Category

Relationship Difficulties

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

 


3 Things You Should Do To Avoid A Co-dependent Relationship

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

A co-dependent relationship is unhealthy and can lead to people getting hurt. In an interdependent relationship, a couple can trust each other, rely on each other, and help each other to grow. Whereas in a co-dependent relationship, an unhealthy dynamic exists and causes a couple to put too much strain on each other, and expect unrealistic results.  

I remember watching a friend start a relationship and seeing it become very intense and co-dependent very quickly. They started to forget other hobbies, ignore other friends, and spend all their time together.

Another friend of mine was sharing her concerns with me because a good friend of her’s had started a relationship, and wouldn’t do anything without the other person. If there weren’t at work or asleep, they were with each other. They did nothing without the other person.

Co-dependence

These couples started to expect the relationship to provide for all their needs, all their fulfilment, and all of their worth; which no relationship can do.

These couples started to expect the relationship to provide for all their needs

Yes, it’s okay for a new couple to want to spend lots of time together, yes it’s okay to change your lifestyle and say no to other things when you’re in a new relationship, but we don’t want to destabilise it and sow problems for later down the road.

When a relationship becomes co-dependent, a couple starts relying on each other for every little thing, and it can become unhealthy. I believe that this is setting up a weak foundation, and can end up suffocating the relationship.

Filing our lives up with friendships, wider hobbies, wider interests, creating a full life that we can share with someone we love is amazing. Relying on someone to fulfil everything that our other relationships, interests, and wider hobbies should fill, is dangerous.

Three Things To Avoid

I think there are three things we need to remember when we start building, or as we keep building, our relationship, so that we avoid co-dependence.

We need to remember to avoid:

  • Making Them The Source Of All Our Fulfilment
  • Ignoring Their Faults
  • Not Talking To Others

Making Them The Source Of All Our Fulfilment

A couple in a co-dependent relationship think that this single relationship is enough to bring them all their confidence, self-worth and fulfilment. They think just being in each other’s presence is enough.

We can’t expect an imperfect person to give us everything we need, it’s impossible. We need our identity to be based on more than one relationship.

We can’t expect an imperfect person to give us everything we need

A couple in an interdependent relationship realise that their relationship is enriched by having interests and support and friendships outside of their relationship. They feel more fulfilled, and they can allow each other to grow because they realise things outside of them are important.

It allows the relationship to be a relationship between two people that love each other, rather than the place where absolutely every answer needs to be found. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know.)

Ignoring Their Faults

In a co-dependent relationship, because a couple becomes each other’s main, and sometimes only source of self-confidence, nothing can be done which may end the relationship. This means that any faults, and problems, go unchallenged and unchecked.

Interdependence means accepting there are things that need work on

In an interdependent relationship, the couple realises that neither one of them are perfect. They decide to work on issues together and put in the hard work. Which means they will challenge each other, work on dynamics that are unhelpful, and ultimately help each other to grow. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed.)

Interdependence means accepting there are things that need work, and not just ignoring a problem in case it makes the relationship end. But working through it to make it better.

Not Talking To Others

This one can’t be taken literally of course, people in a relationship will obviously talk to others. But in a co-dependent relationship, the couple spend so much time with each other that they don’t have deep talks or connect with others in a meaningful way.

Or, even if they are with others, they are constantly texting, or messaging or face timing each other, meaning they aren’t fully present or really talking to those around them.

In an interdependent relationship, the couple makes time for other people. They realise not suffocating each other all the time actually means their relationship will be stronger. It means the relationship doesn’t need to be the answer to all their problems.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we avoided being co-dependent, and avoided trying to make one relationship the source of all our needs. No imperfect person, no one person, can truly fulfil us. Obviously, our romantic relationship can be a big part of our lives, but it can never be everything. (Read Are You Making The Relationship Mistake That Causes Unhappiness?)

The relationship made us feel safe, and secure and viewed with a healthy perspective.

Imagine if we had relationships that allowed us to grow, that are fulfilling and also enriched us but are part of a wider enriching life too, where the relationship made us feel safe, and secure and viewed with a healthy perspective.

So let’s avoid Making Them The Source Of All Our Fulfilment, Ignoring Their Faults, and Not Talking To Others.

What is the one thing you could do this week to implement one of these principles (more)? Comments welcome below. 

Originally posted 27/11/2017


New Research Suggests Friends Can Make Or Break Our Relationship

Interesting Research, Relationship Difficulties

Lots of research has been done around how the opinions of a person’s friends and family can help or hinder their relationship. But now attention has been given to how the couple’s perspective of each other’s friends impacts their romantic relationship. There are important lessons to be learned, especially if some friendships are causing tension in our relationship. 

I have said it before in these posts and I will say it again, I love listening to podcasts. I think it’s a great way to pass the time and a good way to drift off to sleep at night.

One that I listen to from time to time is called ‘Relationship Matters’. They explore lots of different issues to do with relationships of all kinds. But episode 65 caught my eye recently. It’s called ‘I Love You, Not Your Friends’.

I Love You, Not Your Friends

You can listen to the full podcast here. In summary, it discusses new research in the area of couple’s relationships. Specifically, how the perception of each other friends impacts their relationship.

They interviewed and followed 355 married couples over 16 years, and some of their findings were surprising.

That couple was twice as likely to divorce

Shocking Findings 

The main finding that stood out was that after two years of marriage, if the husband thought his wife’s friends interfered in the relationship, that couple were twice as likely to divorce. Twice as likely!

The other equally and shocking finding was that, if the wife thought her husband’s friends interfered in their relationship, it didn’t increase the chance of divorce at all.

The researchers put this down to a few reasons, some of which were majorly playing to stereotypes, but in their words, they thought that:

  • Wives have stronger emotional attachments to their friends, so are less likely to ‘give them up’ if the husband feels threatened. Which makes the husband feel more hurt and disconnected.
  • Wives are more likely to arrange social activities between couples, which means the husband sees her friends more and therefore makes him more aware of any perceived interference.
  • Husbands tend to rely more on their wives for friendship and support, whereas wives have more friends outside of the marriage. This means any ‘interference’ is more of a threat to the husband.

It’s clear that the success of a relationship is majorly affected by how friendships are perceived

These reasonings are just theories, and the researchers cannot be 100% sure why the findings are what they are. However, it’s clear that the success of a relationship, especially a married relationship, is majorly affected by how friendships are perceived.

Warning

I found this study interesting, even if it raised a lot more questions than answers. But I do come across people who say things like, ‘I’m not getting on with my wife’s friends’, or ‘My boyfriend’s best mate is a pain’, or ‘They always talk about our problems with other people. I don’t like it’.

Men and women, married couples and people who are dating, say things like this. It can be a real problem when people you care about don’t get on. The research may have focused on the husband’s view, but this can be a problem for anyone.

This research should serve as a warning that in our marriages, and romantic relationships like dating, these issues and feelings can grow into major problems.

If these friendships are perceived as problematic then there is an issue

So What Can We Learn?

I always say that being married, or having a girlfriend or boyfriend, is not enough to fulfil us. No matter what our relationship status is, we need to have wider friendships and hobbies and interests. No one person can answer all of our needs. (Read Have You Fallen Into the ‘Relationship Status’ Trap?)

However, if these friendships are perceived as problematic and ‘interfere’ with the relationship, then there is an issue that needs addressing. Between what I think and what was suggested on the podcast, the advice would be to:

  • Try to focus on the positives. If you have a problem with your partner’s friend, try to appreciate the fact they are also generous, help out, etc. Don’t just focus on the negatives.
  • Don’t give ultimatums. Don’t say it’s them or me. But try to explain why you have a problem. If it’s your friend, listen and acknowledge why it is upsetting for your partner.
  • Come up with fair boundaries. For example, it’s not okay to talk about this area of your relationships with friends because it should be private. Compromise and agree on rules. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed)

Imagine If…

People do not always get on. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes we need to negotiate how to relate to two people we really care about who don’t get on.

Imagine if we didn’t just ignore problems or ignore people’s feelings, but really tried to work through solutions. Our partner’s perception of our friends massively affects the strength of our relationship, so it is something we cannot just ignore.

Have you been in this situation, have any advice? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 30/10/2017


How To Tell If You Have An Unhealthy Obsession

Early Dating, Relationship Difficulties

Dating is full of great feelings like excitement, anticipation, love. But it can also produce negative feelings like sadness, heartache, and disappointment. Unfortunately, these can all be mixed in together sometimes and lead to confusion. It’s important to know how to keep a healthy perspective and make sure pursuing someone doesn’t become an obsession.   

I was chatting to friend the other day who was telling me about, in her words, her new boyfriend.

He had a good job, he also volunteered for charities, he was polite, funny and good looking. So I asked how long they’d been going out, and she said they had been on one date.

One date!

Now she realised she was getting a bit carried away and was making a joke about it. But I feel like a part of her wasn’t joking. And many people I know get carried away in this situation. We all have/can when emotions are involved.

It just reminded me of how important it is to keep a healthy perspective and avoid unhealthy obsessions when we are dating and looking for love.

(The following extract is taken from page 102-104 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Head Space and Energy

Have you ever felt so desperate to make a good impression on someone that you’ve found yourself acting a bit odd around them? Falling for someone has a habit of making fools out of us all. But there’s a more serious consequence to this pitfall.

We pin all our hopes on one person and we can begin to compromise

Obsessing about finding a relationship or being with a certain person takes up head space and energy. It distracts us from finding fulfilment elsewhere.  (Read Are You Making The Relationship Mistake That Causes Less Happiness?)

We pin all our hopes on one person and we can begin to compromise who we are, to lose sight of what God has called us to. This weakens us and any relationship we start, because no-one can fulfil us to that degree.

Tough Questions 

So how do we date without obsessing? Before we answer that, see if you recognize yourself in any of the following:

  • You long for a relationship so much that you’ll go out with anyone.
  • You never talk with God about your relationships or ask him to guide you.
  • You never talk with God about anything except your relationships and future girl/boyfriend.
  • Now you’re dating, everything is about them. You dismiss singleness as ‘God’s waiting room’.

The chances are we’re probably all guilty of some of these things. We have all made our search for love an idol at some point. If you’re obsessing about someone you’re not yet dating, the worst thing you can do is start going out with them!

Bigger Picture

You may well be great for each other in the future, but right now you are about to build a weak relationship because you are asking them to be everything they can’t be. When we find ourselves obsessing about someone, to the point where it’s taking over, we need to bring it to God. A friend told us:

When I’m in a relationship I often ignore God. I lose sight of the bigger picture. If it was the other way round and I ignored my boyfriend this much, I would get dumped! (Hannah)

She realised she needed to change, and that was the beginning of things shifting for her. It may also mean that you need to take control of your thoughts and distract yourself, not in an ‘I’ll-avoid-the-issue’ kind of way, but rather in an ‘I’ll-stop-sitting-here-wallowing-in-my-obsession’ way.

Go out with other friends, or spend evenings on your own, reminding yourself that you are a complete person, with or without someone to date.

Time’s A Keeper

If you fancy someone at 9 am but have gone off them by 9 pm, it’s probably best to leave them alone!

Many bad decisions are made in haste, so often the best thing to do is to wait. If you fancy someone in March and still feel a connection in May, then perhaps there is something there. If you fancy someone at 9 am but have gone off them by 9 pm, it’s probably best to leave them alone!

Imagine how unkind and self-centred it would be to put someone on a pedestal, date them and then drop them – all because they had the audacity not to match up to the crazy ideal you had of them in the first place. (Read Why I chose to reject finding ‘The One’)

You could even spend time away from them and chat to some wise friends about your feelings, to see if it’s right to continue. We can sometimes obsess about our friendships too. Recognising if this is our weakness will help us do something about it.

Being free from romantic obsessions means we don’t need to:

  • Make them the reason for our existence
  • Put our life on hold until they show up
  • Be afraid to face the truth of how unhealthy this (potential) relationship is

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

Imagine If…

There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, and we can all get carried away when we meet a potential partner. But in order for a relationship to thrive, you need to avoid obsession and make sure you’re both involved in building a mutually enjoyable relationship.

Imagine if we allowed ourselves to enjoy finding and building a romantic relationship with someone worth committing to. But also kept a healthy perspective and avoided obsession so a relationship could thrive.

What else can help us avoid obsession? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 28/8/2017


Why Single People’s Relationship Advice Shouldn’t Get Rejected

Relationship Difficulties, Singleness

Modern wisdom says experience is king. In other words, unless you have an experience in that area, your opinion doesn’t count. But Jesus was never a sinner, and look how much he helps sinners! When single people feel like their relationship advice is completely invalid, I think everyone loses. 

I have written about this before, and there is a much older version of this article on the fusion website. However, this topic was brought up recently in a roundabout way through some random conversations with my friends.

I was basically saying that in churches (at least the ones I have been to/are linked with) there are rarely any single people in church leadership. The exception can often be the youth worker, who is often younger and therefore more likely to be single. Or the church leader can be single sometimes.

However, in most churches I come across, the people on the leadership team come as a couple.

As I said, there will obviously be exceptions to this, but I was saying that I think this is a massive shame. It can make single people feel overlooked and like they don’t fit in, and churches can miss out on using very talented people just because of their relationship status. (Read 3 Mistakes That Lead to Less Singles in Church)

In churches, it can also make single people feel like they cannot help their friends with their relationships because they are single.

Should I Say Something?

‘I know this couple who I think may have a problem… should I say something?’

This is the exact question a friend asked me when I was chatting to her about a couple she knew.

Yet the problem the couple had isn’t the focus of this post. Neither is whether I answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

This post addresses a deeper issue, namely the two ‘beliefs’ my single friend held. They made her feel disqualified from saying something to her friend because they had different relationship statuses. I think this troubles many people in our churches.

I’m Single, So What Do I Know

As we chatted, the first belief surfaced when she said: ‘I could say something, but I’m single, so what do I know’.

My heart sank.

This belief always upsets me. But is it a surprise she has it? In church single people frequently hear ‘Have you found anyone yet?’ or ‘God is preparing someone for you’. As if we’re outside God’s will until our next date. (Read 5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?)

There sat my friend, full of love and genuine concern, believing her relationship status made her irrelevant.

Jesus was never a sinner, but made them feel welcome and transformed their lives

This really upset me because as a Christian, I believe God qualifies the called. I don’t think God will only use the people who come to the altar with everything sorted, who have all the answers, or have reached a certain status in life.

I mean, Paul was never a Gentile but managed to reach many Gentiles with compassion and understanding. Jackie Pullinger was never a drug addict but has saved thousands from drug addiction. Jesus was never a sinner, but made them feel welcome and transformed their lives.

So I challenged my friend’s belief because our relationship status doesn’t automatically disqualify (or qualify) us from being a supportive friend with good relationship advice. Singleness shouldn’t stop us feeling relevant.

We All Need To Learn 

As our conversation progressed, another belief arose when she said: ‘I’ll just leave it, they’ll probably fix it on their own anyway’.

Why should we assume that?

No-one is born knowing how to build and maintain a loving relationship. No-one has a relationship manual which fixes every difficulty. I have unfortunately seen many couples feel trapped because they believe they should ‘instinctively know’ how to fix their problems, so won’t get help.

No-one is born knowing how to build and maintain a loving relationship

We are all learning. We all need help. We all need friends around us who can help, support, pray for, and challenge different areas of our lives. In my experience, a loving and concerned friend is just as, if not more important, than their experience and relationship status.

Something Worth Saying

I said to my friend that our relationship status isn’t inherently linked to good or bad advice (or self-worth). No-one has a manual, we all have problems and need help occasionally. By helping my friend take hold of these new beliefs, she realised she may indeed have something worth saying.

I love church. I think the local church is amazing and has lots of things to think about and try and implement. But I think we need to make sure we don’t inadvertently devalue single people in our churches, or in our love lives. (Read, Have You Fallen Into The ‘Relationship Status’ Trap?).

Imagine If…

Imagine if we all supported each other and allowed our friends to support and challenge us, knowing they have a genuine concern for us, and we didn’t ostracise people because of their experience or relationship status.

We can do this by not letting some assumptions influence how we interpret their advice.

Do you think experience is the most important thing? Comments welcome below.

Originally posted 21/8/2017