Boundaries Blog

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: How to Handle Conflict with In-Laws

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: How to Handle Conflict with In-Laws

Question: I am experiencing conflict with my in-laws about the way I raise my children. They tend to nit-pick every decision that I make. Do you have any tips for setting boundaries with in-laws?

Answer: I know it's no fun to feel conflict with your in-laws. Here are some ways to address the sensitive issue. Begin with a positive and vulnerable conversation. Simply wait until there is a quiet moment, where there's not a lot going on....

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Boundaries and The Beverly Hillbillies

Boundaries and The Beverly Hillbillies

When setting boundaries with someone, it's important to differentiate between what you prefer and what's actually wrong. Before you talk to someone about changing his behavior, figure out if what he is doing is really a "bad" thing or just something you don't like.

I (Dr. Cloud) refer to this distinction as a test I like to call "Would God and the Beverly Hillbillies Agree?" Here's what I mean: Some things are just things you don't like and want someone to change, but that person is not really doing anything wrong. Depending on where you come from, it may be acceptable or not....

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The #1 Reason Why People Hate Change

The #1 Reason Why People Hate Change

One of the most important boundaries that people have to establish is against the tendency to put off changes that they know need to be made. If you think about it, much "waiting" and putting off changes has nothing to do with "getting more information," or "waiting until we get finished with a, b, or c." Obviously, it's essential to gather data and do analysis, but many people allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

I (Dr. Cloud) remember once when I had a decision to make regarding a significant investment. I had been reluctant to green light the deal because it was in an area that I was less familiar with than I wanted to be. The truth, however, was that my advisers were experts in this arena, and I really did trust their opinions. Still, I was putting it off. Finally one of them, the lead investor, called me....

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Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Boundaries Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Question: What kinds of consequences are appropriate for a 39-year-old daughter who refuses to take responsibility for paying a college loan that her father and I co-signed in good faith?

Answer: First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I know that it can feel uncomfortable to be at odds with your adult child.

In this situation, your first decision is to approach your daughter in a vulnerable way and describe how her behavior is impacting you. You could say something like ...

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Why Smart People Accept Unacceptable Relationships

Why Smart People Accept Unacceptable Relationships

When I (Dr. Townsend) guide people through a process of examining previous difficult relationships, the one question I have found most helpful is this: What was the "payoff" in your choice? In other words, what good things did you think you'd get when you began a relationship with that person?

We wind up with difficult people for a reason—there was something we valued, wanted, or hoped for. And because the need was strong, we may not have paid attention to something unacceptable in that person's character....

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