Getting Along With Your Neighbors, And Your Partner - Relationship Advice
We live in a small town near Chicago where all the neighbors know each other. Our kids play together and everyone waves hello. My husband and I both grew up in this neighborhood and our extended families live nearby. I work right in town, our kids go to the school right here a few blocks away and our church is close by. The problem is our new neighbors. This couple moved in next door (...) It's been nothing but trouble. When we first saw them we tried to wave hello and they would just ignore us. They are such bad neighbors. Last year they called the cops and made a noise complaint because of what they told the police was this outrageous party we were throwing. It was my daughter's 9th Birthday Party during the day time on a Sunday. They've yelled out their windows at my children playing outside to keep it down. They don't yell at the neighbors on the other side of them. They are clearly targeting my children. What's worse is my husband! When the kids came in and said what happened, he told the kids to just play inside of the house! He caves into them every time and I don't get it. If they complain about anything he apologizes even though we didn't do anything wrong. Then he'll tell the kids to be quiet or play inside or whatever. I did ask someone else for advice and their response was simply to move! We've been here longer and we know this neighborhood. Everyone here is a lot like us, we fit in perfectly, they're the ones that really don't fit in I'm sorry to say. Our whole lives are right here in this neighborhood. I'm not going to move. Veronica do you some advice for us? (...)
Yellow House Mom
Thanks for writing. There's lots of tells and insights between the lines of what you've shared. I do want to point out that I left out two areas of your email where you discussed your neighbors a little too personally. I didn't think it was appropriate to post that information online so I left it out but I believe the sentiment of your note is still very clear as it stands.
I don't think this situation is as black and white as you've seen it to be. The points you've made have validity, but I feel like you're not giving me the whole picture. If you waved hello, they should have waved back. But what preceded the waving? A daytime child's party is hardly a reason for a sane person to call the police and complain about noise. But what have you left out? What exactly was going on that they felt they needed to involve the police? What lead up to that moment?
I grew up in Brooklyn where all the kids played outside. I know what that's like, and I love to hear that your kids have the opportunity to do that too. But there is another side to kids playing outside. As an adult and homeowner I've been disturbed on more than one occasion by the kids all the way up the street screaming outside. There are two children that live right next door to us who play in a driveway that runs beside our bedroom window, and we hardly ever even hear them, so it's especially alarming when we can hear children all the way up the block screaming like banshees.
Sometimes it's not just the fact that kids are outside playing. Sometimes it's a little more involved that. Sometimes it's about how they are playing or what they are doing, or what kind of noise they are making. I can't know what noises your kids were making that may have been particularly upsetting to your neighbor. I'm just saying that maybe it's not as cut and dry as you're relaying. Maybe it's not that these neighbors are targeting your kids' noise for no reason, or that the neighbors are completely intolerant of all normal kid-play sounds. Maybe there is a specific element here that stands out.
See, the fact that your husband does not stand up to these neighbors at all is a major tell. You said he's from the neighborhood too. He grew up there and knows what's acceptable, yet he's not disagreeing with the neighbors for complaining. That's really very significant.
You said they are awful neighbors but the only things you have listed are very specific regarding complaints about your children's noise. Being a good or bad neighbor involves lots of things, from lawn care and removing garbage, to noise, smells, fires, dangerous activities like target shooting, and more. I think if you had more issues with these people you would have offered them here to solidify your bad neighbor claim. I think the only thing that has made these people "bad" neighbors to you, is the way they react to the noise of your children.
Just like I will not lump the 2 well-behaved children that live next door to me in with the noise crew from up the block, the neighborhood kids may be different from your kids. Now I am sure that is completely not what you wanted to hear, but try to read the rest of this article. And then share it with your husband. And then, discuss.
Since the only complaint you have at all regarding your neighbors is that they complain about the noise your kids make, I think we can reel this one in.
And I think on some level you know I'm on to something here. You've kind of set this up. The other tells in your letter are in the way you're addressing your neighbors as being outsiders. You've made this an us against them thing and there's a reason for that. There's an old saying: Me Thinks thou Dust Protest Too Much. And, me thinks that applies to thou.
You embrace the concept of neighborhood, you are happy about having your whole world in one neighborhood where your kids go to school, where your extended families live, where you have spent your whole life and where your church is. Yet you have made it very clear that these people are outsiders. You referred to them as your new neighbors but reference something that happened a year ago. You site a couple of times that you've got seniority in the hood. You even state that you're like everyone, you fit in, and they don't.
Maybe on some level you know they had some valid complaints and that you've handled them wrong. Or maybe you don't even care: you're the mama lion and those are your cubs and it doesn't matter if they are right or wrong, you'll defend them 'til death. Or maybe you really don't know exactly what the specific issue is, but you're aware that your husband's opposite stand to yours is a clear sign that there's more going on than you've realized.
You don't have to move. You don't have to fight with your husband. There's a two part fix here, and it's within your reach.
The first thing you need to do is to be more objective about your particular kids' noise level. What kinds of games are they playing. What does it sound like to non-mama-lion ears. Talk to your husband about this. Don't go right on the defensive. Listen, and see if you can understand what your kids are like to a stranger. Please know that it doesn't mean your kids are rotten or anything. They may be creative, uninhibited, expressive. Who knows? Not I. That's not the question though, the question is who wants to live next door to these expressive children? Hey, Placido Domingo is an extremely talented opera singer. I don't want to live next door to him, either.
Once you feel like you can be a little bit objective, and a little bit appreciative of what your neighbor's have dealt with, you're ready for step two. And step two is to do something.
Go over to your neighbor's house. Bring a peace offering: a plant, a cake, whatever. And when they answer the door, the first thing you should say is, "I'm sorry." That will get your foot in the door no matter what.
Say, your sorry you hadn't tried to work things out before. Say you're sorry that things got off to the wrong foot. You do not have to say you're sorry over something for which you don't feel sorry. But you do have to make the effort to show them that you feel bad about what's happened, that you're taking some ownership and initiative and that you want to work with them toward having a better future.
Good people tend to want peace. They don't really want to be engaged in battle, they'd rather drop old issues and begin anew.
Once you've offered the olive branch follow it up immediately with an invitation. You've made it a point to express how they do not belong. If they are at a BBQ you're having, the odds of them calling the police to complain go down significantly. Plus this will give them a chance to get to know your kids a little bit: getting to know the minds behind the noise so to speak. If they know your kids a little bit, they may be more tolerant of indiscretions or issues, should any arise.
Also, make an effort to ask them about their lives. For example, if one or both of them works nights, or if one of them is ill, that would explain an intolerance they've had to certain levels of noise during the day.
Holding a grudge and being angry at these people hasn't gotten you anywhere. And it will be very exhausting for you to continue like this.
It's hard to stay angry. It's much easier to just be nice.
If a first effort is dismissed, try again. Leave a note. Send your husband over. Think of this like any other significant relationship in your life. They may be your next door neighbors for the next 20 to 40 years. You may have to deal with them every single day for decades. It would be well worth your while to fix this situation. Good luck.