Boundary Girl

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

The house next door has been a rental for the 30 years I have lived
here. Many of the tenants have been fine. Some have been horrid,
where horrid means noisy and messy, and with barking dogs. One had
a brother just out of prison who sold drugs and ran his car on the lawn
blaring nasty rap music. So I care a lot about who lives there. The
current owner has made good choices from my point of view but they
all went badly for her, and entailed a lot of expensive repairs. She is
getting older and even senile and I fear she may sell to a property
management company with whom I have no dialogue. Now a friend
might want to rent it after the current tenant moves out and the latest
set of repairs are done. In my ideal world the next tenant would be a
quiet graduate student or writer who is self-sufficient, as opposed to
someone with whom I will have to navigate my friendship. But the
worst so far outweighs that problem, so I am mostly looking or advice
on good fences and neighbors.

Boundary Girl

Dear Boundary Girl:

Any time one has to recalibrate a relationship, whether it is at the end
of a romantic dyad, when a friend gets into a new romance and you
lose access or don’t like his/her partner, when you divorce but want to
remain friends with your in-laws, etc it’s a good time to remember that
it’s okay to have a relationship conversation even if you are not trying
to forestall a breakup –- which is when most folks re-examine their
patterns of communicating and relating.

The time to do so is well before your friend moves in next door,
preferably before she decides. Go out for lunch and talk candidly about
the benefits, and dangers, of living so closely. If you normally see one
another weekly, or monthly, be clear if you want to keep that the
same or not. Do you want a friendly wave and hello, as you would with
a stranger, or do you want your friend to be able to show up any time
knocking on your door? Do you want her to have key/code access or
only when you invite her? If you want to use one another for pet or
house care during vacations or quick getaways, are those roles clear
and equitable. Will you have any concerns about being social with her
friends? That’s a quick laundry list. Every friendship will have its own
history and nuance. But without the talk, you could lose the friendship,
or watch it decay. Even with boundaries that seem clear, assume they
will change and erode. But better to plan for problems than trip over