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My Friend Makes Me Feel Uncomfortable
If a friendship makes you feel uncomfortable, pay attention to your instincts.
I’m feeling very conflicted about a friendship I have with a neighbor whom I met one day when I was playing outside with my children.
She moved here with her husband. They are childless but would love to have children. They have no family here but do have some friends. She doesn’t work.
I immediately became friendly with her because I knew she was here from another country and looking for people to connect with. I had previously made friends with other people in the same situation.
At first, I’d invite her to come to the park with my children and me or invite her over to my house. She also invited us to her house. Things were fine for a while until I started to feel like she was getting too close with my children. She would hug, kiss, and tickle them to the extent that I started to feel very uncomfortable.
We keep in touch via email, and she frequently closes the email with, “Love you and your kids.” I started to back away, but with much guilt, because I didn’t think she meant any harm and I know she loves children. But I felt it was just too much too soon for my comfort level.
The problem is, since setting boundaries with her, I feel extremely guilty about it and find myself frequently feeling obligated to keep in contact with her and invite her over. She still contacts me and wants to meet me when I have free time.
I don’t want to hurt her feelings or make her feel rejected, especially because she is from a foreign country and doesn’t have family or many friends here.
Thank you! Maggie
It can be so hard to deal with situations like these, and your confusion is understandable.
What could be making it more difficult to figure out is that your neighbor is from another country. Is it possible that there are cultural differences between you in terms of what you both deem as appropriate physical contact between children and unrelated adults? Or maybe she is simply overzealous around children.
Whatever the reason, your first responsibility must be to your family, and you need to trust your intuition. If there was anything that made you feel uncomfortable about her contact with your children, it’s a good idea to pay attention to those instincts.
Depending on your child's age, you may also want to initiate a generic discussion about inappropriate touching.
It sounds like you’ve already backed off to an email-only relationship. In retrospect, if you wanted to maintain a friendship, you might have explicitly told your neighbor you were uncomfortable with her physical contact with your children.
Since you have decided that this neighborly relationship is more of a burden than a true friendship—and you don’t want to hurt her feelings—you can let her know that your life is busy right now with your kids and other family responsibilities.
If you want to keep it more comfortable and still want to be neighborly, you can ask her to meet occasionally for a cup of coffee at times when the kids are in school or being taken care of by your husband.
Hope this helps.
Irene & Sheryl
If a friendship makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to step back and trust your intuition.