Break- Ups

Break-Ups, Anger, and Frustration, What Should I Change?

Break- Ups

There is no guarantee that dating deeper will find us someone quickly, or that it’ll be break-up free. Sometimes things don’t work out. But it’s during these times of anger and frustration while acknowledging we’re allowed to be upset, that we need to realise that dating deeper still offers us the relationship we crave. 

Most of us crave a romantic relationship, one that will make us feel safe, that is built on trust and enjoyment.

Sometimes our culture encourages us to date in a way which is non-committal and where faithfulness is optional. But this will not give it the best chance to thrive. We need to date deep, and date with commitment. (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?)

If we date like this, and break-up, what then?

Dating Deeper

Dating isn’t marriage, but dating deeper, and trying to make it work and being committed while dating can help us build the relationship we crave. But if we date like this, and break-up, what then?

Do we change the way we date? Does it mean dating deeper, dating with commitment, is wrong?

I always meet and hear of people who are trying to date with God in mind. They try to date in a deep way but are upset it hasn’t worked out. They experience the frustration of dating differently, trying to be faithful to their beliefs and God-centred, but still not being in the situation they want to be in.

Unfortunately, dating deeper doesn’t mean break-ups don’t happen

Dating Is Messy

I had a friend who really broke my heart. She and her boyfriend went to my church, and after he ended it, said the best way to get over a relationship is to throw herself into loads of other ones. She started to date in a shallow way and eventually felt the effects.

We need to hold onto God, and remember why we wanted to date differently in the first place

Dating deeper is hard. Dating in a way that isn’t just focused on me and my needs. It is really frustrating if things don’t seem to change. Unfortunately, dating deeper doesn’t mean break-ups don’t happen. What do we do with the anger and frustration?

Ignore it? Just go out with anyone? Abandon our principles?

We need to hold onto God and remember why we wanted to date differently in the first place.

(The following extract is taken from page 120-121 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Not Looking Back In Anger

Have you noticed how even the best-laid plans don’t always work out?

Sometimes even healthy dating relationships end, and others that look promising never get off the ground. We need to be careful that we don’t let these experiences make us resentful towards God or others.

A bad experience is not a reason to throw all of our values and intentions out of the window. Dating deep is worthwhile, even if it doesn’t turn out as we had hoped.

Pursuing one person and committing to them exclusively is always the best way to date. Not because that’s what we say, but because we have seen that’s how God has designed it.

I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
(Psalm 18:1–6)

What an amazing psalm! When our hopes, dreams, and plans don’t go according to plan, God’s deep constancy provides us with hope and security that we can rely on. His promises aren’t empty.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

Keep The Faith

Dating deeply challenges us to build a relationship with one person at a time, demonstrate faithfulness even before we ‘officially’ go out, and realise that being faithful includes our intentions and thoughts, as well as our actions.

We’ve probably all hurt others, or been hurt in relationships. Knowing God and choosing to date in a way that honours him won’t necessarily prevent this from happening again. But the reason we keep choosing to date deeply is because the lifelong love we want is found only through faithfulness.

When things don’t work out, when we get rejected, it’s okay to be upset. It’s understandable.

Loving deeply will open us up to the possibility of being rejected. Dating God’s way doesn’t come with any guarantees! But even when hurt happens, we can know the healing power of Jesus and find the courage to date deeply again.

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

Imagine If…

When things don’t work out, when we get rejected, it’s okay to be upset. It’s understandable. When our friends are upset we want to make it better for them. But the answer isn’t to match them up again quickly.

Imagine if after a break up we surrounded ourselves with people who remind us, or we were the friend, who pointed people towards God and reminded each other why dating differently is important.

It isn’t easy, we will be upset. But dating in a way which values commitment will help us foster the ideals we want from romantic relationships and give them the best chance to thrive. Even if we feel frustrated at the moment. (Read What Should We Do On A First Date)

What else can help people get through a break-up in the best way possible? Comments welcome below.

Originally posted 3/5/2017

6 Ways to Break-up Well: Part 2 (No Ghosting or Breadcrumbing allowed!)

Break- Ups, Relationship Difficulties

In the second part of this 2 part article, we will continue to explore how to break-up in a way that really tries to be respectful and takes the other person’s needs into account. It’s never easy, but we’re always aiming and learning to be kind to people and reduce hurting them, and dating is no exception.  

When I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, it wasn’t nice for either of us. But I didn’t just send a text or ignore her. I did it face to face, I explained what was happening, and I avoided blaming her.

She was able to hear why, know it was definitely over, and move on

I doubt she enjoyed it, but we were able to remain on speaking terms afterwards and remain friends (even if we were no longer good friends). More importantly, she was able to hear why, know it was definitely over, and move on. It may have hurt, but it wasn’t devastating.

So here are the rest of the 6 pointers (read Part 1 here) that me, and other people, who are striving towards loving their neighbour in this context, have found helpful. (And there were no phones in sight!)

(The following extract is taken from page 200-202 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Be Courageous

If a relationship needs to come to an end, then you must accept that it’s going to be awkward for both of you. Your primary objective is to make it less difficult for them, not for you. This is what being selfless looks like.

Doing it face to face is a mark of dignity and respect

Try to respect them as much as possible. Would you like it if someone you love dumped you over the phone, or sent you a text? Of course not. You would want them to tell you to your face, to show you that you are important to them, that the relationship meant something. Doing it face to face is a mark of dignity and respect because it makes it about their feelings, not yours.

Sometimes relationships are so toxic and damaging that they need to end. You may need to put a bit of distance between you and the other person in order to keep you safe or to stop you from taking them back.

In these instances, it might be worth getting someone to help or be nearby. Being selfless and courageous also means being safe. If you think that your partner may lash out physically or verbally, don’t put yourself in harm’s way.

Be Clear

When a relationship comes to an end, both people need closure. That can mean different things for different people, but it will always mean having a conversation about why it’s ending.

Some lines to avoid are: ‘It isn’t you; it’s me!’; ‘God told me you’re getting in the way of my relationship with him!’; and ‘You’ll find someone better than me!’

Use ‘I’ statements and own your view of what happened

Use ‘I’ statements and own your view of what happened, sharing how you feel. They don’t need to agree with you, but they need to hear your version of events. This all requires you both to be calm enough to sit down and talk.

Sometimes, after you break up, you can’t be friends, or at least not straightaway. Sometimes you need space to be upset and to heal without them being around, confusing you and making it harder to move on. There is no shame in that. Sometimes ending well means not being friends for a while.

Be Kind

If you get locked into an argument or a mud-slinging competition, you might feel very tempted (or justified) in saying all kinds of hurtful things to get your own back. This never works. It only causes more damage and pain to the person you once cared for.

And this is not honouring to God – so keep your cool and hold your tongue! It doesn’t mean that you avoid saying tough things they might not want to hear.

But think ahead about what you want to say, so that your words don’t run away with you when the anger flares. The chances are that you will bump into them again. You might even have to see them every day! So plan for the long-term and don’t burn your bridges now.

Be Consistent

Saying something that reduces someone to tears isn’t pleasant. Some of us are more likely to crumble when the tears flow. Others might feel OK for the first few weeks, and then all the memories of great times together come flooding back and you wonder if you have made a mistake.

Try not to drag out the ending. Give each other time to talk through your feelings (if you feel able to), but try to avoid endless deep and meaningful chats. It just prolongs the inevitable and can give a false glimmer of hope for you or your ex.

The most important thing is that, if you are the one ending the relationship, you act as selflessly as you can, without going back on your decision.

Selflessness is about putting the other person first

As far as it is within your responsibility, always talk face to face and avoid telling other people you are about to end it. This sort of information has a habit of leaking out. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Sometimes you need to end a relationship because things simply aren’t working out. Either way, selflessness is about putting the other person first. If you break up with someone, do it in a way that puts their feelings first, so you know that, although it might be difficult, you have approached it in the best possible way.

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

6 Bits Of Advice  

  • Their needs come first
  • Be honest
  • Be courageous
  • Be clear
  • Be kind
  • Be consistent

Imagine If…

Imagine if we took dating seriously and strived towards building mutually kind, respectful, and fulfilling relationships. Even if it didn’t work out, we would avoid hurting people by sticking to this goal.

What else would you add to these bits of advice? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 12/4/2017

6 Ways to Break-up Well: Part 1 (No Ghosting or Breadcrumbing allowed!)

Break- Ups, Relationship Difficulties

In this 2 part article, we will think about how to break-up well. (By which we mean, as well as possible). Because dating is about discovering if you’re compatible or not, and deciding if you want to commit to a long-term relationship. So if the answer is no, it will involve ending it. Often the awkwardness makes us think of ‘my needs’, and this is the very problem which stops us doing it well. 

Breaking up from a dating relationship is never fun, it’s never easy, and it can make us feel guilty. Often people ask me what the magic words are. What do you say to make it all go smoothly?

The honest answer is that there isn’t a script that will make it a ‘happy memory’.

This doesn’t mean that it can’t be done well though. It can be done in a way that is respectful, selfless, and kind, but this means we need to push through the awkwardness. Most people don’t push through, which is why break-ups are often done badly.

Ghosting And Breadcrumbing

Two modern phenomenons have, unfortunately, become common in our modern dating culture.

 They think breaking up well is hard, so why bother

Ghosting is when the person you’re dating suddenly stops all contact. No more texts, no face-timing, no Facebook Messenger, nothing. They just ignore you. They think breaking-up well is hard, so why bother. It makes their life easier but leaves the other person feeling hurt, confused, and rejected.

Breadcrumbing seems to be a fate far worse. This is when someone you’re ‘dating’, sends the occasional flirty and non-committal text message or likes the occasional post you put up. It’s just enough contact so you can’t forget them or lose total interest, but not enough so that a proper relationship can develop.

The other person and their needs are forgotten

Again, they avoid the awkward break-up, but also want to keep you in the ‘maybe’ zone, in case I change my mind. It’s all about ‘me’ and ‘my’ needs, and is totally ‘me’ focused. The other person’s needs are forgotten.

Their Needs Come First 

When it comes to dating, people have forgotten how to be kind. It can be so much about ‘me’ that people forget to treat others well. Especially when it’s awkward and not easy.

If we need to break-up with someone, we should think about their needs first. How do we love our neighbour in that context? What would we want to happen if they were ending it with us?

(The following extract is taken from page 199-200 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Your Experience

A while ago there was a trend on Twitter called #ThingsPeopleSayAfterABreakup. There was a whole range of things that people wrote down:

  • ‘We’re better off friends’ (my translation: ‘I’m no longer interested in you’).
  • ‘Her: Fine! Him: Fine!!! Her: walks away. Him: walks away. Her: cries. Him: tries real hard not to do the same . . . ’
  • ‘We will be friends’ (Never ever speak again)
  • ‘Why me . . . what did I do to deserve this?!’
  • ‘I never even liked them anyway’
  • ‘It’s not you, it’s me!’
  • One honest person wrote, ‘I wish things could have been different.’

Our personal favourite was: ‘I hope you go bald.’ But no-one said, ‘Breaking-up was fun’ or ‘Breaking-up was easy’ or ‘Neither of us felt upset afterwards.’

No Magic Words 

It’s never easy or fun to end a relationship. We all know that. Yet we still look for that ‘magic speech’ to end things easily and (if we are brutally honest) in a way that causes us the least pain and awkwardness.

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves’

But that speech doesn’t exist. Even if the feeling is mutual and you both agree that the relationship needs to end, some part of you will feel upset, angry or disappointed.

The Bible doesn’t give us a step-by-step way to end a relationship well, but we’re constantly reminded where our priorities should lie, and it’s always about the other person’s dignity, their flourishing.

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves’ (Philippians 2:3 NIV).

Be Honest 

One of the worst lines we ever hear coming out of a Christian’s mouth is: ‘I just felt like God said I need to end it.’ All this does is leave the other person with no closure and a sinking feeling that God doesn’t care about them.

If God has told you something about the relationship that you need to act on, then be honest about it. For example, if you feel challenged by God that you’re being fake in your relationship, so you feel you need time on your own to deal with this, tell them the real reason. (Read Single For Now, Or Single Forever? What’s God’s Plan?)

Remember that you’re not responsible for what the other person says or does in response, but you are responsible for what you do and say

If you are being selfless and purposeful about the relationship you are in, then you won’t come to this decision lightly.

Remember that you’re not responsible for what the other person says or does in response, but you are responsible for what you do and say. They might feel angry that you started dating them in the first place, or disappointed that you don’t feel you can stay with them to work through this issue.

But those are their responses. Although they are valid, they don’t have to change your mind.

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

First 2 Points

  • Their needs come first
  • Be honest

The reason ghosting and breadcrumbing happen is because people just think about their own needs and want to make their own life easier. We need to remember breaking up isn’t nice, and we are called to think about other people’s needs before our own.

Being honest and thinking about them can lead us to do it as well as possible.

Imagine If…

Part 2 of this post, expands on the next 4 points, giving specific practical advice. But for now, imagine if we entered our dating relationship thinking about the other person’s needs while they did the same. Then even if it doesn’t work out, respect, kindness, and honesty would have been at the centre of it all.

This kindness and respect are often what’s missing in dating, and this causes so much hurt. (Read What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?)

What’s the worst break-up line you’ve heard? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 10/4/2017

Churches, Love Triangles, and Secrets

Break- Ups, Friendships

Many Christians date people in their church. Naturally, there are people with similar beliefs and values, and at church people are already part of their lives. But unfortunately, this means people end up having exes in their church as well. Part of learning to date well involves learning to end it well and avoiding having people on non-speaking terms in the same place of worship. 

I remember being shocked when a friend of mine said that the worship leader in his church was not on speaking terms with three people in the congregation because of their messy break ups.

Three people that they are meant to lead to God and have fellowship with. That’s a big deal.

If people in church cannot reconcile and forgive then something is missing. And I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m not saying they will be the best of friends afterwards, but dating well means learning to end it well if the time comes.

It’s important to navigate these situations well

Exes, going out with people other people fancy, hearing rumours of the new couple, is sometimes part and parcel of dating in church. Which is why it’s important to navigate these situations well.

(The following extract is taken from page 110-112 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Love Triangles

Lots of churches struggle with having only a few single people around the same age. There’s always the possibility that we might end up dating someone’s ex, or their future spouse! People sometimes refer to this as a love triangle.

We’ve known couples who have conducted ‘stealth’ relationships and gone to considerable lengths to keep people in the dark

In all honesty, churches often have love triangles mixed with love squares, love trapeziums, love octagons, love tetrahedrons: there are more shapes in church than in a maths textbook! It can be hard to keep up sometimes. Inevitably, this puts a real strain on new relationships and existing friendships.

Because of this, some couples choose to keep their love a secret. We’ve known couples who have conducted ‘stealth’ relationships and gone to considerable lengths to keep people in the dark. But friendships depend on a level of openness and honesty. Secrecy isn’t the best way for us to demonstrate faithfulness to our boy/girlfriend or our friendship groups.


If you or your date have a relationship history, it’s important that you’re honest with yourselves and others about being in a new relationship. Keeping it a secret for fear of upsetting your ex doesn’t honour them.

Secrecy isn’t a great foundation for a new relationship

Instead, treat them with dignity; don’t ignore them. Don’t ask friends to choose between you.

Also, secrecy isn’t a great foundation for a new relationship. Instead, a healthy way to respect your ex’s feelings is to conduct your relationship sensitively in public. That means not talking about your new relationship all the time and being seen without each other at events, as well as together, so that you continue to invest in friendships and your well-rounded life.

Past vs Present

As difficult as it sounds, a past relationship has to be just that, a past relationship. If your past relationships are still very present in your life, because your friendships overlap, or Twitter and Facebook updates and messages keep popping up, then you need to make sure that you aren’t encouraging or seeking emotional intimacy from them.

Your priority is to invest in your new relationship. Your ex also needs to be free for a new relationship that they might not pursue if they are still getting some of their needs met by you. (Read Texting An Ex Is Always A Bad Idea, But There’s One Exception)

Juliet & Matthew

Juliet knew that Matthew was so in love with her that even remaining ‘friends’ would be too difficult for him. When she gently told him that she was going to delete his number and not contact him for a while, he was devastated and told her it felt like being dumped all over again.

So she relented. But as she predicted, every time they met ‘just as friends’, he would end up pouring out his heart to her, only to be rejected all over again when she said she didn’t feel for him in that way. After a very late night phone chat, he angrily agreed that they shouldn’t meet up again.

Both of them knew they had done the right thing

Juliet was relieved, then desperately sad at how much pain she had caused Matthew. It took lots of chats with good friends for her to realise that it was because she cared for him as a friend that she wanted to release him from the hope of them dating again. (Read What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?)

They bumped into each other a year later, and although it was a bit awkward, both of them knew they had done the right thing.

No Easy Rule 

As we are all unique, we will handle past relationships differently.

You might be in the position of being the ‘previous relationship’, or maybe you fancied someone who rejected you, and you’re finding it hard to move on. It can be especially hard if this person is still meeting some of your emotional needs.

Be kind to yourself and focus on what you really need. Even if you feel, or have been told, that you are someone’s second choice, you can still choose whether or not to live by that.

Although you’re anxious about what life without them will be like, all the time you’re holding on to the past, thinking that you can’t cope without them, you’re missing out on the healing and rebuilding process that God’s Spirit will do in your life. Learning to lean on him will enable you to keep tapping into the potential he has given you.

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

Imagine If…

We need to think about what we can say or avoid saying, to stop bringing more unintentional division

Imagine if we were able to help each other reconcile after a break-up. For some people, this is very hard, and everyone will move on in different ways, but imagine if we had a culture of supporting relationships and helping people to keep a good perspective if an unfortunate break-up occurs.

Next time we hear about a break-up, we need to think about what we can say or avoid saying, to stop bringing more unintentional division.

What does reconciliation look like after a break-up? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 6/2/2017

What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?

Break- Ups, Interesting Research

Mutual break-ups are one thing, but if you’re the one on the receiving end of a break-up you didn’t expect, then it’s totally different. The shock, the hurt, the ‘why me?’ questions can cause real hurt and pain. The trick is, to accept rather than ignore those feeling, but also allow yourself to develop a ‘growth’ rather than a ‘fixed’ mindset, so the break-up doesn’t define you forever. 

I constantly say that dating is something that should be enjoyed. It should be a blessing. But learning to date well may, unfortunately, mean learning how to break-up well too. I passionately believe learning to communicate clearly and gently why you think the relationship needs to end is important.

A lot of the damage in our dating culture is because of bad break-ups. Which can affect our next relationship negatively. Learning to do it well is therefore vital if someone wants to end it.

However, once when I was talking about the importance of breaking-up well and treating the other person with respect, someone raised their hand. They asked me ‘but what do you do if you’re the one who got dumped?’ It’s an important question.

This is important because if two people who date realise they aren’t suited for whatever reason, and communicate that and go their separate ways, is very mature and helpful. Ending a relationship is never fun or enjoyable but doing it like that is the healthiest way. But one person may not want or expect the break-up.

So what do you do if you’re on the receiving end?

Fixed Mindset Verses Growth Mindset

I came across an idea recently from a piece of research, which said that people who have a break up essentially fall into two categories. One is a ‘fixed’ mindset and the other is a ‘growth’ mindset.

People who have a fixed mindset believe that the reason why their relationship ended is fixed. It will always be a problem. It will never change. It will define who they are in every other relationship they have.

Dealing with a break-up and knowing that the reason doesn’t define you

Whereas the growth mindset says that while this experience is hard, and not enjoyable, because breaking-up is never fun or easy, it will not always be like this. The reason why the break-up happened doesn’t need to define you. You can even learn from it.  You will move past it (and it will take time), but your next relationship will be different.

The growth mindset is crucial. Dealing with a break-up and knowing that the reason doesn’t define you, and seeing it as a potential to learn and grow, is what we need to do to make sure we don’t let a relationship that’s ended have ongoing and far-reaching effects on us.

So what did I say to this woman who asked this important question, and what would I say to others like her?

Three Things to Remember After a Break-up

  1. You can be sad and upset.
  2. Head towards a growth mindset
  3. Your relationship status cannot define your whole being

Firstly, you can be upset. If the relationship ending wasn’t something you expected or wanted, then you can be upset. You don’t need to say ‘They were not worth it’, or ‘I have no regrets’ or ‘Plenty more fish in the sea’ or any other cliche bits of advice we may have heard. We can say this is hard, we can be angry, we can accept we are hurting.

Secondly, despite all of these feeling and emotions, we need to head toward the growth mindset. This break-up does not define who we are. It may even be something we can learn from, but it definitely will not be a problem forever.  We are not unlovable or unwanted, this relationship just didn’t work out. (Read ‘What Makes Relationships Work? What Makes Them Weak?’)

It may take time to get to this place, but that is why being upset is important. Until we work through the pain, we will not be able to look at our break-up without a fixed mindset.

We need to realise that we are bigger than our relationship status

Thirdly, whether we are dating, just been through a break-up, or are single and have been for a while, we need to realise that we are bigger than our relationship status. We are sons and daughters of the king (Galatians 3:23-4:7). We are loved by God (Romans 5:8).  We are friends of God (John 15:13-15). This is the constant, this is what defines us, not our relationship status.

If we are going through a break-up, the need to be upset, angry, shocked is understandable. But we need to head towards a growth mindset, and remind ourselves that this does not define us.

Do you think this advice is better than what we often get told? Why? 

Originally posted 1/10/2016