Boundaries, Part Whatever
Sometimes I think two of the most important things we can teach kids are that they have a right to say no, and that if someone tells them no, they have to respect that.
I know some Very Clever People will point out that there are exceptions. If I tell my five-year-old child to stop shoving his LEGO Star Wars figures into the garbage disposal while cackling and saying, “In its belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years,” he’s not going to have much luck telling me no. If my boss gives me an assignment and I tell him no, that’s probably gonna end badly for me.
(On the other hand, if that same five-year-old doesn’t want a kiss from Aunt Rose? He has the right to say no. Maybe today Aunt Rose will have to settle for a fistbump.)
But I think most of us are able to understand and discuss this without having to derail for those “whatabouts.”
You have the right to say no.
If you’re on the receiving end of that “No”? You don’t have to be happy about it. You can feel hurt or angry or whatever. But you still have to accept it.
You have the right to say no, even if you said yes in the past. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to decide that today you want to set this boundary, regardless of whether you set it yesterday or not.
You have the right to set rules and boundaries in your own space. You decide who can and can’t be in your home. You decide who can call you, text you, talk to you online, and so on. You have the right to tell someone to leave you the hell alone, and to block their ass if they can’t respect that.
If someone tells you to stop talking to them? Stop talking to them! Don’t argue. Don’t whine about how it’s unfair. Don’t keep coming back to explain yourself, or to try to get the last word. Grow the hell up and get on with your life.
To put it as simply and clearly as I can, you don’t have a right to another person. Even if you disagree with them. Even if you hate them. Even if you’re attracted to them. Even if you’re married to them.
That sense of false entitlement to another human being is at the core of so much dysfunctional societal rot. Rape and domestic violence and the epidemic of men physically hurting or killing women for telling them no…
Learn to say no, and to respect it from others. Teach kids the same. Expect the same from the people in your life. Demand the same (when it’s safe for you to do so). Support people’s right to set their own boundaries, and help push back against those who would ignore them.
This post brought to you by someone who may end up being an object lesson for a future post, depending on how things go.
May 16, 2018 @ 3:38 pm
I hope things work out for the best.
May 16, 2018 @ 3:45 pm
How do you feel about people ghosting people with no explanation?
I had a good friend, we seemed to get along really well, no arguments at all – and then one day, completely out of the blue, I started getting her answering machine when I called, forever.
It took me a while to realise that it was her ignoring me – at first I thought she was withdrawing due to a depressive flare.
But when it’d been several months since we talked, I realised she was avoiding me.
I still have absolutely no idea why.
We’re both women, and I can’t think of anything I said or did that could have offended her.
May 17, 2018 @ 8:22 am
“You let me touch you/have sex with you last time, I’m entitled now” and “you had sex with that other person, you have to have it with me” are seen as logical statements by a depressing number of people.
May 17, 2018 @ 7:26 pm
Kind of unrelated, but I love your kid pretending the garbage disposal is a Sarlacc. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d totally see my kid doing if we had such a thing (today at bath time his Darth Vader lego fig “light sabered” several others because Darth Vader didn’t want a bubble bath). Garbage disposals totally remind one of a Sarlacc.
May 20, 2018 @ 6:23 am
The same rule applies. She has the right to not talk to you, to ignore you, to not answer your calls.
While it would be nice for you to know why, she is within her right to end contact with you and is not obliged to tell you why.
Perhaps she is bad at telling people off, has a hard time setting boundaries or perhaps you did say or do something that she disliked and dont want to risk again. Just because you dont know it, it can still be the issue.
Jim C. Hines
May 20, 2018 @ 9:44 am
Whomever – Thanks. That was a made-up example, but I loved the visual 🙂
Jim C. Hines
May 20, 2018 @ 9:48 am
MoominGirl – I think it would suck to be on the receiving end. It sounds confusing and painful, and in my ideal world, I think talking about stuff is generally better and healthier than not.
With all that said, this isn’t my ideal world. I obviously don’t know anything about the situation, but she might have a valid reason for choosing this path instead of talking to you directly. Or maybe she doesn’t. In either case, as much as it sucks for you, she still has the right to make that choice.
Does that make sense?