Ask Amy: Neighbors might be ‘What About Bob-ing’
Dear Amy: My husband and I live in a townhouse complex. We have lived here for 22 years.
Recently, new neighbors moved in. We like them, but they won’t leave us alone!
When we go to sit on our patio, within minutes they are out, walk over and start talking, even if we have guests over.
During this pandemic they have invited us over for drinks, even in the winter.
I repeatedly turned them down, explaining that we don’t feel comfortable in anyone’s home right now.
How do we politely get them to respect our privacy, without hurting their feelings?
With the warmer weather ahead I am becoming very anxious and feel like I cannot enjoy my own space. - Nervous Neighbor
Dear Nervous: You should be kindly, respectful, and candid - and do it now. The longer you wait to build your boundary, the more wounded your neighbors might feel, because as time passes, they may have developed an attachment that seems like friendship to them.
And because you are offering up reasonable excuses not to spend time with them, they might not realize how “off” they are.
[Or they are “What About Bob-ing” you, in which case, you should just go ahead and put your house on the market. Watch the Bill Murray comedy for a tutorial on dealing with the ultimate boundary crasher.]
One or both of you could say to them: “I want to level with you, and I hope you don’t feel hurt by this. We have lived here for over 20 years. We’re a little set in our ways and we really like our privacy. You are both so nice and we are very happy you’re here. But we don’t really want to socialize. With our houses so close together, we feel it is important to be extra-respectful of one another’s privacy and boundaries. We promise to respect yours and appreciate you respecting ours. That’s how being ‘neighborly’ has worked for us over the years, and we hope it will work for you, too.”
Dear Amy: Several months ago, I sent a letter to my friend of 55 years that ended our friendship.
Despite her moving around the country over many of these years, we’ve kept our friendship intact talking on the phone weekly and visiting each other several times each year.
She has been rude to me and my husband on several occasions. We belong to opposing political parties and have had a longstanding agreement to not discuss politics for the sake of our friendship.
She has breached that agreement several times over the past few years and did so in an arrogant and aggressive manner.
Because of the way she treated me, I stated that I felt our friendship had run its course.
I sent my letter five months ago and have had no response from her!
If she really cared about me and our friendship, don’t you think I would’ve heard from her by now?
Was I wrong in establishing and defending my boundaries?
I miss my friend. - Wondering in Kentucky
Dear Wondering: You wanted to end the friendship, and so you sent this woman a letter, ending the friendship.
And now you want to hear back from her? What, exactly, would you like her to say?
You’ve broken up with her. She seems to have accepted your choice and is respecting your boundary. Now it’s your turn to accept your choice.
You might go back and reread the letter you sent, to see if there was anything in it which should inspire a response from her.
If you have regrets, you should reach out again and see if there is a way to repair this break, or to see if you can achieve the closure that you seem to need.
Dear Amy: I just read the letter from “Bewildered” - the couple who did DNA testing, and both found out that they had half-siblings.
My niece (my only brother’s daughter) and I also did this a couple of years ago and much to our astonishment it came back that WE were half siblings!
As that was not even possible (my sister-in-law didn’t even meet my Dad until she was six months pregnant!), I would just like to caution people to not always believe in these test results (although we did have a good laugh about it)! - No Longer Bewildered
Dear No Longer: Your story cries out for a reference from the movie “Chinatown” - “My sister, my niece, my sister, my niece!”