Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Why We Keep Getting Hospitality Wrong

Friendships, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Hospitality is an idea that gets thrown around a lot in church. Many people in society and from all walks of life say they like hosting people and entertaining guests. But I sometimes think we have misunderstood what it is meant to be, and try to over complicate it instead of keeping it simple. If we stopped overthinking it, our relationships would be stronger. 

I have always been involved in churches which emphasise community and relationships. They always highlighted the need (alert, Christian jargon coming up) for us to ‘do life together’. 

Essentially, it’s about realising the value of forming deep relationships, and intentionally pursuing them, so that we can support each other. Whether that means spiritually, emotionally, or just having people around us that we can laugh with.

It Feels Like A Burden? 

But the reality is that people struggle to host. Or approach it with dread. 

The number of times I’ve said to people or they have said to me ‘we need to get together for dinner or something’. Then it never happens. Or we pull out our diaries, and I’m hoping they say we can go round to theirs so I don’t need to put in the effort of organising the meal. But why is that the case? 

I think it comes down to a misconception that says: Hospitality is about impressing. 

Need To Impress 

Without trying to make too big a sweeping statement, many other cultures have the reputation of giving good hospitality. There are always loads of people in each other’s houses. People can turn up on the doorstep and the host drops everything and invites them in, etc. 

Yet there are many of us who believe we need to put a date in the diary, clean the house, go and get the best food, etc.. In other words; it’s an event. One that takes time and the thought is ‘I need to make it an occasion’.

Hosting then becomes something we gear up for

We see hosting as a time to impress. 

This is on top of the fact that we often see our homes as a retreat, as a shelter, as space we own to relax. Which isn’t bad in itself, but then having people coming over, especially if they are new, is seen as a sacrifice of that space we protect. It’s an invasion of our home. 

Hosting then becomes something we gear up for and can feel like hard work. (Read The Simple Trick For Better Relationships That Most People Ignore)

Experience Over Information 

The reason I think hospitality is important is because I think just hanging out with people, inviting people into your home and vice versa, is where relationships are formed. When we see each other just being ‘normal’ in their home, it’s when we learn from each other. 

For example, I can barely remember the advice my parents gave me. Not because it was bad, but growing up in my family home for 22 years, lots was said and I don’t remember most of it. 

But I remember seeing how my parents treated each other. I remember that they never got violent or verbally abusive towards each other. I remember seeing them going out of their way to help people who were struggling. I remember them always helping me and making me laugh. 

I have close friends I’ve known for 15 plus years now, and again, can’t remember most of what they have said, but I remember them praying for me when I needed it. I remember us hanging out lots and feeling like I could ask for support and trust them. 

Deep relationships come from spending time with each other. Despite what our culture says, more information will not result in deeper friendships with people. Yes, deep conversations are important, but spending time together I think is just as important. 

Hosting Better 

We need to learn from other cultures and people who do hosting well. Who invite people in when the house is a mess. Who are cooking a basic meal, but say ‘you can stay if you want’ and just add in an extra handful of pasta to the pot, rather than aranging a later date for when we have the ingredients to make a spectacular dish. 

It’s just an opportunity to invite people into what is already going on

We need to remember that our home is ultimately a blessing and gift from God. To be used as a place to relax, but also a place to bless others. 

We need to remember people come to see us, and not our housework.

We need to remember hospitality is about creating time to form deep friendships. It’s not an event or time to impress. It’s just an opportunity to invite people into what’s already going on. (Read Why Friendships Are Too Easy To Break, And How To Avoid It.) 

Imagine If…

We all have different challenges, different jobs and different personalities. We are all at different stages of life. So hospitality will look different and be different to different people. 

But imagine if we didn’t see hosting as a time to impress or entertain, but just as a time to share what we’re already doing with others, and build a deeper friendship and connection in these authentic moments. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)

How would your culture/community define hospitality? Comments welcome below

Originally posted 3/6/2019

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

Why Is Faithfulness Seen As A Flaw?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Sometimes it can seem like the world is changing, breaking down, and re-defining what romantic relationships should look like. To the point where committing to one person is now ‘outdated’. I think it’s important to remember why faithfulness and commitment can give us what we really crave from relationships.

My friends all know about my work, and that I’m passionate about equipping people with the tools needed to build healthy, mutually enjoyable, God-centred relationships. So they often send me articles, stats or blogs on romance, relationships, etc.

A while ago I was sent a video where people on a famous chat show were talking about a recent scandal. In a nutshell, two celebrities who were married / in a relationship with other people were pictured kissing each other and cheating on their partners. 

Their partners were devastated and upset, and the whole situation was made worse by the fact that the betrayal was so public.   

This situation, unfortunately, is not uncommon. But the response from one person on the chat show really surprised me.   

The Debate 

This one person was basically saying that it’s fine. If people have desires then they should act on them. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts your partner, betrays their trust, just do it if it feels good. 

It’s really surprising that people can have such a disregard for others

The other people on the show clearly didn’t agree. They said it’s dishonest, and it’s cheating, and it clearly hurt their partners who didn’t know about it or expect it. Yet this one person was saying there’s no need for self-control or faithfulness. Just do what you want. 

It’s really surprising that people can have such a disregard for others. And argue that being selfish and inwardly focussed at other people’s expense is okay. Even if it’s someone who trusts you, is being faithful and respectful to you, you can just act on your desires.

In other words, go after the new person, the new thing, because that is what you want in that moment.  

Car Insurance Doesn’t Help 

When talking about this, it may be helpful to use car insurance as an analogy. 

I’m always shocked by how car insurance works, because, if you don’t do anything and stay with your current provider and auto-renew, then you end up paying an eye-watering amount. However, if you shop around, change providers, you can get a much better offer.

Faithfulness then becomes a hindrance.

This serves as an example of how we’re conditioned to believe there’s something better out there. So sticking with one provider, sticking with the same thing, becomes the worst option. There is a better option right around the corner.

Moreover, the responsibility doesn’t lie with me. Being faithful and investing my energy isn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. Rather, it’s the world’s responsibility to offer me a better deal. 

Now I’m not saying this analogy is the be all and end all of the matter, but it’s an example of how we are conditioned to shift responsibility, and value short-term fixes over long-term faithfulness. This occurs in many areas of our lives, including relationships.  (Read Can We Really Trust What Our Culture Says About Relationships?)

Pleasure Doesn’t Equal Happiness 

Giving in to our desires can give us short-term pleasure. There is no point denying it, people cheat for a reason. It’s because it satisfies a need and brings them instant pleasure. 

But pleasure doesn’t equal happiness. 

The truth is, we can’t have everything. We can’t satisfy all of our short-term needs, and all of our long-term needs. We can’t make it all about our instant gratification and desires that will hurt people and also build a loving stable relationship where we feel safe and secure. (Read Why You Should Remember That ‘Romance’ On Its Own is Rubbish)

Making The Choice 

On the chat show, this person was choosing to give into desires, and choosing to put themselves above others. 

However, building a mutually enjoyable satisfying relationship takes work. It means being faithful when other options are available. It means taking responsibility for making the relationship work. It means realising our actions affects others and choosing self-control over short-term needs. 

They will stick around and put you first, and vice versa

I guess it does ultimately come down to a choice. Having someone you fully trust, respect, and enjoy being with, comes from knowing you can be vulnerable with them, and know they will stick around and put you first, and vice versa. It’s built on faithfulness.  We choose this over other pleasures. 

Imagine If… 

We hear lots of things about how faithfulness, monogamy, and commitment is outdated. But most people will say that they want that kind of relationship. They want to know one person has their back and vice versa. This comes by choosing to commit.

Imagine if, in a culture that said faithfulness is flawed, we remembered that it is needed to truly create the intimacy, togetherness, and security we look for in a relationship. (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last)

Can you create a mutually fulfilling relationship without faithfulness?  Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 17/12/2018

Amazing, Enjoyable, But Not Easy. The Secret Behind Great Relationships

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

We’re meant to enjoy our romantic relationship. Some people say this is obvious, but we can end up focusing too much on the ‘feeling’ that we forget to lay good foundations, or focus so much on the hard work we take out the enjoyment. I think enjoyment is the aim, it’s what we really want, but the secret is remembering that it’s about mutual enjoyment. 

I just celebrated my fifth year wedding anniversary (it’s the wood anniversary for those who want to know). Which is strange to think about because the time has flown by.

I was chatting with a friend about it recently and he asked me if I’ve enjoyed it, and I instantly said yes. Then he asked me what we’ve struggled with. In all honesty, nothing really terrible came to mind.

Now, that isn’t to say it’s been easy, because there have been some hard parts, some very hard parts in fact. But we have always communicated, kept the other person’s wellbeing and feelings in mind, always respected each other, and made time to have fun. 

All that stuff takes hard work, and it isn’t easy to do, but by creating healthy and strong relationship principles, foundations and rhythms, we have been able to enjoy it.

Meant To Be Fun 

The bottom line is, relationships are meant to be fun and enjoyable. 

I think God created romance and it’s meant to be a blessing, and we’re meant to have fun. The reason I equip people with the tools they need to build mutually enjoyable, fulfilling and God-centered relationships, is so they can have fun.

We lay the foundations to navigate the lows so we can get to the highs quicker and more often. 

We do all of the hard stuff…so that we get to the highs

When I talk to people about relationships, dating, romance, etc, or give talks on it, I always start by stressing that God wants us to enjoy them. That’s the end goal. 

The goal isn’t to come up with healthy relationship dynamics so we can pat ourselves on the back or tick a box. We do all of the hard stuff, and make the sacrifices, and have the awkward talks, so that we get to the highs. 

Not Said Enough 

I think society/ the media, by-in-large, focus on the highs too much and lead us to believe that it will all happen naturally. 

But it won’t. 

We need to be intentional in relationships, actively put the other person first, make sacrifices, exercise self-control and stay committed when it does feel hard. That isn’t something that just happens. 

I think lots of churches, by-in-large, in reaction to this have rightly emphasised the need to work on our relationship dynamics.  To make sure people know it won’t always be easy, that we need respect and to be intentional. 

The negative outcome often means there is lots of pressure, and little room to say that the aim is to enjoy it. To be with someone who we love and be in a relationship that’s fun and fulfilling. (Read Church Dating Culture: Is Yours Helpful Or Hindering?)

The Secret

So what’s the secret? 

The secret is knowing that it’s meant to be mutually enjoyable.

When we focus too much on the desire to enjoy it, we can just think it’s all about my feeling, or my needs. But the mutual part reminds us that we need to put the other person first and be committed, which takes work and sacrifice. It’s ‘us’ not ‘me’. 

When we remember the aim is to enjoy it, we won’t focus so much on the pressure

When we remember the aim is to enjoy it, we will not focus so much on the pressure to be ‘perfect’ (which no one is) or focus so much on the pressure to have all the answers that we can’t relax and have fun with the person in front of us.  (Read Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?)


When both people in a relationship are being selfless, are putting the other person first, then mutual enjoyment can flourish. 

If only one person is doing it then it will not work. It needs to be both people, committed to building good foundations and rhythms, so that they can navigate the lows and get to the highs.

Imagine If… 

Relationships are meant to be enjoyed. We are meant to thrive in them and they are meant to be fun. That’s the aim.

Imagine if we remembered it’s about mutual enjoyment, and about ‘us’ not ‘me’. If both people put the other person first, we can lay good foundations that will make the relationship truly amazing and fulfilling. (Read How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’.)

How else could emphasising mutual fulfillment help? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 10/9/2018

How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’. Part 2

Church Dating Culture, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

In Part 2 of this post, we begin to explore what taking steps towards ‘Making The One’ may look like. It will not be the same for every person and every couple, but a different and new mindset can help us begin to build healthy relationships based on mutual enjoyment and less confusion. 

I’m humbled and pleased that one thing many people tell me after hearing my talks or reading my book, is that they are glad someone is saying that you don’t need to be perfect in order to be in a relationship. That dating is about two flawed people committed to putting the effort in and trying to make it work. 

They are relieved that I don’t say ‘follow these seven steps to happiness’. As if there is a simple formula that will ‘sort’ us out. As I said in Part 1, we need a different approach.

Helps us to start ‘Making The One’ 

Thinking about how we approach relationships, remembering that we need to put in the hard work, remembering that it should be fun and respectful, helps us to start ‘Making The One’.  And can stop us waiting, or pretending we’re perfect and just hoping to bump into that other perfect person. 

(The following extract is taken from page 28-29 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Making Sure We Grow

In rare instances, God might point out the person you’re going to marry. And if he does, good stuff! But most of the time, he’s more interested in who you’re becoming, not just who you’re dating. 

We are going to be exploring some incredible truths God has for you. If God helps you to grow in confidence in this area or teaches you the keys to understanding commitment, he is guiding you towards any future relationship just as much as if he had told you your future spouse’s name and address!

Making It About ‘Us’ Not just ‘Me’

Learning to be less self-centred in a dating relationship is one of the ways God can help you to become relationally intelligent and able to serve others – whether you marry them or not!

God knows that relationships aren’t always easy. Beginning to share parts of your world with someone else can feel a bit uncomfortable at times. So he wants you to be prepared, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Making It About Not Being Perfect

Zack got married a few years ago. His marriage is everything he hoped it would be, but recently he told us how difficult the first year was. Nothing had prepared him for how much he was about to discover of his own flaws. 

Counselling has helped him come to terms with insecurities that had gone undetected or unchallenged throughout his life. But his one regret is that he waited until he was married before he looked at who he was and what he had to offer anyone in a relationship.

A relationship you need to work at is no less a gift from God

The ‘perfect relationship’ mantra might inadvertently make us think that, when our relationship hits hard times or doesn’t always feel amazing, it’s a sign that we aren’t with ‘the one’ God has for us. We might even think that, if we’re not convinced we want to marry someone ten minutes into the relationship, we shouldn’t keep dating.

‘Making The One’

A relationship you need to work at is no less a gift from God. A relationship that doesn’t begin with a commitment to getting married any time soon is no less valuable in God’s eyes. You might end up discovering a greater appreciation for each other that will grow into the deep love needed for a strong relationship. 

You’ll discover how working through difficulties gives you an increased resilience and capacity for forgiveness. These are vital tools for building marriages that last. 

I really believe God cares about this area, and he wants us to be involved in the process

More importantly, if we date in a way that allows our character to grow in selflessness and maturity, then even if the relationship doesn’t work out, it will honour God. Isn’t that better than thoughtless dating or waiting for God to sort everything out? (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

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

Imagine If…

No one can promise you a relationship is around the corner. No one can promise you there won’t be any low points. But I really believe God cares about this area, and he wants us to be involved in the process and grow as people, and as a couple if and when that happens. 

Imagine if we made it less about waiting for ‘The One’ to appear, and made it about us getting the right perspective, learning how to build good foundations, and remember to enjoy it, I think we can be part of building an amazing dating culture.  (Read Why I Told Joshua Harris To Redeem Rather Than Reject Dating)

What else would help us start ‘Making The One’? Comments welcomed below.   

Originally posted 3/9/2018