Hippo Manchester
September 22, 2005

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Dear Sherry,

We have neighbors who canít mind their own business. My girlfriend and I think they are very nice, but we donít want to hang out with them. We have our own friends. They are constantly coming over to chat when we are working in the yard or sitting on the porch. These are the kind of folks who never leave. Also, they have children and we donít. This, for me, is key. I donít hate kids, but I donít want them around my house and yard all the time. How do I remain friendly with them but not Ö friends?

- Butch

Dear Butch,

Iíll tell you what you donít want. You donít want a bad neighbor. And as long as you are friendly, youíll do well. I know itís a pain, and let me tell you, Iíve had nosy neighbors before. But itís a small price to pay Ö to say hello, to chat while doing lawn work, to chit-chat about the weather. Youíll have someone you know and have a friendly relationship with next door. You are under no obligation to invite them over or to care for their kids. But you do want someone you can count on to give you a jumpstart if your battery dies on a cold winter morning. Ultimately, good boundaries make for good relationships. Be sure to say hi and be friendly, but start being clear about your privacy. If they come over for a visit, say, ďYou know what? itís great to see you but my gal and I are having a private talk, would you mind excusing us?Ē They wonít need to hear that very often before they know enough to stay away.

And whatever you do, donít give them a key to your house.

Sherry Hughes welcomes letters from readers. Contact her via e-mail at sah103@hotmail.com.