Relationship Difficulties

How To Make Awkward Relationship Conversations Less Awkward: 4 Steps

Relationship Difficulties

After a few months and/or years of dating someone, there will be a point where it feels hard or different from what you expected. So how do you sit down with each other and have the awkward conversation to make sure you’re still on the same page? That you’re still committed to the relationship? These 4 steps should help make it feel less overwhelming and awkward. 

There’s more attention given to the ‘DTR chat’ nowadays. And rightly so. The Determine/Define The Relationship talk is important. It lets you know when you move from getting to know someone, to the ‘official’ relationship stage. (Read I Wasn’t Sure When We Were An ‘Official Couple’)  

A friend once told me he brought up the subject by saying to the person he was seeing ‘So can we update the relationship status on social media then?’. She said yes, so he must have done something right. 

But the conversation I’m referring to in this blog is different. It occurs way after the DTR chat, when you have been going out for months or years, and the ‘initial hype’ has worn off a bit, and you are thinking more long-term and with bigger commitments in mind. 

How do you know if you are still on the same page? 


This talk can seem awkward. Mainly because by this point you have invested a lot, you care deeply for the other person, and the outcome will have a huge impact either way. 

This chat is about deciding if you both do indeed want to commit

However, there is a point where things may not have gone exactly as you hoped or expected. There may be a relationship dynamic you want to address. Or you may just feel like the connection has weakened recently. 

This chat is about deciding if you both do indeed want to commit to staying together. If it’s worth that bigger commitment and keep dating long-term. So where do you start? 

4 Tips

While this can seem daunting, you may be a bit apprehensive or feel awkward, especially if you feel like they seem less invested, it still needs to be done. No matter what the outcome, communication is key.

I always say these 4 tips can help us have this discussion:

#1 Find The Right Space
#2 Expectation Management
#3 Friendship Investment
#4 Mutual Effort 

#1 Find The Right Space

You will be amazed at how many couples try to have a deep and meaningful conversation in the worst space, and at the wrong time. 

They may do it in a coffee shop, which is constantly busy and distracting with people sitting nearby. Or over the phone or video call, which can cut out and is never as good as sitting in front of each other. Or by spontaneously bringing up the conversation, which can feel like an ambush for the other person.  

Find the right physical space, and the right space in your day. 

So don’t do it when one or both of you is going to be tired or stressed. Pick a time that works for both of you. Go somewhere which isn’t filled with distractions and chat face to face. 

#2 Expectation Management  

Many people can have a ‘fairytale’ version of romance in their heads. But real relationships take hard work, are never perfect, and will never live up to the fairytale.

So it may be a case of discussing what your expectations were, and what they should be now. 

Obviously, there are things we can all expect in a relationship. Like not to being hit, being listened to, having mutual respect (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common). 

But there are other things that may need a rethink. Is this the person we wanted? Are we the person they wanted? Are our lives heading in the same direction? 

The answer is probably not a pure yes or a pure no. But it will help you get back on the same page again, and deciding together what your next step is. (Read Settling Vs Compromise: Spot the Signs in Your Relationship)  

#3 Friendship Investment

All good romantic relationships are based on a good friendship. 

You should enjoy each other’s company, you should share deeper values, you should be able to trust each other, have fun and relax. 

It may be worth discussing if this aspect had been unintentionally ignored. It’s worth making sure you are setting aside time to do fun things together. 

#4 Mutual Effort

Relationships will only thrive if there is mutual respect, mutual enjoyment, and selflessness on both sides. 

Make sure you are both clear about what should happen next

If only one of you wants to change the situation and make the relationship work going forwards, it won’t work. You need to discuss if you are both prepared to commit a bit more.  You need to make it clear that this will require effort, and not just lip service. 

Asking each other if you think it’s worth it, and how you feel about each other, is awkward but needed to make sure you are both clear about what should happen next. 

Imagine If…

Good communication doesn’t take the fun out of the relationship, it gets us on the same page and lets us navigate the lows and get to the highs quicker, and for longer. 

Instead of drifting, or hoping that things may change, we need to be intentional about where our relationship is heading. Imagine if we followed these tips: #1 Find The Right Space: #2 Expectation Management  #3 Friendship Investment #4 Mutual Effort. (Read The 2 Year Ultimatum: Good Advice Or Dating Disaster?) 

Do you think it is easy to drift in a relationship? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 1/4/2019

Settling Vs Compromise: Spot The Signs In Your Relationship

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

Relationships are meant to be enjoyed and they’re meant to make us feel safe and secure. However, they involve persevering through the hard times and compromise too. But how do we know if we are implementing healthy compromises, or settling for an unhealthy relationship? These 4 tips will help us spot the signs and make wise decisions as we date. 

I remember ages ago being in dating relationships and trying to convince myself that it was what I wanted. Pretending it was okay when really we were both just settling. 

It’s so hard now when I see people, especially close friends, trying to convince themselves they are happy in a relationship when I can see the hurt it’s causing.  Sometimes I have got the wrong end of the stick, sometimes they have worked out the problems eventually, but sometimes it has ended really badly. (Read New Research Suggests Friends Can Make Or Break Our Relationship)

Which raises an important question: How can you tell if you are settling or compromising? 

Normal Or Odd?

All relationships take hard work. There are things we may need to stop doing, or start doing, as we build a mutually loving relationship. There will be things we need to sacrifice and think differently about. 

However, relationships are meant to be fun and make us feel safe and secure. They are meant to make life better. If we feel like the sacrifice and the hard work is one-way traffic, then we may be settling for a bad relationship. 

Compromise helps us navigate the lows to enjoy the highs

People settle for many reasons. They think a bad relationship is better than no relationship. They put too much worth on relationship status. They think of the few good times to justify the bad times. But settling is different to compromise. 

Compromise helps us navigate the lows to enjoy the highs and have them more often. Whereas settling only makes us experience more and more lows, with a few highs to make us think it is okay. 

Spotting the Signs  

Spotting the difference will help us to know if we’re on the right track or heading for disaster. Especially if our dating relationship is new, or feels like it’s at a critical stage. We need to know that settling means: 

  • Always Hoping They Give Back
  • Sacrificing Too Many Things To Make It Work 
  • Only Having A Few Good Times To Enjoy
  • Not Feeling Like You Can Share Everything

Always Hoping They Give Back

One sign of settling is that we’re always hoping that they will start giving back. In a mutually loving relationship, both people are giving and putting the other person first. But if only one person is doing it, hoping the other one will do it (more), then there is a problem. 

I have heard this dynamic justified by the person who does all the giving before. ‘You don’t know them like I do’. ‘I’m just more caring’. ‘I don’t mind really’. But we cannot make excuses for selfish behaviour. 

Compromise involves both people giving and not just taking what they can get. If we’re hoping that our partner will suddenly change, it’s not a healthy place to be. 

Sacrificing Too Many Things To Make It Work

Settling also occurs when we just sacrifice too many things. 

There are times when one person moves cities to be with the other person. Or when you need to stop doing a hobby/do it less to spend more time together. Or you give time and money to support them somehow. These things can be healthy choices. 

But when one person is doing all of this and more, changing everything to fit into the life of the other person who isn’t sacrificing or changing at all, there is a problem. 

We’re settling if this is just a one-way street

Compromise does involve both people making big and small sacrifices. As well as showing their appreciation for it. We’re settling if this is just a one-way street.  

Only Having A Few Good Times To Enjoy

Anyone can think about a good memory. Every couple can share a moment that gives them a high and makes them feel loved. 

If these moments are few and far between though or becoming less frequent, then there is a problem we need to face up to. It’s a particularly big problem if we use these few highs to justify the long and frequent lows in the relationship. 

Healthy relationships that involve compromise do go through lows, but these couples communicate and do their best to avoid it happening again. Couples who settle just ignore the problem. 

Not Feeling Like You Can Share Everything

One final tip to spotting the signs of settling is when we feel like we can’t share stuff with our partner. 

We aren’t allowed to be real or authentic

If we feel like we can’t chat, offload, get emotional support from our partner, then we aren’t allowed to be real or authentic. We won’t feel like they have our back. Naturally, some people are better at communicating and sharing than others. I had to learn to do it well, but I made sure I did learn.

Compromise means supporting each other, sharing everything and feeling like you are a team. Settling stops this from happening.  

Imagine If…

If you’re spotting these signs in your dating relationship, it probably means you need to at least have some hard talks, and it may mean doing things differently moving forward. It may even lead to some tough decisions. 

But imagine if we didn’t settle for settling, and we made sure compromise was part of the healthy relationship we build.

So remember to spot the signs of settling: Always Hoping They Give Back, Sacrificing Too Many Things To Make It Work, Only Having A Few Good Times To Enjoy, Not Feeling Like You Can Share Everything. (Read Amazing, Enjoyable, But Not Easy. The Secret Behind Great Relationships)

What do you think is another sign of settling? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 18/2/2019

How Do I Tell My New Date About My Past?

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

It’s so important to make sure honesty is the foundation of our romantic relationships. Lies stop us from building trust and healthy relationships. But what if there’s something from the past you know you need to share and talk about, but saying it straight away can be off-putting. Do you wait? For how long? Is it lying? This is a real issue that needs real wisdom.

Someone recently came up to me after a recent talk I did and was clearly wanting to say something that was troubling him. 

He proceeded to tell me that he had been in a relationship with someone, it had ended very badly, and he was partly to blame. He wanted to know when he should tell his next potential girlfriend about what happened. 

Not A Unique Question

Even though he was the latest person to ask me, he was not the first. 

Obviously, we’ve all done things in our past we regret, but when it comes to exes and breakups, these regrets can be the source of a lot of worry and anxiety in our next relationship. 

Relationship breakdowns are rarely caused by just one person (unless there has been abuse, manipulation and/or infidelity involved). When break-ups happen it can make us less trusting, or realise a trait about ourselves that we dislike, or cause us to carry feelings of anger or even pain.

Whatever the issue, we know that it could be something that the next person we like will need to know about. Maybe so they understand why we act like we do, or because they need to know about something we regret and don’t want to do again, or for another reason. 

I always respond by giving 3 guidelines

Many people ask me what they should do in this situation. Should they say something straight away? Or should they wait until the person they like knows them a bit better so there is some context? Or do they just say nothing and hope it will be okay?  

I always respond by giving 3 guidelines, which will hopefully help them:  

  • Trust Isn’t Instant 
  • Give Headlines Early, Detail To Follow 
  • Why Is It An Issue? 

Trust Isn’t Instant

I think people inherently know that if they want to build a sustainable intimate relationship, then trust and honesty is part of it. Being vulnerable with someone, knowing they will stick around no matter what, only happens when a couple trust each other.

But trust isn’t instant. 

Trust and commitment build over time. As we get to know someone more and more, and they get to know us, commitment grows. Trust also grows. When we rush this process we can think the relationship is stronger than it is, which will lead to problems later on.

The point is, you can’t just say everything about yourself from the start. And naturally, you do want to discuss common interests and things you enjoy and not just dwell on the past.  

If you feel the pressure to reveal something, then you may need to take some pressure off your shoulders. It’s good you’re concerned about dating well and being honest, but trust grows. It’s okay to realise you need to protect yourself too, and not reveal your deepest darkest secrets after the first ‘hello’. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Give Headlines Early, Detail To Follow

Having said that, I’m always struck by the fact that people in this situation feel like it is all or nothing. 

You can mention the issue early on so that it’s been raised, but you’re still allowed to say you don’t want to talk more about it until you’re further on in your relationship. You can give the ‘headlines’ and say you will give more details later on. 

This advice can’t be used as an excuse to avoid the issue later on or justify a half-truth

Now, this advice can’t be used as an excuse to avoid the issue later on or justify a half-truth. Rather, it’s acknowledging the fact that being respectful to the person you like and trying to fostering honesty, while protecting yourself, means that some things need to be talked about in line with the trust and commitment that’s growing. 

Mentioning your ex or the past situation near the start, means you’re showing you want to be honest and bring things up that need to be spoken about.

Now I know sharing a ‘headline’ may not be enough for some people, or it may put some people off, meaning they don’t wait around to build a relationship. This may be hard. But at least you will know if it won’t work early on, rather than after months or years of investing in each other.  (Read The Best Advice For Getting Over A Break-Up)

Why Is It An Issue?

It’s also important to ask ourselves why we think it’s an issue in the first place. Is it something we were hurt by? Are we embarrassed? Do we feel guilty? Are we worried it will happen again? 

The answers to these questions don’t make us bad people

I always say we don’t need to be perfect or ‘sort ourselves out’ before we date. No one is perfect, dating isn’t about finding perfect people, because they don’t exist. But it’s worth thinking about why we are worried. Is it something we can address now? How might it affect a potential relationship? 

The answers to these questions don’t make us bad people, or unworthy of a relationship, but they just may help us think about how we approach romantic relationships moving forward.

Imagine If…

Dating is hard, but it’s meant to be enjoyable. Our baggage and past mistakes can sometimes get in the way of this. 

Imagine if we remembered Trust Isn’t Instant, that we are allowed to Give Headlines Early, Detail To Follow, and we ask Why Is It An Issue? It will help us to foster honesty from the start while protecting ourselves, as well as take some pressure off so we can enjoy the dating experience. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

What other guidelines have you heard which may help? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 21/1/2019

The 2 Year Ultimatum: Good Advice Or Dating Disaster?

Break- Ups, Relationship Difficulties

Dating Relationships are meant to evolve into something else. E.g. a blind date leads to another date, which leads to two people becoming a couple, and eventually to marriage. Alternatively, it could end, and the couple decides not to commit to each other anymore. But is there a science to this process? Should there be a cut-off point? Is it 2 years? Well, I would answer yes and no. 

This concept or idea is something I never thought about too much. In some movies, dramas or comedies, someone in the couple (usually the woman) may give an ultimatum to their partner. They either get engaged by a certain date or break up. 

This ultimatum was something I never came across too much in real life, but recently I’ve seen this advice given in a few different situations. 

Cut Off Point

I was asked to read something a friend of a friend had written, which gave advice about dating and relationships. One thing that stood out to me was their ‘2-year rule’. They said that if you were over 20 years old, then 2 years should be enough to decide if you are getting married or breaking up. 

This person argued that relationships can end up drifting for years, with no real sign of commitment to each other, or a desire to move the relationship forward in any way. So 2 years should be the cut-off point. 

You can’t just drift along and not commit

Soon after reading this, I was involved in a conversation where one of my older relatives basically sat my cousin down to talk to him about his girlfriend and their relationship. They had been going out for over 6 years at this point, but he said he was in no rush to settle down or anything.  

My relative said to my cousin that his girlfriend was lovely, and warned him that if he kept drifting then he could lose her. He wasn’t saying my cousin had to propose right now, but you can’t just drift along and not commit. It isn’t fair. 

Yes And No 

I must say, I have seen the heartbreak involved when a couple who have been together for 3, 4 or 5 years, sometimes even 10, break up. One usually wanted it to evolve into more, but the other person was being non-committal. Then it ends, and they can end up feeling like all of those years of investment were a waste.

However, I have seen people who have been dating for many years, and then get married, and have a stronger relationship because they didn’t just rush in because a certain rule said they had to.  

My wife and I dated for 5 years before we got married. If we followed the 2-year rule we wouldn’t still be together. But like I said, I do know people who wish they ended it sooner, and a 2-year rule would have helped. (Read Being Committed Vs Knowing When To Walk Away, 3 Key Rules)

Why Are You Waiting?

If you are over 20, going out with someone for two years is quite a big milestone. So I don’t think it is a bad idea to use it as a prompt to assess your situation. 

It’s good to take stock and ask if the relationship is evolving. For example, if you live in different cities is one prepared to move so you can be closer? Are you at least talking about marriage? If not, why not? 

For example, my wife did a longer than usual university course and she didn’t want to get married while she was studying. However, we were talking about marriage and heading that way, even though we both had a good reason to wait. 

If there isn’t a good reason, and one person is dragging their feet, then it probably is worth asking why. 

New 2 Year Rule

So should we stick to the 2-year rule? 

I like the fact that this 2-year rule can prompt couples to reflect and discuss their relationship. I think this should be something we do frequently anyway, and not just at the 2-year point! But it is a good point to stop and think about things.

I also like the fact that it reminds couples that relationships should evolve. After 2 years, it should look different to what it looked like a year ago. Using this rule to do that is good.

Besides, my relationship is still changing. Just because I got married it doesn’t mean I ‘made it’. We still discuss relationship dynamics, work on them for the better, reflect on how we’re using our relationship to serve God and the community. We should always be evolving it. 

I think a 2-year rule out of context is not good actually

But I think a 2-year rule out of context is not good actually. There may be a good reason why after 2 years a couple’s situation isn’t dramatically changing. The reason has to be genuine, accepted and embraced by both people in the relationship. Otherwise, it may just be an excuse one person is using. (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)

Imagine If…

Imagine if that while we accepted all relationships are different and not one rule will apply to every couple, but we remembered that discussing and taking stock of our relationship is important. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)

The 2-year rule is good because 2 years is a good milestone and prompt, and if the relationship isn’t moving forward without a good reason, then it may be time to ask the hard questions. But if there is a good reason, then a couple shouldn’t feel forced into taking the next step for the sake of it. 

How could you make sure a relationship is still moving forward after 2 years? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 7/1/2019 

How To Stop Letting Jealousy Rule The Relationship

Marriage, Relationship Difficulties

Jealousy is a feeling that can ruin any romantic relationship. In a world where we’re being bombarded with pictures and images of ‘perfect’ people, and where we’re constantly meeting (and comparing) ourselves to new people, we can all experience jealousy. If we want to thrive, we need to stop letting jealousy rule the relationship. 

I remember seeing a friend getting very protective over his partner when she spoke to this one guy. It was very strange to see because he was usually so laid-back. I thought it was obvious that there was nothing sinister going on, but it really affected him.   

Some of us will be able to relate to this story. Either because the person we’re with, or we ourselves, have been jealous. It may still even happen from time to time. 

How do we address these issues in a healthy way?

Now I know that sometimes, unfortunately, there is something sinister happening. And people do sadly end up cheating and being unfaithful. So I’m not saying if we see something that worries us then we should just pretend it doesn’t mean that. But this post is about something else. 

Constantly On Edge 

This is for those of us who are in a fairly new relationship deciding if it will move forward, or maybe we have been in one a while and are a bit worried about it for some reason. We know deep down that jealousy seems to be constantly putting us on edge and not helping us in our situation, or our partner may be experiencing it a lot. 

So how do we address these issues in a healthy way, making sure it doesn’t ruin our relationship? 

I have written about jealousy before, particularly on how we may deal with it as an individual (Read I’m Not Jealous, I Just Care!) But in this post, I want to focus on how, as a couple, we can approach the issue. I would say three things are vital: 

  • Talk About Being Jealous
  • Talk About Insecurities 
  • Talk About It Soon 

Talk About Being Jealous

This may sound easy, or even straightforward, but it really isn’t. 

Often we talk about everything linked to it, like why were they talking to that attractive person, all night?! Or why were they ‘clearly’ flirting?! If we’re feeling jealous, we need to actually bring it out into the open. 

If we are the one who is on the receiving end, we can’t just say ‘you’re just jealous’, and use that phrase to insinuate that they’re in the wrong. Maybe we did go too far, maybe not, but we need to at least realise they are hurting. We need to see it from their viewpoint. 

Instead of talking about the things they are doing, or the reason why it’s not ‘my’ fault, we need to actually talk about the jealousy. This will take courage on both sides, and just admitting to that emotion will be painful, but we need to talk about it. 

Talk About Insecurities 

Again, I want to say that sometimes we may see something and have a legitimate concern, or maybe the person we are with did go too far. If we’re the ones being accused, we need to be willing to see things from the other person’s view if we really care about them. 

However, if jealous is an issue we are constantly dealing with, it may be because of an insecurity. 

Good communication at this point is needed more than ever

For example, it may be that we are unsure how committed they are to us and the relationship, and some situations highlight that. The truth is, until we talk about the commitment issue honestly and openly, the feeling of jealousy will never go, and will weaken the relationship. 

Whether we’re the ones getting jealous, or the person we are with is, we cannot just ignore the deep issues it’s linked to and brush it off. Good communication at this point is needed more than ever. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed) 

Talk About It Soon

Like with most problems, the longer we leave it, the biggest the problem gets. If we don’t talk about it, the negative emotions will come out passively, or as angry exchanges, which will not be good for anyone.

It needs to be addressed. The sooner the better. 

Imagine If…

We all want our relationships to be strong. Any relationships, no matter how ‘sorted’ it looks, will involve the couple dealing with jealousy at some point. Maybe only a few times, or maybe in a big way, but it will happen. 

Imagine if, we made sure we: Talk About Being Jealous, Talk About Insecurities, and Talk About It Soon. That way, we wouldn’t let it ruin the relationship. (Read 2 Proven Traits That Make A Relationship Last) 

What other advice have you heard when it comes to jealousy? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 26/11/2018