4 unhealthy ways to behave in a relationship

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, when we are in a relationship our own mess gets in the way and makes it worse. We think we are doing everything possible for the good, but we end up stumbling and falling, and by the end of it all we question why we did what we did. Not until someone helps us see what we are doing will we be able to change it. I hope by looking at these four personality traits we will be able to see ourselves, and come to a healthier relationship with another person.

Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend* highlight these unhealthy responses in Boundaries.  If you find yourself relating to others in these ways, then know it is unhealthy, does not help the situation, and will not benefit the other person, you, or your relationship with them.

“Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid.”
When you try to make peace between two people, you are being compliant. When you refuse to set a boundary because you are scared of the reaction of another, you are being compliant. When you walk on eggshells not to upset another person, you are being compliant. When you don’t speak your truth because you are afraid of the reaction, you are compliant. It's not that we want to go around causing problems, but when we make our choices based on what will keep the peace, then we are living in an unhealthy way.

“The inability to ask for help, to recognize one’s own needs, to let others in.”

Avoidants say no to good things because they don’t know how to accept them. When opportunities come up you simply walk away rather than take a risk with the person even though they have shown you nothing but good. You aren't fearful of someone's reaction, but you don't even recognize the things you need because you are so used to not seeing them. It can be due to hurt caused by someone in the past, but it has become a situation where you would rather close your eyes to your own needs than admit you have any.

“Controllers are perceived as bullies, manipulative, and aggressive.”
Sometimes I wonder if someone who controls knows they do it as blatantly as someone who avoids. A controller is someone who knows what the right path for you is, and they want you to check with them before you take the next step. They swoop in and take over because you simply don’t know what you are doing, whether you think so or not. The problem with controllers is they are very good at justifying and making it seem what they are doing is because they care so much.

“We are responsible to care about and help, within certain limits, others whom God places in our lives. Nonresponsives don’t do this.”
A nonresponsive will often seem selfish, and I think they are the opposite extreme of a compliant. Nonresponsives only see how things affect themselves, refuse to look at another person’s point of view, and rarely consider there are two truths to a situation, much less three. They are focused on how everything relates to them only, and could care less how it affects anyone else.

Tomorrow my plan is to talk about these personalities. I don't think any of us are simply one or the other all the time. I would dare say one person can exhibit all these traits depending on the different relationships they are in. The goal is to see where we fall, and work hard to find a healthier way to respond.
*All quotes today and tomorrow come from Boundaries, by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend. Check out the book for a more complete understanding of these behaviors.


  1. Interesting post, Stacey, and certainly thought provoking. I don't know the answer, but I enjoyed reading it.



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