Dear Abby: Elderly neighbor offers endless, unsolicited landscaping advice

DEAR ABBY: A year ago my husband and I bought our first house together. We love it and look forward to improving the house and property.

One of our neighbors is an elderly woman who previously assumed that part of our property was hers. Without doing a survey, she planted several trees on our land and they grew to block our view. They also put up an illegal fence that leads into our property. We have since pruned and / or removed some trees.

This neighbor keeps us involved in lengthy “discussions” in which she admonishes us not to have consulted her before making changes to our landscape. We showed her the property maps and she understands the boundaries. Every time she sees one of us outdoors, she chastises us, offers endless unsolicited “advice” and insists that we include her in all decisions about our garden. We are now actively avoiding them.

We’d rather be left alone and that our interactions are friendly, infrequent, and brief. How do we get them to withdraw? – Stressed out in San Francisco

Dear Sir or Madam, You seem like a nice young couple, but you may not be able to be nice with this neighbor who has been seriously trying to usurp your property. If she sees you outside, be polite but “busy”. Tell her that you are very busy and that you don’t have time to talk.

If she continues to interfere in decisions about your garden, make it clear that they are yours alone. If she still doesn’t get the message afterward, discuss with your lawyer whether it is appropriate to send a letter on their letterhead to keep the harassment off.

PS It is VERY important that your fence is removed from your property if you have not already done so. Your lawyer can explain why.

DEAR ABBY: I started dating a man three months ago. He is a great guy and very caring. When he recently briefed me on the trauma he received from his family during his childhood, I encouraged him to seek therapy that he did.

He started acting strangely a month ago. He was tired all the time and wouldn’t really interact with me. He comes over but only to sleep and stops texting me so often. He said he was severely depressed and that he thought his therapy was doing more harm than good.

I kept pouring love, care, attention and food for this guy without getting anything in return. I don’t want to be another woman to leave him, but I feel like I set myself on fire all the time to keep this guy warm. He’s not the person I started talking to a few months ago anymore. Would it be wrong for me to cut my losses and leave? – DOUBT AND GUILTY

LOVE DOUBT: Have other women left him because of his emotional problems? Your male friend is showing signs of severe depression. Tell him that you are concerned about his mental state. While you are at it, suggest that they consult another therapist as they don’t seem to be helping and you too fear that the advice could make them worse.

You did the right thing in suggesting that this man get help. You have only known him for a short time, so you should not take responsibility for his sanity. He doesn’t seem able to have a romance at this point and that may not change for a long time. I don’t recommend ending the friendship abruptly, but it’s time to step back. You can’t fix what’s wrong with him. Only he can do this with the help of someone who is qualified.

Dear Abby was written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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