I put people in boxes. I have been doing it for a long time. The first time I did it, and did it well, was when I was seventeen. I have not spoken to that person in 22 years. Which is mostly what it means to be put in a box by me. I cut off contact entirely. I mean, it’s an imaginary box, but it works as well as a real one for me (perhaps with fewer legal ramifications.) Before you judge too harshly on how I judge, what I should have done to that first person was have him sent to jail.
When you go into one of my boxes, it isn’t just a matter of cutting off contact. The reason that I visualize the box is that I need to put all of the emotion surrounding you in there as well. You inhabit the box in my mind. All the things I attach to you go in as well, if I get it right. Since you live in there, I don’t have to wonder what you are doing with your life these days. I mean, you live in a box, how exciting could your life be?
Does this sound nuts? I wonder. I think it keeps me sane, though. If the reader thinks that I am harming myself in some way by not dealing with why I need to put someone in an imaginary box, well I don’t think it’s needed. It is sort of a three-part process.
Step one is clear communication. I am a very open and up-front person. If you are in a relationship with me, then you know what I am thinking about you, feeling about you. If I care enough about you, if I feel hurt enough by our relationship (and I am not referring only to romantic relationships), then you know all about it. I think that to a certain degree people are capable of changing the way they behave toward you. I also think that if you ask them to change, need them to change, and they can’t — well, then, you should stop expecting them to change. Because they won’t. Accepting that someone is who they are is step two.
Now, are you okay with that? Are you happy? Can you experience happiness with them, in the acceptance of the dynamic between you? If you can, then great — stop there. Live your life. No? Then on to step three, now they go in the box.
I don’t know why more people don’t do it. Why not remove the toxic and painful things that you identify? Why do people stay with people who hurt them?
I am not saying that I haven’t let people way overstay their time with me before I finally settled them into their box. Or that everyone that goes into the box has done something harmful or purposely negligent. They might have just been super negative, or annoying. Most people are basically good and want to be happy. Sometimes you want it to be right, because it isn’t totally wrong, but it isn’t right enough.
I am also not saying that I have never let anyone out. Time changes how you feel about things, how you can deal and relate. Sometimes the lock on the box has a key. What’s important is the integrity of the key. If you tell someone that the key to get out is to say that they love you and can’t imagine spending another moment of their lives without you, then you need to stick with that. Letting them out because they call to say that they miss you should not pass as a key.
All that being said, I put another person in a box today. This was a really difficult box to create. I tried and failed several times. I valued this relationship highly and I am incredibly sad that it came to rest in this box. But I know that if I didn’t, I would just prolong a different kind of sadness. The kind where you know you should be expecting more, and therefore you feel as though you are less. I am responsible for the happiness of someone else now, as well. Which oddly makes me work harder to allow my own happiness to thrive. I know I am doing the right thing. And he knows where to find the key.