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I recently moved from 20 years in an isolated location (no neighbors in sight) to a suburban neighborhood (we can all easily see into each other's windows.) This alone made me anxious; meeting and being social with so many 'strangers' in such close proximity is not a routine situation to find myself in, and I feel clumsy navigating the dynamics of being the new person here. There are no fences on our block, so it's one big yard.

The worst is over and I've made friends, but I have a neighbor who has stopped talking to me (except when she wants medical advice.) If I say "Hi" or wave, she looks away. She was friendly initially, but she's icy now. (Her kids - 12, 8 & 4 - used to talk to me all the time, and come over. When she stopped talking to me, so did her kids.)

I've tried talking to her in the least accusatory manner I could ("Are my dogs being annoying?", "I feel that I might have offended you; can you tell me what I've done?" kind of thing), but she says, "No, no, I have a hearing problem" (which doesn't explain ignoring waving) or gives some other innocent-seeming excuse. She is pretty friendly with all of the other neighbors. If her dog runs into my yard (he's welcome to; I think he's a hoot, and it seemed fine for him to come over in the beginning), she literally screams at him to get back.

I asked one neighbor if they knew of anything I might have done to upset her, but they said no. I don't want to ask anyone else; I don't want to put anyone on the spot.

I feel very uncomfortable being in this situation; my personal philosophy is that how one handles conflict can bring people closer together or drive them apart, so I try to handle conflict and find a compromise, not ignore it and let resentment build.

How do I handle this breakdown of communication between my neighbor and myself when she won't even acknowledge it?

  • Can you give an idea of how long you were friendly before she started acting distant and how long she has been acting distant now? – threetimes Aug 26 '17 at 4:05
  • We were "talking friendly" for about 5 months, but most of those were winter, so not outside much. Not friendly for about 3 months. Also of note (now that you reminded me), her kids used to come over or just talk to me a lot. Now they don't, and I'm sure I haven't offended them. They seem shy about it. I've had a new puppy for 2 months and they haven't even been over to see it except when all the other kids are over. – anongoodnurse Aug 26 '17 at 4:20
  • Is it possible the neighbor has some psychological or other personal issue? If you don't know of anything you did, then I would suspect it is something else (though they might hold you accountable for some illogical reason). Kind of like how paranoid people behave. Does the neighbor have other visitors to indicate more normal behavior with them? – user3169 Aug 26 '17 at 4:28
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    @Mari-LouA - I've only been to her home to examine her baby at her request (twice), not socially. I live in PA. Our political and religious beliefs align. No, we don't attend the same church, but we are both Christians. She's Catholic. – anongoodnurse Aug 26 '17 at 15:01
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    @anongoodnurse I smell jealousy but I could be wrong. Her behavior doesn't make sense otherwise, unless you made a comment to someone who knows her that bothered her. The fact that she won't tell you (too proud) makes me think she feels threatened by you (jealous). It might make sense if you are single. I would not say hi to her until she either "gets over" it or decides to tell you what is going on. You have already done what you could in my opinion. – Tycho's Nose Aug 27 '17 at 20:13
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Start afresh

Do not spend any more time thinking about or finding out how, why or when you possibly offended her. Life is too short. Accept that you'll probably never know why.

Smile

Instead, smile and give a friendly little wave whenever you cross paths.

Break the stalemate

Be the first to strike up a conversation. Ask how her youngest child is doing. Mention the weather. Compliment her on something, maybe she has a nice front lawn, maybe her children are good-looking and polite. Keep it short and sweet.

If she wants to engage, she will. If she doesn't, she'll find an excuse to cut short the pleasantries.

Here's another idea you might want to use sometime in the not too distant future. When her kids are at school, and she is alone in her front yard, go up to her and ask if she can recommend a good dry cleaner's, plumber, handyman, gardener, mechanic etc. You're still relatively new to the area, so you're allowed to ask those sort of questions. However, be sure to have something that does need fixing because you're going to feel very foolish if you don't follow up on her advice!

If that approach doesn't work

Take her reluctance as a cue to back off, respect her space and privacy. But always look pleased to see her if you catch sight of each other. Smile and pretend nothing is amiss.

One day...

There will come a day when she will forget why she was cross or upset with you. When that day comes, act as if nothing ever happened.

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From a comment you made:

The husband is kind, and does talk to me, but of course, I don't want to ask him about his wife.

You're choosing not to utilize a great resource. He may be able to provide information. He may be able to be a resource to help create situations where people interact. This may lead to revealing the truth, whether the truth is the reason for unpleasant feelings, or just clearly exposing the rift so that nobody can pretend it doesn't exist. She might find that problematic enough to do something about it, like provide an explanation.

  • I'm afraid that if he says something about her, she'll take it out on him. I know she runs the household, and she's really strict. Once she told her daughter something (I think it was that it was time to get off the trampoline), and her daughter said, "You're mean!" She replied, "And you're grounded for the rest of the week." And she was. – anongoodnurse Aug 26 '17 at 15:17
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    @anongoodnurse he should be old enough to decide for himself whether or not he wants to actually talk with his wife about this; you can always ask and he can always refuse to help. But he won't be able to help if you don't ask him whether it's possible. – Erik Aug 27 '17 at 8:11
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    @anongoodnurse that seems like an overreaction to me, grounding her daughter just for that remark. Could it be she overreacted to something you said or did too? In that case, there may not be anything you can do about it. – SQB Aug 27 '17 at 11:20
  • @SQB - I agree it was an overreaction, and she probably overreacted to omething I said or did or my dogs did. The question is what options I'm left with. – anongoodnurse Aug 27 '17 at 12:45
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    @anongoodnurse You may consider not being so open about it. Maybe if you meet him alone somewhere (e. g. at the market), ask him how it goes and also how his wife is. Then mention, that you unfortunately do not have so much contact to her. Perhaps he will jump on the occasion. – Anne Daunted Aug 27 '17 at 17:50
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It is impossible to be liked by everyone. You cannot force someone to like you. Accept that she does not like you and move on. As long as she isn't being hostile, it is unhealthy to obsess over it. Sure, you could ask neighbors or even her husband why she's upset, but they may not be forward with you if her reasons were told to them in confidence. Also be aware that many many people make irrational judgements or decisions regularly. She could have heard a rumor about you from somebody else, she could have saw people you associated with that she may feel unsavory, you could have changed your appearance or looked "like a bum" on a day off which could have altered her perception, she could have misinterpreted your body language (thought you gave her a nasty look or acted antisocial), she could have been offended by something you said and you may not even realize it (some people are offended by everything). You will probably never know why and trying to engage someone who is directly telegraphing that she wants you to leave her and her family alone will likely cause hostility.

  • Agreed. I am not obsessing over it, though. It did bother me quite a bit in the beginning (when I posted), and again at Halloween when her kids didn't come by (I live next door!). Feeling hurt and isolated isn't the same as obsessing over it. If I were texting her or her friends for an explanation, you would definitely have labelled my actions correctly. – anongoodnurse Nov 13 '17 at 14:40
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If you have some neighbors you are friendly with I would make additional inquiries, softly. Is it possible something happened at the time she stopped talking to you that she has mistaken as being you (or someone in your family)? I wouldn't ask them if they know why, so much as simply say it like you have here. I would say that she used to be warmer toward you and then something has changed. You are inquiring to see if they might know of anything that has gone on that she might suspect you were responsible for. You can assert you are not asking them to breech trust or speak to her or anything, but merely that you thought they might have some information that would assist you in making some sense of this shift. It could be something as simple as thinking your dogs have done property damage when it was some other dog or animal that did it. It seems unlikely, based on what you have described, that it's for no reason. Since you have already asked, it also seems unlikely she will be forthcoming as to give you any clue. You can also mention that when inquiring. You can say you tried asking, but she is "too sweet" to likely bring it up and assured you there was no issue, but your gut says otherwise. This then shows whomever you ask that you have tried the direct route but got nowhere with it. I would only ask if I have a good relationship with another neighbor. I wouldn't of course ask people I barely know.

You did say she will ask your input medically though. So it appears she will talk to you some. I would take that to mean that any offense she may be taking to something isn't enormous and therefor something that might be small and fixable. My first through was "dogs" too as far as the reason for the issue because you said she suddenly took a significant interest in not allowing her dog to wander to your yard.

Did you by any chance have a gathering that someone else was invited to from your neighborhood and she was not? That is the only other things I can think of. I don't even mean a party per se, but even just inviting another family for dinner while not inviting them could be seen as a slight to some. Did you offer to take anyone's kids and not hers? Even if you didn't offer, but said yes when asked, she could misconstrue and believe she or her kids have been left out of something. You get the idea.

I hate awkwardness. So I do understand your reason for wanting to figure this out. I would too. I don't need my neighbors to be my best friends, but I do like to be on friendly terms with them since you have to share space at times.

  • No, no family invites, as I'm in my sixties and they all have grade-school kids; the poor kids would have nothing to do here. I've been invited to the block parties and brought food & wine, etc. I, too, suspected my dogs were bothering her. They aren't very wild; they found (and ruined) a baseball and an old frisbee (not her family's); both were replaced two-fold with profuse apologies. I agree that the awkwardness of it is the thing. Summer = outside, and I always see her. The thing is, I do think I've done something to offend her. I would love to just fix it (if I can). – anongoodnurse Aug 26 '17 at 6:16
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    People can be odd. I was once having some company outdoors and we were a little loud, laughing, daytime, nothing of concern. I have no idea what I actually said. None. It wasn't serious talking. My neighbor that was a good friend swore she heard me say I was pregnant. Rather than mention it or ask she festered, believing I wasn't telling her because they were trying for a baby and having a tough time. Eventually she confronted me and to this day I have no clue what she thought she heard, but it was wrong. It can happen even over things you would never even think. – threetimes Aug 26 '17 at 8:02
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Q: Well, when would you stop talking to somebody, UNLESS you were going to ask for professional advice?

A: You wouldn't, unless you decided it was okay to be awful.

You've been isolated. You're probably a bit odd. That's okay. Some would say good. But the only choice you really need to make, is to not be awful and to regulate how you feel when other people are deciding to be awful, which they do, unfortunately, a lot.

Maybe she's awesome deep down inside. Or maybe she's just awful. Are her kids responding to her awfulness? Possibly. You can't really know without asking lots of questions and poking and prodding which will just give awful people even more excuses to be awful.

So stop trying hard for the potentially awful people. The faux pas is theirs, not yours. Enjoy the friends who are willing. Leave the doors open for those who aren't but feel free to take a little bit of perhaps-slightly-awful satisfaction in their down-trodden faces when you ask them if they would like to come in for an appointment when they've just asked you for medical advice.

  • She's friends with all the women on the block. She's pretty strict with her kids. I overheard an exchange: on telling her 12 year old she had to coe off the trampoline, the girl said, "You're mean," to which she replied, "And you're grounded for a week. She never has a phone because she's always grounded. – anongoodnurse Nov 13 '17 at 5:14
  • Oh, I forgot to say thanks! This is a good recommendation, and is the one I'm currently following. – anongoodnurse Nov 13 '17 at 14:37

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