Volume 2, Issue 8: Boundary Checks Around Covid-19 Socializing

Hi friends! Thank you so much for the birthday love! I received a beautiful loaf pan from a loved one (Thanks, Pam!) and I used it to make a pound cake on Wednesday:

A post shared by @theinfophile

So, my wife and I refer back to our wedding vows a lot. We wrote them ourselves and they are literally the guidelines we have for our relationship, many of which we set up when we started dating.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a particular portion of our vows, which reads:

I promise to go to the things that you want to go to and I promise to leave things when you want to leave.

We packed a lot into this one sentence. We both have introverted tendencies and at any given pre-pandemic time, one of us might be dragging the other one of us out to this function or that event. We both may hit a wall when being in a crowded place and sometimes it’s at the same time and sometimes it’s at different points. The idea is that we trust each other and support each other. So, if one of us wants to do a thing we will support them in doing a thing. But if one of us reaches a point of panic or discomfort, we will not ask the other to remain in a situation where they do not feel safe (physically, emotionally, psychologically).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately especially as the CDC has told us of the things we can do once we have been vaccinated and Nicole and I are having a lot of discussions about what we feel safe doing. Note: What the CDC says is safe and what you or me or anyone else as an individual feels is safe (psychologically, emotionally) can be very different! And it is likely that you won’t be in agreement with everyone else in your life, whether that be your spouse, your parents, your boss, your friends, your neighbors, and so on. In her Pandemic Roundup for April 1, 2021, Violet Blue shares this article about how many of us are having lots of different feelings about things opening back up and the post-pandemic stress disorder that I feel settling in my bones. I identified with this one quote in particular:

“I expect I’ll be terrified about being around large groups of people for a long, long time.”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my best advice right now is to have open communication and clear boundaries. Here are some questions you may want to cover before it comes up:

  • How do you feel about eating in indoor restaurants or spaces? Outdoor restaurants or spaces? Picnics?

  • Is anyone allowed in your home? Do you want everyone to be masked? Are they only allowed in your yard or on your patio?

  • What are your boundaries around hugging people or other physical interactions with people outside your home? Do you want everyone to be masked?

  • Is anyone allowed in your vehicle? Do you want everyone to be masked? Do you want all the windows rolled down?

  • What is your comfort around attending small indoor gatherings? Outdoor gatherings? What if masks are not required? What if there are people there whose vaccination status you don’t know?

  • If you work outside the home, is your employer open to you staying masked?

  • What are your crowd size limits? Does this include going to indoor places of worship? Or outdoor events like Pride?

  • What are your boundaries around salon services, such as haircuts, manicures, and waxing?

  • What will you compromise on? What are hard boundaries? What are your plans if you disagree with what the others in your household want to do?

These things are important to discuss with the folks you live with as well as family members you may want to see or friends you may want to finally hug. I really urge you to talk about these things before they come up if you can. If you’re driving to someone’s house to drop something off and you think you want to hug them, text them first and ask about their comfort level. Don’t force them to make a quick decision in the moment, especially if they aren’t comfortable.

I want to note that, as things change such as information about the virus, vaccines, and safety protocols, you may revisit one or more of these conversations more than once.

Nicole and I watched the UCSF School of Medicine most recent Covid-19 Grand Rounds and had a great conversation afterward. It’s about an hour and I’ll leave it here for you if you’re interested. There is some wonderful discussion about what is deemed safe by the CDC versus the importance of individual safety and boundaries. I also really appreciate the optimism from these medical professionals.

As with all types of boundaries, not everyone is going to like your boundaries. Often the people who don’t like your boundaries are the people who benefit from you having none and/or the people who routinely ignore your boundaries.

In Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab, there is a list of eight common responses to boundaries:

  1. Pushback

  2. Limit testing

  3. Ignoring

  4. Rationalizing and questioning

  5. Defensiveness

  6. Ghosting

  7. Silent treatment

  8. Acceptance

In her book, which I highly recommend, she goes over strategies on how to respond to each of these. When I saw this list of hers, it reminded me of one of her Instagram posts about adult temper tantrums:

A post shared by @nedratawwab

It’s important to remember that it is not your job to manage other people’s reactions to your boundaries. Your boundaries are about you and their reactions are about them. If their reactions to your boundaries are frequently negative, their reactions might be something for them to work out with a therapist.

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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