Do This One Thing to Improve Any Relationship

Beyond Boundaries

If you want a better relationship, be a team player with the other person. In responding, you must have no hint of judgment or a critical spirit. You are forging a way to connect, and never forget that the “we” comes first. You want to recruit the person to vulnerable language, to help solve the glitch and move on.

Acknowledge that maybe you aren’t being clear or that this is new for both of you. Vulnerability works both ways….

How to Risk Trusting Someone Again

Beyond Boundaries

When you’ve been let down by someone who matters a great deal to you, moving beyond boundaries is not easy work — but it is important. One thing you can do in this regard is to figure out if the problem that was previously an obstacle is truly being transformed. In other words, is this person really changing? Is the big problem being solved the right way?

Here’s an example. I (Dr. Townsend) worked with a couple in which the husband, Bill, was a nice guy but irresponsible. He was one of those likeable people who loves to hang out with others and is a lot of fun. But Bill’s performance in life did not match up to his personality . . .

Sizzling Passion and the Myth of Hollywood Romance

Beyond Boundaries

To some extent, our society is afflicted by a Hollywood distortion about relationships. Don’t get me wrong—I (Dr. Townsend) am not anti-Hollywood. I am a movie person, and my sons are in school studying film. But we need to free ourselves of a distortion embedded in the DNA of the movie culture: passion trumps everything. That is, if you deeply connect on a romantically passionate level, you have entered relational Nirvana, and your love conquers all. This is the stuff of lots of great entertainment, but it is not how real relationships actually go to the next level.

For example …

Why People with Unhealed Wounds Attract Unhealthy Relationships

Beyond Boundaries

Unhealed relational wounds drive us to compulsive attempts to repair the damage. That is, without being aware of it, we seek out people we believe can “fix” what’s wrong with us or help us find a piece of ourselves we feel is missing. We function emotionally like the starving man who looks in a dumpster and sees lunch instead of garbage. His perception is so driven by his need that he is willing to eat something that might make him sick.

Though we may not be aware of it, something in us wants completeness….

The Truest Test of Trust

Beyond Boundaries

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: …

Why Smart People Accept Unacceptable Relationships

Beyond Boundaries

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. . . .

How to Discern Hurt from Harm in a Relationship

Great relationships are fulfilling.
Great relationships involve risk.
You can’t have the first without the second.

Great relationships require that you be open to taking risks—risks of being misunderstood, of alienation, of someone being hurt by you as well. It doesn’t mean relationships aren’t worth the risks, for the good ones are. It is simply the price of the course. No pain, no gain.

The challenge is …

The Desire to Reconnect Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy

When my sons were small, they often argued and fought. Their disagreements erupted for any number of reasons, and sometimes, the best strategy seemed to be to separate them for a period of time.  When it appeared that they had learned a lesson and could once again play well, I let them get together again.

You would expect that the mean one would want to reconnect and reconcile sooner than the hurt one. But that was not the pattern; there was no pattern. Both boys always wanted to get back together and play after approximately the same amount of time had passed. . . .