Do you have a good or bad relationship boundaries with your neighbor?

by Renee Lindstrom

The seasons here in Greater Victoria are changing and there may be stirring to get outside and begin yard projects.  I don’t know about you, but for me when I have sought out a house to create into a home, I have had a need for privacy. That has been an important value for me.  To have space to be alone to connect with myself in the comfort of my garden space.

I imagine we all have our next door neighbor stories that are cringe worthy. Here are three of mine that surprised and in some cases shocked me.  My reactions though over the years have changed as my awareness has grown.  In the first two experiences I was angry and even felt rage, however in the third  I can laugh and I do not have the same attachments as I once did.  This enables me to experience empathy for what these neighbors may be going through, however, it doesn’t mean that I will  give in to them.

#1 – Killing the next door neighbor in Northern B.C. Community

I think the most traumatic for me is buying a house only to find out that a past house owner was shot and killed by the neighbor resulting from years of disputes. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything I could do to enhance the experience of living there after this news and we  re-sold.  My regret was the realtor didn’t disclose this to us before buying this house. One persons need is a waste of an others energy.

Not only was the news disturbing, it was how we were told by the neighbor who lived in the house of the jailed murderer.  This neighbors way was power over us as he told to us in a taunting manner the day after we moved in!  I recognized  a pattern and as this neighbor was RCMP, I knew guns would be on the premises.

#2 – Bullying and Taunting South Oak Bay Neighbor 

Getting outside in my yard to clear overgrown ivy along our fence line one day the neighbor immediately comes by and simply tells me to leave the overgrown blackberries and ivy.  What he didn’t view  was the danger underneath the ivy for our two small kids.  On their side the property was clear to the property line, however, on our side we lost 8 feet due to overgrowth.  Eventually we installed a beautiful natural fence that they immediately covered.  It wasn’t until they sold a few years later we discovered they had an outdoor shower close to the property line that was hidden by our original overgrowth.

I imagine had they disclosed their need for privacy to us we could have worked something out. However, his approach was to strut up and down the property line and tell us what we could and couldn’t do.  Another approach he had; waiting until my partner left for work to come over.  When I would answer the door he would go ahead and enter my home and begin asking me to store his equipment and extra household items while walking through the house to show me that I had the room and space to do so.  His defense was that the people living there before supported his wishes and so should we.  We didn’t of course and they sold and moved!

#3 – Neighbors who can speak English until they can’t in Oaklands!

In this third one, I find my own reactions are not as extreme as they have been in the past and that I am more resilient.  One new aspect of my reaction is my sense of humor!   Rather that going into the right and wrong thoughts in my head as in the past, I am more aware of my needs and those of my neighbors.  I imagine these neighbors are not aware of their needs as in reaction their solution is to not speak English.  In discussion they respond in angry loud voices.  I have two requests of  them.  One request is to not enter onto my side of the fence without checking in with me first and  the second is  to fix the fence that is falling over into my yard. This angers them as I am holding them accountable for broken plants, lights and gardening features along that side of the fence when they try to trim the top of the hedge that is too high for them.  At one point the tree tops falling onto my side where six feet in length.  They didn’t check to see what was or who was on my side before topping it.  They also have appeared in the yard to inspect other parts of my garden without cause or reason without checking in first.

A year ago their fence fell onto  my driveway where I park, however I just happened to not park there that one night.  Luckily as my car would have been damaged.  A year later they haven’t fixed the remaining fence line!

In the pictures above this is their latest attempt at trimming the hedge, which I can only imagine was done as a result of anger.  However, they did not realize the consequences of their actions.  They will now have to pay for a fence panel to cover this open space.  Money that they have tried to save by not fixing the original fence and not professionally topping the hedge that is becoming dangerous. This would have riled me up in the past, however, I can only smile.  “It is a tragic expression,”as Marshall Rosenberg would say, “of unmet needs!”

How can you detach and not get so caught up in your emotions in your relationships with your neighbors?

Two ways that I have come to this place of calmer logic with less hostility are:

  • practicing a value based language of honesty and respect along with a practice of learning to listen to what’s really going on underneath the reactions


  • learning what the significance of placement on one’s property is in relationship to life and experiences in support to improving ones lifestyle  (for instance in example three above, I will turn this into lemonade!)

Transitioning from Language of Conflict into Language of Connection (based on Nonviolent Communication)

Recent Comment:  I love your cogent analysis of emotions = energy + story. So, emotions – story = energy freed. Yeh! thx, pat zzz
Recent Comment: Thanks very much for your wonderful classes and the way you teach us. I really appreciate that you have given the class a bit of extra time at the end to allow everyone to have their turn. I look forward to truly learning this technique of communicating and experiencing richer relations with people. R
Lifescapes (Landscapes)


Learn more about Nonviolent Communication by author Dr. Marshall Rosenberg

Renee Lindstrom, GCFP,
Jaw Release Program since 2007, Authored  Achieving your Goals  31 Day Program, Sleep Sweet Sleep, Kid’s Peace Bus Calendar of Values  Educational Program & InTouch with Your Values Self-Actualization Program.  Feldenkrais® Practitioner since 2007, Communication & Empathy Coach since 2004, Art of Placement  since 2000, Labyrinths of Victoria since 2012, #yyj Peace Week Grassroots Calendar Founder, Vice-Chair of World Children


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s