Break- Ups

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 

The Best Advice For Getting Over A Break-Up

Break- Ups, Interesting Research

Break-ups are part of dating sometimes, but they are not easy and they’re not fun. Logically, we may be able to gain some perspective, reason it all through and tell ourselves it’s okay. Yet this isn’t stopping the emotional roller coaster or pain we’re experiencing. However, the latest research from psychologists offers us three bits of advice to help us deal with the heartache of a break-up. 

I remember talking to a friend who had just broken up with his girlfriend. He was understandably upset, and while it wasn’t a total surprise, he had hoped it would turn out differently. 

If you asked him about it at the time, he could tell you all the reasons why it was probably best for both of them. Why it wasn’t going to work out long-term, while giving all the good reasons why they had separated. But he would also have these emotional outbursts and want to get back with her.

Emotional Bond

I thought, and still think, that this is totally understandable. A relationship isn’t only about reason or logic, it involves our emotions too. 

Breaking an emotional bond is hard in any situation. Some break-ups are mutual, some aren’t. Some may be coming for a while, but others are a complete surprise. The common denominator though is that all of them leave some emotional pain and heartache.

The emotional bond is probably going to be harder to deal with

So whether we can or can’t reason with ourselves that it’s for the best, we need to understand that the emotional bond is probably going to be harder to deal with. This needs to be addressed if we want to get over it.  

New Research Offers 3 Tips  

Saying to someone there is plenty more fish in the sea, or saying that it could be worse, may be logical and help to an extent, but it doesn’t help people get off the emotional roller coaster. However, new research from psychologists may be able to help us.  

The research suggests 3 main strategies to get over heartbreak. 

  1. Think Negatively About Your Ex
  2. Accept Your Lingering Feeling Towards Them 
  3. Distract Yourself

Think Negatively About Your Ex

This strategy involves us critically examining our ex and remembering that they’re not perfect. 

This will help because it reminds us that it’s unhealthy to just remember the good bits, which can cause us to fall into the trap of thinking that no one else will ever make us happy again. This will also cause us to be stuck in the past, rather than putting our energy into moving forward. 

Taken too far, this can become really negative and make you feel worse. I had a friend who would endlessly list and exaggerate all the things that she (now) thought was wrong about her ex. But it made her really bitter and she processed her emotions in the wrong way. (Read The Worst Advice You Can Hear About Rejection)

Thinking negatively can help us gain the right perspective if it’s balanced with the other 2 strategies. 

Accept Your Lingering Feelings Towards Them 

This involves accepting that the emotional bond is still there.

We can’t ignore it

We can’t ignore it, pretend the feelings don’t exist or try to cover them up with another dose of anger. We’re allowed to say and accept that breaking the emotional bond is hard.

It will also help us to dig down into why we like them. Was it because of their sense of humour or the way they treated you, etc. These characteristics can help us to look for the right things in the next partner when the time is right.

Being able to realise what was good and reminding ourselves that they will not be the only person who has a sense of humour or who will treat us well, will help us to focus on moving forward. 

Distract Yourself

This strategy is as simple as it sounds. It’s about putting things in the diary, keeping ourselves busy, and meeting up with friends. 

The research suggests that this will not necessarily help reduce the feelings we have for our ex, because we all know just ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. However, it can make us feel more positive and optimistic because we won’t just sit there and think about the break-up.  

New research seems to offer us some real tangible and practical advice

Doing things we love to do or used to do, but haven’t in a while because of the past relationship, will also help create a more positive and forward-looking mindset too (Read Revealed: Why Some Break-Ups Feel Good (After A While))  

Imagine If…

All three strategies can help people overcome the pain of breaking an emotional bond. While there is no magic formula, and everyone is different with unique situations, new research seems to offer us some real tangible and practical advice. 

Imagine if you made sure you did indeed: Think Negatively About Your Ex, Accept Your Lingering Feeling Towards Them, and Distract Yourself, and enabled others to do the same, we could find real help in times of need. (Read Break-Ups, Anger, and Frustration, What Should I Change?)

What other advice have you given to people in this situation? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 19/11/2018 

The Worst Advice You Can Hear About Rejection

Break- Ups, Finding A Date

Dating often involves rejection. Us finding someone may involve disappointments along the way. When we face rejection, we’re usually told to just ignore it and move on. But that rarely helps. We can only ignore it to a point, before we start to question ourselves, worry that we’re not enough, and maybe feel like giving up. We need advice that offers us more.

My colleagues always tease me and comment that all my posts start with me saying ‘I was talking to a friend the other day…’. They joke that I cannot be having this many conversations with people about relationships, and/or that no one can have that many friends.

I always smile and say that I do indeed love to talk about dating, relationships, and faith with lots of people (maybe too much), and I do have many friends! In fact, I was talking to one last week (honest) about her experience of online dating.

We were talking about the fear she had around online dating.

She said she didn’t want to use it at first, but gave it a go because her friends were encouraging her to, she was celebrating another birthday and was a year older, and there was still no one in her current social circle to date.

Looking Back

She has now found someone and is very happy in her relationship. As she was talking to me she was reflecting on what her experience was like. Especially because she never really wanted to use online dating in the first place.

She put it off for so long because of her fear of rejection

One thing she said which really struck me, was that she put it off for so long because of her fear of rejection.

This fear can be overwhelming whether we’re dating online or offline. The fear of meeting some you like, then they just end it and say no thanks. Or when it comes to online dating in particular, just the thought of knowing that people are looking at your profile, but deciding not to take it further.

It can be hard. My friend found this part of her online dating experience very hard.


This conversation reminded me that talking about how we can date well, and how to prepare for a date, etc., is important, but some people are still trying to get over some initial barriers.

The thought of going through any rejection is a big barrier. Especially when the reality is it could happen more than once as we search for someone.

We end up questioning what went wrong, if there’s something wrong with ‘me’

Most of the time, people say ‘just ignore it and move on’. While moving on is important (Read Revealed: Why Some Break-Ups Feel Good (After A While)), ignoring it is often not possible. We end up questioning what went wrong, if there’s something wrong with ‘me’, why it happened again, and getting our confidence knocked along the way.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee for avoiding rejection when we date, but we can think about how to overcome this barrier and replace some bad advice about rejection, with some good advice.

What To Do

There isn’t a simple solution on offer, but after talking to my friend, and thinking about some other experiences too, I hope that some/all/a mixture of the following points can help us get past the fear of, and the experience of, rejection.

Not Everyone Will Like Everyone  

Firstly, we need a way to remind ourselves that not everyone will like everyone. If we could just start a fulfilling relationship with anyone, we would marry the first person we bumped into. But it doesn’t work like that.

There are good and nice people out there who we will not like romantically, and vice versa. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean we’re being rejected as a person, it just means it won’t work out. Not everyone is suited.

Some People Need A Distraction 

It can be hard though, if you like someone and thought a date went well and they then feel differently. And you may just naturally dwell on it. That is understandable.

So you may need a distraction. We can’t ignore it, but we can’t dwell and obsess over it either.  I’ve written about the importance of planning something in for the day after you go on a date because it will help you keep a healthy perspective. (Read The 3 Best Ways To Prepare For A Date).

We need ways to remember our lives are about more than just dating

We need ways to remember our lives are about more than just dating, especially if we have a negative experience of rejection. Doing something we find fun and fulfilling the day after a date can help us do that.

We Need To Talk About It

Often (online) dating is done in secret, and we don’t let many people know about it. Or we just tell people the good stories, and not about the times we felt hurt or let down by it. But we need to talk about the times it went wrong.

We need to share it and process it with people we trust, otherwise, the fear and rejection can really start to negatively impact, or even stop, our search for love. We need reassurance and support. (Read )

We May Need A Break

Dating is in many ways about perseverance. But no one can go full pelt indefinitely. We all need a break, and time away from things so we can re-group.

If it’s been hard lately, maybe we need some time away.

Imagine If…

No one likes rejection, it affects us and we can’t just ignore it. But we can find ways to overcome the fear as we enter this crazy thing called dating.

Imagine if we stopped letting it hinder our search by remembering that: Not Everyone Will Like Everyone, Some People Need A Distraction, We Need To Talk About It, and We May Need A Break.

What others good bits of advice can you think of? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 18/12/2017

4 Bad Reasons For Breaking Up Which Must Be Avoided!

Break- Ups

All relationships go through highs and lows. But what if you have doubts and fears, how do you know if they are just temporary or a reason to end it? Sadly, some relationships end, and for good reasons. But some can end for the wrong reasons. Thinking about how to avoid these bad reasons is important as we navigate our way through dating.  

So you went on some dates, then on some more dates, and decided you really liked each other. You had the DTR (determine the relationship) chat, and became official. Social media profiles were updated accordingly. Plain sailing now, right?

Well, maybe not.

Maybe a few weeks or months have passed since then, and you’re wondering if it’s what you were looking for. Some doubts have crept in, some fears are growing, but you still really like them. So which feelings are the right ones to listen to?

So which feelings are the right ones to listen to?

Should you listen to the doubts and end it? You aren’t sure anymore and you just can’t shake these thoughts. But this might be normal right? As you settle into the relationship and get more serious, these thoughts and questions naturally arise, but they do pass as well?

Soul Searching

I actually think it’s normal for people to do some soul searching after starting a new relationship.

Asking the serious questions, making sure the relationship isn’t drifting so someone doesn’t get hurt, is actually very wise and helpful. Deciding if you’re both going to invest more and more is important. The challenge is deciding if your negative thoughts and feelings are temporary or a signal that the relationship won’t work.

Now, if I had a simple five-step plan that would give everyone the answer for this tricky situation, then that would be great, but sadly I don’t. If you’re thinking about your relationship and thinking about what to do, I can at least try and help you avoid ending it for the wrong reasons.

The challenge is deciding if your negative thoughts and feelings are temporary

In a culture that places so much emphasis on finding romance, and being the perfect couple, as well as thinking the ‘newer’ the relationship the better, I think it can lead to some unhelpful/bad reasons for thinking about breaking up.

4 Reasons 

We can fall into the trap of thinking that:

  • The Grass is Greener
  • The Relationship Should Be Totally Fulfilling Me
  • I Don’t Get An Intense Romantic Rush Now
  • I Need To Figure It Out On My Own

The Grass Is Greener

The idea that gets told to us a lot in music, culture, and films, is that that new thing/product/relationship will sort out all my problems. Why work at something when we can upgrade?

And when it comes to romance, the focus is all about the rush of finding someone rather than in maintaining a relationship through the ups and downs and mundane bits. It’s easy for people to think that other girl or that guy will be better.

It’s easy to focus on someone’s best bits, to be drawn to the new and exciting possibility. The skill is in navigating and building a relationship that will last, that can give us the safety and security we really crave.

Breaking up because the possibility of something better isn’t a good or healthy reason to end it. (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?)

The Relationship Should Be Totally Fulfilling Me

‘Be in a relationship otherwise you’re missing out!’ That’s the message that we hear constantly.

Romance is held up as the meaning of life in many parts of our culture. It’s meant to be the thing that saves us from all of our problems. So when we realise the person we date is not totally fulfilling us, some people think it’s time to end it.

In all honesty, this perspective will never lead to a long-term, healthy, and enjoyable relationship. No one person can be the source of all of our happiness and confidence.

If we are thinking of breaking up for this reason, it will not solve the problem, but just transfer it to another relationship. We need to learn to have a full life to share with someone, instead of expecting someone to sort it all out. (Read Are You Making The Relationship Mistake That Causes Less Happiness?)

I Don’t Get An Intense Romantic Rush Now

Relationships evolve over time. The rush you get when you like someone, when they first say yes, and when you start to discover a whole bunch of things about them, is great fun. It leads to intense feelings and a romantic rush.

The intensity often reduces over time, but that doesn’t mean the relationship will become boring or stale. The relationship and love will express itself differently. Growing in love is adapting to new stages.

In films, there are always intense scenes where the future couple first set eyes on each other, and they eventually get together, then the film ends before we see the intensity fade. So we don’t see what happens next. Feelings are important in a relationship, but they can’t be the only thing that guides us because they change so much. (Read How ‘Decisions’ Along With ‘Love’ Can Create Healthy Relationships.)

I Need To Figure It Out On My Own

Independence, self-reliance, and doing what makes you happy. This may be something you believe in and live your life by, but in a relationship there are two people and two hearts involved.

Learning to talk about the relationship with each other, learning to communicate what you expect and what you are both thinking is crucial. Trust and security comes out of good communication. (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks.)

Learning to talk about everything is key

Deciding to end it without chatting about it, or more importantly, not learning to communicate as you build a relationship together, isn’t a good reason to end it. They may be feeling the same, but they may have another take on it. Learning to talk about everything is key.

Imagine If…

Relationships involve highs and lows, and there are some that will sadly end.

What we can do is learn about how to find ones we think will last, and learn to navigate the lows so that we can enjoy the highs, and keep them strong and enjoyable.

Imagine if we avoided unhelpful reasons, and we focused on helpful wisdom, that can help us build the relationships that will last, and make us feel safe and secure. We must learn how to avoid using the reasons: The Grass is Greener, The Relationship Should Be Totally Fulfilling Me, I Don’t Get An Intense Romantic Rush Now, and I Need To Figure It Out On My Own.

Are there any other bad reasons you have heard of? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 4/9/2017

Revealed: Why Some Break-Ups Actually Feel Good (After A While)

Break- Ups, Interesting Research

The words ‘break-up’ and ‘feeling good’ don’t often go together. Just thinking about saying them together seems crazy to lots of us. But some people are happy about their break-up. They feel liberated. So why is that? And what can those struggling with a break-up learn from them? Well, some research shows ‘self-expansion’ is key.

I recently came across a very interesting video about break-ups. Someone called Gary Lewandowski Jr., a professor of psychology, gave a short talk on break-ups based on his scientific research. (Watch it here)

He clearly has a lot of experience in the area of relationships and has done lots of experiments too. I found the main point in his short talk really surprising and intriguing. One that could really help those who have recently ended a romantic relationship.

Surprising Twist

He started off by saying things I wholeheartedly agree with. Emphasising that ‘our relationships build us, they define us, they sustain us’. And that ‘relationships are the source of all of your best memories and the source of all of your worst memories.’

Relationships are often sacrificed at the expense of career or pursuit of other things, so we were on the same page saying that they are often undervalued but so important.

He went on to make it clear that break-ups can cause a lot of harm though. They can cause increased loneliness, depression, drug taking, crime. People often feel a ‘loss of self’ because when a relationship ends, a part of themselves goes with it. This is never good.

Most people think a break-up isn’t as bad as they feared

However, his research showed that more often than not, most people think a break-up isn’t as bad as they feared, and actually felt more positive than negative about it. Surprising right? So why is that?

Lewandowski Jr. was arguing that it comes down to one main factor: Self-expansion. The question to ask is: Is the person you’re in a relationship with building you up or holding you back? Are they helping you grow or preventing you reaching your potential?

A Good Break-Up

When your relationship doesn’t help you become a better person, ending it does

Self-expansion allows people to thrive and rediscover the things that bring them fulfilment. If the relationship, for whatever reason, causes someone to feel trapped and unable to thrive and grow, then when they break up they are able to do the things they love doing and rediscover the things that bring them fulfilment and happiness, they will feel positive.

He summarised it like this: ‘when your relationship doesn’t help you become a better person, ending it does’.

Now lots could be said about this, but I always say a relationship should be mutually fulfilling, mutually enjoyable, and mutually beneficial. Yes, everyone will need to sacrifice something, yes, it takes hard work, but at its core, both people need to be selfless and other-person-centred for it to truly thrive. (Read If A Relationship Doesn’t Change Me, Then It’s Not A Relationship.)

Both people should be helping and supporting the other one to grow. This research suggests that if a relationship that isn’t characterised by these things ends, people feel better as a result. They go from feeling trapped, to liberated and see it as a good break up.

What Can We Learn   

But what about if we break-up after a relationship, whether it’s was a good or bad relationship, and feel rubbish. And don’t feel better off as a result?

Well, the best practical tip is to invest in this idea of self-expansion.

Do something that you love doing but didn’t do while you were in the relationship. So if you love dancing and your partner didn’t, go dancing again. If they stopped you investing time and money into a hobby, start now.

Rediscovery of self activities, doing the stuff you couldn’t do in the relationship, helps accelerate coping

In his video, Lewandowski Jr. discusses experiments which prove this theory and helped real people experiencing negative emotions cope a lot better with their situation after a break-up.

A rediscovery of self-activities, doing the stuff you couldn’t do in the relationship, helps accelerate coping. It reduces negative emotions like loneliness and increases positive feelings of purpose and self-acceptance.

Imagine If…

Break-ups affect people differently. Either way, they’re never fun or simple. The way we do it is important (Read 6 Ways to Break-up Well: Part 1 (No Ghosting or Breadcrumbing allowed!)). But for those of us who are struggling, a good piece of very practical advice is self-expansion.

Imagine if when we’re in that situation or have friends that are, instead of feeling helpless, we encouraged them to do things we/they love but haven’t done in a while. This will help to accelerate coping. It will most likely help turn a very negative situation around quicker than expected.

What other good bits of advice have you heard about break-ups? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 7/8/2017