What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like


When I talk to people about marriage, they either focus on the enjoyable and exciting bits, or on how hard it is and the low points. The truth is, we need to talk about both. We can’t be so cynical that we take away the amazing things God wants to bless us with, but the enjoyment and good bits only come alongside the hard work. An amazing couple recently reminded me of this truth. 

I was surfing the internet a while ago, looking for inspiration for what to write about. During my search, I came across a blog written by a recently married Christian. She was essentially saying that marriage is great, and Christians need to stop talking about how hard it is.

The main point was that her first year of marriage has been amazing, but everyone told her it would be really hard. She argued they made her worry too much, and it has been so easy, so they shouldn’t have been saying those things.

Right and Wrong

This blog really stuck with me, because I think she is right and wrong.

We should be talking about how it’s meant to be fun and make us feel great

We should be talking about how great marriage can be. It’s not just a piece of paper, it’s sacred, it’s should be enjoyable, it can be amazing, it’s one thing God uses to communicate his love for the world (Ephesians 5:22-31). We should be talking about how it’s meant to be fun and make us feel great.

However, all that stuff doesn’t just happen automatically.

The highs come because couples commit to each other, they show acts of love even when they’re annoyed at each other. In the lows they communicate and talk, working through issues selflessly and with respect for each other. They don’t just demand their own way.

They have to prepare themselves for this because it involves saying no to ourselves and sacrificing for the other person.

However, all that stuff doesn’t just happen automatically

Unless we listen to the warnings about how hard marriage is and realise it’s serious, that all relationships involve two imperfect people working together to create something that’s mutually enjoyable and fulfilling, it won’t be great.

35 Years Of Marriage

I always say, whether we are single, dating, or married, it’s good to hang out with people who are married/been married for longer. It’s great to learn from each other and support one another.

My wife and I had a couple round for dinner who have been married for over 35 years. It was great just chatting and hearing about how they had served God together over the years in different contexts. Like having homeless people, and people in very bad situations, staying with them. How they’ve been very evangelistic and planted lots of churches in hard areas. It was amazing.

How Did You Meet? 

I eventually ended up asking how they met, and it turns out they were engaged after a few weeks of dating, then married within the year. Which was a bit of a surprise to hear!

They went on to say that they just knew, and that God told them when they first saw each other that they would get married. Now, if you know me or have read any of my posts, you know I do not think God operates like that for lots of reason. I think this belief is very unhelpful, and not spoken about in the Bible. (Read Why I chose to reject finding ‘The One’).

I was about to interject when they then said something very striking. They said ‘but we might have heard wrong, and we may have been ‘wrong’ for each other, but if you are committed, work hard and rely on God’s grace, you can have an amazing relationship.’

Always admitting you need grace

After she said that I felt like applauding.

Here was a very inspirational couple, who were very happily married and still in love, who were enjoying it even after 35 years, saying it’s been great but it takes commitment, hard work, knowing you’re not perfect and always admitting you need grace. (Read What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Dating)

My Marriage

For me personally, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic. I always got carried away and liked to focus on the enjoyable and great bits of relationships. That is important, but hearing the warning from others who spoke to me about commitment and made me aware that it isn’t always easy, was invaluable.

I now have a good marriage because we remember both of these messages.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we reminded each other that marriage is amazing but takes commitment, love is both easy and hard, marriage has high points and low points, and the more we work at it the more high points we can experience together.

We need to learn and remind each other about healthy and unhealthy relationship expectations so that we can build relationships on strong foundations that are really fulfilling (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know).

Do you think we hear about every aspect of marriage? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 9/4/2018

What No One Tells You About Saying Sorry

Marriage, Relationship Difficulties

In a relationship, when you’re with the person you love the most, you think it would be easy to say sorry. But often it isn’t. Often it’s harder than it should be, and we need to think about why that is. If we don’t, we may regret not saying it. 

I must admit, I’m ‘that person’ who gets really annoyed when people are rude or have a lack of manners. When people don’t say please, or thank you, or apologise. I just think it really isn’t that hard to do, and it just shows respect to everyone.

I’m quite big on saying sorry.

But so often, it can be so hard saying sorry to the people you love most

I think, if we’ve done something wrong, just apologise. I come across people who say they never apologise because it shows weakness. I disagree. Admitting you’re not perfect, taking responsibility, sometimes in awkward and embarrassing situations, shows strength of character.

But so often, it can be so hard saying sorry to the people you love most.

Just Say Sorry 

At a work thing I went to, we were doing one of these ‘games’ where we answer questions to get to know our work colleagues.

One of the standard questions came up, which went something like ‘what would you say to your younger self if you could talk to them?’

One of my colleagues started to say a few different things, but he said above all he wished he could say to his younger, newly married self: ‘Just say sorry to her when you mess up. I don’t know why it seems so hard sometimes, but just say it sooner’.

I wanted to reflect on a few reason why it can feel hard sometimes

I know that sometimes I struggle to say it to my wife. When I feel aggrieved, or when I’m definitely in the right, or we’re both feeling hurt.

It can be just so hard.

I know others who have said similar things to me recently about their dating relationships or marriages. So I wanted to reflect on a few reasons why it can feel hard sometimes, and how we can maybe get over it.

It’s important because all relationships involve imperfect people. We make mistakes, and saying sorry is a big factor in making sure the mistakes don’t cause irreversible damage.

What’s Stopping Us

Some reasons why saying sorry is hard can be because:

  • We Are Feeling Hurt
  • Shows Weakness
  • Feeling Aggrieved

We Are Feeling Hurt

Let’s be honest, often, especially with the more important issues, there is blame to share. We may be mostly to blame, but not completely, or vice versa. This can lead us to think, ‘I deserve an apology too’.

We can quickly be left thinking that ‘I’ll apologise once they do’.

The thing is, saying sorry isn’t about getting something we’re owed, it’s about saying sorry because we hurt someone we care about, and/or done something we shouldn’t have. We may be hurt too, and even entitled to an apology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say sorry.

It can be really hard, but just saying sorry, taking the first step, can really help repair whatever damage has been done.

Shows Weakness  

Some people I come across say they don’t apologise because it shows weakness. Well, in a relationship, we need to be vulnerable.

A good relationship is as much about dealing with the lows as it is about riding the highs. There are low points, weaknesses are exposed and we can do some damage. We need to be able to feel like we can support each other through those times.

Without vulnerability, we can’t build a relationship

This involves being willing to say sorry. Being willing to say we trust each other when we are vulnerable and make mistakes because we know they will stick around anyway. Without vulnerability, we can’t build a relationship. (Read Intimacy Without Vulnerability’, Why It Won’t Work.)

Feeling Aggrieved

If you’re anything like me, you’re good at arguing your corner. You can feel like the way you see a situation is the fairest, and most logical (even when it probably isn’t!). It’s therefore easy to feel aggrieved if you think someone goes against it.

We think ‘by justice alone I shouldn’t need to apologise. It’s the principle of it!’

The thing I’ve learned, the hard way, is that it can come down to perception. We all have different tolerance levels, boundaries, the context affects things, and so on. So, for example, my idea of a joke, may not be funny to my wife for whatever reason (hard to believe I know.)

They can see things differently

We may feel we’ve done nothing wrong, why should we need to say sorry? Well, it’s because of how it was perceived. Sorry is sometimes about being big enough to realise that they can see things differently and it upset them.

Argue your corner if you want, but we should also acknowledge their hurt. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed)

Imagine If…

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, we all will deserve an apology at some point in life and we will all need to give many too.

Imagine if, in our romantic/close relationship, the place where it can be hardest to do, we made it a priority to say sorry early. And remember, it’s not about making sure we get one before we say it. Or avoiding it because it shows vulnerability. Or forgetting that perception is just as important as what happened.

Remember the last time someone said sorry to you, and how it made you feel, and how it affirmed you and helped you move on. (Read After Your Arguments, You Don’t Walk Out.)

Why is it sometimes so hard to just say sorry to those we care about most? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 22/1/2018


1 Big Reason Why People Get Bored In Relationships Explained

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Marriage

In a society that focuses so much on the new thing, the new ‘must-have’ gadget, the new social media trend, the new fashion craze, anything long-term seems bad. Often people’s relationship perspective can be affected by this thinking. ‘New relationships are fun, old ones are stale, boring and unexciting, right?’. It’s this perspective that can cause problems.   

So the wedding ceremony had happened, we had all eaten the wedding breakfast, the father of the bride and groom had given their speeches, then the best man got up.

I think the best man has the toughest job of all. The father of the bride just needs to share some soppy stories. The groom just needs to thank everyone and everyone is on his side because it’s his day after all. But when the best man gets up, people want to be entertained. He needs to make people laugh and tell embarrassing stories about the groom, but not be too mean.

This best man nailed it. He was funny, engaging and very creative, but right at the end he made a comment that shocked lots of people. He said:

‘I hope today isn’t the best day of your life’.

Now, lots of people couldn’t believe it. But I thought he had a point. And he went on to explain what he meant.

Focus On What Love Becomes

He was saying, and praying that, as the happy couple got to know each other more, as they navigated married life and their potential future family, etc., they would grow more in love and know the joy of being deeply committed and being there for each other.

Now modern-day wisdom tells us that the longer you’re in a relationship, the worse it will probably get.

At the start, you fall in love, want to spend all your time together, and think each other are perfect. We’re told to focus on this aspect of love, the super exciting bit where we’re doing everything for the first time. And when these bits are lost, we should feel like we’re missing out.

People don’t place value on what love evolves into

But just because love evolves over time and relationships change, it doesn’t mean new is better.

The problem is, people don’t place value on what love evolves into and what it becomes. Or why this answers our deepest need.

Unhelpful Perspective 

I had a friend who had been going out with a guy for five years. Then out of the blue, in a very bad way, he told my friend that he wanted to ‘go out and experience life’.

She basically said he wanted to go and meet new people, have the thrill of ‘chasing after’ new love interests and getting to know people he is romantically attracted to.

It was a real shame because they seemed to be happy for most of their relationship and she got really hurt. He wasn’t valuing what love evolves into. He thought new and different would make him happy.

Helpful Perspective

Having been in a relationship with my now wife for a total of nine years, I can say it has changed. It’s not about being ‘super’ excited or getting to know each other any more, which was all fun and great, but it has become something else.

We’re excited to be with each other but not because it’s new

It’s become a relationship where we trust each other no matter what, where we know each other’s worst qualities but still stick around, where we’re excited to be with each other but not because it’s new, but because of all the years of building something together.

It’s not the same as when we were first dating. It is different, but we no longer need to try and impress or worry about if the other person is as committed. And we still want to be together.

I’ve learned that each stage of love is different. One big problem is we can focus on the early stage and think that it’s better than the other stages, then these other stages can seem hard or pointless. This is why some people can get bored and their relationships can break down.

Deepest Need

Our deepest need is to feel loved. To know someone knows us and accepts us. In romantic relationships this can be expressed very uniquely in an incredible way. But these things can only develop over time and need to be valued and remembered. (Read What The Church Can Learn From The Science Of Love.)

These things can only develop over time

Instead of being shaped by films which focus on finding love rather than building a relationship, or adverts which says new is better, or stories that say there is a honeymoon period then it’s okay to complain about your partner to friends, let’s be shaped by something else.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we saw each stage of love as different, and adapted accordingly. Romantic relationships should always be exciting and healthy, but they should be evolving too. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship.)

Instead of focusing only on stuff which happens/happened at the start of relationships; the stability, deep connection, trust and memories that come over time and cannot be created after a few months, need to be seen as important and valued as the relationship grows.

Do you think our society focuses too much on the start of romantic relationships? Comments welcomed below.   

Originally posted 20/11/2017

Are You Making The Relationship Mistake That Causes Unhappiness?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Marriage

In our culture, through the media, through films, etc., we are constantly told that having a romantic relationship will make us happy. It’s for successful people and will solve everything. However, the truth is relationships reveal rather than resolve problems. They amplify what’s already going on. Happiness is not found in a relationship alone, but in wider attitudes and perspectives too.

I was at a conference last year exploring how the church can support people in romantic relationships more. Particularly those who are dating.

Despite what you may think, there wasn’t love hearts everywhere with sign up sheets for speed dating. It was more formal and structured discussions on the topic, and very interesting.

Is It Worth Supporting Single People? 

At the end during the Q and A slot, someone anonymously asked the question ‘Is it worth supporting single people? When they get married won’t it all be okay?’

If people aren’t happy being single, they won’t be happy in a relationship

The panellist answered with a few comments, but the one thing that really stuck with me was: ‘Well research suggests that if people aren’t happy being single, they won’t be happy in a relationship’.

Truth vs Myth 

This to me says a lot. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship. But this comment cuts to the heart of a myth that seems to be held by many in society. One that says once you’re in a relationship you will be happy and everything will be solved. But relationships reveal rather than resolve problems.

We can make the mistake of thinking that a/any relationship will make us happy. Or when we’re in a relationship we can mistakenly think that it will just be okay. But there are deeper things we need to do and remember if we want our relationships to thrive.

Relationships reveal rather than resolve problems

(The following extract is taken from page 100-102 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Filling Up

What are you into? What fulfils you? What activities or interests feed your soul and make you feel alive? What stretches you intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially? Where are your God-given uniqueness and potential being expressed?

This is a brilliant way of making sure your whole life isn’t about the next big relationship. Invest in loving your life, now. A friend of ours once said:

‘Most women in my church are not asking God about their calling or doing much because they are waiting for a husband. He will decide what they do. I think it’s a shame’. (Jenny)

Your life is already happening, and there’s so much for you to discover about yourself.

Your life is already happening, and there’s so much for you to discover about yourself. Try stepping out of your comfort zone: do something for others, like serving in church or volunteering in a community project.

You’ll experience a deeper sense of fulfilment. The more you appreciate the personality and gifts God has given you, the more confident you will be in sharing who you are in a relationship, without needing the other person to fulfil you.

Good Foundations 

Loving yourself more is a positive effect of being in a good relationship, but it isn’t a good reason for wanting a relationship.

All of us have days where we’re not big fans of ourselves, but if you struggle to really see what someone else could ever see in you, find someone you trust to talk it through with. This doesn’t make you weak – quite the opposite! It makes you intentional and active.

At the core of growing stronger is knowing that God’s opinion of us is enough. Have you noticed how it can be so easy to tell others that God loves them, but so hard to believe it for yourself?

We have a God who loves us unconditionally and calls us his children (Galatians 3:26 – 4:7) and his friends (John 15:12–15). This means that we are always somebody worth getting to know. He never regretted making us:

 Investing in good and varied friendships, and developing your mind and interests, are all part of growing strong

‘I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works.’ (Psalm 139:14) The psalmist is confident that God knows and rejoices in our specially designed lives. Jesus said that he alone brings life to the full (John 10:10).

God is the ultimate source of our identity and self-esteem, and in his generosity he has made us as social creatures, hungry for vast interactions with people, ideas and adventures. Investing in good and varied friendships, and developing your mind and interests, are all part of growing strong and preparing yourself for life and love.

Getting Started 

If you’re currently single, you have a fantastic opportunity to embrace who you are now. Choosing to invest in your life and future doesn’t mean that you’re shutting the door on ever finding someone. It means you are being active and seeking God’s potential for your life. By doing this now, you’re giving yourself a head start.

If you’re already dating, investing in yourself doesn’t mean that you’re being selfish in your relationship. By giving each other the space to do things with other people (as well as together), it will enable your hearts and relationship to grow. (Read Dating Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint)

So what are you going to do? What looks fun to you? What ministry in your church needs more volunteers? Do things that look new or stretch you in different ways. See what happens when you tap into your God-given potential.

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

Not About Perfection 

This isn’t about being perfect. I’m not saying if you sort out your flaws, then happiness is around the corner. I’m saying that a relationship won’t make us happy. But a life filled with friends, hobbies, faith is vital. No matter what our relationship status is.

No one is perfect, no one can be happy all the time

No one is perfect, no one can be happy all the time, but life is about more than romance. The mistake we can all make, which can weaken our relationships/future relationships, is thinking being part of a couple will sort it all out.

Imagine If…

Imagine if, we remembered that relationships reveal rather than resolve problems. Investing in people, church, other interests, will help us make all of our relationships stronger. We can avoid the mistake of thinking will sort it all out. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship).

Do you think this mistake is common and/or easy to make? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 12/7/2017

Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Marriage

Sometimes we can think ‘When this happens, I’ll be happy…’ Or ‘When I get to this point, things will change…’ I used to think my romantic relationship would one day just be strong and amazing. But I realised, thinking that it will eventually just be different is unhelpful and can weaken our relationships.  

I love a good quote. I often forget who exactly said it and sometimes I need to do a bit of paraphrasing, but I’m a sucker for a good quote.

One that sprung to mind when I was thinking about writing this post goes ‘Madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ (I think this one’s from Albert Einstein).

Plan vs. Plan Maker 

To give you a bit of context, I’m someone who always falls into the trap of thinking that when I achieve ‘this goal’, or reach ‘this point’, then I’ll be different and I’ll be happy and satisfied.

Recently, God has really been challenging me to avoid this thinking. To put my faith and fulfilment in him, the plan maker instead of the plan.

How do I live like He is enough

God has really been humbling and challenging me on this recently. Take this website for example. Instead of running after a goal to find fulfilment, like having a website that gets ‘X’ number of visitors, I try to focus on how to seek God more in the process and see what he’s doing now.

How do I live like He is enough because nothing in this world will satisfy?

One Day I will Change

I’ve been thinking about this and I realised that I used to think this about my romantic relationship too. When I was single I thought, ‘If I get a girlfriend things will be different and I’ll be happy’.

Take prayer for example. I always struggled to get into a rhythm of daily prayer. I used to say to myself that when I get a girlfriend things will be different. We will spur each other on to pray more and I will be closer to God. Well, it didn’t happen like that. (Read Should We Be Praying Together?)

And when it didn’t change I thought that once we got engaged it would change. When it didn’t, I thought that when we’re married it will change because then we’d be living together and it would be easier. Then when it didn’t, I thought maybe after next year it would change.

It didn’t just happen. We had to sit down, make a plan, fail at that plan, make another plan, and get it to work. We’ve thankfully got into a good rhythm this year, but it didn’t just happen.

I couldn’t just do the same thing and expect a different result. I couldn’t expect things in my relationship to just be different, I had to work at it.

What About Today 

I had to come to this realisation a few years ago when it came to relationships. The way I dated, the way I view my marriage, I couldn’t just believe that one day it will be different. I couldn’t keep moaning about the same thing, or hold grudges. I had to make the change happen.

I had to communicate more. I had to work out why I was getting upset. I had to realise that some things I did made the relationship weaker and act differently next time.

We need to realise relationships take work and we all need to learn the skills needed

Real Stories

I have some friends who are in a relationship with someone and they seem to argue all the time. They both seem to blame each other, but both say it will all be different one day. They have the same arguments and same frustrations over and over, hoping for a sudden and different result.

It’s upsetting because if we want it to work, we need to realise relationships take work and we all need to learn the skills needed. No one can just play an instrument or read and write, we have to learn that skill. (Read What Makes A Happy Couple? Fresh Insight.)

Think Differently

In films, on T.V., in books, we seem to get told that the ‘hard part’ of the relationship is finding someone, then it’s easy. People struggle in films to get together, but when they do, they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Really?!

It’s okay to admit we need to learn the skills

Relationships take work. I had to decide to think differently. To put the work in, to learn what made a great relationship, and what made a God-centred relationship. Instead of relying on future ‘sudden changes’ and future achievements to fill me up.

Imagine If…

We all need to learn to build good relationships, it’s okay to admit we need to learn the skills. It okay to realise we need to start implementing them today if we want to change things. ( Read Dating Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint.)

Imagine if, instead of hoping that ‘that issue’ will sort itself out, we paused to think about what it is that’s upsetting us or annoying us. And what we can do now to change that.

Why are people sometimes passive about relationships, but more active about learning skills in other areas, like to further their career? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 22/5/2017