boundariesThe tricky situation: I’m divorced, in my 40’s with no children. I’m currently single and rarely do I date. I’ve been experiencing a number of stressful scenarios with my neighbour.

She is blessed beyond measure as she’s been with her husband for 20+ years–she has adult children and grandchildren. Despite this, it doesn’t stop her from constantly needing attention. She texts at all hours of the day and night–long-winded grievances over whatever she was dealing with, her medical issues, family or marital issues, things about her best friend, etc. Basically diarrhea style, journal entries as text.

It got to the point that I did briefly discuss with her that I am not a texter and anything more than a paragraph should illicit a short conversation. We live next door to one another, so it shouldn’t be this ridiculous. Realising things were one-sided was disappointing, but I’ve long come to accept it. She has no clue as to how to be a friend. I’d caught her in a lie during a time when she asked me to watch her home and dogs. I stopped speaking to her for a while. Fast forward to last summer, I had to put down one of my dogs (being that I don’t have kids) and it was devastating. She was dismissive of me, as she has always been.

Fast forward to last week and she proceeded to email that her sister has passed away and all of the drama that was unfolding. I didn’t reply. Then she texted, I didn’t reply. I feel bad for her loss but I am not, nor will I be her venting board anymore. I am tired of feeling used and I don’t feel she’s worthy of me expending any effort in discussing any of what has caused me to come to this point, because there is no changing her, she is who she is as a person.

She is selfish and always puts on the dramatics whenever you’re going through something. Being that her and I are neighbours, I’ve quietly kept my distance but she kept backing up past my house when we both returned home at the same time. I should not be forced to extend myself to anyone that cannot treat me decently. Time and time again I have been disappointed by her. Is separation and avoidance the best ways in your opinion to deal with someone like that?

This is one of those situations where there’s an element of being annoyed with somebody about something that you’re also guilty of–not empathising.

There’s a strong theme of comparison and resentment. You self-identify on your relationship status and the things that you don’t have and from your position, ‘shouldn’t’ behave as she does because she’s married and has kids and grandchildren. It’s like, If I had what she has, I wouldn’t complain about a damn thing! She doesn’t know she’s born!

Here’s the thing: Granted, gratitude matters regardless of relationship status but her being “blessed beyond measure” in your eyes doesn’t mean that she feels that way. Marriage or parenthood doesn’t rid us of life stress and inner problems. Your neighbour is very unhappy.

It’s important to acknowledge your resentment and its true origins– comparing you, envying her on some level for having what you on some level wouldn’t mind having, finding you lacking and judging her on some level for being ungrateful and squandering what you would love to have.

You are only human and some of this woman’s life and her behaviour is treading on grief and even desolation about your own circumstances.

Of course the empathy issue is not one-sided–your neighbour envies you and feels similarly [to how you feel about her life]. I’m not saying that she wants to sack off her family but she does envy the very life that you’re self-critical of. She thinks that you have it ‘easy’ and that you have all the time in the world to be a dustbin for every thought and feeling that passes through her. You don’t, single or not.

Neither of you are truly seeing each other. There’s a distinct projection on both sides. Hidden feelings have a funny ‘ole way of showing themselves and being called something that someone else is doing.

I don’t blame you for your irritation because comparison aside, your neighbour has poor boundaries, but if you want this situation to change, you are going to have to be more boundaried and take care of your side of the fence–good fences make good neighbours.

Part of being boundaried is being boundaried for you.

This means that your resentment is only going to ease off when you stop beating you up for not being a married woman in her forties and you draw your line. There’s hints of you having written yourself off–your last chance saloon hasn’t gone and you are not a failure. Please don’t give up on love. Acknowledge how you feel and what you need to heal so that you can begin to move forward.

The universe in its rather clever and twisted way is giving you a lesson on your doorstep: It’s showing you a woman who you think that you’re ‘supposed’ to be, so that you can stop glorifying it, beating you up and regretting. Your neighbour is reflecting something to you–open up your mind instead of judging you with a story and closing your options.

You aren’t friends and your disappointment stems not just from her inconsiderate behaviour but lack of past boundaries with her and being ‘nice’ and non-confrontational through gritted teeth in the hopes of changing her behaviour. Dropping hints does not work and her inability to extend kindness, especially when you lost your dog, has hurt you deeply and fueled further resentment. She doesn’t behave as she does to you because you’re inferior; this is how she rolls and until someone draws their line, the boundary isn’t clear to her.

You want a friend and there’s nothing wrong with that. She cannot be the friend that you want so please don’t continue hoping for her to change and instead, accept her as she is and use this experience as a notification to explore meaningful friendships with others.

Face the issue with compassion and grace. The silent treatment and avoidance isn’t who you are and will just compound the ill feeling.

“When you send message after message despite me having pointed out my discomfort at you sharing the intimate details of your private life, I’m left feeling that you don’t respect my time or the boundaries of our neighbour relationship. I value my peace and my relationships with my neighbours and it’s because of this that I feel that it’s important that I let you know how I feel as I don’t want to be resentful or uncomfortable nor do I want to be avoiding you. Please don’t send anymore texts or emails. I take responsibility for my side of things and acknowledge that I needed to be clearer with you much sooner. I’m truly sorry that you have been going through a lot and I really do hope that you find resolution soon.”

And repeat as necessary–you will have to show your boundaries consistently because she is not used to you (or others) being boundaried with her. Remember that you are not responsible for her feelings. You are the one who is forcing you to extend yourself. You’re under no obligation to be her problem solver or dumping ground. Don’t even read any texts that come through–you’re not the only one receiving them! Please see my post on how to deal with drainers and put the tips into practice pronto.

Ultimately when you recognise the humanness in you both and at the same time, assert the necessary boundaries, the tension and stress will drop significantly because the energy of the situation will have changed dramatically.

Each Wednesday, I’ll help a reader to solve a dilemma. If you’d like to submit a question, please email natalie AT with ‘Advice Wednesday’ in the subject line. If you would prefer your question to be featured on the podcast, drop a line to podcast AT Emails need to be brief – sub 200 words is preferable. If you want detailed one-to-one support, please use my consultation service.

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