Monthly Archives

September 2018

Stories From The Dating Scene: Dating In Church Was Awful

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

You would hope that dating in church would make your relationship easier, but sometimes people think the throwaway comments, pressure to build a perfect relationship, and the ‘marriage-focused culture’, makes it harder. This post is written by a friend of ours, who loves church, but wanted to share her honest story about her struggles.

‘I’m keeping these toys for your kids, meaning my grandkids.’

This is what the mother of my friend’s girlfriend said to him. It’s awkward because they aren’t married or engaged, but it’s even more awkward because they’ve only been going out for three months!

The amount of people who tell me these kind of stories. They often involve people from their church, people who mean well, but pile on the pressure. It can make new couples feel like they need to ‘decide right now’.

A friend of mine wrote a post for me a while ago, but it still seems very releavant. So I wanted to share what she had to say again. This is her story, in her own words:

Dear Church 

Dear Church, first let me say, I love you. I love you with the kind of love that means I seek out time to spend with you when I’d rather be asleep. The kind of love that means I think of you when it comes to what I spend my money on, where I live, and what I do. And above all, the kind of love that endures all things… and there have been a few things to endure.

I believe a loving relationship involves honest communication so we can both grow. And so, trying to be humble, knowing you have so much to teach me and I have so much to learn, I have a few things to talk about.

I’m so grateful for your joy on my recent engagement. But I need you to know, that there have been times it’s been hard to love you while I’ve been getting here.

Questions And Comments

Those times before I met him when you asked me if I was ‘still single’ and started going through your list of eligible bachelors, because single wasn’t as good as being married.

Those times just after we started dating when the gossip mill went into overdrive, and everyone was watching.

Those times when we realised this relationship wasn’t perfect, but the only relationships you talked about and showed us looked flawless. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

More interested in whether we were ‘avoiding sexual sin’ than getting to know us

But most of all, it’s been the pressure that kicked in later. Every time you looked shocked and slightly confused when we said we’d been together for two and a half years now but we weren’t engaged.

Those times you were more interested in whether we were ‘avoiding sexual sin’ than getting to know us as a couple and encouraging the deepening of our relationship.

Those times you seemed to communicate that dating was a process we had to endure, as quick as possible, just to achieve that higher status of being married.

Dating Devalued

And then, in the end, there were the jokes that were made when we did get engaged, saying it was ‘about time’. And the rumours that circulated about one or other of us dragging our feet and keeping the other one waiting… Because who could actually want to date for that long?!

Church, those times hurt us. See, we decided to take things slowly. Rather than seeing dating as something to get over and done with as quickly as possible, we’ve delighted in it as a time to develop deep roots. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

We’ve delighted in it as a time to develop deep roots

We’ve had scores of late-night conversations; we’ve had, and are still having, more arguments than I’d care to admit; we’ve experienced a period of exhaustion and near depression; we’ve cried our way through a fair few tissues; we’ve spent hours upon hours laughing with each other’s friends and families.

And in nine months’ time, when we walk up the aisle, surrounded by the community we’ve built over four years, we will not regret choosing to wait this long.

Imagine If…

Imagine if, next time you meet a single person – delight in who they are; don’t get distracted by planning who they could marry; communicate to them that for you they are enough, just as they are.

Next time you have a dating couple – hold back on the questions; invest in the time they spend building a relationship that will endure.

With both of these groups – when they are crying, be honest about your own brokenness. When they are celebrating, celebrate with them.

Above all else, whatever choice they make about their future and their relationships, commit to being the community that stands alongside them. (Read I Wouldn’t Have Survived Without My Church Family)

Have you been asked a question like one above that was unhelpful? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 24/9/2018

Being Committed Vs Knowing When To Walk Away, 3 Key Rules

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

For a dating relationship to be enjoyed, for it to thrive, for it to last, we need commitment. But what if it isn’t working, what if one person becomes selfish, how long do you wait and try to change things before it’s over? I think there are 3 rules which can help us to process some of the tricky situations we face. 

You know when you’re chatting to a group of friends and there’s nothing in particular you’re talking about, then one of them says something and you think, ‘hu, interesting.’

Well, this happened when one of my friends said, ‘I think you need to know when to walk away in a relationship for it to work.’

I was taken aback a bit and started to think about if this was true or not.

Part of me was thinking, well yeah. If a dating couple are making each other miserable, or if there is an extreme case like manipulation or abuse, then it needs to end.

I really think both of these principles are true

But the other part of me was like, but relationships take hard work, we can’t just walk away when it gets a bit tough or at the first argument or over something that requires some compromise.

Opposite, But Both True(?) 

I really think both of these principles are true.

We need to commit and work through the hard times and know dating isn’t always easy, it can be hard and confusing. When we remember that two imperfect people are coming together, it can help us to know that it won’t always be fun every single second. Compromise and hard work is part of it.

Having said that, if it isn’t working, and if two people just aren’t suited long-term, or the dating dynamics become toxic, then we need to be able to spot that it’s time to walk away.

What About Me?

But how do we apply these principles? Every situation is different. So how can we spot when it’s time to walk away in the best way possible? And how do we spot when the tough bits are just part of building an overall healthy and good relationship?

I want to offer three principles that can help us begin to process our unique situations, as individuals and as couples. Namely:

  • Drop The Transaction Mindset
  • Drain Vs Gain
  • Commitment Needs More

Drop The Transaction Mindset 

A transaction mindset sees the relationship like a vending machine. It says ‘I will put in “X” amount of time, energy, etc., and I want to get “X” in return’.

But relationships that thrive are about both being committed and selfless. When both people are putting each other’s needs first, and thinking about how to make it work, rather than what they are ‘owed’, it creates mutual flourishing, care, and enjoyment.

It’s easy to begin a relationship and think ‘what am I getting from this?’ rather than ‘what are we getting from this?’. But transaction mindsets lead to dating relationships that are selfish rather than selfless.

If they can’t see the problem, it may be a red flag

If the person we’re with is approaching the relationship like a transaction, and not evolving their thinking and being selfish, then the relationship can’t thrive. If they can’t see the problem, it may be a red flag. However, if you are both dropping the transaction mindset, then you have a better chance of working through issues together with this approach.  (Read What No One Tells You About Saying Sorry)

Drain Vs Gain

My friend also talked about the drain versus gain theory. ‘If we aren’t gaining from a relationship then we need to drop it’.

That worried me because I have had times in my life when I needed a lot of support from my friends, and/or wife, because I was having a tough time. They probably think I was very draining to them for long periods of time.

But there are times where the role has been reversed. Where I’m the one that is supporting and feels drained.

If we decided in that snapshot, in that precise moment, that we weren’t gaining enough then the relationship would end. Which is ridiculous. Any romantic or strong friendship involves up and downs. So we can’t just think short-term gain and drain.

Together we are able to work through the hard times

However, when we take a step back and reflect on our overall dating relationship, do we think we are gaining? Do we enjoy lots of joint victories and celebrate each other’s achievements? If it’s yes, then we probably should be committing more, realising together we are able to work through the hard times.

But when it’s draining overall, and it takes away too much over time, with constant setbacks in the relational dynamics, it may be a red flag. Relationships take hard work, but they should be enjoyable, respectful, and breed trust and faithfulness. If these things aren’t there, there is a problem.  (Read Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us)

Commitment Needs More

Our culture says we can change our phone when we get bored, change our clothes and hairstyle, our social media pic, anything, easily and quickly. As a result, commitment is undervalued because it’s all about being new and getting the initial buzz.

A relationship may not work for many reasons, but without commitment it definitely won’t work

Commitment is often forgotten. If we go into a dating relationship thinking we will just leave as soon as this gets hard and go to something new then it will never work. It needs commitment and we need to chose to invest. Sadly, a relationship may not work for many reasons, but without commitment it definitely won’t work.

Knowing when we will walk away is key. But we need to go in knowing that commitment is vital in a culture that undermines it constantly. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating).

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we had some principles to help guide us in the highs and lows of dating. To help us to be wise and spot when something is hard but is just a rough patch, or when something is hard because it may be time to walk away.

I hope remembering: Drop The Transaction Mindset, Drain Vs Gain, Commitment Needs More, will be able to help you.

Are these principles enough? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 17/9/2018


Amazing, Enjoyable, But Not Easy. The Secret Behind Great Relationships

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

We’re meant to enjoy our romantic relationship. Some people say this is obvious, but we can end up focusing too much on the ‘feeling’ that we forget to lay good foundations, or focus so much on the hard work we take out the enjoyment. I think enjoyment is the aim, it’s what we really want, but the secret is remembering that it’s about mutual enjoyment. 

I just celebrated my fifth year wedding anniversary (it’s the wood anniversary for those who want to know). Which is strange to think about because the time has flown by.

I was chatting with a friend about it recently and he asked me if I’ve enjoyed it, and I instantly said yes. Then he asked me what we’ve struggled with. In all honesty, nothing really terrible came to mind.

Now, that isn’t to say it’s been easy, because there have been some hard parts, some very hard parts in fact. But we have always communicated, kept the other person’s wellbeing and feelings in mind, always respected each other, and made time to have fun. 

All that stuff takes hard work, and it isn’t easy to do, but by creating healthy and strong relationship principles, foundations and rhythms, we have been able to enjoy it.

Meant To Be Fun 

The bottom line is, relationships are meant to be fun and enjoyable. 

I think God created romance and it’s meant to be a blessing, and we’re meant to have fun. The reason I equip people with the tools they need to build mutually enjoyable, fulfilling and God-centered relationships, is so they can have fun.

We lay the foundations to navigate the lows so we can get to the highs quicker and more often. 

We do all of the hard stuff…so that we get to the highs

When I talk to people about relationships, dating, romance, etc, or give talks on it, I always start by stressing that God wants us to enjoy them. That’s the end goal. 

The goal isn’t to come up with healthy relationship dynamics so we can pat ourselves on the back or tick a box. We do all of the hard stuff, and make the sacrifices, and have the awkward talks, so that we get to the highs. 

Not Said Enough 

I think society/ the media, by-in-large, focus on the highs too much and lead us to believe that it will all happen naturally. 

But it won’t. 

We need to be intentional in relationships, actively put the other person first, make sacrifices, exercise self-control and stay committed when it does feel hard. That isn’t something that just happens. 

I think lots of churches, by-in-large, in reaction to this have rightly emphasised the need to work on our relationship dynamics.  To make sure people know it won’t always be easy, that we need respect and to be intentional. 

The negative outcome often means there is lots of pressure, and little room to say that the aim is to enjoy it. To be with someone who we love and be in a relationship that’s fun and fulfilling. (Read Church Dating Culture: Is Yours Helpful Or Hindering?)

The Secret

So what’s the secret? 

The secret is knowing that it’s meant to be mutually enjoyable.

When we focus too much on the desire to enjoy it, we can just think it’s all about my feeling, or my needs. But the mutual part reminds us that we need to put the other person first and be committed, which takes work and sacrifice. It’s ‘us’ not ‘me’. 

When we remember the aim is to enjoy it, we won’t focus so much on the pressure

When we remember the aim is to enjoy it, we will not focus so much on the pressure to be ‘perfect’ (which no one is) or focus so much on the pressure to have all the answers that we can’t relax and have fun with the person in front of us.  (Read Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?)


When both people in a relationship are being selfless, are putting the other person first, then mutual enjoyment can flourish. 

If only one person is doing it then it will not work. It needs to be both people, committed to building good foundations and rhythms, so that they can navigate the lows and get to the highs.

Imagine If… 

Relationships are meant to be enjoyed. We are meant to thrive in them and they are meant to be fun. That’s the aim.

Imagine if we remembered it’s about mutual enjoyment, and about ‘us’ not ‘me’. If both people put the other person first, we can lay good foundations that will make the relationship truly amazing and fulfilling. (Read How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’.)

How else could emphasising mutual fulfillment help? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 10/9/2018

How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’. Part 2

Church Dating Culture, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

In Part 2 of this post, we begin to explore what taking steps towards ‘Making The One’ may look like. It will not be the same for every person and every couple, but a different and new mindset can help us begin to build healthy relationships based on mutual enjoyment and less confusion. 

I’m humbled and pleased that one thing many people tell me after hearing my talks or reading my book, is that they are glad someone is saying that you don’t need to be perfect in order to be in a relationship. That dating is about two flawed people committed to putting the effort in and trying to make it work. 

They are relieved that I don’t say ‘follow these seven steps to happiness’. As if there is a simple formula that will ‘sort’ us out. As I said in Part 1, we need a different approach.

Helps us to start ‘Making The One’ 

Thinking about how we approach relationships, remembering that we need to put in the hard work, remembering that it should be fun and respectful, helps us to start ‘Making The One’.  And can stop us waiting, or pretending we’re perfect and just hoping to bump into that other perfect person. 

(The following extract is taken from page 28-29 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Making Sure We Grow

In rare instances, God might point out the person you’re going to marry. And if he does, good stuff! But most of the time, he’s more interested in who you’re becoming, not just who you’re dating. 

We are going to be exploring some incredible truths God has for you. If God helps you to grow in confidence in this area or teaches you the keys to understanding commitment, he is guiding you towards any future relationship just as much as if he had told you your future spouse’s name and address!

Making It About ‘Us’ Not just ‘Me’

Learning to be less self-centred in a dating relationship is one of the ways God can help you to become relationally intelligent and able to serve others – whether you marry them or not!

God knows that relationships aren’t always easy. Beginning to share parts of your world with someone else can feel a bit uncomfortable at times. So he wants you to be prepared, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Making It About Not Being Perfect

Zack got married a few years ago. His marriage is everything he hoped it would be, but recently he told us how difficult the first year was. Nothing had prepared him for how much he was about to discover of his own flaws. 

Counselling has helped him come to terms with insecurities that had gone undetected or unchallenged throughout his life. But his one regret is that he waited until he was married before he looked at who he was and what he had to offer anyone in a relationship.

A relationship you need to work at is no less a gift from God

The ‘perfect relationship’ mantra might inadvertently make us think that, when our relationship hits hard times or doesn’t always feel amazing, it’s a sign that we aren’t with ‘the one’ God has for us. We might even think that, if we’re not convinced we want to marry someone ten minutes into the relationship, we shouldn’t keep dating.

‘Making The One’

A relationship you need to work at is no less a gift from God. A relationship that doesn’t begin with a commitment to getting married any time soon is no less valuable in God’s eyes. You might end up discovering a greater appreciation for each other that will grow into the deep love needed for a strong relationship. 

You’ll discover how working through difficulties gives you an increased resilience and capacity for forgiveness. These are vital tools for building marriages that last. 

I really believe God cares about this area, and he wants us to be involved in the process

More importantly, if we date in a way that allows our character to grow in selflessness and maturity, then even if the relationship doesn’t work out, it will honour God. Isn’t that better than thoughtless dating or waiting for God to sort everything out? (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

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

Imagine If…

No one can promise you a relationship is around the corner. No one can promise you there won’t be any low points. But I really believe God cares about this area, and he wants us to be involved in the process and grow as people, and as a couple if and when that happens. 

Imagine if we made it less about waiting for ‘The One’ to appear, and made it about us getting the right perspective, learning how to build good foundations, and remember to enjoy it, I think we can be part of building an amazing dating culture.  (Read Why I Told Joshua Harris To Redeem Rather Than Reject Dating)

What else would help us start ‘Making The One’? Comments welcomed below.   

Originally posted 3/9/2018