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 Freedom and Responsibility Can Transform a Relationship

Healthy Boundaries

Many of the struggles people experience in dating and marriage relationships are, at heart, caused by some problem in the areas of freedom and responsibility. By freedom, we mean your ability to make choices based on your values, rather than choosing out of fear or guilt. Free people make commitments because they feel it’s the right thing to do, and they are wholehearted about it.

By responsibility, we mean your ability to execute your tasks in keeping the relationship healthy and loving, as well as being able to say no to things you shouldn’t be responsible for….

Eight Steps to Help You Avoid Falling in Love Too Fast

One of my (Dr. Townsend) 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. 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. . . .

How to Cure Your Fear of Being Alone

Boundaries in Dating

“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. . . .

Two Reasons Why You Should Say No to Physical Intimacy in Dating

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?

Say “Yes” to Respect in Dating

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 »

Why Do Nice People Attract Jerks?

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 Two Types of Liars

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 »

Why Should I Say No to Physical Intimacy?

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 »

Sizzling Passion and the Myth of Hollywood Romance

To some extent, our society is afflicted by a Hollywood distortion about relationships. Don’t get me wrong—I’m (Dr. Townsend) 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, Sharon was dating Alex, a man to whom she was extremely attracted. He had many of the qualities she looked for: the same spiritual values, warmth, lots of friends, and ambition, and it didn’t hurt that he looked like a fashion model. Plus, he was an incurable romantic, and she loved that aspect of the relationship. Alex was the king of long nights, longing glances, flowers, endearing words, and great spots to have dinner. Sharon was smitten with this guy. Then, reality reared its ugly head in the form of a tendency for Alex to be financially irresponsible. He was laid... Continue Reading »