Real Life Stories

Real Stories From People Who ‘Fell Off Pedestals’

Real Life Stories

Anyone can get carried away when they like someone. They can start to think that the person they like is ‘perfect’, and place them on a pedestal. These real stories remind us why this trap can lead to dating disappointment, and why putting people on pedestals can only lead to us falling off them. 

(The following extract is taken from page 123-125 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Strange as it might sound, falling for someone can be a big let-down.

Have you ever seen someone who has stopped you dead in your tracks and found yourself fantasizing about what they’re like? Unsurprisingly, in your head everything is perfect. But equally unsurprisingly, when you get to know them, they can’t measure up to this perfection.

Ben’s Story

Ben fell for a gorgeous girl he’d never spoken to, but from what he could see, she was the funniest, prettiest and cleverest woman he had ever (nearly) met. He dreamed about meeting her and how she would laugh at his jokes, share his interests and be an amazing kisser. Then he got to know her. When he discovered that she was a regular girl with her own sense of humour and interests, he ended it.

Charley’s Story

Charley fell for a gorgeous worship leader. She planned their wedding day and fantasized about their ministry together and the way he would sing lullabies to their children every night. One day, after the service, she plucked up enough courage to go and introduce herself.

She discovered he was a regular guy who was struggling in his faith

They started dating. But when she discovered he was a regular guy who was struggling in his faith as much as she was, she ended it.

Unchecked fantasies, or an inability to see a relationship clearly, can have painful consequences. These stories are extreme (and, sadly, true), but we’re all in danger of doing this sort of thing from time to time.


Pedestals are only good for falling off

We see it happening in the Christian world, where our desire to find the right person plus our strong attraction to someone (especially with the intensity of everyone at church predicting marriage!) means we can end up putting them on a pedestal. And who can blame us? It’s a powerful mix!

But pedestals are only good for falling off, so when ‘God’s perfect partner’ lets us down, we can feel confused at best and devastated at worst.

We need to come back down to earth. It’s time to stop chasing that unattainable guy or girl who will never live up to our expectations (and doesn’t exist!). How do we do that? What does God want us to look for? Let’s turn that question on its head. What does someone looking for a relationship hope to find in us? What would God want them to find?

HE Makes Us Worthy Of Love

Developing clear thinking around dating is a two-way process: we need to see ourselves for who we truly are, as well as understand who we should date (or avoid!). None of us is perfect. The great news is that happiness in relationships isn’t dependent on people being perfect!

Dating someone who likes us when we are being truly ourselves, and who we like when they are being truly themselves, is not only helpful, but godly. God doesn’t ignore the reality of our flaws, but, in loving us as we are, he makes us worthy of love.

If God sees the real us and still loves us and accepts us as we are, let’s not fall into the trap of being someone else when we’re in a relationship. Being real requires vulnerability, which can feel scary. So it matters that you learn to be real with someone who is willing to do the same.

Holly And Luke 

Holly and Luke fell passionately in love with each other, but as they had both just come out of intense relationships and were about to head off to different universities, they wondered if this was God’s way of asking them not to date.

On the surface they were happy with that, except they couldn’t stop thinking about each other! So they decided to limit the amount of time they spent together, but instead of lessening their feelings, it intensified them.

Holly had put Luke on a pedestal, and regularly told friends that she would never find a man as perfect as him. Luke couldn’t go for a moment without thinking about Holly. He was eaten up with jealousy at the thought of her having a good time, just as much as he was being eaten up with longing for her.

Eventually, some good friends suggested that maybe they should stop obsessing about each other and go out on a few dates, to see if they were as perfect for each other as they hoped. So they did.

When we like someone, we will naturally start to build a picture in our mind of what they’re like

To begin with, it was difficult. Luke wasn’t as tuned into Holly’s emotional world as she had thought he would be. And Holly had views on things that Luke found surprising. In their own way, they both felt disappointed. But when they got real and chose to accept each other for who they truly were, they began to build a good relationship. (Read How ‘Decisions’ Along With ‘Love’ Can Create Healthy Relationships.)

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

Imagine If…

When we like someone, we will naturally start to build a picture in our mind of what they’re like and what the potential relationship will look like. The trick is to not stay in that fantasy for too long.

Imagine if we started to talk to them, asked them out as soon as possible. That way we can get to know the real them and they get to know the real us before we put them on a pedestal and get hurt when we fall off it. (Read 5 Rules To Follow When Talking To Someone You Like)

Do you think some churches put pressure on us to find the ‘perfect’ person? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 9/10/2017

Stories From The Dating Scene: Secret Boyfriends and Bad Endings

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

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

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

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

People Pleaser 

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

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

He Used The ‘God Card’ 

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

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

But if I did, would I lose him forever?

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

Things Should Have Got Easier

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

I wanted so much more than to be a secret

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

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

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

Conventional Wisdom

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

It made me feel inadequate for being single.

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

God’s Wisdom

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

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

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

I have the All-Powerful God by my side

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

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

Imagine If…

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

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

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

Originally posted 26/7/2017

Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’

Real Life Stories, Relationship Difficulties

Finding ‘the One’ is a belief that still resonates and drives people who are looking for love. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find and build an enjoyable long lasting relationship. I think God wants us to enjoy romance and intimate relationships. However, by rejecting ‘the One’ myth, I think we will be better placed to find and maintain healthy and great relationships.   

I still deliver many talks on singleness and dating. I’m still passionate about exploring this issue with people and answering questions they have. Dating is an area that takes up so much time and energy, finding God in amongst it all can be a bit confusing. (Find out more about booking a talk here).

Whenever I talk about ‘Finding the One’, and how I think ‘Making the One’ is ultimately more biblical and fruitful, I still get funny looks from people. (Read ‘The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship).

In this post, I want to share a story from Rachel, my friend that I wrote my Dating Dilemma book with. I think it challenges us to think about this myth from a very helpful perspective.

(The following extract is taken from page 21-23 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Worst Nightmare

It was 3 am, and for the second night running I (Rachel) was sitting up in bed in a cold sweat.  As I looked down at the sleeping figure of my husband of three months, I was gripped with a fear I could hardly voice.

What if I had married the wrong guy? What if ‘the One’ I was destined to marry was still out there somewhere? What if I was now going to spend the rest of my life never knowing what life should have been like?

Don’t worry about it, babe. Everyone thinks that at some point

Jason rolled over and saw me sitting bolt upright in bed. ‘You can’t sleep?’ he murmured groggily.

‘Just got a lot on my mind,’ I mumbled. A few days later, I told Jason of my deep, dark thoughts.

‘Don’t worry about it, babe. Everyone thinks that at some point.’ ‘Do you think I might not be “the One” for you?’ I asked, astounded.

He shrugged: ‘Sure, sometimes. But then I remember that a more amazing thing than falling in love is growing in love. We’re going to work at that for the rest of our lives.’ And with a wink he was off to work.

New Perspective 

Jason and I have been married for over ten years now, and whenever people ask us how we knew that we were right for each other, we tell them, ‘We didn’t know if we were each other’s “One”; we just got married!’

OK, so we loved each other, got on well together and shared our love for Jesus, but it’s been the years since of getting to know each other and working hard at our relationship that have made us realise how great we are together. Most of the time!

And this reveals a dilemma we hear voiced in lots of different ways by lots of different Christians at the events and churches where we speak about relationships: ‘How do I find “the One” God has for me?’

Hidden Assumption 

Both guys and girls ask us about finding ‘the One’.

And with this question comes an assumption that God will engineer our love life. The logic goes: he loves us, he loves marriage, so he’ll make sure we get the right person to date. Won’t he?

It’s simply not a promise that God makes

It’s a story we hear time and again, but it’s simply not a promise that God makes; it’s not biblical.

Please don’t throw [your arms up] in disgust! We’re not saying that God doesn’t have a plan for your life or that he doesn’t care about your hopes for finding love. Because he does!

Unhidden Consequences 

But we need to be careful that we don’t translate that into some vague belief that God owes us a great romance, or even a husband or wife. Why? Because it can lead to all sorts of ungodly attitudes and behaviours, particularly when it comes to dating.

How many people do you know who have been dumped because the person they were with had some fantastical notion about the perfect relationship God had waiting for them just around the next corner?

How many people do you know who went too far sexually with someone they were dating, only to blame their ex, or God, for not keeping them pure?

If we believe that God will one day swoop in, clean up the mess made by our bad dating choices, and present us with Mr or Miss Perfect, then we don’t need to ask him to transform us.

We might find ‘the One’, but then feel totally unprepared for the reality of building a relationship with another person who is just as flawed as we are!

I think this story shows that all couples can experience doubts, and relationships take work and communication.

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

Other posts on this website discuss this idea more (Read ‘The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship). And also talk about the importance and of learning to Build a relationship and how to do it (Read What Makes A Happy Couple? Fresh Insight)

I think this story shows that all couples can experience doubts, and relationships take work and communication. ‘The One’ myth can rob us of the joys and realities it takes to make our relationship thrive.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we were honest about our struggles and fears and helped people to work through the highs and lows of a relationship, instead of just focusing on finding someone and hoping it will all be okay.

Do you think ‘Making the One’ is more exciting than ‘Finding the One’? Why? Comments welcomed below. 

 Originally posted 7/6/2017

How Dating Is Like Painting A Room

Real Life Stories

After spending the weekend painting and decorating a room in my house, and giving a talk on relationships to young people, I decided to draw out a (slightly tenuous) link between the two. Namely, you don’t need to be perfect or look perfect, for either of them to work. Sounds simple right? Well, maybe… 

This week, my wife and I, along with some wider family members decorated a room in our house. Now as someone who isn’t practical and does more harm than good in the decorating department, the thought of it beforehand worried me slightly.

Turns out I was right to be nervous. We managed to screw through a pipe that then sprayed water around the newly painted room, carpets were lost and delayed by the carpet fitters, and we damaged quite a bit of furniture too.

Not the smoothest of operations.

However, the room is now done, and it looks great. There are some bits that aren’t finished to the highest of standards and some mismatched furniture, but it is really good.

Dating Talk 

In amongst this DIY dilemmas, I did a talk at a local church on dating dilemmas (see what I did there). It was a group of young people who had lots of questions about sex and relationships, singleness, and dating.

I shared a bit of my own story, about how I became a Christian and my own journey about relationships and dating.

Knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect had a massive impact

One of the things I said to them which really seemed to stand out was about when I became a Christian. I said that hearing about a God, who saw all my flaws, knows all of my insecurities and said he still loved and accepted me and would stick around, changed everything,

Knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect had a massive impact.

Perfection Myth 

Perfect people don’t exist. Perfect couples don’t exist

This is something I also learned about dating. So often in my dating history, and in our society which values looks and ‘being happy’ all the time, we can believe that we need to be perfect before we can find romance.

Perfect people don’t exist. Perfect couples don’t exist.

I always say dating is about letting someone see the real you, and vice versa, and deciding if you want to commit to each other long term. We need to see each other’s flaws and gifts and decide whether we want to build something together.

Painting and Dating 

So this is the part where a (cheesy) similarity can be drawn out. But I will resist the temptation to say anything too obvious.

I could say that like decorating a room, there will be setbacks like damaging furniture and water damage, but in the end, it will look great. But that would be cheesy, so I won’t say that.

I could say that like decorating a room, it takes hard work but you can do it, even if you don’t have all the skills, you can make it look great. But that would definitely by cheesy, so I won’t say that.

The point I want to draw out is that dating is like decorating a room because you don’t look perfect while doing it. It won’t look perfect in the end, and accepting that can free us to build something that looks amazing.

Not Looking Perfect 

When you decorate, you wear old clothes, get dirt all over your hands and paint on your face.

We all have bits about ourselves we wish we could change

When the room is finished, not every bit is perfect. There are some parts that look a bit rushed and there are some marks you got on the furniture as you were moving it.

I think this is the takeaway point. Dating is not about finding someone who is perfect. Dating is not about pretending to be perfect because deep down, we all have bits about ourselves we wish we could change.

Dating is about creating a space to be real and honest. Knowing people for who they are. When we make it about something else, then we’re building a relationship on unstable foundations. If we are aiming for mutual enjoyment and fulfillment, then we need to be authentic.

If You Are Dating 

So if you’re in a new, or long term dating relationship, find ways to connect more this week. To have the time and space to share values, goals, and fears. Ask each other about these things and revisit the assumptions. So that you can begin to build that even more enjoyable and authentic relationship. (Read The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship)

If you’re single, remember that finding someone isn’t about being perfect. Learning to date well, getting over some of the fear and worries, isn’t about trying to be perfect. (Read What Should We Do On A First Date?)

Imagine If…

Imagine if dating was less about trying to impress someone else, and was more about creating space to get to know each other and build something together. Imagine the time and hurt we could avoid.

Decorating is never perfect. I want you to remember that no one is perfect, no couple is perfect, and the only way to build relationships worth having is by creating that time and space to be honest. It builds trust, enjoyment and something worth having.

Do you think there is a difference between being honest and ‘making a good first impression’? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 8/5/2017

‘Marriage Isn’t About Sharing’ I Was Shocked, Disagreed, Then Agreed

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Real Life Stories

As I was talking to someone, they suddenly said ‘Marriage isn’t about sharing’. I thought this would be rooted in a male-focused (and even oppressive) view of women and relationships. But what he then said, and more importantly did, was one of the most radical servant-hearted things I’ve heard. It all comes down to truly giving up everything. 

A while ago I did a talk at a local church. I love preaching and teaching, and I’m always happy to talk to people afterwards and pray with them.

This is mostly very positive. Getting to pray for people and asking for God to change their situation is always an honour and a highlight. But sometimes people can ask tough questions.

I Was Worried 

So there I was, hanging around after the service and chatting to people. Then someone I used to know, who’s been married for many years, came up and we started talking. It was all very pleasant, then I got worried.

I braced myself for what I thought would be an awkward conversation

I had been preaching about sex and relationships, and he started to give his view of marriage.

He suddenly said ‘Marriage isn’t about sharing. Men and women have different roles’. I braced myself for what I thought would be an awkward conversation. People have said similar things before and what follows often worries me.

But his next comment wasn’t what I expected.

The Old Vow

He mentioned that when he got married, which was a few decades ago now, his wife said ‘I will obey you’. I was going to interrupt him and ask about that, but he continued.

He then said that in his wedding vow, he promised to worship his wife and endow her (which means give her) everything. That is what people used to say and he believes this is vital.

‘I give her everything. Absolutely everything.’

He went on to explain that he thought worshipping his wife (not in the same way he does God, obviously) is actually harder than obeying.  But it was the thing about endowment that stood out and got him passionate. He said this means ‘I give her everything. Absolutely everything.’

For him, it wasn’t enough to share, but he had to give up everything and let her own it.

Putting It Into Practice 

Everything belonged to her

Now, I was tempted to think that this may just be an abstract belief that didn’t really mean anything. But he said he took this very seriously. So, for example, when they brought a house, when they brought a car, etc., it was all in her name.

Everything belonged to her.

Apparently, his solicitor even took him to one side and tried to talk him out of putting the house in her name. But he believed Christ gave up everything for the church and husbands should do the same for their wives. In material things and elsewhere too (Ephesians 5:21-33)

So he put his money where his mouth is. Literally. I haven’t met many people who would do what he did.

Sacrifice, Not Sharing

I was blown away by his actions. For him, sharing was not enough. Christ did more than share, he sacrificed and gave everything. This husband wanted to do the same.

Obviously, there are practical and legal reasons why this isn’t the most sensible thing to do. But here was a husband being radical and putting faith and what he thought God wanted before being sensible (which are sometimes mutually exclusive).

And sharing isn’t always a bad thing. I think sharing decisions and power is vital. Research shows couples who do this are happier. (Read What Makes A Happy Couple? Fresh Insight)

His actions were an incredible serving and self-sacrificing example

But in a society that believes being independent and thinking about ‘number one’ is the most important thing, this can go against some of Jesus’ central messages of radical sacrifice. He didn’t think about himself on the cross. He didn’t think about his needs during his ministry but connected with those around him at great risk and criticism.

His actions were an incredible serving and self-sacrificing example.

Both People Need To Sacrifice 

Both people need to do it otherwise, it won’t work.

In the relationship, both people need to be ‘other person’ focused, be selfless, and try to make the other person happy. If both people are doing this, then mutual care, fulfillment, and enjoyment will follow. (Read Should I Be The Source Of All Their Romance?)

When only one person does it, or when people only half do it, then the relationship can be abusive, unfulfilling and unenjoyable.

No one is perfect, no one will get it right all the time. However, this conversation reminded me about the radical call in Ephesians 5. Meeting people halfway or being ‘nice’ isn’t the challenge or the call God’s word presents us with. It’s to give up everything like Christ did.

Both people need to do it otherwise, it won’t work

Imagine If…

Imagine if Christians were known for celebrating good romantic relationships. And for being people who did share, but also went beyond that and sacrificed radically for each other. Where BOTH people invested in making the relationship mutually fulfilling and enjoyable.

So what’s the one thing we can do, in our romantic relationships or friendships, which goes beyond sharing and is a sacrifice? Giving up an evening for them, buying something for them, helping them to do something. What is the one thing that can build a stronger relationship today?

Would you promise to give up everything in your marriage vows? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 5/4/2017