How to Test the Quality of Any Relationship

Boundaries

Usually the quiet one in her group, Debbie spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Debbie’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us? Absolutely….

Surprising Ways Rewards and Praise Can Harm Others

The Entitlement Cure

We sometimes reward (through actions) and praise (through words) our spouses, employees, children, and friends in ways that can actually harm them, even though it feels good at the time because it seems so positive. But what seems positive is not always what is best. A pizza slice or two is positive — but four can cause problems. These unwise reward/praise approaches, although well intentioned, create bad fruit. Remember — these are patterns, not isolated events. Doing these things every now and then would be all right, but when they become trends, they risk fostering attitudes of entitlement….

The Disease of Self-Sufficiency

Safe People

My (Dr. Townsend) three-year-old son, Benny, is now firmly ensconced in the “I can do it!” stage of life. The other day we were getting ready to go out to dinner, and everybody was ready but Benny. He’d gotten all ready except for his pesky Velcro-strapped tennis shoes. They just wouldn’t cooperate.

Being the helpful father (actually, the hurried father), I bent down to fasten his shoes for him. He quickly pushed my hands away, protesting, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” And he meant it. So we negotiated….

Nice Guys Don’t Finish Last

The Power of the Other

I (Dr. Cloud) had a very interesting conversation recently with a leader who accomplishes a lot and is very driven and effective. I have always been a fan of his work. We were working on a project together, and he made a reference to a particular work habit of his, logging almost every thought he has about his work into a very complicated matrix in a journal, and I asked him about it.

Nothing wrong with carrying a little book around and jotting down good ideas when they come. But this was much more; it was obsessive….

Finding Hope for a Hopeless Marriage

Boundaries in Marriage

I (Dr. Cloud) was once meeting with a couple who had given up hope in their relationship. I knew that they were at the end of themselves. From their perspective, divorce was the next option. At the same time, I knew that their problems were curable. I felt that we first needed to put this couple’s hopelessness on the table, so I asked, “Do either of you have any hope for this marriage?”

“No, we don’t,” they both finally admitted.

Then I said something that threw them: “Good! Now we can get to work.”

How to Nip Relationship Problems in the Bud

Boundaries in Dating

“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….

The Secret Ingredients to Stellar Performance

The Power of the Other

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer the world has ever known. His record of major wins is unsurpassed, even years after his last victory. Winning eighteen major tournaments is a record that is likely to stand for a long time. For those of you who are not golfers, that is the equivalent of more Super Bowls, World Series, heavyweight championships, tennis Grand Slams, or any other sports crown won by a single person or team. If you’re not a sports person, just call it the Oscars and think Katharine Hepburn.

Of all of his feats, one stands out to me. It was in the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. On the seventeenth hole, he faced what he described as a howling wind, a 218-yard shot, and a three-stroke lead, which on a hole like that could quickly disappear….

Parenting Teens: 3 Tips for Building a Unified Approach with Your Spouse

Boundaries with Teens

No parents agree on everything. But in the best situations, they agree on the most important things and disagree only on styles, preferences, and smaller matters. This is what God intended, but often parents get in the way of God’s design. When parents are far apart in their values and perceptions of their children, the kids lose out. They have no one to contain and integrate their internal divisions. Their unifying environment is split up, so their inner conflicts remain stuck, and can get worse.

If you and your spouse have significant disagreements about your kids, you can begin to resolve your conflicts — and go a long way toward maturing your child — by doing the following …

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. . . .

Boundaries and The Beverly Hillbillies

How to Have That Difficult Conversation

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….