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Dear Dr. Debra,

For the last four years, one of my neighbors has hated me due to my cat biting hers. She never talks to me and goes out of her way to avoid me. Lately, she’s been giving “healthy chocolate” parties. I declined the first because I checked out the product and didn’t believe the testimonials. My family is full of diabetics, and we have to be careful. Also, I dislike Tupperware types of parties. Yesterday, I declined another invitation because it was my son’s birthday, and we had other plans. She gets upset if I don’t come to her gatherings, regardless of my other obligations.

I don’t really want to cultivate a friendship with this woman because we don’t have anything in common, and I’m not really interested in her life. Plus, I work at home, and if we became “friends” again, she would be over every day for hours. On the other hand, I don’t want to be rude or become a neighborhood outcast, and she bad-mouths everyone who crosses her.

Mrs. Dilemma


Dear Mrs. Dilemma,

Your neighbor sounds toxic, selfish, and lacking in boundaries. No wonder you don’t want to be friends. However, it does sound like being on friendly terms might be important to you.

I suggest you be semi-honest with her about why you don’t want to attend her parties, meaning tell her about the diabetes in the family. Otherwise, she’ll just keep on inviting you.

She’ll probably still be offended, but that’s her problem. The way you might get around her “wounded” attitude is to sincerely wish her well in her new business. I use the following kind of response when I have to say no to friends or acquaintances who approach me with their products:

“I think it’s great that you found a new product that excites you, and you’re building a wonderful new business. I hope you have a lot of success with it. Your product isn’t one which I can use (or I have an interest in), especially because of the diabetes in my family. However, I’ll keep your product in mind, and if I come across anyone who might be interested, I’ll give them your number.” 

She might still choose to bad-mouth you. However, most of your neighbors probably know what kind of person she is and will keep her remarks in perspective.

If you have neighbors you trust, you might mention your choice not to attend her parties and your concern that they might hear something negative about you. Be careful that you don’t bad-mouth her. Be delicate in what you say, just in case it gets back to her. I suggest: 

“In case you hear anything about it…I’ve turned down Mary’s invitation to her ‘healthy chocolate’ parties. Although I wish her the best of success with them, I’m concerned she’ll take my rejection personally, and then express her feelings to everyone around here in a way that makes me look bad.”

Setting boundaries is never easy, but once you do, you’ll feel better because you won’t have to dread the repeated invitations.

Take care,

Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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