Dear Abby: My family and I bought a house in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood three years ago. What we didn’t know before moving in was that our next-door neighbor sometimes smokes cigarettes.
It rains eight months out of the year here, and we usually keep our windows closed, so it isn’t an issue. But during the summer, we like to sleep with the windows open. When our neighbor steps outside for a cigarette, the smoke drifts into our bedroom.
Our homes are separated by small yards, so at first, I thought they didn’t realize that the smoke was bothering us. Eventually, I began to get upset. When I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I can smell it. I have made a point of loudly slamming the windows shut, hoping it would make them stop. There is no way they don’t hear the noise, but it doesn’t stop them.
We don’t want to have to keep our windows closed because it is not an everyday occurrence. It happens once a week or so, and always late at night or early in the morning. I don’t know if this is how they handle insomnia or what the deal is. Why do they still smoke in this day and age?
There’s no landlord to complain to because they own their home. After all these years, we have never introduced ourselves to each other, and I don’t believe they care to know us any more than we care to get to know them. Because of this, confronting them is not an option. What do we do? – Hates the Smoke in Oregon
Dear Hates: Your letter illustrates the disadvantages of isolationism. Had you made a point of introducing yourself when you (or they) moved in, you probably wouldn’t have needed to write to me now.
Slamming your window shut is not a friendly or efficient way to communicate because these people are not mind readers. Going next door, introducing yourself, politely explaining that there’s a problem and asking if they could smoke on the other side of their house, away from your bedroom window, would be better. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, write a letter – keeping the communication civil – and tell them in simple language that you would appreciate their cooperation in solving this problem.
Dear Abby: I’ve been with the same man for 22 years, married for 16. We live in a small town. During the last four or five years, everything has become about politics for my husband. I have absolutely no interest in hearing about what happens politically in big cities – or anywhere, for that matter. How can I get him to stop going on and on about what he reads or hears? So far, I haven’t been successful, and we end up arguing. Must I take an interest in it for his sake? Do you see any room for a compromise? – Don’t Show Me in Missouri
Dear Don’t: To some degree, you have to allow your husband to vent. Because we are in an important election year, there is no escaping the subject. If you listen, you may learn something you didn’t know that could be relevant to you. Limit the amount of time you spend listening, but I don’t recommend cutting him off. I’m willing to bet that you sometimes bring up subjects that may be less than fascinating for him, too. Tolerance and a willingness to compromise are two of the ingredients in a healthy marriage.