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Setting Boundaries With Neighbors

Published: March 2, 2023 | Last Updated: March 2, 2023 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
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A woman asks about setting boundaries with neighbors who are impinging on her personal time and space.

QUESTION

Hi Irene! 

Help! I’m stuck! Is there a good way you suggest to amicably pull back (way back) from a relationship with a neighbor without permanently damaging or ending it? I want to maintain a neighborly relationship.

Here’s the situation: 

Our neighbors are a sweet family from Asia. The girls “adopted” us as their honorary grandparents two years ago, something we readily agreed to. We have no kids of our own.

We have the habit of overly helping and offering a hand to people with whom we cross paths and who need our help. [Problem is, it almost always backfires!] 

We love neighbors and naturally do not want to offend them. Yet, I am worn down by all this and clearly need some serious space! 

The mother’s parents are no longer living. She took to calling me “Mom.” My own fault! I should have stopped this a long while back!

Now, quite honestly, I’m sick of it. I’m drained from the chronic texts and if she doesn’t hear right back from me, then her teenage daughter rebounds and starts checking in with me. 

I tried to put a stop to this by acting like I was receiving too many texts from people in general and that I would be responding only once a day. Only 24 hours went by. They sent texts saying, “we miss you – love, love….” 

Two days later I finally checked in, making my text short and sweet. “Oh, we miss you sooooo much Mom! It feels like it’s been a really long time!” (Good grief!! What? Two and a half days!!)

The mother) is so obsessive that she texts good morning greetings every single day and goodnight greetings every single night and texts “likes” and “loves” in between. She also alerts me whenever she is going somewhere on her days off. I have yet to understand why she feels a need to do that. I’ve learned to just not respond.

They don’t seem to understand my need for space. And they don’t take any kind of hints when I try to pull back! I keep hoping and praying she will go on to make other good friends!! (and give me a break!)

I know I’m going to have to bring myself to have a heart-to-heart and ask her to call me by my given name. I’m rather tired of the “mom game”!! 

They are sweet and fragile, and I desperately don’t want to hurt their feelings. Would you advise me to just be direct and not worry so much about how it will be accepted?

Meanwhile, I’m not enjoying a healthy, well-balanced relationship here!! Am I not worthy of that? Compared to other mean or standoffish neighbors, these people are good as gold!! It’s just that I feel cornered, pressured, overwhelmed, SMOTHERED, and not happy!! 

Other than my husband, I have no family of my own. Maybe they think they are fulfilling that. I’ve found that many Asians have a great need for close-knit relationships with friends and family.

I grew up differently, in a very dysfunctional blended family, and pretty much kept to myself…a  loner enjoying my solitude. Granted, I do need and want friendship/relationships in my life. But this is OVER THE TOP!!!!

 I do not want to be anyone’s “all in all”!! That’s how they see it, and I resent it. Did I bring all this on myself? I still want to be their friend, again just that I need some time and space! And other people in my life, not 100% them all the time.

Help? Help! Help!

Sincerely,

Marcia

ANSWER

Dear Marcia,

From your note (and all the exclamation points), I can sense your frustration is at the breaking point. Yes, you need to take some action and set boundaries with these neighbors to change this situation.

Don’t blame yourself for being too nice or letting it go on for too long. There’s really no sense in going back and I suspect you’ll be far more cautious in the future.

Maintaining good relationships and setting boundaries with neighbors is always tricky. If the relationship goes south, seeing your neighbor’s door each day can be very uncomfortable.

I think you need to be honest and direct but also kind. You do like your neighbor, want to stay on good terms with her and don’t want to hurt her unnecessarily.

I suggest having that heart-to-heart with your neighbor (the mother of the two girls). Tell her that you really appreciate being friends and neighbors but weren’t brought up in the same way as she and her family. 

You’ve recently realized that you need more downtime for yourself and don’t want to be texting as frequently as you have been.

Be very clear and unambiguous about the amount and type of communication that would feel comfortable and “right” for you. 

Would you want to suggest that you catch up at the end of every week (by phone or by text) unless there is an emergency? Or that you test each other twice a week?

It’s less important that the family refrain from calling you “mom” or “grandma” because what’s really annoying you is the intensity of these relationships. 

Explain that you hope she will understand that you are very fond of her and her daughters and that this has more to do with you than it does with them. Tell her you hope that she can also explain this to her daughters.

I know this will be a tough conversation but it will be an easier path than letting the relationship go on the way it is.

Hope this is helpful.

Best, Irene


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  1. MUHAMMAD LATIF says:

    the best way to Handal the situation is to stay nice and being getting this much love as MOM will make you depress later on to saying kind off stirkly “NO” to them. Instead stay loved from the next wall and take opportunity to make Calander planer for the kid as MoM and you will belove to see them once a week on coffee. the life is short on this Planet. getting positive waves around you will make your life Haven.

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