Kindness toward neighbour backfires

Amy answers questions about crossing a line with neighbours, approaching a close family friend to...

Amy answers questions about crossing a line with neighbours, approaching a close family friend to date, and how to handle talking about wills. (Fotolia)

Amy Dickinson, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

DEAR AMY: We have a neighbour we have known for about two years. We have helped her in many ways - with friendship, taking her shopping, bringing over baked treats, and stepping in, in emergency situations.

This neighbour now seems to think we (mainly me) are her go-to people for everything. She has a son who lives nearby, but he seems to not show up much.

I blew up a few weeks ago when I was dealing with my own problems and told her I can't be everything to everyone. She apologized and said she understood. But it hasn't stopped and I have had it.

My husband doesn't really deal with her on the same level and now he makes me feel guilty when I can't tolerate being her problem solver anymore.

The stress from her gives me headaches. She had a very good and interesting job, travelled the world, and yet has not an ounce of common sense. - Not my Neighbour's Keeper

DEAR KEEPER: Your kindness has conditioned your needy neighbour to rely on you for everyday - and emergency - help.

Blowing up suddenly because you feel used will not retrain your neighbour. It will only make her think that you are volatile (especially if, as you say, she lacks common sense).

I assume you think you don't owe her anything further, but you do owe her a respectful and rational explanation, along with some guidelines to which you will adhere - even if she doesn't.

You tell her, "I can't do the things for you that I used to do. You're going to have to find other ways to get what you need, day-to-day." Research options for elder transportation or services in your area. But unless she is unusually impaired, it will be her responsibility to follow through. You should also follow up with her son (if possible) to let him know that you are backing off.

If she calls you with a non-emergency matter, you should tell her, "I'm sorry, I can't help out today." Stepping back might give you more energy (and renewed kindness) to step in as the world's greatest neighbour with assistance when she really needs you.

If your husband lays guilt on you about this, tell him he should step up more.

DEAR AMY: I would like to date my sister's sister-in-law.

When I expressed my romantic interest to her, she said that our families were too close and she would not want any resentment if our relationship didn't work out.

I've tried the platonic approach but the friendship wasn't reciprocated. Any advice, ideas or suggestions? - Crushed Sibling

DEAR CRUSHED: If you express romantic interest in someone and she rebuffs you, then you need to back off.

If you express platonic friendship interest in someone and she doesn't reciprocate, then you have a definitive answer: She is not at all into you.


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