I had and encounter with a neighbor that's weirding me out
April 16, 2016 10:36 AM   Subscribe

My neighbor got drunk on my couch the other day, and I endured six hours of strangeness. Now I don't know what to think or how to act.

So, I ran into my neighbor about four days ago and asked how they were doing. They informed me that their mom had passed. Since they've been telling me their mom's been on her deathbed for months now, I took this to expected, but still sad news. My neighbor asked me for a favor, which was to drive them to the nearby grocery store, which I did. No big deal, right?

Well, that's where the strangeness begins. We sat in my car for a half an hour while my neighbor held my hand and told me how the world was against them. How they didn't want to go to their home state despite everyone telling them it was the right thing to do. I made all of the right noises and keep trying to take my hand back, but they seemed to need to hold it. They also told me the "dirt" on certain people in the parking lot. Which of course, made me fell all kinds of exposed since I was sitting in a car with this person, holding their hand... I'm married, and so are they, and not to each other. It was... embarrassing. But they were grieving so I let it pass... for a while, but after a while, the closed car got to me and I just... got out. I couldn't take it anymore. They seemed shocked and upset by this, but after all, weren't we there to shop?

Keep in mind that this is a neighbor I've only met a few times -- five I think. We've lived here about a year. This is one of two neighbors in our relatively rural neighborhood.

So anyway, I eventually drove us home and said my goodbyes. Well, lo and behold, my neighbor turns up on my doorstep, wine glass in hand, and proceeds to get blitzed on my couch (in their defense, I did say they could come back if they needed a shoulder to cry on, but I didn't think they would because they're always saying they're going to do stuff but never follow through.)

Long story short, during the next five or six hours, this person tried to forcibly kiss me not once, but twice. Kept grabbing me and pulling me places I didn't want to go, and they told me so many things (ie, their spouse is mean to them, their spouse is having an affair, stuff about the neighbors, they have this that and the other thing "wrong" with them...) I just didn't know what to believe. It turns out that their mom wasn't even dead but still (again?) on her deathbed. Honestly, I just wanted them to go home! But couldn't think of a way to get them out of my house without forcibly pushing them out of the door. And the very weird part is that Mr. Patheral was in the very next room happily watching television without a clue as to what was going on. Eventually, they'd manhandled me so much that I could barely move -- I have a bad back, it doesn't take being pulled about well -- and I told them they had to go home, and my spouse would gladly walk them because it was getting dark and they were blitzed. Basically, I told them they needed to go. Now. Luckily, they went.

So anyway, don't know what to do or how to act around this neighbor anymore. I can't trust a thing they say (not that I did to begin with, but even moreso now) and I certainly don't want them in my house anymore. But they are only one of two neighbors so "getting along" with them is kind of crucial. The strangest part of the whole thing, it that they texted me the very next morning to "thank" me. Thank me? for what??? Maybe they don't remember anything. I don't know.

As an aside, this person's spouse has been nothing but helpful to us since we've move here. They've helped with the yard, they've chipped in when we put up a new (shared) mailbox. They've been affable and friendly. Up until four days ago, the drunk neighbor and I have been on polite and friendly terms. We've chit-chatted and taken a walk or two down our respective driveways together -- it's where our mailboxes are. I totally don't want to get in a feud with my neighbors. But it's kind of hard to brush off what basically boils down to assault.

The drunk neighbor and I are both female, if that makes any difference.

That aside. What do I do??? It's been four days and I'm still kind of freaked out about it all. Mostly, I want to put it down to "She was drunk, let it go." But honestly, she did some strange things and said a lot of weird shit. It's hard to let all of that go.
posted by patheral to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If getting drunk makes her lie to you, attempt to sexually assault you, and make you feel uncomfortable in your own home, that's not something to let go. Are you friendly enough with her spouse to tell them you're worried about her drinking/mental health? Dealing with a dying parent is hard but it's not okay to cope by making others feel endangered, and she may need support she's not getting because her spouse just doesn't know how bad it is (or is trying to ignore how bad it is). This is worth taking seriously.
posted by babelfish at 10:43 AM on April 16, 2016 [15 favorites]

Boundaries now! Boundaries earlier would have been helpful, but now is what you have to deal with. Next time she shows up with a wine glass and wants to come in, sorry you're busy. No offers of let's do it another time. Be polite, but don't make offers of your time or help. Don't accept offers of help for projects. Make immediate excuses to get the hell away when you find yourself at the mailbox at the same time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

People all over live very happy lives not being friends with their neighbors.
posted by cecic at 11:00 AM on April 16, 2016 [52 favorites]

- Yes this was assault.

- What does your husband say now? Does he know you were assaulted?

- Neighbor is dangerous and mentally ill. Stay away from them.

You have 3 choices, these are: Move, Ignore, or Confront.

I think you should talk to your spouse about moving. This is the weird type of neighbor that gets drunk and slashes your car tires or pees on your garden. This person is super duper unstable. Wow.

In the short term you should ignore this person, remain distant + polite. Stay vigilant, stay safe.

I agree you needed to cut the visit short much much sooner, but this is what you have learned via experience.
posted by jbenben at 11:00 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Q "What are you calling your husband for???"

A. "Because you are drunk and your behaviour is making me uncomfortable. I've pushed you away X time now. I think it is time for you to go home for the sake of our neighbourly relationship."

Seriously, it does sound like this person is troubled beyond the immediate grief of their family situation, and their behaviour was way out of line. Be cool and polite the next time you see them, and definitely do not let them back into your home. Just don't answer the door when she knocks, be busy if she asks you to do anything. If she brings anything up, respond along the lines of "look, I am sympathetic to what you're going through but it's not a license to behave the way you did. Your behaviour made me very uncomfortable about spending time with you. I hope we will be able to maintain a cordial relationship."

I'd also suggest thinking about whether this kind of reaction to this assault--because that's what it was-- was typical for you, and if so, why you have difficulty maintaining boundaries for your own safety. There's no way that situation should have gone on for six hours. If you "make nice" with her after this, she will take it as encouragement to do something like that again, and probably escalate.
posted by rpfields at 11:15 AM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

First, I am uncomfortable with the Monday Morning QBing that's going on as to what the OP should or shouldn't have done to stop a person from assaulting her. Second, I believe the OPs question is about what she should do now, not what she should have done then.

Sorry, I know I am not supposed to debate with other commenters in ask me threads, but there it is.

OP, to respond to your question:

If this person shows up again or tries to interact with you again, you can tell her that you are not interested in being friends and that you are happily married. I know that seems harsh because this person is going through something and they are your neighbor, but my concern is if you keep putting their comfort ahead of your own, this person will keep taking advantage of you. Just keep thinking *my comfort is the most important thing.* That might seem selfish right now, but I think it is a good thing in this situation.

Also, only you can gauge how your husband will react to the news of your neighbor assaulting you. If you think he won't be 100% supportive of you, you might want to just take a beat and decide if you can handle dealing with setting boundaries with this neighbor & dealing with your husband's emotions at the same time.
posted by CMcG at 11:25 AM on April 16, 2016 [17 favorites]

You also have an internet strangers permission to 100% ghost on this person and avoid all interaction with them/put them off, if you are uncomfortable with direct confrontation...

Meant to add that; sorry for the double post.
posted by CMcG at 11:27 AM on April 16, 2016 [12 favorites]

I had a roommate who became abusive (physically) when drunk. But she only did it to me and other people who wouldn't fight back - never her giant boyfriend, for example. The only way to get her to leave you alone was to not tolerate the abuse. I didn't have the skills and confidence to push back, so by the end of the academic term I was the only one getting hit. It ended when I moved to a different room.

Anyway, if you don't feel that you can protect yourself when this person is intoxicated, you need to avoid being alone with her period.
posted by SMPA at 11:27 AM on April 16, 2016

[A few comments deleted. As CMcG says, OP's question is about what to do next, please stick to that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:29 AM on April 16, 2016

Also, I told my husband everything that went on afterwards, so he knows what happened. He apologized for not helping me but as he and I both said... he had no idea what was going on. So he knows that if she tries to come over, he's to say that I'm too sick to have company or that we're about to run errands, etc...

I just don't want to end up on her list of "mean" people because I don't know if she gets revenge on them in petty ways.
posted by patheral at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh, I am so sorry this happened to you. What a nightmare. I would be scared and sad and confused, too. And I would also never want her in my home again, or in my car, or in my life in any way.

Take care of yourself. Ignore this woman. Be polite but do not engage. This is not something to "let go" -- it's something to take very seriously, and the way you can do that is by enforcing strong boundaries starting now.

I would not talk to her spouse. My gut tells me that it would be a much better idea to cut off any prolonged or detailed engagement in any way with these people, other than smiles when you happen to see each other. If either of them approaches you, you can say something vague and push-off, like "We have been very busy lately, thanks for asking!"

This woman probably has some kind of mental illness, and that is not your cross to bear. There is nothing wrong with backing the hell away from people who assault you. I know the balance that you describe, trying to push away while simultaneously not being on "their list," and I think the best way to do this is to just be noncommittal, don't reply to texts/calls, and just keep saying you're busy and smiling and acting friendly.

Basically, I told them they needed to go. Now. Luckily, they went.
GOOD FOR YOU. I am proud of you for doing this. It is incredibly hard to do this, and you took care of yourself and showed a lot of strength in doing so. Keep taking care of yourself.

I'm so sorry this happened to you.
posted by sockermom at 11:42 AM on April 16, 2016 [15 favorites]

I'm sorry this happened to you, OP. Please don't hesitate to RUN if she approaches you again. Yell "sorry, gotta go" over your shoulder if you're worried about angering her.
I would also consider a video camera outside my doors and a home security system. Or at the very least, maybe those security stickers you can buy that say, "This premise under video surveillance." I think your husband should handle all "walks to get the mail" in the near future. I would not be surprised if she attempts to accost you at the mail box tomorrow or very soon, either to "apologize" or just continue her sob stories. (And I would bet money she's lying about her mom even being sick).
Again, I'm sorry this happened to you and that she ruined a friendly neighbor relationship. It's tough to not be friends with neighbors, particularly in a rural area when you're isolated. I hope your husband appreciates the severity of the situation and is helpful in keeping neighbor away. If she comes over tonight or tomorrow to apologize or talk again, I would not answer the door and consider having husband call her husband to tell him what's going on.
posted by areaperson at 11:44 AM on April 16, 2016

Ugh, what a difficult situation. I hope you can avoid being alone with her again. However, when I've been stuck in a house in an uncomfortable situation and too overwhelmed to think what to do, excusing myself to go to the bathroom always helps. I can splash cold water on my hands, calm down, text someone for help, make a plan, or just summon up the resolve to say "I/you need to leave." Or text someone and ask them to call you in a few minutes so you can say "Sorry, this is an important call that I really can't miss, I'll set the phone down and show you out."

Have some very basic excuses in your pocket if she approaches you again - whether to drive to the grocery store or to come by your place or go for a walk or anything at all. "I can't, I have a headache / early meeting tomorrow / I'm going to a meeting now / etc" can be helpful.

Areaperson's advice to not answer the door or phone seems very good.
posted by bunderful at 11:50 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh my god, I am so sorry this happened.

This may not be an option for a variety of reasons, but given that her partner has been very amiable towards you since you moved there, I wonder if you could to go to them and say, "I need to talk to you about something that happened on [date] with your [wife]. She dropped by my home unexpectedly, got very drunk on wine she brought with her, and tried to force me to kiss her, among many other things that were very upsetting. I know she is struggling with her mother's illness and that grief is hard to deal with. However, this can't happen again. If she shows up at my house or attempts to make her way into my home for any reason, my husband or I will call you and ask you that you come get her immediately."

That way you not only set a boundary, but let the partner know that you will enforce it no matter what.

I agree that getting on her list of "mean" people is less than ideal. But you know what else is less than ideal? You being assaulted again because her inability to deal with her own grief causes her to take advantage of people she barely knows. Her partner may have no idea that she is doing any of this; IMO they should know, because it's probably going to impact them eventually and if they can do anything about it now, that would be ideal.

But do what makes YOU feel safe. That's what really matters here.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:54 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yikes. You can be nice without being accommodating, not the same thing. Firm boundaries. The more you allow this person in your life the more trouble you will have. You don’t want to be friends or enemies, you want to be off their radar as much as possible.

If you see them outside, wave but keep moving. If you don’t acknowledge them or purposely avoid them they may seek you out. Don’t hide, just go about your life but engage as little as possible. "Hi, I’ve got to go" Keep moving. Do not feel compelled to chat, or invite them over, or make offers that you think they won’t take you up on. They will.

Act like they are a person you don’t know well who you have no opinion about, because that’s what you want them to be.
posted by bongo_x at 12:01 PM on April 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

Another yes vote for the advice from cecic and CMcG you’ve already marked as helpful - but a no-no-no-don’t-do-that on the advice from several commenters to speak to her husband.
Telling the husband is wrong in principle (for a variety of reasons that I hope are obvious) and could also be risky and dangerous for you. If you’re worried about her taking revenge against people she considers "mean", getting her husband involved in all this is not a good idea.
If this were a situation where you’d be willing to go to the police, sure, but if no one else is to hear about this, neither is the husband.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:03 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yikes. What a boundary-busting, lying, rapey creep. She should be on your shitlist now and forever. She is no doubt troubled, but it is not your responsibility to fix her. Do not answer the door if she turns up, do not answer her calls, do not stop and talk to her on the street.

And don't second-guess yourself about not getting rid of her ASAP. I know as a woman in her 50's, I was not brought up to have boundaries, and most of my contemporaries weren't either, and it's been a long hard process to learn them. We're taught - be polite, be nice to your neighbors, make allowances for people in grief, etc. etc. And this is great for dealing with nice normal people! But creeps like your neighbor take advantage of other people, and the fault is with them, not us. Live and learn; enforce your boundaries from here on in, but don't beat yourself up for letting her stay longer than was comfortable.

If she starts stalking you, destroying your property, etc. then by all means call the cops. Unless that happens, just be cool and distant.

(BTW does your husband need his hearing checked? If he can't hear a commotion in the next room, and/or he has to turn the TV way way up, it might be time to make an appointment with an audiologist.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:08 PM on April 16, 2016 [20 favorites]

This person has boundary issues and if you want to end contact as much as possible, that's a legit choice. The most charitable explanation for what happened: she's grieving and very lonely, and it didn't occur to her that you would feel frightened/ assaulted by her advances because she's a woman and has never imagined herself as an aggressor, and she also didn't see that as spousal cheating because you're the same sex. This absolutely does NOT absolve her from responsibility here, but this interpretation may help you maintain a functional neighbor relationship with her, or a friendship if you decide you're up for the crazy at some point in the future.
posted by metasarah at 1:02 PM on April 16, 2016

Ew. I'm so sorry. I agree with everyone else - disengage. If she ever brings up the evening in any way, don't even acknowledge or talk about it. "Thanks for being so great the other night..." "Hm. Hey, I have to run errands, have a good day."

She has something going on but her behavior was definitely out of bounds, frightening and unpredictable. It's great that her spouse has been friendly and helpful to you but I think you have to distance yourself completely. At least right now while she's doing whatever the heck she's doing and while this assault is fresh in your mind.

I think you did everything right in a confusing and threatening situation.
posted by amanda at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you met any of the "mean" people? They might only be "mean" because they've already erected boundaries with your aggressive neighbor. It might be worth meeting them. You might learn that this is known thing and you're not alone.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

Yeah, this lady is pathological. I don't want to say "crazy" but clearly she's not operating with the standard set of marbles. You know what drunk looks like, right? This doesn't sound like just "drunk."

You did everything right, and honestly, my husband would never think he had to check on me if I had a female neighbor over; this whole situation was very unusual. I would stay as far away as possible from these folks - polite if you run into her, but no engagement anymore - and assume everything she told you was a lie.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am sorry that is awful. Something is wrong with this neighbor as you've surmised and it's worth giving yourself a pep talk that her stuff is her own stuff and she is not a person worth extending an olive branch to because she burned that bridge entirely to cinders the last time you tried. So I'd talk to your spouse and agree on some ground rules regarding this neighbor (as it sounds like you have) and give yourself permission to be a "hard ass" (I put it in quotes because I think it's just reasonable but it may feel hard-assish)

- This person never goes in your house again
- This person never gets in your car again
- Once you've spent more than ten minutes talking with this person if you run into them outside you excuse yourself because you have a thing to do. Seriously that's the script "I have to go I have a thing."

It's only a fight if she makes it a fight and if she makes it a fight all you have to do is not fight with her. I am certain you are not the only neighbor this has happened to and it might be worth putting out some feelers about her to your other neighbors. I had this neighbor, sort of, except he was a man, larger than me and scary (though he thought he was not scary so he'd overstay his welcome and it was hard for me to say "You need to go now") and I know how shaken it can leave you. You are not a bad person if you are rude to a person who took advantage of your good graces, I am sorry it had to come to that.
posted by jessamyn at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

The answer is you don't know if this was a one-time thing or not. In situations where you don't know what is going on, I recommend caution. Have a plan.

A good plan might be that if you run into them, say hi, then put an artificial time limit on the convo by saying "I only have a few moments" and having a normal conversation for a few minutes. A good planned starter might be to ask how their spouse is doing to enforce that boundary. If they talk about some weirdness, say "that's not good" or some such and then say hope it works out and say you have to run and go.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:16 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that really sucks. I think you have a lot of good advice about "avoid avoid avoid" and I agree that the most sensible thing is to be off her radar altogether. I really like Ironmouth's suggested approach.

If this turns out to be an acute breakdown due to her mother's death, then likely she's already feeling really stupid and guilty and will avoid you too. (This is not an excuse for her behaviour, but I know I stepped into a giant bucket of nervous breakdown after my Mom died, and acted out in some very strange ways which never repeated themselves later.) In which case, Ironmouth's approach will be a relief for her as well.

If it turns out to be a long term issue, then it should work too. In any case, it limits your engagement without creating a further issue.

What can you do for yourself to make your home feel safe again?
posted by frumiousb at 5:07 PM on April 16, 2016

This exact thing happened to me. I called the person's husband, and he told me she suffered from a severe mental illness, and he would come to pick her up and take her to the hospital.
Apparently this happens with long intervals, otherwise she is a lovely person, and I still see them.
posted by mumimor at 5:28 PM on April 16, 2016

Make sure your husband does the heavy lifting on getting mail/lingering outside types of things. I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by delight at 6:26 PM on April 16, 2016

I lost my mom, it was difficult, I don't always get along with my family, but I would never assault someone because of any of that. Because those first things don't cause that second thing.

If you needed that perspective.

Your neighbor is an asshole who got drunk and sexually assaulted you. Why she is one is not really your problem/something you can fix for her. How you handle it from here is: distance. Exactly how you do that depends on the circumstance. You can just not answer texts, you can say "sorry, I can't," you can refuse to let her into your house (definitely do that one).

But just because she is "one of two" neighbors doesn't mean you have to be friends. Be friends with your non-asshole neighbor who doesn't sexually assault you.

Otherwise, if you don't? This will happen again. Bullies don't care what you want, they want to use you to deal with their messed-up baggage. You have the right, always, to protect yourself from being used in that way. No matter what.
posted by emjaybee at 5:15 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh god you need to work on your boundaries STAT.

Give this person the cold shoulder from now on. If they bother you, say "Leave me alone!"
posted by Jacqueline at 9:30 PM on April 17, 2016

« Older Jean Luc Ponty, Jazz Fusion Music Video set in...   |   Less Fallout 4, More Hobbies (Teen Edition) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.