Suspicious of Wife and Neighbor

Q: We recently moved into a new house/neighborhood. My wife met the couple across the street, as well as Chuck, the mid-40s single male next door to them. The lady mentioned to my wife that Chuck bragged that he recently stole the mums he planted in his yard, as well as plywood from a local building site and large rocks for his yard. When my wife told me this, I was shocked. She then told me that she wouldn't let these incidents distance her neighborly relationship with him. I totally disagreed and told her I preferred to not welcome him at our house. Last night I came home to find the two of them walking our dog near our house. They returned a half hour later. When I explained my feeling of betrayal, she responded that they were discussing teaching matters, as they're both teachers. She then angrily left the house till a wee morning hour. Am I wrong to feel suspicious, and how can I get her to open a dialogue with reference to my concern? I'm tempted to inform the police of his thieving episodes, as I'm organizing a neighbor watch group. However, I don't want to further upset my wife or keep the neighbor lady from informing my wife of these episodes. -- Fred, 51

Dr. Susan: You are dealing with two separate issues. One is your concern about your neighbor's stealing. As you only know about his activities third-hand, via your wife's hearing of it from another neighbor, and due to the fact that his thefts are relatively minor, I would keep that information to yourself. I'm not saying I would entirely trust the guy. If someone in your neighborhood ever mentions that flowers or other items have gone missing from their yards, I might wonder if this fellow was behind the loss.

Now, your wife apparently has different views from you. She is more forgiving of character flaws and would like to be a good neighbor until he proves otherwise directly to her. If you act like a jailor and tell her she can't talk to someone with whom she has common interests, she is bound to resent you. I suggest you simmer down. It's unlikely you have anything to be suspicious of, but if you continue to exert pressure on your wife with regard to her friends, the situation could change. Meanwhile, go on a picnic with her, stay calm, and let her know you're sorry you may have over-reacted. Let her know that you'd like to be able to share your views even though you know hers may differ. Openness and honesty between you and her are much more important than her occasional chats with a neighbor who is a petty thief.

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