Due to the volume of responses I receive, I am unable to...um, not really. I'm sure I'll have more than enough time to mull over your question.
Is there a cure for toxic neighbors?
I am having a terrible time dealing with a "friend" of mine who has
made it painfully clear that she is extremely envious of me and just
seething with bitter resentment. I know this by her mean-spirited comments,
screwed-up facial expressions and tone of voice. I have known this woman
for 4 years and our children are great friends. At first I thought she was
my friend and I would try to ignore the (now) obvious hostility she felt, as
I couldn't believe a friend could really mean to be so cruel, but after
so much of it, I can no longer try to excuse her behavior.
A big problem is that she attacks me in such sneaky ways that it is
hard to call her on it. Here are some examples of what she says to me and
it's almost always in front of a group of mutual friends:
"You have your a/c on? (like I'm very strange) Doesn't your house stay
cool without it? Mine does." (She doesn't have a/c.) "Look how
she's(me) sweating, it's not THAT hot, you need to turn off that a/c so you
can deal with a little heat." "She MAKES her POOR CHILDREN walk ALL THE
WAY HOME in this heat while she sits in her a/c house" "Some of us
pick up our children from school" and many more similar digs, all with a
smile on her face, like it is funny to imply I am a bad mother, or how
stange I am. She even asked my son, who was carrying a small box home one
day: "Do you have to walk all the way home carrying that?", like she
felt so sorry for him. We live very close to the school, where many
children walk, this woman lives too far away to even have this option. I
have never heard her make similar comments to anyone else with a/c or who
also lives close to the school and lets their kids walk, too.
She is also very envious of the time my husband spends with me and our
children, and will question him why he's not at work when he has arranged
his schedule to be with his family for something, to somehow make him
defend a good thing like putting his family first, and defend why he's not
at work instead. Her husband rarely spends any time with her and their
children. My husband enjoys spending time and playing with our kids and
their friends, and has even entertained all the kids at her child's birthday
party. Instead of praising him, she found ways of poking fun at him, and
never so much as a thank you from her. When she heard my kids excited
about the playhouse we just had built for them, she said "You mean you had
a handyman build it, why didn't your husband build it?"
I work part-time, she does not. When I first got the job and was very
excited about it, she tried her darndest to try to ruin it for me. When
that didn't work, she then asked me not to tell her husband or he will
want her to work too. In all honesty, I took a job for self-
fulfillment, since my husband makes good money, and to keep busy while the kids are
in school. She is constantly complaining about not having any money, the
house needing repairs, etc. This should inspire her to work. Apparently she compares herself to me in every way. She even
questions her kids about what my kids bring for lunch. Pretty scary.
I like to volunteer at the school whenever I can, but do not have
trouble saying no sometimes. She volunteers often, but does nothing but
complain about it, so I think it really angers her that I say yes when I
want, and no when I want. She will constantly make remarks in front of
others how she helped out for something that I didn't, and ask "Where were
you? SOME of us help out." She even pointed her finger at me from 3 rows
ahead at a school meeting, when volunteering was being discussed, like
I don't help out at all. Like before, I have never heard her make
similar comments to anyone else who doesn't volunteer for everything, and even
those who never volunteer.
At the local town pool, she would charge over to me, if I sat with a
book in another area, (and didn't sit near her and her clique) and loudly say how
"THEY all wonder why I sit all by myself" (implying I'm anti-social and
pathetic) and how "You CAN join us." Or, things like "I guess she thinks
she's better than we are" etc. If I did sit with them, I was subjected to the
endless complaints and gossip, in addition to her attacks and then having
her say things like "Look who's joining us today" or "Am I allowed to sit
with you, today?", making sure I felt as uncomfortable when sitting with
them as when I didn't. She would comment on my bathing suit and point out
how it is two-piece (I work out, she does not), say "look how tan she is,
she's gonna wrinkle like a prune." She even would ask "What kind of
mother puts their children in white?" if my kids were wearing a white
t-shirt. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. It got to the point
where I would drive further away to other lakes and waterparks just for some peace, which my kids enjoyed but they would also complain about
wanting to see all their friends at the town pool. It's a shame that I
have to choose between my children's happiness and my sanity.
She has even resorted to lying about her children, since she is also
envious of my children as well, it seems. My sons are very outgoing and
quite popular. Her boys are very nice and I am quite fond of them, but
they are rather shy and passive. One of my son's good friends moved away
recently and his name was brought up somehow, and she started saying how this
child was such good friends with her son and was at his house all the
time, etc. My son told me that they never even played together. This is
I recently had the bad timing of being at an intersection at the same
time as this woman and 2 other mutual friends. They smiled and waved. I
smiled and waved back. Later one of the other women in the car brought
this incident up in front of a large group of women at a school function and
asked if I saw them because they didn't see me wave. Of course, I did and
told her so and she still said how she didn't see me. Then Mrs. Nasty
said how I should wave more enthusiastically. She went on to tell me how
they were coming back from lunching together (I never asked) and how next
time they will invite me too. How kind of her. I have come to expect
this stuff from Mrs. Nasty, but not also from a woman I have been
friends with for years, who is now joining her.
My sister and husband have also noticed her obvious resentment of me. My
sis was shocked when after bringing my children to a swimming lesson
for me when I was sick, this woman could not even hide her rage over
this. She angrily questioned my sis about why I wasn't there and looked
quite disgusted that I had my sis available to help me out. She never
showed any empathy for the fact that I was ill. Her disgust became even
uglier when my sis told her how my kids would be visiting with their
grandparents for a few days. She actually walked away seething and could not
even hide it or even to pretend to be happy for my children.
Unfortunaely, she does not have this kind of family support and closeness. If my husband was with the kids, he would see similar behavior from her.
I could go on with so much more, believe it or not. My point is that
she is obviously in some sort of sick jealous torment and competition with
me. I am a very nice and humble person, and just want to live my life,
without having to hear her constant digs. I have in all honesty never done
anything to her, and never rubbed my blessings in her face. I have always
been very nice, and have just ignored her nonsense, figuring she would
grow tired if I didn't play along and take her "bait." If I occasionally
zinged her back, she would make it worse for me. And it was hard when no
one would say anything to her in my defense. But unfortunately, she
continues and it seems to be getting worse. It is quite hurtful as I have
done nothing to her, other than have a happier life, I guess. What is
even more frustrating and quite bizarre is that everyone seems to think
she is just great. No one ever says anything to her when she makes
these comments. In fact, people praise her and put her on some sort of
pedestal. I just don't get it. There are many other(thankfully) nice
people who do not feel the need to put others down, who do not get the
praise she does. I can't even talk to another friend with out her name
being brought up and how wonderful she is. Even among those whom she has
insulted. Lately, a friend whom I have known for years who recently became
friends with this woman who insults me, has been singing the nasty
woman's praises in front of me all the time and even told her son once when she
had to leave him that if he needs anything he has Mrs. "Nasty" there,
even when I'm right there too. (the same woman who said she didn't see
me wave) This friend couldn't make a class trip and knew that I would be
chaperoning as well as my insulting friend. She again told me how she
insisted with the teacher that her son be with Mrs. "Nasty" or she
wouldn't allow him to go. Of course my nasty friend was eating this up,
that my friend could be so rude to imply that I was not as good as the nasty one. It was very immature, insulting and hurtful and most uncalled for, as I am very nice to her and everyone's children.
I live in a very small town, where everyone knows everyone. Everyone
I am friends with is also friends with her too, so I have no one to
vent to. I am forced into being around her at school functions, scouts,
birthday parties, play dates, etc. There is no avoiding her, or even
talking with others instead of her, since everyone I know is also friends
with her. If I avoid her, I am left standing alone. This I am sure
would make her happy.
I also want to continue our children's friendship and not have a big
confrontation. She would just deny it and take pleasure in my telling her
how hurtful she is. She knows this already and I don't want to give her
that satisfaction. I want her to just know that I know how envious she is
of me and that she doesn't bother me and that I pity her instead. But I
don't want to come right out and say it. Any suggestions?
Sorry for such a long letter, but it is cathartic for me to just put it
all into words. Thank you so much for listening to me vent. I
appreciate any word of wisdom you might have.
Well, I can see why she doesn't like you, Ms. Mary McPerfectson! Hee. Just kidding.
At first when I read your letter, I thought, "No one could be that mean-spirited and..." but then two-fifths of a second later I realized, "Oh, wait, in America, people have the dosh-garned right to be spiteful and malicious. And often for no apparent reasons!" Well, not apparent to you, possibly even not apparent to her.
I'm going to take your words at face value, that you truly haven't done anything to insult or offend her, at least nothing that does not exist in the Land of Imaginary Slights (LIS). Unfortunately, the LIS is very crowded, indeed. Quite frankly, she is just a miserable bitch on wheels. Is it any wonder that her husband doesn't spend any time with her? I don't think so.
Having said that, I must note that you claimed she is "extremely envious of me and just
seething with bitter resentment", "she is also very envious of the time my husband spends with me and our
children", "she is also envious of my children as well", and that you "pity her." Yada, yada, yada. Well, you're coming off as a wee bit smug, and you're also making a lot of assumptions. Since you've made it clear to me that you feel superior to this woman, and that your children are better than hers, it's likely clear to her as well. You might want to turn that down a notch. I'm just saying.
She may very well be jealous of you. Plus, she sounds @*^&%! nuts. I don't think there is anything you could do or say to her that would make any difference. And sure, it's distressing and irritating, but you are wasting entirely too much energy fretting over her. You are reacting exactly how this woman wants you to react. You MUST IGNORE HER. And that goes for her friends on The Dark Side, too. (What's up with those sheep? I can't figure it out myself.) Be civil and pleasant, but don't invite her to your home. Even though you live in a small town, I am sure you can avoid her, if you really tried. I have never had any problems not talking to someone I didn't want to deal with. You can, too, and you don't have to isolate yourself, either. Life is too short for this b.s.
If she makes those annoying comments at the pool, smile and courteously say "Thank you, but I wouldn't be very good company right now." Don't get snippy, don't lose your temper, the key is to maintain an agreeable demeanor because that will make you look good and her look not so good. If she starts questioning your husband or your kids, (um, what business is it of hers, exactly, that compels your husband to defend himself?) just have everyone say the same thing: "Why do you want to know?" You don't owe her any explanations. None. If she starts complaining about having no money, offer to help her find a job. I am sure she won't take you up on it. If she starts complaining about anything else, say, "What are you going to do about it?" That always shuts people up in a hurry. If you feel yourself getting rattled, take a few deep breaths and remember that she is INSANE. You cannot engage reason with an insane person. I've tried, and believe me, you can't win.
I am sorry to report that there are some people in this world who are bitter, unpleasant human beings and there isn't anything anyone can do about it. There are some people who are never going to like you, no matter what you do or don't do.
The only person who can remove the bowling-ball sized chip from her shoulder is she. Please, for your own sake, don't let her get to you. I know that's easy for me to say. Don't tell her you know she's envious, etc. and that she doesn't bother you because she so obviously does bother you and it probably shows. As much as I hate to use trite expressions, it's true that the best revenge is living well, and it seems you've made a pretty good job of it. Don't let her take that away, because that's what she's trying to do.
Hugs and kisses,
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Disclaimer: This column is for entertainment purposes only. I am not a professional therapist or licensed anything for that matter. But that doesn't mean that I don't care.
I reserve the right to edit for grammar, brevity, content, etc. If you'd like to discuss something you've seen here, I invite you to share your experiences.
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