How to Guarantee that People Will Want to Be Close to You

Amy and Randall had been married for eight years, and they loved each other. However, when he was angry or upset, Randall became moody and would withdraw from Amy and the kids, except for occasional outbursts of anger. When his manufacturing business was struggling, he would sit silently through dinner. Once, during this period, the children were arguing at the dinner table. Out of the blue, Randall said, “Amy, can’t you keep these children in line? I can’t even have a moment’s peace in my own home!” And with that, he stormed out of the kitchen into his home office, turned on the computer, and stayed there until the kids went to bed. Amy was hurt and confused. But she had a pattern of “handling” Randall’s moods. She would try to cheer him up by being positive, encouraging, and compliant. “He has a hard job,” Amy would think. “Nurturance is what he needs.” And for the next few hours, and sometimes days, she would center the family’s existence around Dad’s mood. Everyone would walk on eggshells around him. No one was to complain or be negative about any subject, for fear of setting him off again. And Amy would constantly... Continue Reading »

The Best Boundary that You Can Have in Your Dating Life

Romance is great. Sexuality is great. Attraction is great. But here is the key: If all of those are not built upon lasting friendship and respect for the person’s character, something is wrong. A real and lasting relationship must be built upon friendship first. You are going to spend a lot of time with that person. As one friend of mine said about picking her mate: “He was someone I knew I could grow old with. I liked spending time with him. And he made me laugh.” She also shared deep spiritual values and other commonalties with him as well, as she would with any other friend. They have been married for nearly thirty years. The best boundary that you can have in your dating life is to begin every relationship with an eye toward friendship. Do not rush into any kind of romance. Keep your boundaries, physically, emotionally, and otherwise. But, how do you do this? Spend time getting to know someone in nonromantic ways. For example: Spend time with that person in groups of other friends. How well does he or she fit in? How well do you fit in with his or her friends? Does he or... Continue Reading »

How to Determine the Right Consequences When Setting Boundaries

Not long ago I (Dr. Townsend) took my kids and some of their friends to a major league baseball game for an outing. While we were watching the game, a young boy sitting behind us was making everyone miserable. He was out of control, loud, and rude. His parents did try to manage him, but their efforts were ineffective. They shushed him, praised him when he was quiet, bribed him with food, and threatened to take him out of the game. Nothing worked. Finally, one of my son’s friends turned to me and said, “That guy needs some serious consequences.” I made a note to myself to call his parents when I got home and congratulate them. I don’t often hear that kind of thing from adolescents. If you are like many of the people I talk with, you may often have difficulty identifying and following through with appropriate consequences. Let’s take a look at a five simple principles that can guide you in determining the right consequences when setting boundaries. 1. Remove the Desirable, Add the Undesirable A consequence is either removing the desirable or adding the undesirable to someone else’s life as the result of a rule violation.... Continue Reading »

The Truest Test of Trust

The extent to which other people are concerned about their impact on you is the extent to which you can trust them. You trust them because you know it’s not just you looking after yourself; they are looking after you too. For example, I (Dr. Townsend) was working with Steve and Lisa on learning this, so that they could connect on a deeper level. She had a tendency to criticize him in public. It wasn’t mean or harsh. It was more like he was always the idiot in her stories: how he dented the car, got the flight info wrong, let their daughter wrap him around her finger, and so on. He brought it up in our session. Here is how the conversation between the three of us went: Steve: “Sometimes I dread going to a party with you because I know I’ll be the butt of one of your stories.” Lisa: “I’m sorry, but it’s not that bad, and I don’t mean any harm.” John: “Lisa, if I heard you tell me that, I would emotionally shut down right now.” Steve: “Yes. I just did.” Lisa: “Why? I was just explaining…” John: “You were explaining. And you may even... Continue Reading »