Dear Abby: I am a 40-something single mother of two teens. A 24-year-old neighbor with a young daughter moved in next door a couple years ago after her divorce. She recently joined the workforce, and being a single working mother for the last year and a half has been a difficult adjustment for her. When she sees me outside, she comes over to vent. She seems incapable of just giving a friendly wave and going about her day.
I like to garden in peace. She has actually come into my yard, sat on my lawn and complained while I continued weeding. She prefaces it by telling me she doesn’t want advice; she just wants to vent. Abby, I have lived her life — with a lot less support — and at this point, I value my alone time. I don’t want to listen to her woes.
I find myself sneaking around my yard trying to avoid her. Today, I saw her setting up a trampoline in her backyard. It’s close to my yard and right outside my dining room window. How do I communicate to her that I don’t want a visitor when I’m working in my yard? I know her feelings will be hurt. I’ve already tried to set boundaries by not initiating conversation and not inviting her over. Help!
Private in the Midwest
Dear Private: Tell your neighbor she needs to find another person to vent to because your gardening activities are the way you cope with your own problems, and you prefer to do that without company. Then suggest she find a comparable activity for herself that may serve the same purpose. She may not like hearing it, but you will be free.
Dear Abby: My husband has withdrawn himself from my family. I sense my niece resents it. She’s 53 and has a teenage son. I believe she thinks we don’t see each other because we don’t love them. I can’t explain what’s going on with my husband to her. I want to explain to my family and maybe make excuses for his behavior, but honestly, I don’t think it would change much.
I realize COVID-19 has kept families apart, and this may not be a good time to try to become closer. I have expressed my feelings to my husband, but it never turns out well. He lost his mom two years ago, and his depression has gotten worse. He wants nothing to do with my family. They don’t deserve it, but things are good between the two of us apart from this issue. Must I choose sides? What can I do?
Choosing Sides in Canada
Dear Choosing: Unless there is something important that you omitted from your letter, your husband’s behavior may be connected to the loss of his mother. Do not “choose sides,” but also do not allow him to separate you from your family. Stay in touch as much as you can, and once the quarantines are finished, visit with them. Explain your husband’s absence by letting your relatives know WHY your husband is acting this way and that he needs compassion and understanding, not judgment.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.