masters and wives knew their place as servants:

‘The king… sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes” ’(Esther 1:21–22 The Message).

Esther Looked Outwards

Once Esther became aware that genocide was about to be inflicted on her people, she approached the king. By law, no-one could approach him without permission, and the punishment for breaking this law was death (Esther 4 – 5). Esther risked her life to save her people. 

Esther’s choice to look outward, not inward, is all the more remarkable

She was a brave woman who managed not to lose sight of the need to act, even though her situation made it almost impossible. In a culture where women were seen as the property of their husbands, Esther’s choice to look outward, not inward, is all the more remarkable.

It might be a strange biblical story to choose to make a point about dating, but Esther’s story challenges us not to drop our convictions once we get into a relationship with someone. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

Am I Like Esther?

A good test is to ask yourself, ‘If I would have spoken out or acted on an issue before I started seeing this person, why am I not getting involved now?’ If the well-being of our friends or family is less important to us when we are seeing someone, what does that say about the kind of relationship this might lead to?

If, once we are in a relationship, our self-centredness kicks back in and we make everything about just the two of us, what does that say about our commitment to loving everyone as Christ loves us?’

It’s a huge challenge!

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

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we took a page out of Esther’s book, and reminded ourselves and each other about what’s important. Being in a relationship shouldn’t cause us to forget to look outwards and make godly choices. If we aren’t in a relationship, we can’t think a relationship will make everything good or easy. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common).

Learning this perspective made her happier

Just like the woman said to me at the conference, learning this perspective made her happier, more content, and more prepared for her future relationship. Relationships are meant to be enjoyed, wanting one is fine, but we need to realise this can’t be the only thing we focus on. 

Esther reminds us to look outwards, and that our purpose isn’t just about our relationship status. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship)

How could your perspectives be more like Esther’s? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 25/6/2018

I’m Single And Hate Dating, What Can I Do?

Finding A Date, Singleness

Many of us are single but want to find someone and build a relationship, but we don’t like looking for dates. We dislike sifting through loads of profiles online, the awkward first few minutes of small talk on a date, and the confusion of deciding if there is or isn’t a spark. It’s important to know 4 ways to avoid it feeling like a chore, and get the excitement back.

I think there’s so much focus on dating being fun and great that we can find it difficult to admit it can also be hard work and exhausting. Finding someone to potentially commit to and being intentional about it isn’t a simple process.

Dating in a way which is just about living for the moment and only thinking about yourself is easy, but purposely looking for someone to build a deep relationship with isn’t. Going out on yet another date, checking the online profile, again, trying to decide if someone is really trustworthy, can seem like it just isn’t getting us where we want to be.

As someone who thinks dating should be enjoyed, and it should lead to the mutually fulfilling relationships we all want, I realise we need to talk about the times when it doesn’t live up to expectation.

First Dates

So how do you find someone? How do you make it seem like less of a chore? How do you begin to look forward to dating again?

Well lining up more and more dates and creating more and more online profiles would make anyone feel overwhelmed. I think there are 4 things we can do instead, so that we  re-discover the excitement of dating again:

  • More Dates Isn’t Always Better
  • Need To Create Anticipation
  • Strip Back The Mask
  • It’s Not A Step To Something Else

More Dates Isn’t Always Better

So often we can fall into the trap of thinking, if I just go on as many dates as possible I will find someone eventually. However, I don’t think it should be about meeting up with just anyone. So taking the time to stop and think about the kind of person we want to connect with is important.

Being active and thinking intentionally about who we say yes to can make dating feel like we’re connecting with people we really want to connect with, rather than just anyone and seeing if we stumble across something.

Thinking about what we want to try and build, who we want to do that with, and saying yes to the right dates, can help us get excited about meeting better-suited people. (Read Lots Of Dates Vs. Selective Dates: Which Is Really Better?)

Need To Create Anticipation

I’m a big believer in meeting up as soon as possible so you don’t just text or email for ages and create a ‘romantic bubble’. We only really get to know people when we hang out with them in person and talk face to face.

However, not talking properly beforehand at all can end in disaster too. Only emailing after reading a profile or sending a text after a mutual friend set you up, can end with us getting dressed up, getting ready, going to meet someone and realising you just aren’t suited after a lot of time and energy has been invested. Phoning each other first and chatting for a bit means you can begin to know each other before you invest too much of yourself.

The date won’t be something you dread, but it’ll be something you look forward to

There is no need to arrange a meeting with someone if you both realise that it’s obviously not going to work beforehand.

Moreover, if you chat a bit and get on, it means you will be excited to meet each other in person. The date won’t be something you dread, but it’ll be something you look forward to because you have had a positive experience already. (Read What should we do on a first date? Part 1)

So arrange one or two phone calls or Skype chats, see if you are excited to meet up and get to know each other more.

Strip Back The Mask

On dates we want to present the best version of ourselves and make the best first impression, that’s natural and understandable. But when people lie or exaggerate too much, it becomes confusing. We don’t get to see the real them or vice versa.

Focusing on real compatibility can make dating less daunting

When we see dating as a chance to meet someone and be authentic, rather than worry about everything we say and do, it will seem less terrifying and more exciting. Focusing on real compatibility can make dating great (Read Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?)

It’s Not A Step To Something Else

Dating can be enjoyable. Dating in and of itself can honour God. It’s not just a step to marriage.

Seeing it as something that needs to be rushed through will not help us to see it as exciting. But seeing it as something we are meant to enjoy and learn more about ourselves and others in, will help us to see it as exciting. (Read Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered: More Dates Isn’t Always Better, Need To Create Anticipation, Strip Back The Mask, It’s Not A Step To Something Else. We could go from dreading dating, to doing it intentionally with the best chance of making it work, and with lots of excitement.

What else do you think could help build more excitement? Comments Welcomed Below

Originally posted 18/6/2018

Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationships Have In Common

Early Dating, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Mutually enjoyable relationships which have strong foundations don’t just happen, and sometimes people can focus on one element too much. I find that people can focus on what they are getting from the relationship and don’t dwell on vital responsibilities. Or they focus on what they need to give and forget to enjoy the benefits. So this quick checklist will help us to remember everything we need to build a good relationship.  

(The following extract is taken from page 153-155 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Dating With Responsibility

When you’re in a dating relationship, you have areas of responsibility, not just to yourself and whoever you’re dating, but also to your friends and family and their friends and family. Taking on these responsibilities means that you will:

  • Be honest and truthful to your girl/boyfriend
  • Treat them with respect in public and in private
  • Develop your own character, interests, and friendships
  • Not pursue anyone else while you are in a relationship with them
  • Pray for your girl/boyfriend and your relationship
  • Give them space to grow
  • Seek God first in every area of your life

The flip side of taking responsibility in a relationship is that you are also entitled to be on the receiving end of the other person being responsible too:

  • You can expect them not to cheat on you
  • You can expect a level of openness and honesty from each other, which will grow the longer you are together
  • You should treat each other with respect and care
  • You should have your own mind and keep up with your passions, interests and wider friendships, and encourage your boy/girlfriend to explore theirs too
  • You should spend quality time together, as well as apart

The Dating Benefits

When you’re in a dating relationship, there are a whole load of benefits for both of you:

  • Increased confidence from knowing that someone has your back
  • Sustained emotional intimacy
  • A level of physical intimacy that you are both comfortable with and that honours God
  • Someone to share some of your inner world with
  • Being trusted and loved
  • Planning a future together
  • Being forgiven when you make a mistake
  • Growing closer to God
  • Having fun
  • Enjoying romance

The flip side of enjoying the benefits of dating well is that there must be some no-go areas that both people respect. Every relationship requires boundaries. They are there for either our safety or our success.

We could ‘break the rules’ and overstep the boundaries, but we need to realise that the consequences of doing so will impact on the very things we love about our relationship, such as trust.

If you cheat on someone and your partner still takes you back (and they don’t have to), you can’t expect the same level of openness and trust as before. You will need to earn it again. So, to protect our relationships, there are things that we know we can’t do:

  • Deliberately flirt with anyone else
  • Develop an emotional understanding with someone else that you should be developing with your girl/boyfriend
  • Explore a physically intimate relationship with anyone else
  • Use any controlling, abusive or violent behaviour
  • Continue down the path of sexually intimate activity that makes it difficult for one or both of you to walk away
  • Prevent each other from nurturing your relationship with Jesus
  • Prevent each other from seeing family or friends
  • Hold anything your boy/girlfriend has done wrong against them, rather than forgiving it

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

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do think these elements are really important to remember. And I hope it can help us to remember that all romantic relationships involve give and take, responsibility and benefits. (Read How Pausing To Reflect Could Save Your Dating Life)

Imagine If…

Healthy relationship expectations are vital. Without them, we can end up getting hurt and hurting others. With them, we can build relationships that are enjoyable and long-lasting.

Imagine if, despite our personalities, past relationships and current situation, we enabled ourselves and others to think about what a good relationship looks like. We’re able to think through what we can expect from it, and what we need to give to make it work. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know)

What other bullet points would you add to the above lists? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 11/6/2018

Needing Vs Wanting A Relationship: Which One Is Better?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Many people think that ‘need’ sounds desperate. Especially in a culture that places emphasis on being independent above all else. But does ‘want’ go far enough? I ‘want’ a takeout tonight, is that the same way we should approach a romantic relationship? I think neither of these words are helpful, and we need to remember the middle ground. 

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a group of friends. It was a lot of fun, and as I’m sure we all know, different things come up and get discussed at times like these. 

The subject of relationships arose, and one of my friends declared ‘I told my new partner that I wanted to be in a relationship with them, but I didn’t need to be’. 

Others in the group nodded or gave agreeing statements, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Is this really the right attitude to have? 

Needing’, Good Or Bad? 

In our culture, we’re constantly told to do our own thing. To do whatever makes ‘me’ happy, to make the right choices for ‘me’, to do whatever ‘I’ want. In terms of relationships, this translates into ‘you should be independent and not need a relationship’. 

It’s right to say that our worth and value can’t come from one person or one romantic relationship. We shouldn’t need someone to come along to complete us. So it’s right to say we shouldn’t ‘need’ that ‘one perfect’ relationship before we feel valued.

We don’t ‘need’ a romantic relationship before we feel valued

However, we should also realise that we do need other people and need relationships. Actually, our relationship with God is what should define us first and foremost, but beyond that, a whole range of friendships and family ties should feed into a positive view of ourselves.

We need people to support us. We need people around us who we can rely on, and who can rely on us. Meaning is found in interdependence and investing in those around us (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality). Our romantic relationship can be part of this interdependence, alongside our other relationships.

So it’s good to say we don’t ‘need’ a romantic relationship before we feel valued and worthy. But it’s bad to think we don’t ‘need’ relationships, which can include a romantic one, to find purpose, support, and a place to belong. 

Wanting: Good Or Bad?

But what about the other part of what my friend said. Is saying we ‘want’ a relationship a better way to think about it? 

Let me make it clear, I think there is nothing wrong with wanting a romantic relationship. If we aren’t in one, it’s okay to say we want that to change. And it’s good to know we have chosen to commit to someone when we start dating, and actively wanted to put in the effort to make it work. (Read Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?) 

‘Wanting’ makes us active participants

But the belief of ‘wanting’ over ‘needing’ can make us approach relationships at arm’s length sometimes. It can make us think that while ‘I’m happy’, I will stay, but if it gets hard then I will leave because I don’t ‘want’ this anymore. 

‘Wanting’ makes us active participants, it means we commit to making it work. That’s a good thing. However, if we make it too much about ‘me’ wanting, rather than ‘us’ wanting, and reduce wanting to just my feelings in the moment, then it can have a very bad effect. 

Middle Ground 

I do understand the point my friend was trying to make, nevertheless, the choice of words did make me uneasy. They are too extreme and polarising. I think we need to remember the middle ground and stay in it as much as possible. 

I think it’s more helpful to remember that we need relationships and to be connected with other people, but we don’t need a romantic relationship before we feel valued or worthy. (Read What A Fishing Proverb Taught Me About Relationships)

Placing too much emphasis on ‘want’ over ‘need’, can make us feel like we can walk away

I think we also should know that wanting a relationship is fine, and choosing to invest makes the relationship an active choice and real commitment. However, placing too much emphasis on ‘want’ can make us feel like we can walk away at any moment, and actually weaken our relationship. 

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered that sometimes the middle ground is best. The words we use are important, so let’s use them to remind us how to approach relationships in the best possible way. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

What do you think about needing vs wanting? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 4/6/2018