DEAR CAROLYN: I moved into my first house of my own late last year. It's a twin home and I figured it was important to have a good relationship with the people next door. They are an older couple, both retired, and I introduced myself, had them over for dinner and we exchanged a few favors, Christmas cards and goodies, and all was well. As soon as the weather got warm though they started to be a pain in the you-know-what. There are only a few shrubs and a low fence separating my little patio from theirs, and every time I was outside, they'd appear within a few minutes, even if I had company. They would literally help themselves to food and drink and bring chairs over and join the party. Eventually I had no choice but to very nicely ask them to respect my privacy and only come over when invited. You'd think I'd told them to blank off and never darken my door again. Now they won't speak to me or even look at me. I thought it would blow over but it's been months. Some friends are saying I should be grateful but I hate things this way. Should I accept that this is the way it's going to be, or should I try to talk to them again? And say what? And how could I even do it when they won't even answer a hello from me right now?
NEIGHBOR: Try inviting them over formally — slip an invitation under the door. By doing that, you make good on the implied promise of your privacy-please conversation: that you want to keep enjoying their company, just on an invitation basis versus a drop-in one.
They may just ignore it, in which case, yes, you probably do just have to accept this as your new normal. However, by making the overture of inclusion, you would push this from a problem that's 98% of their own making to one that's 100% theirs.
Not that doing this would fix the bad feeling of living next door to people who won't even look at you, but it at least can give your conscience a hug.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have a therapist I have been with for about five years, and she knows all the uglies — alcoholic, I was a terrible mother, nasty divorce, estranged family, yep, I am a gem! Now my employer changed our health benefits and my therapist is not on my plan. I am afraid to start over with someone new and afraid of being judged for the horrible person I am … but not sure I should just rely on myself, so, any advice?
STARTING OVER: Sigh. If you were as terrible as you say, then you wouldn't be able to say you're terrible. I am serious. Plus, you did this once before, successfully, with the therapist you now trust. Please talk to her about your predicament. She might be able to adjust her fees. If not, then she can help you find another therapist, and hold your hand through the process. This is not a process that will be new to her. Take care.