Monthly Archives

March 2019

Why Seeking Love Over Passion Can Sustain Our Relationships

Early Dating

Passion and uncontrollable feelings are what characterises love in films, on Social Media and in our society. The physical attraction is often emphasised as the most important part of being in love too. But love is about more than just passion. When we forget this, our relationship will probably not stand the test of time. 

My friend was telling me about her recent interesting experience. She met up with one of her old friends who is in a long-term relationship. Her friend had sworn that when she found someone he would need to do a whole list of things, and she had no time for a relationship which didn’t involve these things. 

However, the guy she was with was totally different to what she had described previously, and she didn’t seem to mind. My friend thought it was sweet, mainly because she never thought her friend could be so adamant about what she wanted and then change her perspective so much. 

Test Of Time 

What really struck my friend though, is that it had been a few years since this couple had first met and their love was even more solid. My friend thought it was just the initial attraction and passion that meant she had changed her approach, so when the passion faded, she would revert back to her old ways and old list. But that didn’t happen. 

Now, when you fall in love, you change, that’s just a natural consequence. (Read Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us)

However, there is a difference between making compromises and changing a bit, verse changing your fundamental values and core beliefs. But people do change in relationships, and their relationship affects them.

Things they thought were important seem less important in hindsight. 

What really stood out for my friend, and for me, is the fact that this couple had committed to making the relationship work long-term, despite needing to work out some initial issues and expectations.

Establish Something Deeper

I was also watching a short talk on relationships recently as well. The speaker had been married for a few years and was speaking about love. 

He said that often, couples who are dating, and some newly married couples, think passion is the only thing love is about. The problem is, passion will always subside. You need to establish something deeper.

That is what this couple we are speaking about had done. They didn’t just get swept up in the heat of the moment and do all these things they regretted later. They realised their relationship was worth committing to and were building something that could stand the ups and downs of life. 

Passionate love only lasts for two years

Most physiologists, experts and the like, say this intense passionate love only lasts for two years. So passion isn’t enough to sustain a relationship.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about physical attraction (Read How Important Is Physical Attraction). Or enjoy the fun, intense passionate stage of a new relationship. And I’m not saying all of the passion goes after the 2-year milestone. But we need to know real love is different to passion, and goes deeper.

The Project

We need to realise that the relationship is a continual project (in a good way). If we just ride the high of passion, then when it fades the relationship will do the same. However, if we realise relationships should be fun, involve compromise, adaptation and selflessness, then it will continue to grow. 

They were then able to keep the relationship project going

Just like that couple who realised they needed to be active and invest in the relationship while the relationship was new and shiny. That meant they were then able to keep their relationship project going. 

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered to enjoy falling in love, and enjoy the strong feeling that characterises the start of a relationship. Whilst also remembering that passion cannot sustain a relationship. 

Learning about selfless love, activeness, shared values, and all the deeper things that make a relationship last, is vital for our relationships (Read 2 Proven Traits That Make A Relationship Last)

What other important elements sustain a relationship? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 25/3/2019

My Singleness May Be A Lifelong Calling, But How Do I Know?


There are people who are praying and thinking about the call of lifelong singleness. If we are/a friend is considering this, it’s important to know how to make the right decision. So we must highlight that people who’ve already committed often say that they: Did Think Life Would Be Different, Ultimately Are Given A Choice, and Are Not Trading In Their Happiness.

I’m sitting down and writing this blog for a few different reasons. A while ago I posted a blog about singleness written by my friend Lora Thorley. It was about people who are single but one day wanted to be in a relationship, and explored some issues surrounding this situation. (Read 5 No-Nonsense Tips For Singleness) 

I’ve written many times before about the fact that you can’t put every single person into a single category. I think the Bible makes this very clear. (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness. Part 2) However, one of my other friends said to me that he was shocked I didn’t emphasise chosen lifelong singleness, in a blog which explored the challenges of a single person who wanted to date one day. 

I pointed out that actually, across the website the unique challenges and perspectives of different types of singleness are highlighted, and that there is nothing wrong with focusing on one specific group in a blog. However, it did remind me that it may be time to explore this important area of chosen lifelong singleness again. 

2 Interesting Articles

In the months that followed, I also came across two really interesting articles about Christian women who had committed to life long singleness. Moreover, they had a ceremony and had taken vows which marked the occasion in front of God, family and friends.

Which marked the occasion in front of God, family and friends.

One article talked about a woman who became a ‘consecrated virgin’ within the Catholic church. She was not a nun but was a teacher who lived and worked in the community, like everyone else. This ceremony and decision was part of an established vocation within Catholicism.

The other article was about a vicar within the Church of England. There wasn’t a ‘set’ way to take this vow within Anglicanism, but she had a ceremony and said her own vows.

Important Points

I myself once thought God was calling me to lifelong singleness. And took steps and spent a lot of time making choices and praying prayers that would lead me in this direction (Read Single For Now, Or Single Forever? What’s God’s Plan?). I eventually took a different path. But for those of us who are still on it, and considering committing to this path forever, we need support and need others in the church to be talking about the journey.

Both of these women have important stories, which we need to hear. The key points which stood out to me, and I can resonate with from my experience and from supporting those who are in this position, are what I want to briefly talk about now.

It’s worth highlighting that often, people considering life long singleness:

  • Did Think Life Would Be Different
  • Ultimately Are Given A Choice
  • Are Not Trading In Their Happiness 

Did Think Life Would Be Different

Importantly, in these articles, they both grew up thinking their life would be different. They dated and thought they would get married and have kids eventually. 

The people I work with in this situation often think this is the case too. I think it’s partly because marriage seen as the ‘default position’ in our society, so thinking about lifelong singleness requires more effort in some ways. I personally think marriage and life long singleness should both be active choices and thought through seriously, but we are where we are. 

If you’re thinking about life long singleness, it’s natural for you to have a period of adjustment and deliberation. To rethink what your life may look like, and where God fits in. This will bring up its own excitement and challenges.

This could take years to explore and decide, and that is fine. We wouldn’t suddenly marry someone after knowing them for a few hours, so we don’t need to rush this important decision either. It’s natural to see this as a process, and not as a quick decision, or something you should have always seen coming.

Ultimately Are Given A Choice

The question I get asked a lot is ‘Will God force me to be single forever?’ The answer is, no. 

Some people are terrified of this idea. While it’s important for us to all think about why we may be so fearful, if we do indeed pursue lifelong singleness, it will need to be an active choice. 

Both of these women’s stories made that clear. They chose to do it. They still struggle in areas, they still have problems they need to work through, but God didn’t force them into this kicking and screaming.

This is a calling, just like marriage is a calling. Both have challenges, both have amazing elements to them, and both are a gift from God that only work properly when we enter into it willingly.

Are Not Trading In Their Happiness

Marriage does not automatically result in happiness. Singleness does not automatically result in sadness. Despite this being the overwhelming message from our culture, this idea isn’t true. 

The people in these articles, and people I know who have chosen this path, are content and happy. Yes, life has its up and downs, but they are not fundamentally unhappy because of their relationship status. 

Get out of the mindset that romantic relationships are the only way we find fulfilment

We need to get out of the mindset that romantic relationships are the only way we find fulfilment and the only way we find happiness. Investing in wider friends, family, interests and hobbies is all part of feeling valued and fulfilled. Whether we are married or not. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities).

Lifelong singleness doesn’t mean unhappiness.

Imagine If…  

People we know, and we ourselves, may be exploring this important decision. We can’t let ourselves or others feel like strangers or outsiders if lifelong singleness is being explored. We are all members of the church family who will be supported no matter what. And will must all try to not to make the ‘non-default’ position look like a bad one. 

Imagine if we reminded people in this position that those considering life long singleness often: Did Think Life Would Be Different, Ultimately Are Given A Choice, Are Not Trading In Their Happiness. 

Do we talk about active life long singleness in church enough? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 18/3/2019

Why Our Distant Relatives Reduced Romance In Their Non-Dating Cultures. Pt.2

Interesting Research

In Part 2 we will continue to look at how our ancestors and distance relatives used to find people to commit to and marry. Courtship was an important time in the rise of romance because, for the first time, society accepted that romantic feelings before walking down the aisle were important.  

In Part 1 we looked at how arranged marriage cultures used to work. This post takes a look at the courtship culture. As we read about this, it can help us reflect on our own culture of dating and romance. 

(The following extract is taken from page 42-45 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Let Courtship Commence

A new trend called ‘courtly love’ (amour courtois) emerged in the eleventh century in the area around Provence and Burgundy (in modern-day France). Men of noble birth were taught that they needed success in romance in order to be ‘real men’. 

So men, being men, turned this into a competition by showing off their flamboyant fighting and dancing skills for the benefit of the ladies – lucky you (not!). These were the original trophy wives, women who knew that, if they wanted to bag the best man, they needed to be rich, gorgeous and out of their suitor’s league. 

Idealised Love

You might think this is wildly romantic or complete lunacy, but this wasn’t real love. It was idealised love: fantasy, rather than reality. 

Wealthy, beautiful women were the object of romantic attention, but this didn’t automatically translate into happy relationships. Having men fight over you might sound like heaven, but the ability to hit people and show off isn’t a good indicator of a great husband. 

Having women sit demurely on a pedestal, focusing on their looks and hiding their faults, isn’t a good indicator for a great wife either. Since most marriages were still arranged, it was a recipe for disaster. (Read Why Believing In ‘The One’ Is Very Overrated)

This trend did begin to place the notion of romance into the pre-marriage

However, this trend did begin to place the notion of romance into the pre-marriage rather than post-marriage category. The whiff of romance was in the air, and things slowly began to change in parts of European culture. 

In Britain, many poets, including Shakespeare, wrote about romantic love during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The world of art and literature helped to spark a new trend that would become firmly established in the eighteenth century and would snowball until the beginning of the twentieth. This trend was known as ‘courtship’.

Courtship was revolutionary.

Romance Is On The Rise 

Imagine being stuck in a world where there is no guarantee of being able to talk to someone you fancied, and then all of a sudden you’re let loose! 

Well, maybe not completely. But for the first time ever, Western society began to accept that having feelings for someone before you married them mattered, a bit. 

For example, a beautiful girl could catch a man’s eye in public, and he was allowed to pursue her (if there was some money in the bank, and she had a reputation for being a nice girl!). Once he had permission from both families, he could pull out all the stops. You know, take her for walks and write ludicrous love letters.

By the end of the eighteenth century, it was normal to think it was best if you actually liked the person you had to marry (and there’s us thinking that was obvious). 

The importance of romance was on the rise. Some rich families even ended lucrative marriage arrangements because their children failed to create an emotional bond during courtship. Women in Britain could even veto partners selected by their parents.

Novels like those of Jane Austen, who published her first book in 1811, exalted marriage for love. Ironically, the very poor, who had little to gain economically in marriage, had more freedom to focus on romantic feelings. If you’ve got to spend the rest of your life in a hovel with someone, you might as well make sure it’s someone you like!

More Freedom 

We think courtship began to evolve in the seventeenth century, and this practice lasted right up until the beginning of the twentieth century. 

It would have looked different at different times, in different classes and cultures, but essentially the Western world began to accept that having romantic feelings for the person you were about to marry was important.

At the heart of courtship was the belief that romance should be explored before marriage

The Victorian era (1837–1901), with its boom in wealth from the Industrial Revolution, really solidified this change in Britain. 

With increased wealth came increased leisure time. And if you were from the richer classes, what better thing to pursue with all this new time and wealth than romance? Courting couples could ‘go out’ together and buy each other gifts, even if they did have to put up with some ageing aunt to chaperone them. And we thought bumping into your Bible study group leader while on a first date was awkward!

At the heart of courtship was the belief that romance should be explored before marriage, and pre-marriage feelings became more and more important.

Still Not Like Dating 

You may think that this sounds like dating. Sometimes people think that courtship is just another word for dating, but it isn’t. 

Though courtship was the forerunner of today’s dating culture, it was still very restrictive. For starters, courtship wasn’t casual, because it signalled publicly the couple’s intent to marry one day. They may have been able to get to know each other before marriage, but society saw this as a serious move towards marriage. 

Cultural standards meant that you certainly didn’t ‘court’ lots of people on your path to finding true love.

Money and status still played a huge part. If their family didn’t like you, you weren’t going to get a look in. Although interest in romance was rising, society still thought marrying for nothing but romance was crazy and would lead to marital unhappiness. 

The emphasis placed on feelings was still restricted

Popular literature at the time may have presented marriage as a bed of roses for a couple who were madly in love, but society as a whole never accepted it as the sole justification for marriage. 

Courting couples had more freedom and some space to enjoy premarital romance, but parents, money and families still had a greater say, and the emphasis placed on feelings was still restricted. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

  • How would you feel if people expected you to marry anyone you tried to chat up?
  • How would you feel about being allowed to seek romance with someone, but only if your family approved of them and their bank balance from the start?
  • Why would you feel this way?

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

Imagine If…

Imagine If we remembered that our focus on romance is still quite new, and other people didn’t always place such importance on it. This can help us as we try to balance romance, enjoyment, commitment, hard work, and all the things needed to make a relationship work. (Read Why You Should Remember That ‘Romance’ On Its Own is Rubbish)

What do you think are the good/bad bits of courtship? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 11/3/2019

Why Our Distant Relatives Reduced Romance In Their Non-Dating Cultures. Pt.1

Interesting Research

It is easy to think that the way we find love today is the same way everybody has always done it throughout history. But dating is a cultural practice and phenomenon that’s only about 100 years old! Romance wasn’t always as important to society as it is now.

Whenever I deliver teaching on dating, romance, and faith, I always make it clear that dating didn’t always exist. In fact, it has only existed for about 100 years. 


That is often the word I hear in reply. Or the expression written on people’s faces. Because many think: Surely everyone dated? Everyone looked for love like this? Everyone searched for romance? It’s natural right? It’s obvious? Well actually, it isn’t. 

Our ancestors and distant relatives from the past didn’t date or place such an emphasis on romance. It was very different back then. It’s worth reflecting on this, to help us consider the strengths and weaknesses of our own approach nowadays. 

(The following extract is taken from page 40-42 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction here for free.)

The Rise Of Romance

If we look back through human history, it’s fair to say that having romantic relationships before you got married was pretty unusual. 

Although the search for romance occurs at different times throughout history, most cultures have practised arranged marriages, meaning that your parents got to choose who you would spend the rest of your life with. It’s really only the modern Western world that has strongly rejected arranged marriage and created a dating culture. 

The obsession with romance in our pre-married relationships is a modern phenomenon

Arranged marriages still occur in many societies today, even though parents involvement varies from culture to culture. In fact, 55% of marriages in the world are thought to be arranged, meaning that less than half of us are free to choose our own marriage partners. 

But in the West, it goes without saying that marrying for love is the ideal, and the obsession with romance in our pre-married relationships is a modern phenomenon.

Ye Olde Matrimony

If we wind the clock back by a thousand years, we can see that throughout the Middle Ages in Europe (around AD 500–1500 or so) marrying your children into wealth and status was often vital for survival (no money meant no life – there were no state benefits). 

In most cases, the choice of who you married came down to these two things, so looking for romance wasn’t a concern for the majority.

Marriage was a serious family business

It’s not that being in love didn’t exist in these cultures. It did, of course. But you didn’t expect to fall in love, get romantically swept off your feet, and then walk down the aisle. Affectionate feelings (if they came at all) grew after marriage, not before.

Marriage was a serious family business, a chance to climb the social ladder and gain financial security. As children, you would have been expected to play your part. Whether your family was stinking rich or dirt poor, everyone knew that a chance to increase wealth and develop family connections mattered:

If your sister is not yet married, I trust to God that I know how she may be married to a gentleman with an income of 300 marks a year, a great man by birth and good family. If you think you can negotiate anything in this connection please send me word by the bringer of this letter.
(Edward Lord Gray, in a letter to John Paston, 1454)

Totally Different 

There would have been some exceptions, of course. We can see that Pope Gratian wrote, ‘No woman should be married to anyone except by her free will.’ 

So, in theory, some people may have had a say in the spouse selected for them, but that would have been rare. Money and survival were too important for most people. The idea of marrying the love of your life would have been as alien as us buying a computer that doesn’t connect to the internet.

  • How would you feel if you were told that romance didn’t matter?
  • What would you say if you could not make love the main focus in choosing your next date or spouse?
  • Why?

This can help us critique and reflect on our own dating culture

No Dates, No Dating 

Ancient culture just didn’t nurture the belief that romance should guide who we end up marrying. So dating didn’t happen. 

After all, why would you need to date if marriage wasn’t based on your choice and opinion anyway? People didn’t need to get to know their future spouse or search for someone special, so they just didn’t need to date. 

Romance had to take a back seat, but there was about to be a big shake-up! (Read Does Christian Dating Go Against God’s Views On Relationships?)

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

Imagine If…

Part 2 looks at the next stage in the rise of romance, and look specifically at the culture of courtship.  

For now, imagine if we took the time to reflect on how people used to find their partners. I’m not saying we need to turn back time and do it as they did, but this can help us critique and reflect on our own dating culture, which is often seen as ‘natural’ and the way ‘it always has to be’, which can stop us reflecting on how to do it better. (Read Can We Really Trust What Our Culture Says About Relationships?)

What do you think is good/bad about this culture? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 4/3/2019