Finding A Date

How To Navigate The Confusing Messages From Our Dating Culture. Pt 2.

Early Dating, Finding A Date

Part 2 of this blog continues to look at some of the conflicting messages the dating culture throws at us and lets us think about how we could respond to this confusing information. This will enable us to date in a way that’s more enjoyable and more fulfilling.

Part 1 of this post said that we should practice kindness and commit to the person in front of us, to avoid being overwhelmed by the confusing messages surround dating. Part 2 continues to look at the next 3 responses which can help us.

#3 Inner Value Vs It’s A Stepping Stone

Another reason why the dating culture is a bit strange is that it’s often presented as ‘just’ a step to something else. It’s part of the process which leads to marriage/a long-term committed relationship. This means it can be treated as something to be rushed or endured.

However, dating in and of itself can have meaning. I think it can bring enjoyment, fulfilment, and mutual flourishing. It has value and can add value.

That’s hard though, isn’t it? We’re being told to think about the future and where the relationship is heading, which is a good thing. Meaning in some ways, it is a stepping stone. Yet at the same time, we don’t want that future potential to dominate and put too much pressure on our present dates.

I think we need to respond by being intentional

It’s confusing, but I think a helpful response would be to practice ‘being intentional’.

We need to be intentional in our dating in the present. We need to think about how we’re approaching it in a mutually fulfilling way right now (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last) Being intentional will also allow us to think long-term too because it means we will need to also think about where we’re heading.

The response here helps us to seek some kind of balance. Thinking about how the relationship is evolving now and putting effort into the present, as well as thinking about where it’s heading, are both important. It reminds us not to rush the process or drift along too much.

#4 Dating Is Fun Vs Dating Is Serious

I’m sure many of us can relate to the idea that dating should be fun, but we also hear it’s serious too. It’s serious because it involves people who can get hurt.

So on the other hand, dating is meant to be about finding a connection, enjoying getting to know someone, and falling in love. I mean, we don’t want to end up with someone who we can’t have fun with.

However, we can’t have fun at other people’s expense, and this conflict can bring up a lot of confusion. We need to relax, but make sure we are taking it seriously and not hurting other people. It can be hard to get the balance right when we date.

In life, there are times when we need to be serious, and times when we need to relax. I think it’s worth asking ourselves which tendency we’re naturally drawn to?

If we recognise we are quite serious when it comes to dating, it’s worth learning to enjoy it a bit more. If we focus on the fun elements, it’s probably worth thinking about how to approach it more seriously so we don’t end up drifting too much.

In other words, let’s try to remember to do the aspect which doesn’t come naturally to us. That way we can respond better and foster healthily balanced approaches.

#5 What You Want Vs Cultural Norms

This confusing situation isn’t unique to dating. We’re told to do what we want and what makes us happy. Yet, there are norms that are established by the culture around us that are bigger than us.

For example, we may not want to use dating apps and online dating, but they’re so ingrained in the dating culture now and used by so many people, that we’re affected by them even if we don’t want to be. (Read )

It’s too easy to get swept up in what’s going on

The truth is the dating culture includes countless people. Some of them follow the norms that value people and take dating seriously, others follow norms that do not. While many are affected by both to some extent. This means we can end up with someone who is thinking very differently to us, so we can’t just do what we want, as it may conflict with what they want.

It’s worth pausing, and asking what you’re trying to achieve? What your expectations are and how you want to act?

We need to bring discipleship into dating and commit to doing it in a healthy way and pursuing it in a way that makes us feel comfortable and honours those around us. And not be too drawn to other people’s unhealthy expectations, or our own unrealistic expectations, too much. (Read Amazing, Enjoyable, But Not Easy. The Secret Behind Great Relationships)

Imagine If…

Dating is confusing and throws up loads of messages that don’t quite fit together. By learning to respond well, I think we can raise the enjoyment and reduce this confusion.

Imagine if we practice being intentional, remember dating should be fun but taken seriously, and commit to dating differently.

What other dating culture contradictions can you think of? Comment welcomed below.

Originally posted 15/4/2019

How To Navigate The Confusing Messages From Our Dating Culture. Pt 1

Early Dating, Finding A Date

Our dating culture bombards us with conflicting messages: ‘It’s about finding someone to commit to, but date several people at once’. Or ‘Dating shouldn’t be rushed, but it’s a step to something else’. Part 1 of this blog begins to unpack how we can stop our heads from spinning, and learn to date in a truly fulfilling way, by reducing this confusion. 

When I talk to people about dating, I’m struck by the wide-ranging assumptions and ideas that are out there. 

Society’s shift in understanding marriage/romantic relationships has totally changed in recent decades and had a big effect. Add to this technology and dating apps, which has totally altered the way people interact now. Some people use them to truly find someone, while others use them for less noble means.

All of this results in the fact that we’re carving out this thing called dating as we go along, with so much changing, conflicting norms, and a higher level of confusion (Read Why Our Distant Relatives Reduced Romance, In Their Non-Dating Cultures.)

Reduce The Confusion 

Deciding if the person in front of you is worth committing to for life, and vice versa, is hard enough. It’s made harder when the rules for dating seem to be shifting constantly, and when people’s expectations and assumptions vary too. 

This all leads to more and more confusion. 

So it’s worth thinking about five of these contradicting messages we hear, as well as coming up with responses that can reduce the confusion while raising the clarity and the enjoyment that good dating can offer us.  

#1 A Big Deal vs Not A Big Deal

We’re told that dating needs to be a big deal. It’s something we need to invest in, give a lot of time, thinking and resource to in order to do it well. Yet, we’re also told it’s not a big deal and just a bit of fun, so we don’t end up adding too much pressure. 

Respond by remembering to practice kindness

This conflicting message can cause a lot of damage. There are people dating and investing and hoping for a lot, and others are being (too) laid back. These two extreme approaches mean people are getting hurt.

This is confusing for us and those involved.

I would say we need to respond by remembering to practice kindness. It’s something that is forgotten too quickly in a dating culture which makes it all about ‘me’ and ‘my needs’. 

Some people are investing a lot, others are trying to not put too much pressure on themselves. Both approaches are valid to an extent, but we’re dating real people with real emotions. So we need to remember that no matter how we’re told to approach dating, it needs to be built on kindness, and treating people well.

This way, we will remember that being ‘too’ laid back cannot mean treating people badly because we just want to have fun, or not being honest and communicating with them about how we feel. If we’re investing a lot, it reminds us to be kind to ourselves and remember that people are in front of us and not ‘projects’. Our different perspectives need to be discussed and understood (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks)    

#2 Date Loads of People Vs Commit To One

Dating is a strange concept if you think about it. All the research shows that most people who are dating, say again and again, that ultimately they want to find one person to commit to for life. Yet we’re told to be non-committal and date as many people as possible. 

It’s strange because we’re aiming to find a faithful relationship, but told to practice non-faithful habits. 

I’ve written before about this (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?). Now, while I acknowledge dating isn’t marriage, the commitment level will naturally never be as high, and it is valid to date more than one person in our search for love, having no commitment means we’re practising something which won’t give us the result we want. 

I always say, the principle of ‘committing to the person in front of you’ is key. 

At least you’ve given it the best possible foundation

This doesn’t mean the first/next person you date is the one you need to marry at any cost! But what I’m saying is if you’ve arranged to meet someone, then focus on them. Don’t arrange several overlapping dates, or focus on the next potential ‘swipe’ or future date. Focus on the person that’s in front of you.  

By doing this, we can practice faithfulness from the start no matter what happens.

It might not work out with that person, but at least you’ve given it your full effort and the best possible foundation and chance of working. It also establishes habits that will give your future potential relationships the best chance to evolve into a faithful committed relationship.  

Imagine If…

Part 2 of this blog looks at the next 3 responses that can help us navigate the often confusing world of dating.

For now, imagine if we chose to practice kindness so that people feel valued no matter how we approach dating, and commit to the person in front of us so that we get into the habit of practising faithfulness. (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last)

What other dating culture contradictions can you think of? Comment welcomed below. 

Originally posted 8/4/2019


Why The Phrase ‘Love Yourself Before You Date’ Is Being Misunderstood

Finding A Date, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

I often hear lots of people say ‘you need to love yourself before you date’. In many ways, I think this is true and many people need to hear it. However, there are lots of people who are misinterpreting it as well, and that can lead to more hurt. I think we need to look at the positives and negatives, so that we understand what this really means. 

I was reading an online article recently and a phrase that I hear a lot popped up: ‘Love yourself before you date’. On the surface, why would you not agree with this? 

In a culture which gives us lots of reasons to dislike how we look and/or makes us feel inferior to those around us, we need to be positive about ourselves and know we have value and self-worth. 

But I think this phrase can unintentionally reinforce some principles that can actually do more harm than good. So it’s worth exploring what we actually take away, the good and bad bits, when we hear this phrase.  

The Amazing Positives  

Obviously, this phrase fundamentally teaches us a good message. At its core, it’s saying that we can’t get all of our worth or fulfilment from dating, or those we date. 

I have written about this before (Read Top Dating Tip For When Your Relationship Become Official), saying that a relationship will not ‘complete us’. Our worth and value comes from wider relationships, hobbies that fulfil us, and from our relationship with God, etc. 

If we don’t like ourselves and expect one person to come along, or one relationship to change that and make us feel fulfilled, we will be disappointed.

Can’t expect one person or one thing to bring us all of the fulfilment

So the good bit of this message is that our safety, joy, and self-worth aren’t found in dating/one person, but in a wide variety of friendships, family, hobbies and interests.

This is why ‘loving ourselves’ is so important. We need to know that we can’t expect one person or one thing to bring us all of the fulfilment we want. We need to be investing in wider things so that we can enjoy and be content with our lives, and not put too much pressure on dating and romance.

So What’s The Problem? 

For me, the problem comes when we misinterpret the intention behind this phrase and end up believing that it’s saying ‘love yourself and’… 

  • Never Change
  • (Pretend To) Be Perfect
  • Be Happy All The Time

Never Change

If we think loving ourselves means never changing, it will make dating impossible. 

Any relationship we have with anyone will change us, especially romantic and intimate ones. We need to expect to compromise sometimes, to learn how to fit into each other’s lives, and this will mean we change as a result. 

If we think loving ourselves means others need to ‘just love everything about us and change totally so we can just stay the same’, we will never be able to create a mutually fulfilling and enjoyable relationship. (Read Settling Vs Compromise: Spot the Signs in Your Relationship)

(Pretend To) Be Perfect

I believe that deep down, we all know we’re not perfect. Yet our culture often makes us think we need to be. We need to look like we have life sorted, with no regrets and no mistakes. 

If loving ourselves means ignoring our faults, challenges and problems, then we will not be able to be honest and vulnerable with someone else. (Read Intimacy Without Vulnerability’, Why It Won’t Work)

This is vital in a good and healthy romantic relationship. Knowing that we can trust the person we are with, and show them the side we don’t show anyone else and vice versa, is needed. Pretending to be perfect gets in the way of having a relationship where we can really be ourselves. 

Be Happy All The Time

The message we often hear from our culture is to be happy all the time. ‘I don’t mind what happens, as long as I am happy’. 

But no one can be happy all the time. 

We can be content, we can have peace, but we can’t be happy all the time. Life is too messy and involves too many curve balls.

If we can’t be real, then we can’t form an authentic relationship 

If we think that loving ourselves means being happy in every situation, and in every area of our lives, it will stop us from being authentic. If we can’t be real, then we can’t form an authentic relationship. 

Romance involves navigation highs and lows, instead of thinking it will be one big high all of the time. 

Imagine If…

I watched a talk recently, and the presenter said that when it comes to love we want a guarantee, that it will last and the person we’re with won’t leave us. But sadly, romance doesn’t work like that.

Imagine if we remembered dating is about two flawed people committing to making it work. Our value and worth can’t come from one ‘perfect’ person or ‘perfect’ relationship. 

Thinking we only get love from the person we date is dangerous. We need to love ourselves and know that we have value and worth outside of our relationship status. But this doesn’t mean we: Never Change, (Pretend To) Be Perfect, or need to Be Happy All The Time. (Read 5 Tips For Online Dating)

What do you think about this phrase? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 25/2/2019

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

How To Make Your New Dating Relationship Last

Early Dating, Finding A Date

We all want to enjoy dating, but we also want to do it in a way that gives our new relationship the best chance of success. We want to find someone we can build a long-term relationship with. A key element which is often underrated is commitment. But it’s important to think about what this looks like when a relationship is still in its unclear early stages. 

(The following extract is taken from page 114-116 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

All Relationships Need Commitment 

Spending quality time with people we love requires exclusivity. We can’t be texting people or taking calls if we want them to feel valued by us. 

The Bible constantly encourages us to live deep lives by being mindful of others. It celebrates committed and loyal friendships where the friend comes first, like David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel, and Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 says:

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!
(The Message)

Dating Needs Commitment

Before you start seeing someone, it’s possible to demonstrate a level of exclusivity that will build a good foundation. 

As you read this, some of you are probably thinking this is a bit extreme. It’s not like you’ve said vows in front of a vicar. The person you fancy may not even like you and may be pursuing someone else. But we’re not saying that if you ever fancy someone, you have to ask them out and gear yourselves up to get married!

It’s only when we know that the person we’re with is not seeing anyone else that we feel safe enough to open up

What we are encouraging you to do is to start as you mean to go on.

If you’re planning on building a boat, why begin by sticking up tent poles? If you’re planning on building a happy relationship, it’s got to be a committed one. It’s only when we know that the person we’re with is not seeing anyone else that we feel safe enough to open up and share our lives. 

We all want this, so let’s start as we mean to go on. After sharing a bit about yourselves, you may discover you‘re not right for each other, you may break up. But starting deeply will give you that insight early on.

Building Commitment 

So here are some of our top tips to help you start reaping the benefits of being exclusive:

  • Watch The Flirting
  • Be Ready To Put In The Work
  • Stop Shopping
  • End It Early
  • Don’t Give Up
  • Be Wise

Watch The Flirting
If you’re about to start a new relationship, or you fancy someone, don’t flirt with other people. Going after several people doesn’t signal a desire for commitment. 

Flirting and being friendly are not the same thing, but if you’re in doubt, ask a friend to give you some honest feedback about whether your friendliness might be leading someone on.

Be Ready To Put In The Work
So many new relationships start and then burn out just as quickly because one or both of you hadn’t considered whether you have time to invest in a relationship. 

Being committed means being prepared to give this new relationship space and room to grow. We can’t just fall into relationships without thinking. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common)

Stop Shopping
Don’t worry, we don’t mean literal shopping, but once you have found someone who you are keen to date, stop looking around for someone ‘better’!

End It Early
If you’ve been investing time in getting to know each other and then discover that you’re not right together, it’s better to end the relationship earlier. Dragging out a relationship that is slowly dying makes it too easy for you to start looking for someone else before you’re free to do so.

Don’t Give Up
Sometimes relationships end against our will. This can be really painful. Pursuing love comes with a fair number of disappointments. It doesn’t mean that, if it doesn’t work out with that person, you will never find love. (Read The Best Advice For Getting Over A Break-Up)

Be Wise
Remember, our commitment to being exclusive doesn’t mean we are to stay trapped in a relationship that’s abusive or damaging. 

Choosing God’s best for us sometimes means walking away from someone if we are not able to be in a healthy relationship with them.

Building Enjoyment Too

In case all of this commitment talk is putting you off asking someone out because it feels way too serious, relax! 

Forming a new relationship is supposed to be enjoyable, because it’s full of lots of exciting firsts: the first time you have a deep and meaningful chat, the first time you pray together, the first time you refer to each other as your boy/girlfriend, the first time you hold hands, the first blazing row, the first kiss. 

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

Imagine If…

It will help to reduce the confusion and concerns many new relationships struggle with

Imagine if we remembered that if we build commitment from the start, it will help to reduce the confusion and concerns many new relationships struggle with and enable us to build a relationship we can enjoy. 

Thinking about commitment is crucial if we want our relationship to thrive and survive, even in the early stages when we are figuring each other out. (Read Why You Should Remember That ‘Romance’ On Its Own is Rubbish)

What do you think of these pieces of advice? Why? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 10/12/2018