Review

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

by Dr. John Townsend

On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard is it for you to tell your parents that you won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving with the family this year? How difficult is it for you to say “no” to your sibling who is in a pinch (again) and needs someone to provide last-minute childcare? Whether it’s with family members, neighbors or co-workers, drawing boundaries is often a difficult if not seemingly impossible task for millions. That’s one of the reasons why BOUNDARIES: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life, became a bestseller nearly two decades ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have made a conscious decision to develop more healthy boundaries in their lives.

"John Townsend offers a rich guide on what it looks like to trust again and this time to do it better."

But after you’ve established a healthy boundary in your life --- whether it’s as simple as where you’ll celebrate the holidays or as complex as when you’re available to help someone who lives in crisis mode --- the question becomes how you begin to develop healthy relationships again. In other words, once you’ve established healthy boundaries that stop enforcing destructive habits and the pain ends, what’s next? In BEYOND BOUNDARIES: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships, John Townsend offers a rich guide on what it looks like to trust again and this time to do it better.
 
Townsend suggests that when healthy boundaries are established, one of the common results is a healthy emotional desire to rebuild and reinvest in the relationship. We’re ready to risk again. Yet sometimes the memories of the past and history prevent us from becoming fully committed and engaged in the relationship. Townsend observes:
 
“Relationships were designed to provide you with things you need to grow and to thrive --- grace, acceptance, structure, advice, and encouragement. But you live in two time zones, so to speak. You live in the present, in which your closer friends provide you with these elements of growth. And you live in the past, where there are injuries and unhealed issues. These old wounds may have diminished your ability to trust or say no, for example. In order to heal from past injuries, you need the elements relationships provide not for maintenance-level growth --- the everyday support we all need --- but for healing.”
 
Townsend challenges people to move forward pursuing healthy relationships, not out of a reactive mode but as a response to the healing that’s taking place in their lives. But every healthy relationship involves two parties. That's why it’s important to ask questions like “Does this person care about his or her impact on you?” and “Can this person handle a relationship with you?” before moving forward. Timing is crucial --- not only in our life but in the life of the other person. Yet by asking solid questions and moving forward slowly but confidently, we can re-enter a life of strong and intimate relationships.
 
One of the most helpful tips Townsend offers is in discerning between defining boundaries and protective boundaries. Defining boundaries are crucial to who you are as a person. Protective boundaries are instilled to keep you safe in unsafe situations. While defining boundaries should be permanent, protective boundaries shift based on the situation and health of the relationship. As we learn to navigate through relationships with healthy boundaries, we’ll find ourselves more fulfilled relationally.
 
BEYOND BOUNDARIES is helpful for anyone who has read BOUNDARIES and placed the principles into practice in their lives.
 

Reviewed by Margaret Oines on September 27, 2011

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships
by Dr. John Townsend