“Just call him and tell him that it is over,” I (Dr. Cloud) said to Marsha. I had listened to her for months now about her dating relationship with Scott and how she could not stand some of his hurtful patterns. And I was getting both concerned and tired of her denial of the kind of person that he really was. I began to push her. So she decided to do it. She called him and broke it off. As expected, he went crazy and showed up at her door begging for her to not go through with it. There were all sorts of promises of change and the usual things that people in denial say when threatened with loss of love. But she held her ground. At least for a day. . . .
If you have hung around the church for very long, you have probably heard that God wants people to reserve sex for marriage. If you haven’t and that is news to you, then we can understand the shock you might be feeling. For many people, both inside and outside of the church, it does not make sense. If sex feels so good, and is good for the relationship, and both people are consenting, then what is the problem?
Respect is a necessary element for any couple to grow in love. Each person needs to feel that they are respected by the person they are getting to know. This involves creating boundaries in dating where both parties have esteem or regard for all aspects of the other. Respect is different from empathy, though any relationship needs both to be hand-in-hand. Empathy is the ability to feel another’s experience, especially painful ones. Respect is the ability to value another’s experience. You may not be able to actually empathize with someone, but you can always take a position of respect for them. For example, a guy may restrain himself from pushing his girlfriend sexually for either reason. He may feel deep compassion for the dilemma he is putting her in. Or he may restrain himself because he respects her right to make her own moral decisions. Relationships develop best when both empathy and respect are in place. When respect is present, the other person feels that he can be free to be who he is. He can be honest, and still feel connected and safe. He doesn’t worry that he will be attacked, humiliated, or treated poorly. When respect is absent,... Continue Reading »
The question that many people wonder is “If I’m nice, then why do I keep attracting such jerks?” They think that something is inherently wrong with them, and sometimes they can begin to get quite hopeless over their chances of finding good friends, someone good to date, or building a great marriage. The key to remember is that the reason why nice people attract jerks is that they are too adaptive in the beginning. If that person had had boundaries, the problem never would have happened. Or if it did, the problem would have been fixed first. People who are selfish and controlling can only be that way if they are in relationship with someone who is adaptive. If someone stands up to them and is honest about his or her wants and desires, then the controlling person has to learn to share or gets frustrated and goes away. Take these steps to avoid ending up in relationships that attract unhealthy people: Be honest about your preferences and desires. Don’t act like you like things other people like just so that you will be accepted. Being liked for who you are requires that you be that person. Tell the truth... Continue Reading »
The ability to build a healthy relationship is based on the degree to which you are able to be clear and honest about everything, especially in a dating situation. Sometimes, people will deceive each other about the nature of other people in their lives. They may act like someone is “just a friend,” when in reality there is more of a history or more in the present than is being said. For example, I (Dr. Cloud) was working with a man named Frank who was trying to figure out his relationship with the woman he was dating. He had a funny feeling that something was wrong. It seemed that she was just a little too connected to her work. Frank had no problem with her loving her job, but there was something strange about her relationship with her boss. He did not think that she was dating him, or having any kind of illicit thing going on with him. But, he still got a funny feeling about her work and her connection with her boss. Finally, Frank found out that his girlfriend had once been engaged to her boss. And, there was still some sort of continuing tie between them.... Continue Reading »
If you have hung around the church for very long, you have probably heard that God wants people to reserve physical intimacy for marriage. If you haven’t and that is news to you, then we can understand the shock you might be feeling. For many people, both inside and outside of the church, it does not make sense. If it feels so good, and is good for the relationship, and both people are consenting, then what is the problem? Consider this viewpoint: When someone can say no to sex outside of marriage, their behavior is a sign that he or she is capable of delaying gratification and exhibiting self-control, which are two prerequisites of the ability to love. If someone cannot delay gratification and control himself or herself in this area, what makes you think that they can delay their own gratification in other areas of sacrifice? What is going to curb the “I want what I want now” mentality in the rest of life? If someone is able to respect the limit of hearing no for sex, then that is a character sign of someone who can say no to their own desires and hungers in order to serve a higher... Continue Reading »
What is your normal reaction when conflict occurs in a new relationship? Are you comfortable addressing the issue? Or, do you stuff the issue out of fear or a desire preserve the peace? Honesty is the best policy for two important reasons: Being honest helps resolve the hurt or the conflict. When you are honest, how the other person responds tells you whether a satisfactory relationship is possible. If you are hurt in some way, bring it up. Don’t harbor bitter feelings. Or, if there is something that the other person has done that you do not like, or goes against your values, or is wrong, it must be discussed. If you don’t, then you are building a relationship based on a false sense of security and closeness. And it is possible that your feelings will be confused by hurt and fear. A lot is lost in not finding out who the other person is and where the relationship could really go, if one or both people are not facing hurt and conflict directly. In reality, a conflict-free relationship is probably a shallow relationship. Second, you need to find out if the person you are with is capable of dealing... Continue Reading »
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 »
One of my (Dr. Townsend’s) closest friends, Chuck, is a talented songwriter. When we were college buddies, I was visiting him in his room one day. Chuck picked up his guitar and said, “Want to hear my new love song?” I said I did, and he sang me the following: “I love you. Always have, always will. What’s your name?” I never found out whether Chuck was referring to his dating history or simply observing college romantic life, but I knew I could identify with his lyrics. I understood the ritual of intense professions of undying love, followed by the realization of utter ignorance about one’s beloved. In other words, too much, too fast. Relationships grow in a healthy manner only as they undergo experiences, and there is no shortcut to experiences. In other words, we only “know” each other to the extent that we have experience with each other. We can know facts about the person we are dating: their friends, job, hobbies, and so forth. But that doesn’t mean we “know” them as a person. That kind of “knowing” cannot come from reading a file on someone. Experience requires time. It is simply impossible to get enough experiences... Continue Reading »
“I don’t understand what happened,” Todd told me (Dr. Cloud). “It seemed that Mary and I were doing so well, and then she just came in one day and told me that she didn’t want to be with me anymore. She was very angry about a lot of things.” “Did you have any warning?” I asked. “Did she give any signs?” “Well, sometimes I could tell that she was sort of pouty about things. There would be things I did that she would not like, but I never thought it was a big deal. Like when I would be late, or go out with my friends without telling her. Or, sometimes, I would cancel on her to go play basketball if a good game came up. That kind of thing. But I never thought it was a big deal,” he mused. “Sounds like it was a bigger deal than you saw,” I said. Then I heard Mary’s side of things. It was a little different to be sure. “I got to a place where I just couldn’t stand it anymore. He was so inconsiderate,” she began. “He would just not show up for things we had planned. I asked him... Continue Reading »