Passive Aggressive Diaries

Understanding passive aggressive behavior in families, schools, and workplaces

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Do Good Fences Really Make Good Neighbors?

Good fences make good neighbors." So says Robert Frost in his famous poem, The Mending Wall. Wonder if that's true. Wonder if my neighbor is building a fence. Or a wall. It's truly hard to tell what the man is thinking. After 9 years of living back to back, we really can't figure him out. All we know is that when we're both in the yards or passing by in cars, he studiously puts his head down to avert eye contact, and it has been that way ever since we moved in.

Well, to be accurate, we have spoken a few times. When we first moved to the neighborhood, he did knock on our door to say "This is my property line." He was very meticulous in pointing out which of the leaves we just inherited from the former owners tended to fall on his L-shaped yard and how, exactly, we needed to keep any of our plants out of his mulch.

"O-K," we thought. Hope there are some friendly neighbors around here...

Turns out, there have been very friendly neighbors, including ones who informed us that the grumpy, unwelcoming neighbor had an ongoing feud with the previous owner's teenage son. Over rocks. Yep. Apparently, the neighbor accused the teenager of taking rocks from his garden. (In this part of Pennslyvania, if you dig 1 inch into the ground, you hit rocks, so there need be no fighting over the plentiful supply!)

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It seems our neighbor is quite able to hold a grudge, as he's taken that anger over the rocks out on us time and time again. Since the property-line tours in the first 3 months, he's never spoken to us directly, but has let us know in all kinds of passive aggressive ways that he is harboring hostility. Let me recount just a few for you:

1. He "accidentally" cut our dog's electric fence wire (3 times!).

2. Last Fall, he posted an opposing political sign within inches of ours (ours was really just on display to support a fellow neighbor who was running for office)

3. We have a walnut tree on our property (planted long before we lived here!)whose few wayward branches occasionally drop a few nuts on his side of the lawn. He likes to throw them into our yard. "Throw" would be kind. Perhaps "hurl" would be more accurate. Mind you, I have young children.

The latest is his extreme trimming of the hedges that separate our properties and piling up of huge piles of debris, right at the dividing line. Because of the L-shape of his property, it looks like we are the massive twig/brush/rotton leaf accumulators. I want to put a sign up that indicates to our neighbors that the dump pile belongs to him. But that would be passive aggressive.

My husband is hopeful that the new activity around our property line indicates that Hostile Harry is planning to build a wall. I'm hoping for a fence. Afterall, good fences are supposed to make good neighbors.

 

Do you have any stories of passive aggressive neighbors?  Have you tried confronting them?  Please share your encounters here!

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed.

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