Real Life Stories

Stories From The Dating Scene: Dating In Church Was Awful

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

You would hope that dating in church would make your relationship easier, but sometimes people think the throwaway comments, pressure to build a perfect relationship, and the ‘marriage-focused culture’, makes it harder. This post is written by a friend of ours, who loves church, but wanted to share her honest story about her struggles.

‘I’m keeping these toys for your kids, meaning my grandkids.’

This is what the mother of my friend’s girlfriend said to him. It’s awkward because they aren’t married or engaged, but it’s even more awkward because they’ve only been going out for three months!

The amount of people who tell me these kind of stories. They often involve people from their church, people who mean well, but pile on the pressure. It can make new couples feel like they need to ‘decide right now’.

A friend of mine wrote a post for me a while ago, but it still seems very releavant. So I wanted to share what she had to say again. This is her story, in her own words:

Dear Church 

Dear Church, first let me say, I love you. I love you with the kind of love that means I seek out time to spend with you when I’d rather be asleep. The kind of love that means I think of you when it comes to what I spend my money on, where I live, and what I do. And above all, the kind of love that endures all things… and there have been a few things to endure.

I believe a loving relationship involves honest communication so we can both grow. And so, trying to be humble, knowing you have so much to teach me and I have so much to learn, I have a few things to talk about.

I’m so grateful for your joy on my recent engagement. But I need you to know, that there have been times it’s been hard to love you while I’ve been getting here.

Questions And Comments

Those times before I met him when you asked me if I was ‘still single’ and started going through your list of eligible bachelors, because single wasn’t as good as being married.

Those times just after we started dating when the gossip mill went into overdrive, and everyone was watching.

Those times when we realised this relationship wasn’t perfect, but the only relationships you talked about and showed us looked flawless. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

More interested in whether we were ‘avoiding sexual sin’ than getting to know us

But most of all, it’s been the pressure that kicked in later. Every time you looked shocked and slightly confused when we said we’d been together for two and a half years now but we weren’t engaged.

Those times you were more interested in whether we were ‘avoiding sexual sin’ than getting to know us as a couple and encouraging the deepening of our relationship.

Those times you seemed to communicate that dating was a process we had to endure, as quick as possible, just to achieve that higher status of being married.

Dating Devalued

And then, in the end, there were the jokes that were made when we did get engaged, saying it was ‘about time’. And the rumours that circulated about one or other of us dragging our feet and keeping the other one waiting… Because who could actually want to date for that long?!

Church, those times hurt us. See, we decided to take things slowly. Rather than seeing dating as something to get over and done with as quickly as possible, we’ve delighted in it as a time to develop deep roots. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

We’ve delighted in it as a time to develop deep roots

We’ve had scores of late-night conversations; we’ve had, and are still having, more arguments than I’d care to admit; we’ve experienced a period of exhaustion and near depression; we’ve cried our way through a fair few tissues; we’ve spent hours upon hours laughing with each other’s friends and families.

And in nine months’ time, when we walk up the aisle, surrounded by the community we’ve built over four years, we will not regret choosing to wait this long.

Imagine If…

Imagine if, next time you meet a single person – delight in who they are; don’t get distracted by planning who they could marry; communicate to them that for you they are enough, just as they are.

Next time you have a dating couple – hold back on the questions; invest in the time they spend building a relationship that will endure.

With both of these groups – when they are crying, be honest about your own brokenness. When they are celebrating, celebrate with them.

Above all else, whatever choice they make about their future and their relationships, commit to being the community that stands alongside them. (Read I Wouldn’t Have Survived Without My Church Family)

Have you been asked a question like one above that was unhelpful? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 24/9/2018

Stories From The Dating Scene: I Loved Him, But The Relationship Was Dysfunctional. Part 2

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

In the second of this two-part article, our anonymous guest writes about her break-up, what she learned, and what she would do differently next time. By taking the time to really reflect on what happened, she has been able to find God in the mess, and learn more about herself and healthy relational dynamics.

Part 1 of this article came out last week. Part 2 is written by our anonymous guest again, all in her own words:

‘I Want Harmony Over Truth’ 

I spent the next few weeks trying to save the relationship, but I realised it was a dead end. Any attempt to start a discussion to resolve the issue would be immediately labeled as a ‘conflict.’ 

He would just say, “You didn’t make me feel safe” or “I don’t want to talk because we are different,” or “other girls can read my emotions” to stop the conversation. We never got to the real issue.  

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

I cried out to God and prayed for guidance and wisdom

I was devastated. I really loved him and it hurt me deeply to see him being hurt. I cried out to God and prayed for guidance and wisdom. 

To my surprise, what followed was a great time of peace that I hadn’t expected. 

God Help Me To Process Everything 

I fired tons of questions at God, and God used all sorts of encounters to answer my questions. 

Many friends and my family gave tremendous support to me. I also had a blessed time of reflection and repentance before God as I reflected on how some of my behaviours were unhelpful and highlighted some of my own issues.

Now that the relationship has ended, I can see things much more clearly. I realise nearly all decisions and understanding in our relationship hinged on his feelings. 

Recognising Dysfunctional Foundations

He made it explicitly clear he wanted his future spouse to submit to his emotions, and that his emotions were above the truth. 

He didn’t want to communicate, he wanted me to read his mind and do whatever his feelings dictated at the time. And the moment you demand that your partner must meet all of your emotional needs all the time, you create a goal that no relationship can reach.

This cannot be a realistic foundation of a meaningful relationship

So no matter how much I loved him, it was always going to be a dysfunctional relationship because this cannot be a realistic foundation of a meaningful relationship.

It also will always guarantee emotional ‘infidelity’, because every day there is always someone else out there who can give you better ‘feelings’. 

I used to desperately want to satisfy my ex, now it’s a relief that I didn’t (well, I couldn’t). I realise we need to bring our emotional needs to God first, he’s the source of our peace and our solid foundation. We will never be perfect but when we seek satisfaction in God first, then we’re able to love others freely.

I’m not writing all this to blame him. I’m sharing my experience because these emotional struggles are more common than many people think. 

The Right Decision 

Though I really missed our good times together, I was also relieved as I returned to the ‘normal’ world where there’s no need to read other people’s emotions to gain acceptance. Ironically, this actually allows me to freely understand and engage with their emotions in a healthy way! 

I have read many articles on how couples should deal with emotional differences (some just assume women are the emotional ones!). All of them teach the importance of effective communication and listening, with which I agree completely. 

Looking back, I am grateful for the love and guidance from God, friends, and family throughout the healing process. I can only pray for the same for my friend. Only God can fully understand and bring true healing and restoration to the deepest void of our hearts. (Read Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us)

We can experience true intimacy with God, which leads to true intimacy with others

Real Healing 

Intimacy means to completely know and to be completely known. 

It means humbly exposing of all our weaknesses, fears and past emotional baggage. 

Just like a luxurious home constantly requires tedious cleaning and maintenance, an intimate relationship always involves great effort, vulnerability, and sacrifice. But because of Jesus’ ultimate vulnerability and sacrifice, we can experience true intimacy with God, which leads to true intimacy with others. (Read Revealed: Why Some Break-Ups Feel Good (After A While))

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we approached relationships like our guest writer. If we decided to reflect on the events which happened and thought about how to do it better next time. If we ran to God for help and guidance above all else and realised relationships are about healthy communication instead of unrealistic demands. How much better would our relationships be? (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common)

Q: What good and bad influences do you think shape expectations in your relationships? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 9/7/2018

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: God (Sort Of) Found Me ‘The One’

Real Life Stories

Lots of people ask me about finding ‘the One’. They want to take romantic relationships and marriage seriously, and they want God to be involved in the process. So they want him to show them ‘the One’ so they get it right. Well, someone I know got a very surprising answer after praying this prayer. 

I remember growing up with the idea of finding ‘the One’. Finding that one perfect person. Thinking she would sort me out and help me overcome all my problems.

But as I grew up, I realised life wasn’t that simple.

No-one is perfect, just like I wasn’t perfect

No-one is perfect, just like I wasn’t perfect. No one could come in and ‘sort me out’. I had to be honest, and real, and work through my issues and work to make better relationship choices. I got help and support of course but someone else couldn’t do this hard work for me.

But many people still do and still want to believe in ‘the One’.

I Don’t Believe In ‘The One’

I have written many times about why I don’t believe in finding ‘the One’. (Read The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship and Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’).

But I still meet people who like the comfort this idea brings, or think this is the way to make their relationship God-centered.

I was talking to someone the other day who shared this story with me. I want to share what he said with you, to the best of my memory, because he learned such a vital truth about God and relationships.

Story From The Dating Scene

‘I became a Christian in my mid-twenties. I had had lots of relationships, many were messed up. I had one night stands and never really have a good or steady relationship.

‘When I became a Christian, I was single for nearly ten years afterwards. I didn’t have any romantic relationships and didn’t really pursue any or come close to one, with one or two exceptions.

‘Then I got to know a woman in my church. She was godly, she was servant-hearted, and really passionate about God. But she wasn’t ‘my type’. She wasn’t the person I would usually go for, but I was attracted to her.

I Prayed, and God (Sort of) Answered

‘So I went away and prayed about it. I wanted to get the relationship right, I didn’t want to get hurt or hurt her, so I said: “God, is she the One?”.

No Answer. So I prayed again “God, is she the One?”. And nothing happened again, so I prayed again.

‘Then He said “Well, is she your one? Are you going to pick her?

If you pick her, you can’t blame me

‘When I felt like God was saying this to me, I got confused. I thought surely he would bring me the One, why is he asking me this. Then I felt like he said: ‘If you pick her, you can’t blame me when it gets hard!

I Get It Now

‘I think that God, in his unique way, was teaching me something. He was telling me that relationships take work. I need to make a decision to commit and keep deciding to commit.

‘God won’t click his fingers and make me the perfect person for her or vice versa.

15 years later, we are married, flawed, but happy

‘I started to think about what I, and we, needed to do to make the relationship work and if we were suited, rather than waiting for God to just do all of the work for me.

’15 years later, we are married, flawed, but happy, and pushing each other closer to Jesus’. (Read Marriage Isn’t Really About ‘Us’)

Imagine If…

I really value this story because I think it’s empowering. Obviously, God is with us, and challenges and transforms us, but we are involved in the change. We make decisions along the way and must choose to be more God-centred in our thinking and actions.

Imagine if we remembered that we need to make the relationship work. We need to choose compromise, learn to work through issues, enjoy the highs, and ‘make the one’ rather than just ‘find the one’. (Read Warning: A Relationship Should Change Us, But Can’t Cure Us)

Why do you think about ‘Making the One’? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 19/3/2018

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