DEAR ABBY: My family and I bought a house in a nice, quiet and safe neighborhood three years ago. What we didn’t know until we moved in was that our next door neighbor sometimes smokes cigarettes.
It rains eight months a year here, and we usually keep our windows closed, so that’s no problem. But during the summer we like to sleep with the windows open. When our neighbor goes out to smoke a cigarette, the smoke seeps into our room.
Our houses are separated by small courtyards, so at first I thought they didn’t realize the smoke was bothering us. Finally, I started to get angry. When I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I can smell it. I insisted on slamming the windows loudly, hoping that would make them stop. There’s no way they can’t hear the noise, but it doesn’t stop them.
We don’t want to have to keep our windows closed because it’s not a daily occurrence. This happens about once a week, and always late at night or early in the morning. I don’t know if this is how they deal with insomnia or what the problem is. Why do they still smoke today?
There is no owner to complain to because they own their home. After all these years, we’ve never introduced ourselves to each other, and I don’t think they care more about knowing us than we want to get to know them. For this reason, facing them is not an option. What are we doing? – HATE SMOKE IN OREGON
DEAR HATES: Your letter illustrates the downsides of isolationism. If you had wanted to introduce yourself when you (or them) moved in, you probably wouldn’t have needed to write to me now.
Closing the window is not a friendly or efficient way to communicate, as these people are not mind readers. Going next door, introducing yourself, politely explaining that there is a problem, and asking if they can smoke on the other side of the house, away from your bedroom window, would be better. If you can’t bring yourself to do so, write a letter – keeping the communication civil – and tell them in plain language that you would appreciate their cooperation in resolving this issue.
DEAR ABBY: I have been with the same man for 22 years, married for 16 years. We live in a small town. For four or five years, everything has become political for my husband. I have absolutely no interest in hearing what is happening politically in big cities – or anywhere, for that matter. How can I get him to stop talking all the time about what he reads or hears? So far, I haven’t been successful, and we end up arguing. Should I be interested in him? Do you see a place for compromise? – DO NOT SHOW ME IN MISSOURI
DEAR, DON’T: To some extent, you have to allow your husband to let off steam. Because we are in an important election year, there is no escaping the subject. If you listen, you might learn something that you didn’t know that might be of interest to you. Limit the time you spend listening, but I don’t recommend interrupting it. I bet you sometimes bring up topics that may be less than fascinating to him as well. Tolerance and the willingness to compromise are two of the ingredients of a healthy marriage.
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 www.DearAbby.com or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.