5 Tipoffs

Learn how to tell if someone is boxing you in. Only in two dimensions.

Cardboard Cutout Relationships are one of the trickiest problems to recognize. Yet recognize this we must, in order to use our full potential in life.

More often than you might think, guess what? Quite unannounced, certain people in your life don’t treat you like the person you are. More like, to them, you’re just a Cardboard Cutout.

Such relationships aren’t green-and-growing. Instead you’re a convenient object for that person’s Cardboard Cutout Relationships.

Discover how to recognize this problem. And what can you do about it? Today’s practical post will be the first of a two-part series.

BTW, Guess What’s New?

Between when I started this article and when you’re reading it now, hooray!

Breaking news. Just reached 80,000 comments.

At my personal blog, not here on Medium. Still, not too shabby for a one-person blog. Thanks to all of you who comment there actively.

Now, back to the practical point, about those regrettable Cardboard Cutout creators…

Making it Real, Here’s a Story to Illustrate

Like many who are treated this way, I had no clue. Not until another person pointed it out to me.

My best friend Joe took me with him to visit his big sister, Gladys. She was a model of 40-something perfection. Except that Gladys hadn’t spoken to Joe for a decade. One more time, he tried reaching out. It seemed like a good sign that he invited Joe and his girlfriend over for lunch.

Although the drive took two hours, the sky was sunny. And Joe’s hopes were high. He craved feeling like part of a family.

Personally, when meeting Gladys, gee. How impressive she seemed! Big Sis had a lovely home, beautifully decorated and sparkling clean. Likewise, her outfit was perfect.

After an affectionate greeting, Gladys welcomed us to the dining room. Equally picture perfect were her husband and two children, already seated in their chairs. And what a fancy luncheon Gladys served us all, like Thanksgiving in July!

At the time, I found it all lovely. Impressive and lovely. Despite feeling somewhat shy, I enjoyed the visit. For me, those two hours flew by.

But when Joe and I returned to the car, he turned to me and complained bitterly. Never had I seen him so upset, nor would I in the future. (Including when our romantic relationship ended with a definitive breakup.)

What upset Joe so much? (What did I miss completely?) How Gladys had treated her long-lost brother and me like Cardboard Cutouts.

Totally true, in retrospect — although I had absolutely no clue until Joe pointed this out to me.

Not that Joe used that term, “Cardboard Cutout.” I’m using it now, aiming to teach you how to recognize this problem. Because it’s sooooooo sneaky.

Mainly this article lists five Tipoffs that can help you, too, recognize when this kind of mess happens. (In case you’re wondering, Gladys did every single one of them to Little Brother Joe.)

But First, What Is a Cardboard Cutout?

It’s the likeness of a person, substituted for a real one. Not only an object but practically two-dimensional.

And What Are Cardboard Cutout-Type Relationships?

Simply put, they’re when somebody treats you as though you’re a convenient object.

Hardly human at all. With no feelings, zero individuality. Maybe worst of all, other than being convenient in some way, you’re presumed to have no value at all.

How to Tell If You’re Somebody Else’s Cardboard Cutout?

Let me count five main tipoffs. COMMENT below as soon as you recognize any of them.

By sharing your story you can help others. Besides, you can gain clarity by translating your feelings and thoughts into COMMENTS.

Once you understand the Cardboard Cutout Concept, hello! You may appreciate how common this problem actually is.

Although, like many problems here at Earth School, no label warns you. Instead you must figure out for yourself that the problem exists.

And no, you’re not simply making it up.

Cardboard Cutout Relationships Tipoff

#1. Your “Name”

Whether or not you’ve done any fancy Name Alignment, hello! You do have a name. Probably it’s not even Joe or Gladys. ;-)

However, what happens when somebody in your life treats you like a Cardboard Cutout?

Either behind your back, or sometimes right in your presence, that person calls you something like:

  1. My brother
  2. The girlfriend
  3. That Asian guy
  4. My Black friend
  5. Crazy, old Dad

Calling this stereotyping doesn’t do justice to the emptiness of the relationship. Does it?

At least, the relationship is empty from whose side? The one who needs you to be that symbol, that specimen.

Cardboard Cutout Relationships Tipoff #2.


Exactly what are you “supposed” to do?

Depends on the job that cutout person gives you. And starting now, for this article, let’s use the name Gladys for anybody who treats you like a you-know-what.

For example, maybe Gladys has produced a child. Now you’re “Grandma” or “Grandpa.” Which means that she’ll praise you with many sweet words. All the while, she’ll expect that you’re now her babysitter.

Won’t you move closer? Because Gladys “loves you so much.”

Only the expectation is free babysitting, on demand. And the Cardboard Cutout Grandparent has no other interests. Or needs. Or life.

Cardboard Cutout Relationships Tipoff #3.

Your Place

Either your opinion doesn’t count. Or else nobody even asks you for it.

The individual or group in charge make it very clear. You’re only accepted if you nod and smile meekly.

Your place, within this social prison, is as a human doormat.

  • Gladys, the chief culprit, might act as though she’s doing you a big favor. Including you, even as a doormat, is such a privilege. ;-)
  • Alternatively, Gladys might praise you to the skies. (Only those skies are awfully low, in her mind.)
  • In addition, there’s another possibility. Let’s get to that next.

Cardboard Cutout Relationships Tipoff #4.

Zero Curiosity

Asking no questions about you and your life. (Due to no interest, actually.)

Cardboard Cutout Relationship Tipoff #5.

Your Invisibility Cloak

While you’re talking, Gladys starts talking right over you.

Or else you’re talking and Gladys looks at somebody else in the room. Repeatedly. Any time you dare to talk.

Look, I loved the Harry Potter books. (Maybe you did too?) Personally, I enjoyed Rowling’s invention of the Invisibility Cloak. Even more than those flying brooms or Qwidditch, actually.

In real life, however, it stinks. Not the hypothetical Invisibility Cloak but how a person might treat you that way.

Toleration comes at a price: You must say as little as possible.

Getting the Idea?

Good. Because our next blog post will help you to stick up for yourself when facing one more of these awful relationships.

Meanwhile, here come some questions. Please COMMENT away with your answers:

  1. When somebody treats you as a Cardboard Cutout, will forgiveness help you a whole lot? (After all, so many religious folks recommend forgiveness as THE Spiritual Thing to Do.) What is your best bet for spiritual growth?
  2. When somebody treats you as a Cardboard Cutout, how important is it to be nice? That is, even if you don’t enjoy the game, just keep playing it? Maybe even call that “emotional growth”?
  3. And my favorite question of all: What if you’re an empath? Might empaths benefit greatly from Empath Empowerment® skills… In addition to learning the Cardboard Cutout skills that we’ll see in our next blog post of this series?

Finally, I’m curious about terminology. Did you already have a Cardboard Cutout Concept, but you’ve called it something different? Do tell.

Photo by Chewy on Unsplash

Wakeup call delivered by Rose Rosetree. Thanks for reading.



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