The Wells family had always been friendly. They were the ideal neighbors. They kept their yard neat and the house was one of the prettiest on the block. Mr. and Mrs. Wells always enjoyed talking to their neighbors on long summer days, and they could frequently be seen sitting on their front porch, enjoying the cool breeze after a hot summer day.
People who were acquainted with them would describe them as nice! friendly! open! caring! warm! and most of all, ‘good people.’ That’s all they ever really wanted after all. To be good. To be liked. They truly felt they had achieved their goal and it felt good.
The Wells children were equally as nice as their parents. They were taught to be respectful, pleasant, follow the rules, do their homework, and don’t cause problems. They went to school every day and played with friends outside until it was time to come home and do homework.
Mr. Wells left the house every day at exactly 8am to go to work. He had a good and equally nice professional career that he enjoyed and he took his briefcase and sack lunch to work every day. Usually he had leftovers from dinner the night before in that sack lunch. Mrs. Wells was a full time mom and she spent her days cooking, cleaning, and having lunch with her friends. She also volunteered at her kids’ schools and she loved it. Mr. Wells was always home for dinner and she prided herself on cooking the very best food for him and they ate with their family every night at dinner.
Their efforts resulted in a life that was relatively free of drama. It was nice and acceptable. People would often gravitate to the Wells family because they were so open and honest. They could be trusted. They were problem solvers. If a neighbor needed a tool, the Wells would always loan it. Mr. Wells would even go help with the project that required the use of his tools, giving freely of his time. Mrs. Wells saw what other people might not see, when people needed a kind word or comfort food to soothe their ailing souls. She clung tightly to her friends and loved serving others.
The Brown family had been neighbors of the Wells for just over a year. they were relative newcomers to the neighborhood and they loved the house they bought, it was in a very desirable part of town after all.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Wells hit it off immediately and they would often talk in the evenings about sports or the latest home project each wanted to take on. Because the men became friends, the women soon followed. They found they had a lot in common and they each loved talking about their families and the day to day happenings at their kids’ school. It was a little bit of gossip, but mostly just two women connecting as friends. They were both really nice families.
The Wells family landscaping was obviously the best on the block. The Browns yard was a pretty close competitor and Mr. Brown spent many hours making his yard look pristine because he saw how nice Mr. Wells yard was. Mr. Wells noticed his hard work and was inspired by it, which gave him a growing respect for Mr. Brown. He planted tulips and roses and some beautiful geraniums to give his flower beds just a little more color. Mr. Brown was inspired so he followed suit. Each had their own personal slant on their landscape, but equally as beautiful in its own way.
One Saturday morning in June, the Wells invited the Browns to come sit on their porch and have coffee in the morning before it got too hot outside for the day. The Browns gladly came over and enjoyed a hot cup of fresh coffee with their good friends. They talked for about an hour and then it was time for the Browns to go on with their Saturday activities, their children had sports games later that day as most typical suburban children do.
They said their friendly goodbyes and as the Browns left the Wells’ house, they walked off the porch and as they made their way down the sidewalk, they left the paved path and trampled the entire row of Mr. Wells geraniums. Both of the Browns walked right over the top of the flowers! It was almost as if they didn’t even see them. They just continued walking and chatting and ultimately made their way down the entire row of the flowers. The Wells watched in horror as the petals fell off and the stems crunched to the ground. They were dead, with a capital D. The Wells didn’t even know what to do because this was clearly such a violent act. They didn’t say anything or even yell, because they were too much in shock about what had just occurred in front of their very eyes. They were speechless. Things like this didn’t happen in a neighborhood like theirs, and not with people as nice as the Browns. What universe were they living in.
As soon as the Browns were out of earshot, the Wells looked at each other incredulously. Mr. Wells was furious. He spent months planting, fertilizing, and tending to his geraniums and they were all gone within seconds. Mrs. Wells could see that her husband was so angry that he couldn’t speak.
She broke the silence and said, ‘Why did they do that? I can’t believe how rude and insensitive the Browns are. Who does that? I mean seriously. Our flowers have always been there! Didn’t they notice? I am so angry. You must be so upset and frustrated.’
Mr. Wells was silent for a few moments and then he finally said, ‘Are they stupid? We invited them over to our house and they disregard my flowers. He must want his yard to be the best yard on the block. He and Mrs. Brown did that on purpose. I just know it. They are out to get us. Well it won’t work. I’m going to go over there and confront him right now.’
As Mr. Wells stood up, Mrs. Wells stood in his path. She said, ‘now dear, let’s be reasonable. I know you are so angry. I understand. It was so rude what they did. But we don’t want to upset them. They are our neighbors after all. What if we make them mad and then they start trampling more of our flowers? What will we do then? It has to be a mistake. They surely didn’t mean to hurt our flowers or our feelings. They like us. I’m sure they were just pre-occupied with thinking about their other Saturday activities and they didn’t notice. We know they are good people, like us. Let’s not ruin our friendship over a few flowers.’
Mr. Wells was really angry with Mrs. Wells for minimizing the problem, but he did see her perspective. Who wants to have problems with the neighbors? It was only a row of flowers. She was probably right. He needed to calm down and not be so rude. He could always buy more. He was still mad, but figured he shouldn’t be as upset as he was. He told Mrs. Wells she was right and then he went to the store and bought new flowers.
The Wells saw the Browns in the neighborhood several times that week, as usual. Each time they waved and exchanged small talk. Neither Brown ever mentioned how they trampled the flowers, even though the Wells were waiting for them to bring it up, they never did.
They also appeared not to notice that Mr. Wells was planting all new geraniums where the old ones were. Both Wells were renewed with anger about this. ‘Don’t they see what they’ve done?’ Mrs. Wells complained. ‘I mean seriously. They have to ask why we are planting new flowers, don’t they? It’s plain as day! Even if they didn’t realize they trampled the flowers, wouldn’t they notice there were new ones, and then we could bring up the issue about the flowers they trampled? Now we can’t even say anything. This is ridiculous.’
Mr. Wells grew more and more angry. Each hole he dug and each flower he planted only intensified his negative feelings. He didn’t understand why he was so mad and growing more so though. It was only flowers. He needed to be nicer. He was nice! after all. Good people don’t get angry. Mrs. Wells had tried to help him, and if he only could let these little things go, he would be so much more at peace.
He resolved to do just that. He let it go. Over the next few days he decided not to let this little issue ruin a perfectly good friendship and neighbor relationship.
He watered the new flowers and continued taking care of his yard over the new couple of weeks. When he and Mrs. Wells saw the Browns, they were polite and friendly, and it was like nothing ever happened. He chalked it up to a one time issue and decided to not be a perfectionist with people. They were perfectly good people after all. They cared about their own yard, and this had to be a mistake.
About two weeks after the new flowers were planted, Mrs. Brown stopped by to say hello to Mrs. Wells and bring her some fresh baked cookies. Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Brown caught up on the latest school news and talked for a short time, and Mrs. Brown left the plate of cookies for them to enjoy. It was so nice and Mrs. Brown felt very good about their decision to let the little things go. It had to be a mistake with the whole flower incident.
A few hours later, Mr. Wells came home from work. As soon as he stepped out of his car, he noticed a huge problem. One of his brand new geraniums was stomped on. He was seething mad. They had taught their kids good manners after all and they knew to walk on the sidewalks, and not in people’s flower beds. Especially their own beautifully manicured lawn. He knew Mrs. Wells wouldn’t have done it, obviously. She was witness to his upset over the first geranium incident, and she wouldn’t dare do something so careless and heartless.
He stomped inside and found Mrs. Wells. ‘Uh, what is going on?’ he yelled at her.
Mrs. Wells, shocked and taken aback by this harsh greeting, said, ‘What are you talking about, and what is wrong with you? Did you have a bad day at the office or something?’
‘One of my brand new geraniums is gone. GONE! It got stepped on and it’s dead. Where are the kids? Did they do this? I am so tired of everyone failing to pay attention in this house. I work hard, I take care of the lawn, and we just planted those flowers. This is ridiculous. If one of the kids did this, they will be buying a new plant and planting it themselves. That will teach them a valuable lesson in taking care of things,’ he said.
‘I can’t imagine one of them would have done this. Why would they? They know how angry we were with the Browns the last time. Our kids are good and nice. They would never do such a thing. I guess we should ask them though. You need to calm down though. You are so angry! You’ll scare them. I know this has been a difficult issue for you, and it’s upsetting to me too, but let’s see what they have to say first.’
Mrs. Wells, being the dutiful wife, called the family together for an emergency meeting regarding the geraniums. The kids knew as soon as they stepped in the room that this was going to be a rough meeting. There were no surprise trips or gifts to announce. Both parents seemed so angry.
When they asked the kids, all of them vehemently denied stepping on the flowers. They seemed to be telling the truth, so the emergency family meeting fizzled out quickly and Mr. and Mrs. Wells were left unsatisfied with having no answers about the geranium, but they did feel confident that none of their brood had done this horrible act. They talked for awhile and then Mrs. Wells remembered that Mrs. Brown had stopped by that day with the cookies.
‘I think I might know what happened to the flower,’ she said.
‘You do? Why didn’t you speak up before? It was one of the kids, wasn’t it? You were covering up for them and protecting them from me. I wish you would’ve told me before. Thanks a lot,’ he said in a biting and bitter tone.
‘I don’t think it was the kids. I think it was Mrs. Brown. She stopped by this afternoon to bring over some cookies and we talked for awhile. I don’t know when the flower got ruined, but it had to be today, and she is the only person who has been here, other than our family. She must have stepped on it on her way out,’ Mrs. Wells said.
Mr. Wells was immediately angry, and his face flushed. ‘I knew it,’ he said. ‘Their yard is beautiful and nice and they are jealous and so unkind. How could they not realize what they are doing? They are doing this on purpose. I am going over there right now and I’m going to set the record straight. I’m done dancing around this issue,’ he said, as he stood up.
Mrs. Wells was alarmed. She knew that Mr. Wells was in no position to go confront the Browns because he was so angry. He would likely embarrass himself and their whole family. She was fearful of what he might do. She didn’t want to deal with this conflict, and she needed to stop him. Fast. ‘Ok, I know you are upset. We don’t know for sure if it was her, I’m just speculating. If you go over there now, it’ll only make things worse. It’s only one flower this time. Only one! I will go to the nursery right now and get a new geranium. Everything will be fine. I’ll even plant it. You’ve had a long day and the last thing you need is more stress. Let me handle this for you.’
Mr. Wells wasn’t having it this time. He tried to listen to her last time, and once again, his flowers got ruined. ‘No. I’m done. I tried doing it your way, and I’m going over there right now,’ he said.
‘But what if they get angry? You’re not thinking sensibly. You need to see reason. We want to have peaceful and kind lives. I think the Browns do too. We know them. We don’t know if it was Mrs. Brown. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything because now you’re mad. I’ll fix this for you,’ she pleaded.
Mr. Wells knew that she was right. He knew he was being too angry and he didn’t like that. Anger never suited him anyway. He wanted to eat dinner, relax, and watch tv. He wanted peace. That’s all. He also wanted his flowers to be beautiful. Was that too much to ask? He didn’t think so. He needed to listen to his wife though. He wanted to do the right thing. That’s the foundation that their lives were built on. Why was he so angry? He couldn’t figure it out. He pushed aside his outward anger, and he acquiesced.
Mrs. Wells went to the store, bought a geranium and planted it that night. Mr. Wells carried on with his regular routine and he was grateful for Mrs. Wells help. Later on, the Browns were outside on a walk, and the Wells were sitting on their front porch enjoying the evening. The Browns saw the Wells, and called to them. Mr. Wells was apprehensive, but he put on a brave face and said hello. He ignored the nagging anger he had inside. Mrs. Wells invited them up and the Browns came up and talked for awhile, enjoying the cool evening breeze. They talked about the local news and summer vacation plans. It was a lovely evening. Mr. Wells resentment was bubbling under the surface, but he kept it in check. He just needed to be nicer and less judgmental. So he did just that. He engaged in the conversation, but was a little reserved because he couldn’t stop thinking about the flower.
The finished their conversation, and the Browns got ready to head back home. Both Wells were watching them intently, because they were on alert for their flowers. This was the proving ground. Right here, right now.
As they left, they walked down the sidewalk, and all was going well, until they cut across the lawn and….stomped down the geraniums. The Wells watched in horror once again. It was proven and true. They were the worst kind of people. They were insensitive, selfish, uncaring, and totally worthless. Neither of the Wells spoke. They just stood there and watched as the Browns walked away, seemingly completely clueless as to what they had done.
As partners, you have made a choice to stick together. No matter what, no matter how, you are a team and supporting each other. The Wells decided that they wanted to be nice and kind, and not offend anyone, or confront a minor issue in this story.
The Wells lack of listening to each other and conflict avoidance, caused them to have conflict between them, when someone else, outside of their marriage had caused a problem. It seems like it would be simple enough to ask the Browns to be careful in when they left their property, but because they didn’t do that, it caused the Wells to have stress and issues IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP.
Many times, people don’t even know they are crossing your boundaries or offending you. They really don’t! It doesn’t mean they are flawed or bad people, they just don’t know if you don’t communicate with them. It’s your job to communicate your boundaries with others. Expecting other people to notice and then judging them for that is a tough way to go. Generally people are well meaning, but they don’t know where you begin and end if you don’t tell them.
Everyone else in your life is ancillary to your marriage relationship. There are times to consider how to approach issues or when we need to decide together what is worth confronting, and what is worth letting go, but the main thing is that you support each other.
Asking questions to understand the other partner’s frustration, asking how you can come along side and help (without fixing, changing, or controlling) are good ways to start.
Jason and I have learned this lesson many times over, the hard way unfortunately. We love and like other people, but our family comes first. We have committed to never again allow anyone to come between us. If someone knowingly, or unknowingly stomps our geraniums, we will mention it, and deal with it in a healthy way to preserve relationships. If it is truly a situation in which someone is not a safe person, they will not be welcome in to our family or our circle, but our desire is to have healthy relationships with people we love and like.
Thank you for reading along. If this is helpful, please take what you want and leave the rest. Love, Leslie