Guest Blogs

Stories From The Dating Scene: I Loved Him, But The Relationship Was Dysfunctional. Part 1

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

Getting carried away in a relationship is nothing new. But what about when we start to notice things aren’t what they seem, and we can’t live up to their impossible expectations. Should we end it? Have we failed? How do we process what’s happened?  Our anonymous guest writer has decided to share her story with us.  

This story has been written by a friend of mine. She wanted to share her story in the hope that it will help others. So here it is, in her own words: 

It Seemed Too Good To Be True 

I was dating this Christian guy last year. He was charming, smart, funny, and diligently serving the Lord in ministry. We both loved studying the Bible and praying together. We had similar visions of serving together. 

We could chat for hours each day, sharing all our thoughts and feelings about all sorts of things to do with life and faith. He had many things I wanted in a boyfriend and potential future husband.

I thought it was a bit quick, but I got so carried away

The relationship progressed quickly. After just a month, he suddenly started to discuss the prospect of marriage and how we would serve in ministry together. I thought it was a bit quick, but I got so carried away by the excitement as I thought, ‘Maybe he’s the one!’ (Read Why Believing In ‘The One’ Is Very Overrated)

Around this time he made it clear to me that he was very emotional, sensitive and easily upset. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that. I thought his emotional and sensitive side could be a sweet thing.

But I started to realise that this was becoming a big issue and a big problem.

‘You Can’t Read My Emotions’

He told me several times that he wanted me to read and engage with his emotions, otherwise he would be upset or even end the relationship. I was very confused. But because I really loved him, I tried very hard to do what he wanted. 

I began to watch his emotions all the time and always filter my words carefully. Still, no matter how careful I was, he got upset from time to time, every time saying that I had failed to read his emotions. 

But when I tried to clarify things, he would keep saying I valued the truth more than his feelings, and say that ‘You can’t read my emotions, but other girls could’. That really hurt.

He became more obsessed with checking whether I was reading him right. And he said we had too many conflicts, so many that he couldn’t breathe. I was concerned but I couldn’t recall any conflict! I asked him to give an example but he couldn’t remember. 

It Got More And More Difficult 

He said I had offended him in every conversation. Again, neither of us could give an example. And several times he said that I didn’t make him feel safe.

But usually, if I comforted him, or if I managed to read his emotions and respond ‘correctly’ on that particular day, things would go back to being great. He would become very charming, caring and sweet again, for a while. 

However it was still very difficult to read him when he was upset, which could happen any time based on his interpretation of any given situation, which depended in turn on his mood.

At such times, he would suddenly become still and silent. When I noticed and tried to ask what had gone wrong, he would start complaining that I couldn’t read his emotions, but he would never discuss the actual emotions or issues. 

Clear communication of emotions is the prerequisite of success of all relationships

He said he believed that in a relationship, if one person needed to express their emotions clearly for the other person to understand, then the relationship had failed. In my upbringing I was taught the opposite: clear communication of emotions is the prerequisite of success of all relationships, second to love itself.

Though all these incidents seemed strange to me, I tried to understand him. For a long time, I thought it was my fault because he said I was too insensitive and logical.

The Break-Up

Soon, it just snapped. 

A few days after he was talking about marriage again, we had different opinions on an event we attended. We didn’t disagree per se, but I switched the focus onto something slightly different. For me, it was a friendly discussion, but he was deeply hurt, he said he felt like I had stabbed him! 

He didn’t want to hear the truth because he wanted ‘harmony’

He said I disagreed with him and he couldn’t bear any disagreement in our relationship.

I tried to explain I didn’t disagree with him, but he said he didn’t want to hear the truth because he wanted ‘harmony’. Two days later, he couldn’t handle it anymore and ended the relationship. (Read We Disagree, Can Our Relationship Survive?)

Imagine If…

Part 2 looks at what happened next, what our guest writer has learned through this experience, and why she thinks it’s important to have different and more healthy relationship dynamics next time.

But for now, imagine if we were able to be honest about the struggles we face in our dating and romantic relationships, and talk about our emotional needs, fears, and expectations, while bringing them all to God instead of carrying the burden alone. (Stories From The Dating Scene: An Exciting Start, Then We Drifted)

Q: How do you spot, and talk about, unrealistic relationship demands? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 2/7/2018

Stories From The Dating Scene: An Exciting Start, Then We Drifted

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

When it comes to romance in Films, TV shows, Novels, and the Media, it’s usually all about the chase. If the chase is exciting and there are obstacles to overcome before the couple ‘get together’, then they will live happily ever after. Right? Well, sometimes a relationship can end up drifting and sadly end as the couple becomes unintentional, as this story shows… 

This story has been written by someone I know. He told me this story, some of which I still can’t quite believe, and I asked him to write it down. It’s honest and it’s real, but he asked to stay anonymous.

His story reminds me that so often we focus on how a relationship starts and then assume it will work out. Well, he learned a lesson about long distance, and why thinking long-term is important.

So here’s his story, in his own words:

Love At First Sight

We’ve all been there; packed our bags, stocked up on pot noodles, wet-wipes and Lynx, AKA ‘a shower in a can’, and headed off to a Christian festival. You’d be lying if you said a small part of you didn’t hope to meet your future spouse over the next few days.

For us rural boys we never knew so many girls existed, let alone attractive Christian girls.

I was officially distracted

During my many annual visits to said festival, I would always tell myself: come on, don’t get distracted this year, but then this year… WOW! There she was, the most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on. I was officially distracted.

We spent the next five days doing nothing but hanging out together and falling for each other. Nothing untoward happened and the last day came. We said our goodbyes and agreed to call each other in the days to come.

Why Didn’t She Call?

This is pre-mobile days, which tells you something of my age now. To this day I still don’t know why I only gave her my number and didn’t take hers… Stupid boy!

We hugged and waved goodbye. Man, we probably wrote in the back of each other’s Bible as well… Do the kids still do that these days?

So I go back home and wait for her to phone me. A day passes, “ok, she’s just settling back in”. Two days, “she’s probably unpacking”. Three days pass “nothing”, four days, “nothing”, you see where this is going.

Happy Ending? 

Three weeks pass, summer is almost over and my gap year is about to begin.  Then… “Ring, ring… ring, ring” and what follows is my best transcript of what she said.

“I’m so sorry, I owe you a massive apology”. Too right, I’m thinking.

“There is a perfectly legitimate and valid reason for my rudeness, I miss you so much and can’t believe what’s happened, don’t be shocked but… my house burnt down!”

Stunned pause on my part. “Really?”

“Yes, really! Within days of returning our whole house went up in smoke; as a family, we’ve lost everything. Including my only way of contacting you – the piece of paper with your number on is now ashes”.

“Wow”, I thought to myself.

So we planned to see each other ASAP. We had this great long distance thing going on for about 3 months. I remember on my first visit to her new temporary home, her Dad put me to the test. We went to B&Q and he made me load the trolley with bag after bag of compost. I think I passed.

I also went to see her old house and she wasn’t kidding. The whole place was black, a ruin. Good job she’d bumped into someone I knew at her church and got my number off them.

Sadly there is a sore point to this story and that is why I’m now so careful around an open flame. (Read I Want To Trust Them But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Then We Drifted 

When her insurance money came through she told me she wanted to travel the world. Great I thought, I’m on my gap year and we can go together. Unfortunately, my gap year ended up with me on job seekers and eventually getting a job in Gap, the clothing store. By which time she was halfway around the world.

And yes dear reader, the unthinkable happened… I was dumped by email! Gutted!

But I do have some sage-like wisdom. After this, I probably had only one other serious long-distance relationship. The thing I learned is that they will only ever work if early on you commit to planning on being together in the same place at some point in the future.

Long distance is never meant to be permanent

That doesn’t mean you have to “put a ring on it”, but without a plan to at least live in the same town/village/city/hamlet one day, you will never be together for long. Long distance is never meant to be permanent. (Read Can Our Relationship Go The Long Distance?)

The exciting “against the odds” start made me feel it was meant to be, but we just let it drift without any intentional planning after that. It’s a shame really.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we made sure that a relationship wasn’t always about the chase, that an exciting start doesn’t automatically mean a happy ending. Being intentional and thinking long-term can help us avoid getting hurt and hurting others.

Do you think an ‘exciting start’ can cloud people’s judgment? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 4/12/2017

Stories From The Dating Scene: Secret Boyfriends and Bad Endings

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

Sadly, dating doesn’t always end well. This story is from one of my friends who wanted to share her experience. She wanted to be real about the pain caused, and share how God helped her more than any of the conventional wisdom from friends, and what she learned through her dating story.  

This story was originally written a while ago now, but I was praying with a friend recently about someone they know and their relationship. The relationship this person was in sounded very toxic, and it reminded me that dating can really hurt people.

I wanted to re-share this story because it’s important to hear these kinds of stories, learn from them, and help others in similar situations. So here it is, anonymously, in her own words:

People Pleaser 

There is one word that I find so difficult to say…No! ‘Can you lend me some money, I promise I will pay you back?’, ’Will you do this work for me, I just haven’t got the time?’ or ‘Can we take this relationship to the next level?’

I keep thinking, just say it – SAY NO! But I immediately convince myself that if I say no, they won’t want me anymore; they will leave. I am a people pleaser, seeking approval from others – especially boys. I thought that was what I needed to make me happy. I have never been so wrong.

He Used The ‘God Card’ 

Sometimes, you can think you do everything right – and it still doesn’t work out. Me and Jon (not his real name) were close friends for years, and as we began to get closer and feelings started to develop, we sought God. Praying to Him and acknowledging Him; we knew that He would guide us to the right way – His way (Proverbs 3:5-6).

From the word go, I felt God was telling me that if we centered our relationship on Him, then it would work, but Jon took longer to be convinced. He just couldn’t make up his mind – but in the meantime, we found it difficult to resist temptation. He told me he loved me, and that he wanted to be with me, but that it couldn’t be official because he wasn’t sure it was what God wanted.

But if I did, would I lose him forever?

Jon asked me to keep ‘us’ a secret then maybe one day – if I waited – we could be together properly. If only I could have said NO…. I knew I deserved more than to be a secret girlfriend, but if I did, would I lose him forever?

Things Should Have Got Easier

As we continued to pray and seek God together, I began to get angry with God and blame Him for this situation. I believed that I was doing what He wanted me to, that it was His will and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making it easier and bringing us out of this situation.

I wanted so much more than to be a secret

Three years went by… and I had fallen completely in love with Jon. I couldn’t imagine my life without him, but I wanted so much more than to be a secret.

Just when I thought things were going to get better, Jon grew distant. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong – I’d stood by him, I wanted to make him happy – but he said those words I had been dreading; ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’ve moved on.’

I had given everything to this guy, and it wasn’t good enough. He admitted that although he did care about me, and he did love me, he was just using me – holding on to me in case someone better didn’t come along. I had never felt pain like that, and I didn’t know what to do.

Conventional Wisdom

My friends told me to go out and find a new boy to try and make me happy. But nothing did. The world tells us that in order to be happy we need to find the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect partner and have the perfect kids – and if we don’t have these things, well then there is obviously something wrong with us…right?

It made me feel inadequate for being single.

This is what so many people in my life have made me believe, and what is scary is that most of these people are Christians. They’ve felt sorry for me for ‘missing out’ and not being in a relationship. It made me feel inadequate for being single. (Read 5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?)

God’s Wisdom

But my God has been teaching me something different – everything and every situation can be used for His glory. Job 22:21-28 says:

‘Surrender to God All-Powerful! You will find peace and prosperity. Listen to his teachings and take them to heart. If you return to God and turn from sin, all will go well for you. So get rid of your finest gold, as though it were sand. Let God All-Powerful be your silver and gold, and you will find happiness by worshipping him. God will answer your prayers, and you will keep the promises you made to him. He will do whatever you ask, and life will be bright.’

I have been blind to God’s goodness, but through this hard time God has been teaching me and revealing to me that true happiness can only come from Him.

I have the All-Powerful God by my side

This doesn’t mean that He doesn’t bless us with things or with relationships, but that when he does, it will be in His perfect timing and for His glory. Right now, God is all I need… and I will live my life to honour Him.

I have the one person in my life who will never use me, will never make me feel inadequate, and who will never leave me. I have the All-Powerful God by my side – what else could I possibly need?

Imagine If…

Imagine if we realise dating is meant to be a blessing, it is meant to be fun, but it can really hurt people. We need to really think about how we act and how we can learn to do it better. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before).

No matter what our relationship status, putting God at the centre of our lives, is the only constant we can truly rely on.

What do you think is the main lesson here? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 26/7/2017

2 Fears Every Single Person Should Confront!

Guest Blogs, Singleness

Many single people want to be in a relationship, but they fear losing too much freedom. At the same time, they’re afraid of choosing the wrong person! Here we take a look at what’s behind these fears, and think about how we can start to change our mindset and create a more healthy perspective. 

By our guest blogger, Jen Baker

Recently I was co-leading a seminar on Singleness and the Church and while there I touched on the idea that singleness changes within the decades of our lives (Read 4 Trends That Characterises Singleness In Our 20s, 30s, and 40s).

However, as a 47-year-old, never married single person, I believe there are two overriding fears which unhelpfully lead me and other singles at times when we say and think:

‘I’m afraid of losing my freedom’ and ‘I’m afraid of making the wrong choice’.

And let’s be honest, these fears aren’t limited to singles looking for a partner!  As a pastor, I’ve had numerous conversations with people who are engaged or married and find themselves still facing these fears.

I’m afraid of losing my freedom and I’m afraid of making the wrong choice

It’s quite normal in any type of relationship or in our singleness to struggle with these thoughts from time to time. But we need to know how our God can help us overcome them.

‘I’m Afraid of Losing My Freedom’

Firstly, we need to recognise that the truest form of freedom isn’t found in being alone or being with someone – it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. John 8:36 says ‘So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’

Freedom isn’t found in being alone or being with someone

Therefore if you’re a Christian then positionally you are as free as you can possibly be – Christ died for your sins and so the punishment is no longer yours to bear … freedom!

And it is from that spiritual foundation of freedom that you can more easily outwork your natural expression of freedom within everyday life. This is including the area of trusting another person with your vulnerability and releasing your need to have everything done according to your preferences and timetable.

It’s in the everyday decisions where we often feel our freedom most restricted

Because at the end of the day, it’s in the everyday decisions where we often feel our freedom most restricted or stolen by another person.

So remember: Our relationship status is not the basis of our freedom or feeling free, it rests on Christ.

I’m Afraid of Making The Wrong Choice

Which then leads to the second fear – fear of making the wrong choice.  This could better be explored more fully in another blog, (Read ‘The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship) but let me say there is not one person for us and if we miss that person, we have missed it.

I’m not sure many people believe that anymore, but if you are worried about that, please don’t be!

Imagine if that were really true.  That would mean if just one person got it wrong and married the wrong person, then whoever that person was supposed to be married to is now marrying the wrong person, which will mess it up for someone else, and ….. you get the idea.

It’s ludicrous.

               We cannot mess up the universal system of relationships because we have chosen wrong!

We don’t have that much power. So remember: We cannot mess up the universal system of relationships because we have chosen wrong! Stop fearing your choice. (Read Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’).

Imagine If…

Imagine if we did not let fear dictate our singleness or relationship choices, but instead our all-loving all-powerful God showed us our situation through His lens.

  • Our relationship status is not the basis of our freedom or feeling free, it rests on Christ.
  • We cannot mess up the universal system of relationships because we have chosen wrong! Stop fearing your choice.

When we have these fears going around in our head let’s choose to look to God and remind ourselves of his goodness and his truth. 

How can you make sure you are seeing the situation through God’s lens. Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 28/6/2017

Jen Baker is an itinerant speaker, author, and leader who loves seeing the Holy Spirit and the Word change atmospheres and impact hearts. She has been a Pastor, Director, and consultant working within the local church.

4 Trends That Characterises Singleness In Our 20s, 30s, and 40s

Guest Blogs, Singleness

A single person in their 20s explores and wrestles with different questions to someone in their 40s. Sounds obvious right? But how often are single people all grouped together and treated the same in our churches? Too often!  It’s important to not only discuss the issue of singleness but delve deeper into how our ages and stages affect our outlook. 

By our guest authour, Jen Baker

At the (tender) age of 25, I wanted to write a book on being single because I thought I understood it well. At the (slightly more experienced) age of 47, I now realise I had much more to grasp.

What I’ve learned in those 22 years as a never-married single adult is that, as in much of life, seasons change and we can choose to change with them, choose to fight them, or more realistically … choose to do a bit of both.

We can begin to identify more specifically what to expect in our 20s versus our 40s

So by exploring not just the general topic of being single, but the age and stage of our lives, we can begin to identify more specifically what to expect in our 20s versus our 40s, for example.

So let me share my journey and observations as we explore the seasons together. Think about if you can identify with these observations, or perhaps you have further observations of your own?

The Twenties

In our twenties, I believe we tend to think ‘I want to enjoy myself and these single years … but not be the last one married’.  We’re still trying to figure out who we are so the chance to date, explore different personalities, and hang out with a group of friends is what often characterises this age group.

Most people want to get married, but the pressure to get married isn’t particularly strong. Desire yes, but pressure – not so much.

I think this low-level pressure is key to setting this season apart from the other age groups.

The Thirties

In our thirties, FOMO (fear of missing out) is increased.

Once we reach our thirties there is a definite shift; it’s a mindset which says that it’s time to begin thinking more seriously about a relationship and about if we want children.  In this season we think: ‘I need to get serious now, I hope it’s not too late.’  

So our thirties is when we (often) journey from pressure to panic

Some friends are already married and started having children, our friendship groups have changed and (as women) we’re thinking more and more about the (blessed) clock.

So our thirties is when we (often) journey from pressure to panic.  We may even start asking questions like: Is my list too long?  Should I throw away the list?!  Would I sacrifice a career for a relationship if it involved moving?  Etc …

The Late Thirties

Quite possibly by the end of our thirties, we have also received labels (chosen or not): divorced, widowed, never dated, a broken off engagement, and much more.

If we’re single at this age with a desire for marriage, then we tend to do a bit more self-questioning and realise that potentially we need to look at relationships differently than we have in the past.  We may need to grieve how things have turned out and re-adjust our expectations for the future.

The Forties

If navigating the thirties was particularly challenging, then I believe entering the forties can be surprisingly freeing.

We’ve navigated pressure to panic and – ideally – we now find ourselves landing on peace.

The key question asked now, in the forties, regardless of our relationship history is: ‘Am I willing to compromise my comfort zone for this relationship?’  

By now we’ve got into a routine or landed in a pattern, which (unless a relationship change happened very late in your thirties) often has a tinge of comfort around the edges.

We aren’t willing to compromise in a way we might have when we were younger.

We know what we like, who we are, and what we want from our lives. Perhaps by now you’ve realised you can enjoy life as a single adult. There is a natural ‘rhythm’ to our work and social lives. And although we may deeply want to share that with another – we aren’t willing to compromise in a way we might have when we were younger.

It is at this age where children often enter the equation too, as we may have our own that we want to protect or we’re deciding if we want a relationship which leads to us becoming a step-parent.

These are deeply personal and difficult questions to explore which probably weren’t necessary to ask in your twenties, but it is the peace we find within yourself which helps us address these questions differently than we might have at an earlier stage. (Read 5 Cliches Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?)

Imagine If…

Our season of singleness will be affected by our season of life.

Imagine if we could remind ourselves and each other that knowing these questions ahead of time, and hearing that others have also raised these questions, could help us view singleness through different lenses and with a different approach. (Read What I Rediscovered From A Group Of Single People)

It will also help us clarify disappointments we’re facing, opening the way for healthier relationships in the future. (Read Jen’s other post: 2 Fears Every Single Person Should Confront!)

Do you have further observations of your own? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 26/6/2017

Jen Baker is an itinerant speaker, author, and leader who loves seeing the Holy Spirit and the Word change atmospheres and impact hearts.  She has been a Pastor, Director, and Consultant working within the local church.