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Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't

Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't

3.9 32
by Henry Cloud

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Too many of us have invested ourselves into relationships that left us deeply wounded. We've been abandoned or taken advantage of, and left with little to show for what we've given. We've lost our sense of security and personal value in the process. And what's worse, we tend to either repeat the same mistakes of judgment over and over . . . Or else lock the doors of


Too many of us have invested ourselves into relationships that left us deeply wounded. We've been abandoned or taken advantage of, and left with little to show for what we've given. We've lost our sense of security and personal value in the process. And what's worse, we tend to either repeat the same mistakes of judgment over and over . . . Or else lock the doors of our hearts entirely and throw away the key. Why do we choose the wrong people to get involved with? Is it possible to change? And if so, where does one begin? Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend offer solid guidance for making safe choices in relationships, from friendships to romance. They help identify the nurturing people we all need in our lives, as well as ones we need to learn to avoid. Safe People will help you to recognize 20 traits of relationally untrustworthy people. Discover what makes some people relationally safe, and how to avoid unhealthy entanglements. You'll learn about things within yourself that jeopardize your relational security. And you'll find out what to do and what not to do to develop a balanced, healthy approach to relationships.

Product Details

Publication date:
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Zondervan Publishing
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Part One
Unsafe People
Chapter One
What Is an Unsafe Person?
In retrospect, I (John) can see all the reasons why Karen was an unsafe person. But while we were dating, I was caught up in the wonder and excitement of the relationship with her and missed a few things along the way. Even after the relationship ended so abruptly, I wondered for years how I could have been so wrong about thinking someone was so right .
Is This Your Life?
The lessons I learned in the romantic sphere can be learned from any relationship because we can be wrong about thinking someone is right in a variety of situations.
* Think about the relationship(s) that came to mind as you read about my relationship with Karen. Who has been a Karen in your life?
* A romantic interest
* A best friend
* A coworker
* A relative
* A church acquaintance
* Other:
* Have you had more than one Karen in your life?
* Have you blamed yourself when you've been hurt by the Karen(s) in your life? If so, for what did you blame yourself?
* How have you answered the question you've probably asked yourself---'What in the world am I doing wrong?'
Character Discernment
What are you doing wrong in relationships? The answer to that question probably lies in the fact that you are untrained in discerning the character of people. Without the proper maturity and skills, our God-given need for support and attachment to others (Gen. 2:18) can get us into real trouble.
When I (Henry) asked a group of college students, 'What qualities do you look for in a potential date or mate?' they gave broad religious answers to my question---'I want someone spiritual, godly, ambitious, fun to be with,' etc.---but people having trouble in a relationship don't identify broad religious issues as the problem.
* What have you heard hurting friends complain about regarding their relationships?
* What have you said when you've talked about relationships you've been in that haven't worked out?
When God talks about his problem relationships, he talks about people being 'far away' (Matt. 15:8 NASB), 'unfaithful' (Josh. 22:16 NASB), 'proud' (Deut. 8:14; Ps. 36:2), 'unloving' (1 John 4:20), or 'judgmental' (Rom. 2:1). In short, God looks at character. We tend to look on the outside and not the inside of a person (1 Sam. 16:7; Matt. 23:25--28). So we choose people based on outward appearance, but then we experience the inside of them and come up empty-handed.
* In the past, what have you looked at when you've entered into a relationship with someone?
* Think of a specific time when the inside was radically and painfully different from the outside of the person with whom you were in relationship. List the positive outside qualities and the painful inside ones.
Who Are the Bad Guys?
In real life, the bad guys aren't as easy to identify as those on Saturday morning cartoons. Unsafe people are particularly difficult to spot, but many unsafe people fall under three categories: the abandoners, the critics, and the irresponsibles.
Abandoners start a relationship but can't finish it. Often, abandoners have been abandoned themselves. Sometimes, afraid of intimacy, they prefer shallow acquaintances. Others are looking for perfect friends, and they leave when the cracks start showing.
* Have you, like Ron, been drawn to abandoners? What reasons have been behind the abandonment---their own history of being abandoned, their fear of true closeness, and/or their search for perfect friends?
* Do you tend to be an abandoner? Which of the three reasons contribute to your abandoning behavior?
Critics take a parental role with everyone they know. More concerned with confronting errors than making connections, critics are judgmental, speak the truth without love, and have no room for grace or forgiveness.
* Have you, like Martha, been drawn to critics? What might be behind this uncanny attraction?
* Do you tend to be a critic? Why do you think you tend to point the finger away from rather than at yourself?
Irresponsibles don't take care of themselves or others. They have problems with delaying gratification, they don't consider the consequences of their actions, and they don't follow through on their commitments. They're like grown-up children. They can't be depended on to do what they say .
* Do you have a Jeremy in your life or have you in the past? Are you continuing to be an enabler or have you dealt constructively with that Jeremy?
* Do you tend to be an irresponsible? Do you have a hard time on follow-through when, with good intentions, you say you'll do something? Are you always in financial straits? Do you have a hard time considering, much less planning for, tomorrow? Do you struggle with delayed gratification? Where do you think you learned this behavior and why do you think you continue it?
Looking at these three types of unsafe people---abandoners, critics, and irresponsibles---may help you see your present support system (and yourself!) more realistically. In the following chapters, we'll contrast more specific character traits of unsafe people with the godly character traits of safe people so that you'll be able to look for danger signals in your relationships---and then learn to make wise decisions about how to handle the unsafe people in your life.
Father God, I already see how I choose people based more on their outward appearance than on the kind of character traits you look for. That new perspective helps me understand why it can be such a painful surprise when I experience the inside of those people. I ask you to help me, as I work through this guide, to become more discerning of the inside. Even now, Lord, help me see where I am in relationship with an abandoner, a critic, or an irresponsible. Show me, too, God, where I am the abandoner, critic, or irresponsible in a relationship. And then show me what to do in both situations. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Meet the Author

Dr. Henry Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert, psychologist, and New York Times best-selling author with his books selling more than 10 million copies. As a speaker, Dr. Cloud has shared the stage with many business and global leaders and experts, such as Tony Blair, Jack Welch, Condoleezza Rice, Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, and others. In his leadership consulting practice, Dr. Cloud works with Fortune 500 companies and smaller private businesses alike. He has an extensive executive coaching background and experience as a leadership consultant, devoting the majority of his time working with CEO's, leadership teams and executives to improve performance, leadership skills, and culture. Dr. Cloud lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tori, and their two daughters, Olivia and Lucy.


Dr. John Townsend is a leadership consultant, psychologist, and New York Times bestselling author. He has written twenty-seven books, selling 10 million copies, including the 3 million-selling Boundaries series. John is founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling and conducts the Townsend Leadership program. He travels extensively for corporate consulting, speaking, and working with leadership families. He and his wife Barbi have two sons, and live in Newport Beach, California. One of John's favorite hobbies is playing in a band that performs in Southern California lounges and venues.


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Safe People 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent book. It defines what exactly is meant by 'safe' and 'unsafe' people, in relationships... It gives to-the-point, sensible & culled-from-wisdom indicators of what makes up a 'safe' person and an 'unsafe' person, and then breaks down as well the personal, then interpersonal qualities of unsafe people. Later it does a similar thing for 'safe' people--breaking down the characteristics and habits that make them safe (and warmth/growth-inducing) in relationships. The wisdom in _Safe People_ manifests itself as you read; you'll instantly recognize the authors' insight and keep saying to yourself, 'Yeah. Yeah...! Now, why didn't I know that (realize it) or say it to myself before???' It makes sense, but as a 'manual' of sorts, you'll refer back to it again and again. It will help you with yourself as well as help you with working with the people you relate with. I have learned and grown a lot from this little book; it's an easy read that keeps you going and moving through it. I am getting copies for as many of the people in my life as I can. It's a true blessing. If you love someone, give them this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book filled with valuable advice for people whom have any questions regarding any relationship they may be in. It will define for you your good and bad relationships. It clearly explains what you can do to try to improve a bad relationship. If you want to improve your ability to recognize good people to have in your life and which ones to advoid, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an easy read with a lot of very good insight into yourself and those around you. If you have ANY troubled relationships with friends, family, or the opposite sex now or in the past, this book is for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Easy to read this book will help you understand and establish good relationships while finding people that will help you grow and become a better a person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Make sure that you remain prayerful and open minded as you read this book. The text clearly and concisely describes unsafe and safe people, allows you to discover areas where you are unsafe to others, and confirms the areas where you can be even better to others. It's one that you may have to read or refer to several times before reaching the depths of your issues and their cause(s), and it's requires honesty with yourself, God, and others to fully apply these principles. Also, the text references the Bible for each principle and teaches its reader how to live and treat others as God and Christ. If only everyone were reading this book... I loved it and I'm telling everybody!!
pastorjohnny More than 1 year ago
I have read many books on relationships. This book is the best book I have ever read concerning safe relationships and how to recognize good and bad traits. This is a must read for any systems based therapist.
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
These are the authors that wrote one of THE defining books on boundaries and setting limits in relationships. They also both hold PhDs, AND are strongly entrenched in American Christian life philosophies. If you, also, are strongly entrenched in American Christian lifestyle, this would be an excellent read for you.  If you are are NOT, especially if you still carry trauma from being involved in this lifestyle previously (*raises hand*) you may have to tiptoe through the God-talk in order to avoid triggering issues. Even with that caveat, this books has many, many excellent nuggets and insights in it. Here are some bits that resonated with me: "Unsafe people only apologize instead of changing their behavior."  Or the concept of "merger wishes" relationships: "When someone else possesses a trait that we don't have, we are inclined to blur our identity with with theirs in order to help us feel better about ourselves and to gain access to that trait."  Or the tendency, when our boundaries are weak, to go for all or nothing: "...boundaryless people tend to isolate as their only limit. Often, people with weak boundaries will give in repeatedly to some irresponsible or demanding person.  Then, out of the blue, they'll pack up and leave the relationship with no warning." We DON'T have to be with unsafe people; nor can nor should we, trust our church or social club to screen people for us. That was my biggest take-away from this book, recognizing my own tendency/wish to think that in XYZ group, everyone is "safe" for me. Just ain't so. Because of MY life experiences, traits,  and personality, Person A may be unsafe for me, but absolutely safe for YOU, and vice versa. As adults, we each need to figure out how to sort out and separate those who are safe and unsafe for us, PERSONALLY.  We can't count on others to do it for us, anymore than we can count on others to exercise for us. Some of the traits of safe people, according to this book, include: "Someone who gives me an opportunity to grow; someone I can be myself around; Someone who allows me to be on the outside what I am on the indie; someone whose life touches mine and leaves me better for it," and much more. I do highly recommend this book, and am only deducting a star because of the triggering issues it may present to some readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Clearly explains how to identify people who are good for us and those who aren't, why we may be letting the wrong people into our life over and over again, and how we ourselves can become the kind of person we want in our life if we aren't already. It doesn't just blame others for our lot in life but puts responsibility on us which is helpful because that's what we have control over and can change, our decisions, choices and behavior. I also enjoyed the clear biblical explanations of common distorted thinking Christians have in letting people mistreat you out of a misguided sense of sacrifice or suffering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is thought provoking, and has many bible verses to allow a person to go do their own review. Though, I do wish it would have addressed friendships with those that are not christian. But it did give me a fresh view on some relationships that I have been questioning.
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