Originally Published: July 17, 2018 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: I have a problem with my neighbor. I don’t know whether it’s her or me. She is a great neighbor, has become a friend, is always helpful and is kindhearted. But the thing is that she seems too controlling. She pressures me to do things with her. Sometimes it works out well and I’m glad she pressured me to do an activity that I found out later I enjoyed. However, when my husband and I do join in, we find that we are expected to spend far too much time socializing — for example, when we go on camping trips. Other times, we are forced to abide by her schedule, participate in tightly controlled potlucks and shop for and take specific gifts to holiday gatherings.
When I speak up, it seems she does not hear me — as if she only hears what she wants to hear. I’ve told her several times I do not want to join her and her family members in Las Vegas for a specific convention. I don’t tell her my specific reasons for not wanting to participate, because I might hurt her feelings. I simply say, “Thank you, but I’m not interested.” When she finally does hear me, she conveys bitter disappointment with her facial expression or voice. What should I do? — Needing to Be Heard
Dear Needing to Be Heard: Her facial expressions and voice are mechanisms she is using to make you feel guilty. It sounds as if it’s working. Caring about another’s feelings is a good thing, of course, but not at the expense of your family’s happiness. You might try to go on the offensive rather than play defense. Have fun with your friend, but only on your terms. If she insists on guilting you, better to cut ties.
Dear Annie: I have a problem I can’t solve. My husband works in a small auto repair shop. He is one of two mechanics. Obviously, because there are only two of them, they have to alternate vacations. We have school-aged children, and the other worker’s children are preschool-aged. Every year, the other guy gets the manager to put up the vacation calendar when my husband is not there and takes all the school breaks. My husband has the highest seniority in our state. Yet the manager lets the other guy take all the vacations first. We have not had a family vacation in almost two years because of this. The crowning glory is that this guy signs up for all these vacations and then, at the last moment, decides not to take them. Usually, he decides the week before or just shows up at work. By then, it’s too late for us to make travel plans.
I’m so frustrated because my husband doesn’t want to make “a big deal” out of it. He is close to retirement and doesn’t want to make waves. His boss is too lazy to care. I’m so angry that I want to march down to his shop and tell both the guy and the manager what I think of them, which probably wouldn’t be allowed in your column. There has to be some sort of law that prohibits this. Any ideas? I’m tired of seeing my children’s disappointed faces. — Frustrated and Angry
Dear Frustrated and Angry: Simmer down, little teapot. Before you blow your lid on your husband’s partner, you might want to have a conversation with your husband about being a little more proactive with his vacation requests. It sounds as if your husband’s partner takes the initiative to get to his boss first, and it’s time for your husband to beat him to the schedule. Try planning a vacation way in advance so he can get the time off approved.
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