Tips to deal with trivial but annoying things?

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    Okay, so I don’t think my problem is enormous or life threatening or something like that but still, annoying things are annoying things! So here’s the deal: I’ve been working and living for the past six years in a foreign country. This country is well-known as an expensive country to live in so I can only afford to rent a room instead of the whole apartment.

    My landlord (an old couple) were quite nice in the beginning in a sense that they gave me space but still very civil and amicable when we ran into each other in the living room or something. However, four years on and I think they’re beginning to overstep their boundaries. Actually, it’s more the wife than the husband that annoys me. The husband never bothered me so far.

    The thing is, they’re not in-your-face annoying, more of the sneakily annoying type which I think is more tricky to handle. If they were downright, full-on annoying, it’s easier for make to make a decision to look for another place.

    In the beginning of my stay, there were instances when I came home and found out they had entered my room without my permission. One day I came home to find the toilet bowl brush had been replaced with a new one. Another day, I came home to find they had installed a rubber thingy on my wooden chair’s legs to prevent them from scratching the floor. It’s harmless and they probably thought they were just doing nice things but it’s annoying and intrusive, and still not an excuse for them to enter my room without permission!

    However, I decided to let those go and over the course of my stay they admitted to occasionally open the door of my room during the day when I wasn’t at home to air the room. I have an electric cooking pot that I put in the kitchen and one day I caught them using it and the wife immediately assured me if it spoils, she’d replace it. I actually don’t mind these things but the problem is, they always take the liberty to do whatever things they want to do and THEN tell me (if they got caught) when I think it should be the other way around.

    Still, I decided to let those things pass.

    When I cook or do my laundry, the wife always uses these opportunities to have a chat. My ex flatmate did tell me about this and again, I really don’t mind having a chat. Lately, though, she starts overstepping her boundary. When I’m cooking, she’d begin by asking me what I’m cooking then she’d stare into the pot at a very close range for a few minutes, like, really stare at it. Then, she’d stand there and watch and proceed to ask me what I’m doing every time I stir, pour, flip, fry, etc. She’d ask me what condiments I just stir in and would then advise me to use this and that condiments instead because apparently she thinks her choice is better. One day, I was in the middle of cooking something when she got home. I cursed and decided to pretend that I didn’t hear her (I’d usually smile and wave or something) and you know what she did? She entered the kitchen and proceeded to stand behind me and watch me for a few seconds before finally made her presence known.

    Even when I’m just in the kitchen steaming some broccoli as is, she’d tell me to soak the broccoli first in some kind of salt mixture so that it’ll taste better. I tell her I have no problem with eating the broccoli as is and that I’m trying to be healthy and she’d look at me with a perplexed expression. I now loathe cooking when she’s around and would only do it when she’s out of the house. I made a conscious decision not to get married a long time ago and things like these are what make me thankful I don’t have to put up with those mother-in-law non sense.

    She’d do the same thing when I do my laundry. When I’m loading my laundry to the machine, she’d probe me with millions questions such as what detergent I use, what fabric softener, etc etc and would really stare into the bucket for a moment as if she’s digesting what I just said.

    However, by adjusting when I cook or do my laundry, I can still minimize the chance of running into her so again, I let things pass. However, these lately she starts knocking on my door. A lot. It started when she told me her daughter just bought an apartment and she asked me to help her putting on an advertisement to rent it out. I gladly helped and listed the apartment in a dozen websites.

    And then one day she asked me to teach her how to put up the ad herself so that she wouldn’t need to bother me again. At first I thought ‘aww, nice’ but actually things have become worse because she only wants to learn putting up the ad through her iphone, which is more difficult because you have to zoom in and out a hundred times and god forbid you accidentally press on the screen and hit return or something.

    The first time she asked me to teach her, I ended up becoming the one who did the posting through her iphone. Fine. But since then I noticed a pattern: she’d knock on my door under the pretense of asking me to teach her how to post the ad herself, that it would be the last time she’d ever bother me about it but I’ll always end up posting the ad for her. Sometimes I ask myself why I’m so worked up about this seemingly small, harmless thing and I think it’s the dishonesty, the inefficiency of it all that’s getting on my last nerve.

    Also, she told me the first dozen ad posts I did for her worked well, she said she received numerous enquiries about the apartment so I don’t understand why she keeps bothering me about posting the ad. At first I thought she really wanted to learn but after the umpteenth time she knocked on my door under that pretense only to end up with myself having to post it for her, I’ve had enough!

    Please, please, please help. She’s getting on my last nerve!!

    The Ruminant

    There’s a good possibility that the wife is simply being an extrovert and wants to connect with the person who lives in the same household and help someone who’s far away from home. It is reasonable behavior and sort of cute if you look at it from another perspective. I also understand your point of view and how it can indeed feel like a violation of privacy. So one tip would be feeling compassion towards yourself and the wife. There is no right or wrong in this situation, so it can’t be resolved like that. You are two people having to live under the same roof, trying to understand each others personalities and culture.

    Also, I personally get annoyed by things like that when I’m feeling stressed or low on my self-esteem or losing my boundaries again. When I’m relaxed, feel confident and am certain of my own boundaries, I’m much more compassionate and understanding about all the quirks of other people and accept that they are different.

    The fact that you are in another country might already put a strain on your individuality. You already need to work more on maintaining who you are and not get lose yourself, and losing yourself is what I recognize as the biggest anxiety factor when someone is overstepping my boundaries. That said, if the boundaries aren’t that clear, then the smallest of things might feel like a huge violation. But that’s me. That’s how I feel, and it might be different for you.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 8 months ago by The Ruminant.

    I understand when you say those behaviors can be considered cute, in fact in the beginning I was willing to let most stuff slide. I’m pretty sure they don’t steal or stuff like that, and I honestly couldn’t care less if she’s being nosy, so long she keeps it to herself. It’s only annoying when she tries to make an interaction out of it. Now I feel like I have to conform to what she considers as the right way of doing things. It’s truly like having a mother in law and I’m really not cut out for stuff like that.


    I agree with all the above, except for “there is no right or wrong in this situation”. I live in the US, and the laws pertaining to tennant/landlord behavior is extremely clear in that unless the landlord suspects an imminent threat or danger (like fire), they may not under any other circumstances enter the tennant’s space. So, assuming that it is similar where you live, it might be a good idea to try to approach the landlord on a day or at a time when they have not done so recently… Possibly mentioning something like, “You know, I was thinking about it, and I’m not comfortable with you entering my room for any reason unless you have spoken with me first. If there is an emergency, like a fire or something, of course, but I treasure my privacy and need to feel like my space is my own. I know it may sound silly, and I haven’t mentioned it before just because it doesn’t happen too much, but I’m working through some things in my life and for my own personal reasons I would just appreciate it if my room is not entered.”

    That way it’s coming from a place of you and your needs, not that they are doing anything “wrong” (even though I think they might indeed be). One sneaky way to see if someone has been in your room is to pluck a hair from your head and put it across the door frame towards the top when you close the door to leave. Then, if the door is opened (by someone else), the hair will fall and they will not notice but you will notice when you come home and see it’s not where you placed it.



    She sounds like a mother hen, and perhaps thinks of you more like a daughter than a tenant. Also, it sounds like she might be lonely, and trying to connect with you. For me, when I’ve been in a similar situation, it has been dismantling on both sides to turn around, throw my arms around the mothery being and thank her for caring enough to try to help me have better broccoli. That kind of gentle guidance is a rare jewel in our world, even when its not aimed very well. Said differently, perhaps do a little better at creating and enforcing boundaries, and then you’ll be more free to see her heart, her attempts to connect and so forth. Or, if you are creeped out by her attention, find a new place to live. There’s no reason for our life to be an endurance trial!

    Just try to settle that “there’s nothing I can do, I need to be polite to her” nonsense. Its more disrespectful to ignore her boundary violations, because it leads to resentment. Said differently, do you know why she stares into your laundry? She admire your clothes? She judging your laundry skills as undeveloped? She miss doing laundry for her daughter? Have you asked her? “What is so facisinating about my underwear and socks for you? What are you doing?” If she presses in, press back, figure it out. Tell her to bugger off or give her hug or whatever. Just not confusion, hiding, accepting, suppressing. Not good for her, not good for you. IMHO, of course.

    Namaste, may you find your sacred space, and let it become “by invite only”.

    With warmth,

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