Why Did You Open the Package When You Knew Bullshit Was Inside?
More than 25 years ago, I broke off all contact with my mother. It was a decision I have never regretted. Not taking my decision seriously, my mother tried to circumvent my refusal to accept any packages, cards, letters or calls from her by involving my siblings. This was before social media, so she couldn’t stalk me on Facebook or have someone else track my Instagram account. She had to try the old-fashioned method — use other people as a weapon in hopes that the person you are trying to reach feels bad about their involvement and allows you to reestablish contact.
Her first attempt was through my youngest brother. She sent him a food gift that was meant to be shared among us. Since he is schizophrenic and had only recently started receiving treatment, I politely refused the gift but did not explain the issue to him. I felt I was keeping him safer from her again trying to use him in this way and from making him a conduit through which she could contact me.
Then she sent a package for me to my sister, who opened it. She proceeded to call me and tell me what was inside, expecting me to laugh along with her at the inappropriate gifts and to then stop by and pick them up. I asked her why she opened the package, and she got flustered. When I asked that she reject any mail or packages sent to me at her address, she was angry. I had explained to her in detail the reasons I was no longer in contact with our mother. I was requesting she not put herself in the middle.
After we hung up, she was angrily complaining to her then husband. He asked the critical question, “Why did you open the package if you knew there was bullshit inside?” Regardless of the actual physical contents of the package, there was a truckload of bullshit inside. The purpose of the package wasn’t to give me a gift. It was to find a way around the no contact boundary I had erected.
Now, with social media, this reaching out to others to get around such boundaries continues. And people routinely fall into this trap.
Suppose you have a person with whom you want no contact. The reason is unimportant. As adults, we get to make decisions as to who we want in our lives. So it could be a former friend or partner. It could be a relative. It could be an acquaintance or former coworker. For some reason you have decided you do not want them in your world. They reach out to you on social media. You delete the request. If they were already linked to you, you delete the friend or follower. You’ve cut off contact as best you can.
So they reach out to a mutual acquaintance. For example, they have the acquaintance invite you out to dinner. They neglect to say that the person you have chosen to break contact with will be there. Or they respond to any posts written by mutual friends that you have responded to. They make sure you remember they are around. They may even prompt mutual acquaintances to speak to you on their behalf. “I don’t understand why you don’t like <person>. I like them. They don’t understand why you don’t want to be friends.”
What has your mutual acquaintance done? They’ve opened the package even though they knew there was bullshit inside.
With social media it is harder to fully break contact with someone. However, it is a still a choice that can be made and should be respected. You just have to make sure you are not opening the package. In all of these instances, the person that is putting someone else in the middle is the one against whom boundaries have been erected. Yet often people, angry at having been put in an uncomfortable situation or feeling used, lash out at the person who set the boundaries.
Here’s the thing. People have the absolute right to buffer themselves from others. They have the right to manage their own relationships. And, most importantly, they do not owe anyone else an explanation. The person setting the boundary has not created the bullshit. They are trying to protect themselves from it.
So here are some rules to live by:
• If someone changes their name on social media, don’t share it unless you have that person’s permission. You may not know why they changed their name, but there was a reason.
• If you are asked for someone’s email address or phone number, do not hand it out without checking with the person.
• If someone asks you to invite them and someone else to dinner or a movie or for coffee or . . . make sure they are being fully transparent. You can always ask the why they don’t ask the person to coffee, etc. on their own.
• Remember no one owes you an explanation of why they don’t want to be in contact with someone. It could be a major issue that they are not comfortable sharing. It could be they simply don’t care for the person. Regardless, you need to respect people’s decisions.
• If someone does share with you why they cut someone out of their life, do not immediately go to the other person to relay this information. You’ve opened the box. You don’t need to ask for more bullshit.
In the long run, it is rather easy. With social media if someone wants to get in contact with someone else, chances are they can. Let them make the decision, then respect that decision.