Monthly Archives

January 2019

Why Friendships Are Too Easy To Break, And How To Avoid It. Part 1


In many ways, friendship should be the easiest relationship to maintain. We can choose our friends, we choose who we like and who we spend time with. However, many people (as they get older) find it awkward to make new friends, or just lose touch. So why are friendships so easily broken? Part 1 of this blog begins to think about this important issue. 

Friendship is one of those things that should be easy to define, but it’s actually harder than we might think. What are the expectations? What are the boundaries? Does it change from person to person? 

I guess the idea I’ve been thinking about for a while is the underlying assumption that friendships should be easy. This idea is true in many ways, but untrue in other ways too.

Friendships Are Easy (?)

We hang out with friends because we enjoy being with them. If it gets awkward or hard, we can stop contact, unlike with family or work colleagues. 

If we get a job offer and move city or country, we aren’t ‘betraying’ our friends if we go. Yes, we can ask their opinion, but we don’t make the decision with our friends in the same way we would with our spouse, for example.

There is a different level of commitment and expectation in a friendship compared to other relationships. It’s primarily based on enjoying each other’s company. 

A Unique Trait

But what about when it isn’t easy anymore?

Should we stick it out when it gets hard? Or when we get a ‘better offer’ and move to a different place, should we just leave friends behind? Or as we get older, do we just need fewer friends somehow? 

In a recent talk at church, someone was speaking about our relationship with Jesus, and specifically on John Chapter 15. They shared this quote from a guy called N.T. Wright: 

‘The vine-dresser is never closer to the vine, taking more thought over its long-term health and productivity, than when he has the knife in his hand’.

The idea that God will challenge us, ask us to sacrifice, and change us through processes which may be hard work, is easy to understand (maybe harder to live out and accept though).  

Thankfully that isn’t the only trait our loving and gracious God shows, but the idea that a relationship will be hard at points is clear and accepted. 

This is true in marriage too. The overall experience should be fun, enjoyable, and mutually fulfilling, but we accept there will be hard times, and we can’t just walk away when we get challenged. 

But what about friendships? 

We don’t have as many people as we used to have, or want to have, around us

Easily Lost 

I think this question is vital because so many people, me included, move cities and/or get caught up in the busyness of life. Then before we know it we don’t feel as close as we once did to our old mates. 

Or we end up in a hard situation and realise we don’t have as many people as we used to have, or want to have, around us that we can ask for help. 

Friendships are different from other relationships, and rightly so. We get to pick friends, unlike family, and we can choose to see friends, unlike work colleagues. But unlike romantic relationships, which we do also pick, friendships have a different type of commitment and dynamic.  

When Easy Gets Hard

I think friendships are easily broken because they are seen as ‘easy’ and just there to enjoy. This means the work needed to maintain it is often not prioritised or appreciated.  (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)

Deep down we may not want this to be the case

After all, friendship is there to energise us. Obviously, our friends may go through tough times and we support them through it at personal cost, but overall there’s a goal of mutual enjoyment. 

So when it gets too hard, or we get too busy, or we get a better offer (like a job in a new city) we feel like we can drop the friendship. Easily make new friends. And walk away. 

Deep down we may not want this to be the case. Yet it can be. And there are people who really struggle to make (new) friends for various reasons.

So how can we view this relationship differently to avoid breaking a friendship unintentionally or too easily? 

Imagine If…

In Part 2, we keep exploring how we can change our perspective to make our friendships stronger. For now, imagine if we realised how important friendships are before it’s too late. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving)

Friendships are different from other relationships that are often seen as more important. Nevertheless, friendships are vital if we want to thrive and feel fulfilled.

How would you define friendship? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 28/1/2019

How Do I Tell My New Date About My Past?

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

It’s so important to make sure honesty is the foundation of our romantic relationships. Lies stop us from building trust and healthy relationships. But what if there’s something from the past you know you need to share and talk about, but saying it straight away can be off-putting. Do you wait? For how long? Is it lying? This is a real issue that needs real wisdom.

Someone recently came up to me after a recent talk I did and was clearly wanting to say something that was troubling him. 

He proceeded to tell me that he had been in a relationship with someone, it had ended very badly, and he was partly to blame. He wanted to know when he should tell his next potential girlfriend about what happened. 

Not A Unique Question

Even though he was the latest person to ask me, he was not the first. 

Obviously, we’ve all done things in our past we regret, but when it comes to exes and breakups, these regrets can be the source of a lot of worry and anxiety in our next relationship. 

Relationship breakdowns are rarely caused by just one person (unless there has been abuse, manipulation and/or infidelity involved). When break-ups happen it can make us less trusting, or realise a trait about ourselves that we dislike, or cause us to carry feelings of anger or even pain.

Whatever the issue, we know that it could be something that the next person we like will need to know about. Maybe so they understand why we act like we do, or because they need to know about something we regret and don’t want to do again, or for another reason. 

I always respond by giving 3 guidelines

Many people ask me what they should do in this situation. Should they say something straight away? Or should they wait until the person they like knows them a bit better so there is some context? Or do they just say nothing and hope it will be okay?  

I always respond by giving 3 guidelines, which will hopefully help them:  

  • Trust Isn’t Instant 
  • Give Headlines Early, Detail To Follow 
  • Why Is It An Issue? 

Trust Isn’t Instant

I think people inherently know that if they want to build a sustainable intimate relationship, then trust and honesty is part of it. Being vulnerable with someone, knowing they will stick around no matter what, only happens when a couple trust each other.

But trust isn’t instant. 

Trust and commitment build over time. As we get to know someone more and more, and they get to know us, commitment grows. Trust also grows. When we rush this process we can think the relationship is stronger than it is, which will lead to problems later on.

The point is, you can’t just say everything about yourself from the start. And naturally, you do want to discuss common interests and things you enjoy and not just dwell on the past.  

If you feel the pressure to reveal something, then you may need to take some pressure off your shoulders. It’s good you’re concerned about dating well and being honest, but trust grows. It’s okay to realise you need to protect yourself too, and not reveal your deepest darkest secrets after the first ‘hello’. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Give Headlines Early, Detail To Follow

Having said that, I’m always struck by the fact that people in this situation feel like it is all or nothing. 

You can mention the issue early on so that it’s been raised, but you’re still allowed to say you don’t want to talk more about it until you’re further on in your relationship. You can give the ‘headlines’ and say you will give more details later on. 

This advice can’t be used as an excuse to avoid the issue later on or justify a half-truth

Now, this advice can’t be used as an excuse to avoid the issue later on or justify a half-truth. Rather, it’s acknowledging the fact that being respectful to the person you like and trying to fostering honesty, while protecting yourself, means that some things need to be talked about in line with the trust and commitment that’s growing. 

Mentioning your ex or the past situation near the start, means you’re showing you want to be honest and bring things up that need to be spoken about.

Now I know sharing a ‘headline’ may not be enough for some people, or it may put some people off, meaning they don’t wait around to build a relationship. This may be hard. But at least you will know if it won’t work early on, rather than after months or years of investing in each other.  (Read The Best Advice For Getting Over A Break-Up)

Why Is It An Issue?

It’s also important to ask ourselves why we think it’s an issue in the first place. Is it something we were hurt by? Are we embarrassed? Do we feel guilty? Are we worried it will happen again? 

The answers to these questions don’t make us bad people

I always say we don’t need to be perfect or ‘sort ourselves out’ before we date. No one is perfect, dating isn’t about finding perfect people, because they don’t exist. But it’s worth thinking about why we are worried. Is it something we can address now? How might it affect a potential relationship? 

The answers to these questions don’t make us bad people, or unworthy of a relationship, but they just may help us think about how we approach romantic relationships moving forward.

Imagine If…

Dating is hard, but it’s meant to be enjoyable. Our baggage and past mistakes can sometimes get in the way of this. 

Imagine if we remembered Trust Isn’t Instant, that we are allowed to Give Headlines Early, Detail To Follow, and we ask Why Is It An Issue? It will help us to foster honesty from the start while protecting ourselves, as well as take some pressure off so we can enjoy the dating experience. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

What other guidelines have you heard which may help? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 21/1/2019

5 Tips For Online Dating

Finding A Date

People enter the world of online dating for many reasons. Some think it will be fun, some reluctantly get involved, some do it because their friends do, others have heard positive stories and want to get their own one. Either way, people often enter this world not really knowing how to do it well. So here are 5 tips that will help you. 

I have written a few times about online dating. Especially about how it isn’t dating, but an introduction. It’s a chance to meet people, just like a blind date or meeting someone at a party is, which may then lead to dating and forming a relationship. (Read ) 

But how do you make good online introductions? 

How do we write a profile and approach online dating in a way that protects us? As well as giving us the best chance of finding someone we can form a great relationship with? 

5 Tips

While I have never used online dating, doing the work I do means I come across lots of research, positive and negative stories, and resources that can help guide people. As a result, I often give these 5 tips: 

  • Honesty Saves Time
  • Use Unspecific Words
  • Keep It Positive
  • It Takes Time 
  • Know What You Want 

Honesty Saves Time

Writing a profile is hard. Knowing what to put in and what to say in a message to someone wouldn’t come naturally to most people. 

But the starting point needs to be honesty. Exaggerating our skill set, or what we like to do, or lying about our features (most men online lie about their height) is a bad start.

It will mean that we end up getting introduced, and even dating people who we aren’t suited with. Which in turn will just result in wasted time and disappointment. By all means, put your best foot forward, but do it honestly. 

Use Unspecific Words

The next question would then be: so how do you put your best foot forward?

It’s really important to use unspecific words. The reason for this is because, sadly, we can easily make superficial quick judgments when reading profiles. So if we say ‘I love football’, or ‘I love cruises’, people can discount us if they don’t like those things. 

In order to keep our profile more approachable

Therefore, it’s better to try and keep it more general, in order to keep our profile more approachable. E.g. ‘I like sports’, or  ‘I like to travel’. These statements are still true, but they’re open enough to allow more connection points. Because someone may not like football, but they might enjoy other sports that you like, for example.   

Keep It Positive

The time that you take to say something is important (profiles with about 100 words get the most interactions), but the way you say it is even more important. 

Profiles with positive language get the most traction. Talking about your hopes for the future, what you enjoy doing and what makes you feel alive are the best things to talk about. 

Avoid giving demands, like ‘Must love…’ or ‘Must hate…’. Talking about what you hope the relationship will look like is fine, but being positive and talking about what fulfils you is vital. 

It Takes Time

All of this takes time, and the search is often for an indefinite time period which can be very demoralising at points. But sadly, there is no way to change that. 

Online dating isn’t like online shopping. You can’t just specify what you want and have it delivered the next day. Online dating involves time, emotional investment, meeting people and giving energy to the search. 

If we do approach online dating half-heartedly, or without giving it enough time, then we will be disappointed.  Which is why the next and final tip is so important. 

Know What You Want

Just saying yes to everyone is not a good idea. There are people in our work, at our church, in our social circles that we do not get on with. Or people who we like as a friend but would never date. The same principle applies online. 

We need to think about the type of person we want to get to know

We will not get on romantically with everyone. That’s why we need to think about the type of person we want to get to know.  The type of person we want to date, so we know who to say yes to and who to say no to. (Read ) 

Imagine If… 

There’s no perfect solution to online dating or finding someone, but if we or people we know are using online dating, we can at least prepare well for it. 

Imagine if we remembered: Honesty Saves Time, Use Unspecific Words, Keep It Positive, It Takes Time, Know What You Want. (Read I’m Single And Hate Dating, What Can I Do?)

What other good advice have you heard? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 14/1/2019

The 2 Year Ultimatum: Good Advice Or Dating Disaster?

Break- Ups, Relationship Difficulties

Dating Relationships are meant to evolve into something else. E.g. a blind date leads to another date, which leads to two people becoming a couple, and eventually to marriage. Alternatively, it could end, and the couple decides not to commit to each other anymore. But is there a science to this process? Should there be a cut-off point? Is it 2 years? Well, I would answer yes and no. 

This concept or idea is something I never thought about too much. In some movies, dramas or comedies, someone in the couple (usually the woman) may give an ultimatum to their partner. They either get engaged by a certain date or break up. 

This ultimatum was something I never came across too much in real life, but recently I’ve seen this advice given in a few different situations. 

Cut Off Point

I was asked to read something a friend of a friend had written, which gave advice about dating and relationships. One thing that stood out to me was their ‘2-year rule’. They said that if you were over 20 years old, then 2 years should be enough to decide if you are getting married or breaking up. 

This person argued that relationships can end up drifting for years, with no real sign of commitment to each other, or a desire to move the relationship forward in any way. So 2 years should be the cut-off point. 

You can’t just drift along and not commit

Soon after reading this, I was involved in a conversation where one of my older relatives basically sat my cousin down to talk to him about his girlfriend and their relationship. They had been going out for over 6 years at this point, but he said he was in no rush to settle down or anything.  

My relative said to my cousin that his girlfriend was lovely, and warned him that if he kept drifting then he could lose her. He wasn’t saying my cousin had to propose right now, but you can’t just drift along and not commit. It isn’t fair. 

Yes And No 

I must say, I have seen the heartbreak involved when a couple who have been together for 3, 4 or 5 years, sometimes even 10, break up. One usually wanted it to evolve into more, but the other person was being non-committal. Then it ends, and they can end up feeling like all of those years of investment were a waste.

However, I have seen people who have been dating for many years, and then get married, and have a stronger relationship because they didn’t just rush in because a certain rule said they had to.  

My wife and I dated for 5 years before we got married. If we followed the 2-year rule we wouldn’t still be together. But like I said, I do know people who wish they ended it sooner, and a 2-year rule would have helped. (Read Being Committed Vs Knowing When To Walk Away, 3 Key Rules)

Why Are You Waiting?

If you are over 20, going out with someone for two years is quite a big milestone. So I don’t think it is a bad idea to use it as a prompt to assess your situation. 

It’s good to take stock and ask if the relationship is evolving. For example, if you live in different cities is one prepared to move so you can be closer? Are you at least talking about marriage? If not, why not? 

For example, my wife did a longer than usual university course and she didn’t want to get married while she was studying. However, we were talking about marriage and heading that way, even though we both had a good reason to wait. 

If there isn’t a good reason, and one person is dragging their feet, then it probably is worth asking why. 

New 2 Year Rule

So should we stick to the 2-year rule? 

I like the fact that this 2-year rule can prompt couples to reflect and discuss their relationship. I think this should be something we do frequently anyway, and not just at the 2-year point! But it is a good point to stop and think about things.

I also like the fact that it reminds couples that relationships should evolve. After 2 years, it should look different to what it looked like a year ago. Using this rule to do that is good.

Besides, my relationship is still changing. Just because I got married it doesn’t mean I ‘made it’. We still discuss relationship dynamics, work on them for the better, reflect on how we’re using our relationship to serve God and the community. We should always be evolving it. 

I think a 2-year rule out of context is not good actually

But I think a 2-year rule out of context is not good actually. There may be a good reason why after 2 years a couple’s situation isn’t dramatically changing. The reason has to be genuine, accepted and embraced by both people in the relationship. Otherwise, it may just be an excuse one person is using. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

Imagine If…

Imagine if that while we accepted all relationships are different and not one rule will apply to every couple, but we remembered that discussing and taking stock of our relationship is important. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

The 2-year rule is good because 2 years is a good milestone and prompt, and if the relationship isn’t moving forward without a good reason, then it may be time to ask the hard questions. But if there is a good reason, then a couple shouldn’t feel forced into taking the next step for the sake of it. 

How could you make sure a relationship is still moving forward after 2 years? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 7/1/2019