Book Review – Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

I mentioned recently my love for books.  Although not every book I read is geared toward wives working through the aftermath after being betrayed by their husband – I try to read quite a few of the books out there that are relevant.

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Earlier this year, i re-read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.  This was a book that was recommended to me during the beginning stages of our healing process some twelve years ago.  I thought it might be helpful for me to re-read it as I was preparing material on boundaries for the groups I facilitate.  So here is my review:

Name of the Book:  Boundaries:  When to say yes, when to say no to take control of your life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Trigger Level:  Low.  You can read a little more about why I include the trigger level in this post.  If you are working hard at minimizing triggers, in my opinion, this is a very safe read.

What I liked about this book:  I’m so glad I chose to re-read this book.  I just flipped through it in preparation for this blog post and I can’t even begin to tell you how many sentences I underlined and the number or notes in the margins.  Here are a couple of excerpts that really stuck out to me:

  • “Remember that a boundary always deals with yourself, not the other person.  You are not demanding that your spouse do something – even respect your boundaries.  You are setting boundaries to say what you will do or will not do.  Only these kinds of boundaries are enforceable, for you do have control over yourself.” (p158)  {This is so much easier said than done.  But I appreciate what they are saying here and know I need to keep this close to heart.}
  • “The ability to use anger to distinguish between self and others is a boundary.”  (p70)  {I’ve never thought of anger as a boundary.}
  • “Don’t even try to start setting limits until you have entered into deep, abiding attachments with people who will love you no matter what.”  (p64)  {Ahhh…I love this, it reminds me of the importance of being in a healthy group.  A place where you belong and where you are fully known and fully know another.}
  • “The past is your ally in repairing your present and ensuring a better future.”  (p62)  {I think this is a great perspective.  It re-frames the mistakes I’ve made and the pain that I have endured.}

In re-reading this book, I was also reminded that boundaries are healthy for all of us to have.  Boundaries aren’t just important in the after-math of sexual betrayal.  Maybe I will brush-up on my boundary skills by reading this book once a decade or so!

What I didn’t like about this book:  It’s a little long.  I get antsy when a book is more than about 250 pages and this one is in small print and close to 300 pages.  Otherwise, well worth the time.

Additional Thoughts:  Ladies, listen.  If you are reading this and you haven’t read Boundaries, put it in your queue.  It’s a must-read.  Setting boundaries is rather difficult so learn from the experts!

4 thoughts on “Book Review – Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend

  1. Caroline

    April 28, 2015  |  06:46 pm

    Wonderful quotes.

    Would you mind expounding on the anger-as-a-boundary idea? We hear so many conflicting things about anger.

    I have been meaning to read this book for a while, I’m so glad you put it on here with your insights.
    Thank you!


    • rlforwomen

      April 28, 2015  |  08:35 pm

      Hi Caroline!
      I appreciate your words of encouragement. When I posted this blog post last night, I was thinking – warning, this is a very dry blog post. But I believe in reading and I think it’s important that us wives know which books to turn to. So thank you!!

      Let me expound a bit on the concept of anger being a boundary: First, thank you for asking this question. Basically, what Cloud and Townsend say is that as children, when we get angry, it is helping us distinguish ourselves from others. And this in and of itself is a boundary. Take home: it’s important that our children are able to express anger. Because when our children become adults and feel angry, this is a signal that “someone is trying to control or hurt them”. If they don’t have the space to express their anger as a child, this might disrupt the emotion of anger being a warning sign later in life.

      Cloud and Townsend pick up this concept again a couple of chapters later. They say that anger is a signal. And this emotion is one that signals: 1) someone has violated a boundary, 2) we need to move forward and confront the threat and 3) “provide us with a sense of power in order to solve a problem.”

      One last thing that Cloud and Townsend say about boundaries – they say that when we start to set boundaries, typically anger increases for a period of time but once we are “mature boundary setters”, these people are some of the least angry people in the world.

      I feel like what they are saying helps re-frame anger as a positive and useful emotion. Anger is complicated and I’m certainly not saying that this is the only way we should view anger but I think it’s important for us as wives to recognize that God created it to be a warning signal and instead of withdrawing, we can choose to press in and confront what is upsetting us and work through it (versus stuffing it or exploding over it).

      Let me know if that helps or hurts and thanks again for asking!!!


  2. Caroline

    April 29, 2015  |  06:14 pm

    Okay…this is good.

    I am a huge fan of anger, but I’ll be the first to admit i still really struggle over those places of misuse: turning it inward as contempt or spewing it out as rage.

    Maybe it’s simply because a strong angry female doesn’t fit well with my childhood idolatrous view of what I should be as woman (thin, quiet, helpful…)

    I like the thought you shared about becoming more “mature boundary setters”. Thanks for the light at the end of the tunnel.


    • rlforwomen

      April 29, 2015  |  08:49 pm

      I look forward to reading your book someday, Caroline. You have a way with words.

      Me too – I totally struggle with misusing anger, too. Yet again, one of the pieces of this process that has the potential to allow us to work on the rough areas of our lives. xo


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