Healthy Relationship Rhythms

How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’. Part 1

Church Dating Culture, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Many believe that if we wait long enough, or pray hard enough, we will just bump into our soul mate and that perfect person one day. But I think ‘Making The One’ is not only realistic (I don’t believe in ‘Finding The One’), it’s a better way to do it and brings real fulfilment. This two-part article begins to explain what this may look like. 

A good friend of mine, who I’ve spoken to lots about dating and relationships, has recently started dating someone. It’s been a good few months now, they seem very happy together, and it seems to be going well.

In amongst all of the highs and whirlwind romance, they have had to have honest conversations. They have had to learn about each other’s personality flaws, how they annoy each other, how they need to communicate, and what they should and can be expecting from their relationship. 

They actively made decisions and worked through some issues

They actively made decisions and worked through some issues, and this means they are able to enjoy their new relationship more.

They decided to work at ‘Making The One’, in an enjoyable, respectful, and honest way, and seem much happier because of it. It may work out long term, it may not, but they have built good foundations and managed to reduce the confusion along the way. As well as grow together and individually. 

Before we explore what ‘Making The One’ looks like, we need to realise this idea may be different from what we normally get told. 

(The following extract is taken from page 26-28 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)


Maybe you’re not expecting perfection in life or love. And maybe you’re not expecting God to give you a message in a bottle about who you should date. You just want to find someone you could possibly consider getting married to. 

So what part do you see God playing in that? How do you handle the challenges and possible confusions thrown up by dating? 

Looking For Something Different

One friend recently told us of her less-than-ideal first date with a man she was hoping might be Mr Right, only to find that he ‘turned up for the date with a tub of melted ice-cream in hand and a tacky oil painting from Marbella of boats in a harbour as a gift, and proceeded to tell me “just to clear the air” that he categorically did not believe women should preach, and that he was a good date compared to some!’

A friend and I once invited a couple of girls out to a fireworks display. The girls thought that a massive group of us were going, but we had ‘forgotten’ to tell them that it was a double date.

I was pulling out all my best chat-up lines and turning on the charm, so naturally, I was convinced that one of them liked me. The next day, just as I was about to ask her out, her boyfriend came up to me and introduced himself.


Looking For Help

Relationship-status confusions, clumsy comments, feeling too shy to truly be yourself all seem to be part of the pre-marriage relationship stage that we are left to navigate on our own. In researching this book, we’ve met people who feel really hopeful for their futures, as well as those who are hurt and confused by broken relationships. 

Wanting to know what God thinks about their relationships is a theme that runs through lots of these conversations. We’ve also come up against some pretty strange ideas about dating. 

God does want to be involved in your pre-marriage relationships

We’ve met Christians who believe that any form of pre-marriage romantic relationship is dishonouring to God; Christians who have developed a nervous tic around checking wedding ring fingers; Christians so crippled by sexual sin that they believe they don’t deserve a loving relationship; Christians who believe that their ‘romantic-God’ has their ideal guy/girl just waiting for them.

There seems to be so much confusion around dating that often gets in the way of discerning God’s guidance about our relationships.

The good news is that God does want to be involved in your pre-marriage relationships. He wants us to surrender every area of our lives to him, so that he can transform it for his glory. The question is: how? (Read Why Believing In ‘The One’ Is Very Overrated)

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if, instead of wondering if God has forgotten to introduce us to our ‘perfect-match’, if we have done something wrong, or if we are waiting for God to make it happen, we decided to be involved in the process. (Read Stories From The Dating Scene: God (Sort Of) Found Me ‘The One’)

Read Part 2 here, which begins to explore what taking steps towards ‘Making The One’ may look like. 

Do you think the idea of ‘Making The One’ is helpful? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 27/8/2018

Can We Really Trust What Our Culture Says About Relationships?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, What The Bible Says

One way or another, we’re often taught that dating, marriage, and romance, is all about ‘me’. I need to make myself happy and find someone who ticks all my boxes and meets my needs. But this self-centered attitude often leads to unfulfilling relationships, because great relationships involve two people giving all they can for the sake of the other person. 

I was watching a new TV drama the other day, and the characters that were dating and their dating dynamics really caught my eye (unsurprisingly). The show was about this family, and one of the sub-plots involved the daughter finding a new boyfriend, and him meeting the family members.

She was keen to introduce him to everyone, and get him involved with everything. He was more reserved, quiet, and wanted them to just do things on their own. He wanted it on his terms, she wanted things on hers.

No matter which fictional character you agree with, I was struck by how they both had an idea or preference, and just expected the other one to do it their way. They were very uncompromising and only thinking of their own perspective.


I’m always disappointed when I see this attitude of selfishness, in real life or on TV.

Deep down, I think we all want a romantic relationship where we feel we can rely on each other, be vulnerable, and stick together no matter what. Selfishness doesn’t lead to this. Good relationships can only come from being selfless and keeping the other person’s needs in mind, and not just our own.

In a consumer culture, we need to remember that people are not ‘things’

In a consumer culture, we need to remember that people aren’t ‘things’, and strong happy relationships aren’t just ordered from an app.

Our culture says only think about number one, but people in happy relationships realise this isn’t how it works. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common)

(The following extract is taken from page 82-83 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Every man [and woman] must decide whether they will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness . . . Life’s persistent and most urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’
(Martin Luther King Jr)


In the last chapter [of the book], we introduced the idea that Christian dating (like every type of relationship we’re in) is defined by selflessness. In fact, we can date in a God-glorifying way only when we put our girl/boyfriend first.

This doesn’t only turn everything our culture says about romance on its head; it turns everything ancient culture has said about marriage on its head too!

Biblical Principle

Paul’s comments about marriage were set against the status quo of the day, when women were seen as second-class citizens. But as he wanted to make marriages stronger, so he challenged couples to see each other through God’s eyes.

The idea that both the husband and wife should consider each other’s needs and serve each other must have raised a few eyebrows (check out 1 Corinthians 7:1–6). The real game changer was Paul instructing the husband to love his wife ‘just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (see Ephesians 5:25–33).

These passages don’t surprise us today because we expect people to treat each other well in marriages, but Paul is asking for a lot more than for spouses to tolerate each other. He’s asking them to out-do each other in selflessness.

Who can give more? Who can show more sacrificial love? It’s like a competition! This radical attitude will not only bless their relationship, but it will also be a stunning witness to the ultimate self-giving love of Christ.

Counter Culture 

Dating built on this understanding of selflessness is bound to create revolutionary relationships. Dating someone who is as committed as you are to demonstrating this kind of love carries the potential for an incredible relationship.

Paul would encourage you to seek selflessness, and then seek it again and again and again.

It seems like a very high hope for a new dating relationship, doesn’t it? It doesn’t happen overnight. Over time, small seeds of selfless acts grow into something beautiful and strong that will lay the foundations for a good, God-focused relationship and potential marriage. (Read Why Esther’s Story Should Still Impact Our Relationships)

In a world that says think about your needs only, we can realise that this advice will only lead to disappointment.

Reflect on dating couples you know who look happy, whom you admire and who seem to be building towards marriage. At the heart of their relationship will be a commitment to take selflessness seriously.

Searching for people who want this too, and dating in a way that is selfless, will help us explore God’s hopes for our relationships – and we’ll experience the rewards of doing things his way.

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if we questioned the messages we heard more from our society. In a world that says think about your needs only, we can realise that this advice will only lead to disappointment. Long lasting and fulfilling relationships involve sacrifice,  patience,  and compromise.

When both people are being selfless, it will help us build the romantic relationship we really want.

Do you think selflessness is a better way? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 23/7/2018

Why Esther’s Story Should Still Impact Our Relationships

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, What The Bible Says

The story of Esther in the Bible is about a woman who actively made God-honouring decisions. She didn’t let her new relationship status change her outward-looking perspective or what was important to her. It’s a story we can all learn from, and helps us to examine our own perspective, no matter what our relationship status is. 

I was speaking to a woman at a conference I recently delivered a talk at. She had read my book and heard about Naked Truth Relationships and was very complimentary, which was nice to hear. She said she found it all very helpful.

Powerful Story 

She then shared some of her story with me, about how she used to see marriage as an idol. That she thought finding romance would sort all of her problems. And how she had to change her perspective, with God’s help, and see relationships differently. 

It was a really hard-hitting story, and it was great to hear her talk about it so passionately. 

Finding Purpose

It really got me thinking, because if we fall into the trap of thinking getting to our wedding day is our purpose, then when and if we do, what are we left with? What happens next? 

Wanting to find someone is fine, but if our life is also about investing in friendships, pursuing God, serving the community, etc., then we will still have a purpose no matter what our relationship status is.  

Just because we are in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are closed to us

It reminded me of Esther’s story from the Bible, which I often use to illustrate to guys and girls, why it’s so important to keep focused on Jesus, even if we start dating or get married:

(The following extract is taken from page 143-144 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free here)

Just because we are in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are closed to us. Remaining open to God and others is the best way to keep a relationship grounded, godly and growing. Whether or not we ever get married, God asks us to stay connected to the wider world, even when we fall in love.

Esther’s Legacy

Esther, the only book in the Bible that never mentions God’s name, tells the story of how one woman’s ability to look beyond her own interests saved a whole ethnic group. 

Esther was married to King Xerxes, the most powerful man of his time. When his first wife publicly humiliated him by defying his request to stand and be gawked at by him and a bunch of drunken men, he thought nothing of getting rid of her and replacing her with a Jewish girl, Hadassah (better known as Esther). 

He ruled his palace and nation with fear, insisting that men knew their place as masters and wives knew their place as servants:

‘The king… sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes” ’(Esther 1:21–22 The Message).

Esther Looked Outwards

Once Esther became aware that genocide was about to be inflicted on her people, she approached the king. By law, no-one could approach him without permission, and the punishment for breaking this law was death (Esther 4 – 5). Esther risked her life to save her people. 

Esther’s choice to look outward, not inward, is all the more remarkable

She was a brave woman who managed not to lose sight of the need to act, even though her situation made it almost impossible. In a culture where women were seen as the property of their husbands, Esther’s choice to look outward, not inward, is all the more remarkable.

It might be a strange biblical story to choose to make a point about dating, but Esther’s story challenges us not to drop our convictions once we get into a relationship with someone. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

Am I Like Esther?

A good test is to ask yourself, ‘If I would have spoken out or acted on an issue before I started seeing this person, why am I not getting involved now?’ If the well-being of our friends or family is less important to us when we are seeing someone, what does that say about the kind of relationship this might lead to?

If, once we are in a relationship, our self-centredness kicks back in and we make everything about just the two of us, what does that say about our commitment to loving everyone as Christ loves us?’

It’s a huge challenge!

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

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we took a page out of Esther’s book, and reminded ourselves and each other about what’s important. Being in a relationship shouldn’t cause us to forget to look outwards and make godly choices. If we aren’t in a relationship, we can’t think a relationship will make everything good or easy. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common).

Learning this perspective made her happier

Just like the woman said to me at the conference, learning this perspective made her happier, more content, and more prepared for her future relationship. Relationships are meant to be enjoyed, wanting one is fine, but we need to realise this can’t be the only thing we focus on. 

Esther reminds us to look outwards, and that our purpose isn’t just about our relationship status. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship)

How could your perspectives be more like Esther’s? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 25/6/2018

Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationships Have In Common

Early Dating, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Mutually enjoyable relationships which have strong foundations don’t just happen, and sometimes people can focus on one element too much. I find that people can focus on what they are getting from the relationship and don’t dwell on vital responsibilities. Or they focus on what they need to give and forget to enjoy the benefits. So this quick checklist will help us to remember everything we need to build a good relationship.  

(The following extract is taken from page 153-155 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Dating With Responsibility

When you’re in a dating relationship, you have areas of responsibility, not just to yourself and whoever you’re dating, but also to your friends and family and their friends and family. Taking on these responsibilities means that you will:

  • Be honest and truthful to your girl/boyfriend
  • Treat them with respect in public and in private
  • Develop your own character, interests, and friendships
  • Not pursue anyone else while you are in a relationship with them
  • Pray for your girl/boyfriend and your relationship
  • Give them space to grow
  • Seek God first in every area of your life

The flip side of taking responsibility in a relationship is that you are also entitled to be on the receiving end of the other person being responsible too:

  • You can expect them not to cheat on you
  • You can expect a level of openness and honesty from each other, which will grow the longer you are together
  • You should treat each other with respect and care
  • You should have your own mind and keep up with your passions, interests and wider friendships, and encourage your boy/girlfriend to explore theirs too
  • You should spend quality time together, as well as apart

The Dating Benefits

When you’re in a dating relationship, there are a whole load of benefits for both of you:

  • Increased confidence from knowing that someone has your back
  • Sustained emotional intimacy
  • A level of physical intimacy that you are both comfortable with and that honours God
  • Someone to share some of your inner world with
  • Being trusted and loved
  • Planning a future together
  • Being forgiven when you make a mistake
  • Growing closer to God
  • Having fun
  • Enjoying romance

The flip side of enjoying the benefits of dating well is that there must be some no-go areas that both people respect. Every relationship requires boundaries. They are there for either our safety or our success.

We could ‘break the rules’ and overstep the boundaries, but we need to realise that the consequences of doing so will impact on the very things we love about our relationship, such as trust.

If you cheat on someone and your partner still takes you back (and they don’t have to), you can’t expect the same level of openness and trust as before. You will need to earn it again. So, to protect our relationships, there are things that we know we can’t do:

  • Deliberately flirt with anyone else
  • Develop an emotional understanding with someone else that you should be developing with your girl/boyfriend
  • Explore a physically intimate relationship with anyone else
  • Use any controlling, abusive or violent behaviour
  • Continue down the path of sexually intimate activity that makes it difficult for one or both of you to walk away
  • Prevent each other from nurturing your relationship with Jesus
  • Prevent each other from seeing family or friends
  • Hold anything your boy/girlfriend has done wrong against them, rather than forgiving it

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

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do think these elements are really important to remember. And I hope it can help us to remember that all romantic relationships involve give and take, responsibility and benefits. (Read How Pausing To Reflect Could Save Your Dating Life)

Imagine If…

Healthy relationship expectations are vital. Without them, we can end up getting hurt and hurting others. With them, we can build relationships that are enjoyable and long-lasting.

Imagine if, despite our personalities, past relationships and current situation, we enabled ourselves and others to think about what a good relationship looks like. We’re able to think through what we can expect from it, and what we need to give to make it work. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know)

What other bullet points would you add to the above lists? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 11/6/2018

Needing Vs Wanting A Relationship: Which One Is Better?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Many people think that ‘need’ sounds desperate. Especially in a culture that places emphasis on being independent above all else. But does ‘want’ go far enough? I ‘want’ a takeout tonight, is that the same way we should approach a romantic relationship? I think neither of these words are helpful, and we need to remember the middle ground. 

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a group of friends. It was a lot of fun, and as I’m sure we all know, different things come up and get discussed at times like these. 

The subject of relationships arose, and one of my friends declared ‘I told my new partner that I wanted to be in a relationship with them, but I didn’t need to be’. 

Others in the group nodded or gave agreeing statements, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Is this really the right attitude to have? 

Needing’, Good Or Bad? 

In our culture, we’re constantly told to do our own thing. To do whatever makes ‘me’ happy, to make the right choices for ‘me’, to do whatever ‘I’ want. In terms of relationships, this translates into ‘you should be independent and not need a relationship’. 

It’s right to say that our worth and value can’t come from one person or one romantic relationship. We shouldn’t need someone to come along to complete us. So it’s right to say we shouldn’t ‘need’ that ‘one perfect’ relationship before we feel valued.

We don’t ‘need’ a romantic relationship before we feel valued

However, we should also realise that we do need other people and need relationships. Actually, our relationship with God is what should define us first and foremost, but beyond that, a whole range of friendships and family ties should feed into a positive view of ourselves.

We need people to support us. We need people around us who we can rely on, and who can rely on us. Meaning is found in interdependence and investing in those around us (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality). Our romantic relationship can be part of this interdependence, alongside our other relationships.

So it’s good to say we don’t ‘need’ a romantic relationship before we feel valued and worthy. But it’s bad to think we don’t ‘need’ relationships, which can include a romantic one, to find purpose, support, and a place to belong. 

Wanting: Good Or Bad?

But what about the other part of what my friend said. Is saying we ‘want’ a relationship a better way to think about it? 

Let me make it clear, I think there is nothing wrong with wanting a romantic relationship. If we aren’t in one, it’s okay to say we want that to change. And it’s good to know we have chosen to commit to someone when we start dating, and actively wanted to put in the effort to make it work. (Read Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?) 

‘Wanting’ makes us active participants

But the belief of ‘wanting’ over ‘needing’ can make us approach relationships at arm’s length sometimes. It can make us think that while ‘I’m happy’, I will stay, but if it gets hard then I will leave because I don’t ‘want’ this anymore. 

‘Wanting’ makes us active participants, it means we commit to making it work. That’s a good thing. However, if we make it too much about ‘me’ wanting, rather than ‘us’ wanting, and reduce wanting to just my feelings in the moment, then it can have a very bad effect. 

Middle Ground 

I do understand the point my friend was trying to make, nevertheless, the choice of words did make me uneasy. They are too extreme and polarising. I think we need to remember the middle ground and stay in it as much as possible. 

I think it’s more helpful to remember that we need relationships and to be connected with other people, but we don’t need a romantic relationship before we feel valued or worthy. (Read What A Fishing Proverb Taught Me About Relationships)

Placing too much emphasis on ‘want’ over ‘need’, can make us feel like we can walk away

I think we also should know that wanting a relationship is fine, and choosing to invest makes the relationship an active choice and real commitment. However, placing too much emphasis on ‘want’ can make us feel like we can walk away at any moment, and actually weaken our relationship. 

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remembered that sometimes the middle ground is best. The words we use are important, so let’s use them to remind us how to approach relationships in the best possible way. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

What do you think about needing vs wanting? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 4/6/2018