Unwanted Admirers? (02/21/07)

Dear Zelda,

Last year I moved and am in the process of getting a divorce. I now live in a neighborhood with great neighbors, all of whom seem to be very friendly. One neighbor, who is particularly friendly, is a recently divorced professional man. I felt I was making a friend, not encouraging a relationship. Although I have told him repeatedly that I am not interested in a romantic relationship he continues to pursue me and vacillates between flowers and venom.xNeither approach works for me. I miss his friendship but he refuses to give up on his romantic pursuit. Any advice Zelda?

New to the Neighborhood

Dear New,

Puppy love can be a wonderful thing, but it helps if both puppies feel the same way. When only one dog is howlin', it usually just gives you a headache. And if the puppy in question is a recently divorced professional man, he should know better than to harass you after you've made your lack of interest obvious to him. The answer is clear to me: you need to cut off BOTH his amorous advances AND your friendship with him, at least for the time being, in order to establish your own space. And you need to be FIRM about it. I know you miss his friendship, but you've got to realize that he wasn't much of a friend to begin with if he was looking for something else all along, and especially if he got nasty with you when you let him know you didn't feel the same way.

It's hard being recently divorced, and it's hard moving to a new place alone. Doing both at once can be downright overwhelming. Don't let your loneliness lead you into putting up with aggressive or unwanted behavior just because you're in need of some company and companionship. Many postdivorce individuals, both male and female, find themselves getting involved with people they wouldn't tolerate under other circumstances simply because they fill the lonely nights or quiet the nagging selfdoubts... at least for the time being. But love can't be forced no matter how hard your neighbor tries, or how many bushels of flowers he sends. And if his behavior is really as unacceptable as it sounds, I'd say you're better off without him.

So I suggest you sit him down and nicely but firmly say "NO." It isn't necessary to give complex reasons or justifications; doing so will only encourage him to suggest ways around them. Just let him know that you're not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship, that you've tried to communicate this to him before, and that you'd appreciate if he wouldn't keep pushing the issue. Let him know that his aggressive behavior makes you uncomfortable, and that he needs to stop asking once and for all. Stand your ground, and make it clear that this is a nonnegotiable position. Hopefully he'll get the idea. If all this fails, you might check out Lucy Summer's lighthearted book, Hex Appeal: Seductive Spells for the Sassy Sorceress. She offers spells that make unwanted admirers disappear like a puff of smoke. No guarantees, of course.

Finally, and not to be an alarmist, but in all seriousness, if your neighbor continues to ignore your requests, or if he becomes unpleasant or threatening in any way, you should go to the authorities immediately. These situations can go from annoying to scary very quickly, and your neighbor needs to understand that there are very clear boundaries here. If he's unable to understand that, you need to get outside help to make him understand it.

Here's to good luck, and to saying goodbye, once and for all, to your neighbor's amorous advances.

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

My dog, Angel, is almost two years old and is the sweetest little love muffin, but she doesn't like other dogs. She considers them "unwanted admirers" and rejects their advances with growls. How can I get her to "get along with other doggies?"

Dog Owner Looking for an Answer

Dear Dog Owner,

It sounds as if your little Angel only has eyes for you. In order to socialize Angel and to encourage her to “get along with other doggies,” you need to start introducing her to "predictable" dogs... you know, the old dogs you seeing sleeping outside coffee shops and sidewalk cafes, the ones who've seen it all and are just too cool to care at this point.

My pal, ZeeZee, started out with some very antisocial attitudes toward new dogs. So we began her "socialization" by taking her to the old, predictable dog hangouts. This turned out to be fun for all of us, myself included. We found a great hound hangout spot at our local Starbucks. Every old Golden Retriever in the neighborhood seems to savor sleeping under the tables in the sun outside their door while their owners sip their lattes and nibble on their biscottis. There are so many dogs at our Starbucks that they've installed a pickup window so dog owners don't need to leave their dogs unattended while they go inside to get coffee.

The result was that ZeeZee watched me relax around all those other benign dogs, and after a few sharp "No" commands from our owner when she misbehaved, she quit growling and barking at the other dogs. Eventually she took it all in, and soon we could take her to other dogbusy places and she was totally at ease.

I'm not saying it's simple, and Angel may need a lot of exposure to predictable, relaxed dogs before she understands that all us pooches don't want to deprive her of your attention, nor are we interested in a fight. And, you may end up issuing a lot of apologies for her barks and growls in the process, but trust me, it's worth the effort. Angel will soon learn that most other dogs aren't looking for a fight, that she can sniff and choose her pals, and that she doesn't even have to take part in every potential fight she's invited to.

Hang in there and soon your little heavenly Angel will be on canine cloud nine with lots of new furry friends.

Zelda