Trust: Unsafe People

Relational trust is a fragile commodity. If you are a resident of Planet Earth, there is a good chance that your trust of a person has been rocked and/or bruised.  Or perhaps you have found that you cannot always trust yourself. The truth is that there is no way around it.

People need people, and relational risk is always a part of that equation.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of Safe People, address relational trust from three perspectives: unsafe people, attracting unsafe people, and safe people.  Today, we are talking about unsafe people!

Who are these unsafe people?

In Safe People, Cloud and Townsend identify 3 main categories:

  1. Abandoners. These are people who can start a relationship but who cannot finish it. These relationships can begin with statements of companionship and commitment but the abandoner leaves the relationship when needed most. Abandoners destroy trust. 
  2. Critics. They take a parental role with everyone they know. They are judgmental, speak the truth without love, and have no room for grace or forgiveness. Critics often are more concerned with correction rather than connection. They can offer clear vision and thought but leave the other unable to make mistakes without tremendous anxiety.
  3. Irresponsibles. Cloud and Townsend see this category of people as those who do not take care of themselves or others.  They have a problem delaying gratification, the don’t consider the consequences, and they do not follow up on their commitments. The partner in the relationship is often an enabler, assuming responsibility that is that of the irresponsible person.

There are many reasons why we can be drawn to unsafe people.  Most often it links to our experience of our early childhood.  However, we do not need to stay there. 

Working with your therapist can interrupt this process of repeating relationship patterns of our past. Key to this process is character discernment, the antidote to repeatedly connecting with unsafe people, which will be discussed more in the following blogs.

Written by: Sheri Schulze