Dear Abby: Neighbor keeps pestering us about how we landscape our property

After learning she planted trees and built a fence on land that wasn’t hers, the woman insists at every opportunity that she should be consulted before any changes.

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DEAR ABBY: A year ago, my husband and I bought our first home together. We love it and are excited to improve the house and the property.

One of our neighbors is an elderly woman who had previously assumed that part of our property belonged to her. Without conducting a survey, she planted several trees on what is, in fact, our land, and they have grown to block our views. She also erected an unpermitted fence that crosses onto our property. We have since pruned and/or removed a few of the trees.

This neighbor constantly engages us in protracted “discussions” in which she admonishes us for not having consulted her before making changes to our landscape. We have shown her the property maps, and she is coming to understand the boundaries. Still, every time she sees one of us outdoors, she chastises us, offers endless unsolicited “advice” and insists we include her in all decision-making regarding our yard. We now actively avoid her.

We would love nothing more than to be left in peace and for our interactions to be friendly, infrequent and brief. How do we get her to back off? — STRESSED IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR STRESSED: You seem to be a nice young couple, but it may not be possible to make nice with this neighbor who made a serious attempt to appropriate your property. When she sees you outside, be polite but “busy.” Tell her you have a lot to do and don’t have time to talk.

If she continues to inject herself into decisions regarding your yard, make clear that they are yours alone to make. After that, if she still doesn’t get the message, discuss with your lawyer whether sending her a letter on his/her letterhead would be appropriate to discourage the harassment.

P.S. It is VERY important to get her fence removed from your property if it hasn’t already been done. Your lawyer can explain why.

DEAR ABBY: I started dating a man three months ago. He’s a great guy and very caring. When he opened up to me recently about the trauma he received from his family while growing up, I encouraged him to seek therapy, which he has been doing.

A month ago, he began acting strangely. He was tired all the time and wouldn’t really interact with me. He comes over but only to sleep and stopped texting me as often. He said he is severely depressed, and he thinks his therapy is doing more harm than good.

I have been pouring love, care, attention and food into this guy nonstop without getting anything back. I don’t want to be yet another woman who leaves him, but I feel like I’m constantly setting myself on fire to keep this guy warm. He’s no longer the person I started talking to a few months ago. Would it be wrong for me to cut my losses and leave? — DOUBTING AND GUILTY

DEAR DOUBTING: Have other women left him because of his emotional problems? Your male friend is exhibiting signs of severe depression. Tell him that you are concerned about his mental state. While you’re at it, suggest he consult another therapist, because this one doesn’t seem to be helping, and you too are afraid the counseling may be making him worse.

You did the right thing when you suggested this man get help. You have only known him a short time, which is why you should not assume responsibility for his mental health. He appears to be in no position for a romance at this point, and this may not change for a long time. I do not recommend abruptly ending the friendship, but it is time to step back. You cannot fix what’s going on with him. Only he can do that with help from someone who is qualified.

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

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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