The Difference Between Toxic and Imperfect People

Uncategorized Apr 02, 2019

Twenty five years ago, John Townsend and I wrote a book called Boundaries. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

In talking with some people who have read the book, we’ve realized that a few have selfishly misused the point, which is to make relationships better. Instead, these people have tried to use boundaries to control other people or to make a big deal out of very small issues. So understand what we mean when we say you are to avoid toxic people: Imperfect behavior is not the same as toxic behavior. It’s important to learn the difference between problems that we should expect in relationships because people are imperfect, and problems that are toxic and need to be worked through or else avoided.

Not all things or people are toxic. There is no reason to start a war over someone’s immaturity or perfections that rub us the wrong way. That is the time for us to grow in patience and longsuffering, the ability to wait on people as they grow and mature.

Wisdom tells us...

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How Envy Can Destroy the Heart

Uncategorized Mar 30, 2019

At some point in our lives, we feel envy. It’s part of the human condition, some more than others. Generally, the more we fill our lives and hearts with good things that are meaningful and are humble about how fortunate we are to have them, the more gratitude we feel and the less envy we experience. Nevertheless, all of us would do well to be aware of it when it creeps up in our hearts, minds, and souls.

Envy works this way. It defines what is good as what we do not have. In other words, if I do not possess something, it takes on a higher value than if I do. Likewise, once I attain it, it is no longer valuable to me, because I have it. It makes keeping up with the Joneses a full-time job.

When envy dominates a person, he or she is looking over the fence at the yards of others. They think that another person’s position or some other relationship or status or possession would make them happy. They think that the real things of value are the things that others have, not...

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What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do  

Uncategorized Mar 27, 2019

Whenever I have heard someone say “I don’t know what to do,” it usually means much more than that. The words imply that the dilemma is just one of information, as if knowing the “what to do” would make it all different. But the truth is that these words are rarely said in a situation where one little tip will make it all better. Instead, they are usually said at a moment when someone has literally reached the end of themselves and feel as if there are no more options. In sum, they are at the end of hope. 

Whether the circumstance has to do with a relationship that is not getting better, a person who is won’t change no matter how hard you try to help them, a business problem that seems unsolvable, or even changing a pattern of behavior that has overcome you, the feeling is the same: “I have tried all I know to do, and done all that I know to do. And, nothing is helping.” At...

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Are You Owning Your Adult Child's Problems?

Uncategorized Mar 26, 2019

Do your kids have problems? Whose problems are they, really?

A lot of parents tell me all about how their adult children have this problem or that problem. Sometimes you'll find a parent who will come to you and say something like, “My 23 year old son has a failing out of school problem, he's got a drug problem and he has a can't get a job problem.'

I'll ask, 'Well, where is your son now?'

Sometimes the answer is, “Oh, well, he's on the couch right now. He wouldn't come with us today because he doesn't think he has any problems.” Other times, the answer is something like, 'Oh, well, he's skiing in Vail, Colorado right now.'

I have to tell these parents something that surprises them. Every. Single. Time.

I say, “Oh I see. Well, I can only help people with problems. I don't think I can help your son. It doesn't sound like he's got any problems.”

The parent gets flustered. “What do you mean? I just told you about all of these problems. Of course he's...

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How to Build a Better Relationship with Your Teenager

Uncategorized Mar 19, 2019

I was at a friend’s house for dinner one evening when, out of the blue, their son turned to his parents and said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I got suspended from work for a week.”

“What happened?” his dad inquired. There was concern in his tone. It had been difficult for their son to secure this job.

“I was late twice within the same week.”

“That’s too bad,” his mother said. “You needed the money.” She continued eating, and we chatted for a minute before the subject changed.

I was so proud of his mother, I wanted to scream, “Way to go!” She didn’t get hooked into taking care of him or hooked by her own anxiety into lecturing, trying to ensure that he would never be late again so he wouldn’t lose his job. She just empathized and listened, allowing him to shoulder the problem. She also did not offer money, talk about how unfair “they” were to do such a thing, or enter into any...

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Resolving Internal Boundary Conflicts Start With Us

Uncategorized Mar 18, 2019

Kellie had been working on major boundaries issues in her therapy for a while now. She was seeing progress in resolving responsibility conflicts with her parents, her husband, and her kids. Yet today she introduced a new issue. “I haven’t told you about this relationship before, though I guess I should have. I have tremendous boundary problems with this woman. She eats too much, and has an attacking tongue. She’s undependable — lets me down all the time. And she’s spent money of mine and hasn’t paid me back in years.”

“Why haven’t you mentioned her before?” I asked.

“Because she’s me,” Kellie replied.

Kellie was echoing the conflict most of us have. We begin setting limits on others. We begin moving from taking too much responsibility to taking just enough. But how do we begin to set limits on ourselves?

Instead of looking at the control and manipulation of others, we also need to be looking at our...

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7 Reasons You Stay Stuck and How to Get Out of Feeling Hopeless

Uncategorized Mar 17, 2019

Consciously or unconsciously, we are all driven to grow. We see a future that we want to live in, and we are either able to intentionally get there, or we cannot. A major determinant of whether you will get there or not is simply that you actually believe that you can.

We carry around a huge amount of personal baggage from our past experiences that informs our attitudes about the future. In many cases we develop a sense of learned helplessness that causes us to believe that we will never be able to get the future we want. This self-defeating logic is reinforced by our own inaction toward overcoming this baggage from our past. It becomes a pattern.

We get used to not getting what we want. We come to believe that it’s normal. That it’s simply the way things are.

Before we can overcome these issues, we have to understand what they are. This is by no means an all encompassing list of issues that characterize bad past experiences that can prevent you from realizing your own...

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Why We Pick the Wrong Relationships and How to Change That

Uncategorized Mar 16, 2019

Please keep in mind that this was written in the context of general relationship conflicts and is not placing blame on victims of abuse.

After 30 years in the profession of helping people, I have come to understand something: we cause much of our pain by the people we choose. In every kind of clinical issue that psychologists deal with, relationships are a big part of the picture in some way. Consider these questions:

  • Are you experiencing the same problems or feelings that you’ve experienced in previous relationships?
  • Do you find that you continually pick people to fall in love with or become close friends with who hurt you in some way?
  • Do you find yourself wondering if there are any “good ones” out there?
  • Do you often go through periods of emotional turmoil as a result of choosing someone who wasn’t good for you?
  • Is “How did I get myself into this?” a frequent question you ask yourself?

A lot of people can relate to these feelings. Their...

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There’s Nothing Wrong With Being Angry

Uncategorized Mar 15, 2019

Many people conceal their negative feelings of anger, sadness, and fear. These people are unable to cope with good and bad because they have never processed these negative feelings, and they suffer from many problems, such as fear of relationships, depressions, and anxiety as a result. Negative feelings are valid, and they must be dealt with so they won't cause problems.

Anger, our most basic negative emotion, tell us that something is wrong. We tend to protect the good we don't want to lose. Anger is a signal that we are in danger of losing something that matters to us. When people are taught to suppress their anger, they are taught to be out of touch with what matters to them. It is good to feel angry because anger warns us of danger and shows us what needs protecting. But, we are not to be mean or abusive in our attempt to solve a problem. This would mean to resolve it in some unloving way and would ultimately hurt us as well as each other.

Major consequences for denying our...

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The 7 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship

Uncategorized Mar 14, 2019

We don’t always see warning signs of a bad relationship. The “do not cross” sign is flashing, and yet we remain oblivious to the oncoming train that will mess up our emotional world.

But I’ll tell you what you can do. Be engaged in what’s going on in the interpersonal dynamics of your relationships. Regularly take the temperature of your relationship and learn to recognize the problems before they become catastrophes, and you won’t have to worry about being caught off guard.

1. First and foremost, more than anything...you should feel safe. Safe expressing who you truly are, your mistakes and your triumphs. Every little thing that you have experienced has made you the person you are today and while some of this may not always be pretty to discuss, it made you, and the person you’re with will embrace your ups and not shame you for your downs.

2. It should never feel like a game. When someone is truly into you, and wants to pursue you and make...

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