My gorgeous new neighbour won’t stop flirting with my husband. How can I get her to back off? You can’t change her behaviour, says our elder. But you can ask your husband to help.
Hi, I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for two years and we have a beautiful five-year-old daughter. Our life was great until we got a new neighbor six months ago. Our new neighbor is gorgeous to say the least and she’s really interesting, which is why I got nervous when my husband and I went over to help her unload the van and her eyes literally brightened at the sight of my husband and she acted as if I wasn’t even there! What really ticked me off was when she squeezed his arm and complimented his muscles – the worst part is that he seemed totally oblivious to it! I didn’t say anything that time but over the months she’s only gotten more vigorous with her flirting. She’ll bring cookies over to our house to give to my husband so she can twirl her hair and chat with him, but when I answer the door she claims she’s busy and has to run off. We had a Christmas party and she was literally hanging on my husband’s side laughing at all his jokes and telling him how good looking he was in my house! I’ve never seen anything like her in my life! My husband tells me he loves me and would never hurt me but why do I feel so threatened and like I have to compete with this woman? When I ask my husband about her, he says he finds her attractive but he loves me and that they just have common interests. I’m terrified – I don’t want to be that wife who’s always jealous and self conscious or is competitive, but what if he discovers he likes her better? I feel like this woman is going to tear my family apart. What should I do? What can I do to make her stop flirting with him when she barely even speaks to me?
Thanks for writing to the Elder Wisdom Circle and sharing your dilemma with us. I am one of the Elder volunteers. I would say there’s potential trouble ahead. You didn’t say if the neighbor is single, but I suppose it doesn’t matter considering how she is acting. First of all, make sure you do not jump to conclusions and interpret her actions as overly flirtatious. Reading your letter several times tells me that’s not the case, and she does find your husband attractive. Why she is so bold about it in front of you is curious. However, you were there, and it seems to me it’s obvious she has designs on your husband. Remember, it always is a good idea to listen to your intuition, thoughts, and feelings about a bothersome situation.
Looking at your question near the end, “What can I do to make her stop flirting with him?” The short answer is, “Not much.” By that, I mean you can’t do much to stop her from trying. If you say anything to her, it’ll almost certainly end up as an argument, and she’ll still want to fool around with your husband — and possibly even more just to get even for you noticing it and accusing her.
Based on your letter, I think you have a healthy, happy marriage and I don’t see this situation as the beginning of the end. However, it is making you very uncomfortable. There’s one person who can put a stop to that. Your husband! He loves you, and I’m sure he’s also a bit flattered by the attention of an attractive female. I learned decades ago that most single and partnered women and men are usually sizing up members of the opposite sex. Why? Genetic, biological reasons combined with social pressures would be my guess. What separates the women from the girls and the men from the boys is whether they act on these urges. I’ve known many men and women in my life, and most who are in serious relationships never stray. Sure, it’s flattering to be ‘given the nod’ by someone attractive, but at the end of the day, most people I knew valued their marriage more. That’s why I read between the lines that nothing is likely to happen and asked you to be sure you are not overreacting. While I don’t know either of you, your words strike me as sincere, and I think you have long, happy marriage ahead.
Knowing this doesn’t solve the issue, does it? You have to convince your husband that, innocent or not, allowing your neighbor to touch him, give him undivided attention, and openly flirt with him in front of you is unacceptable. While he likely has no intention of pursuing her, it sounds like he is unaware of how much it bothers you. You have to sit down with him and calmly explain how it makes you feel. There’s a template for such statements that can get your point across in one to two sentences:
When you _____________, it makes me feel _____________.
In your case, “When you let her touch you, it makes me feel as if you enjoy it.” Or, “When you both give each other undivided attention when she visits, it makes me feel that I’m not here.” And the list goes on. In one non-accusatory sentence, you let him know what he’s doing/not doing and how it makes you feel. Maybe he doesn’t know how much these simple actions are affecting you. He’s told you that he finds her attractive. That is not something any woman or man wants to hear from their partner — that they find someone else attractive!
I think that’s how you ought to approach this. Don’t waste your time trying to get your neighbor to stop. Put your energy into convincing your husband he has to tell her some variation of, “You know, while I am flattered by your attention, I’m married to Susan, and this is inappropriate.” She’ll get the message and back off. Hopefully, your husband can discreetly do this so as not to embarrass her. However, she needs to be told to back off by him, and she doesn’t take it well, I guess you won’t be getting any more neighborly visits from her.
I hope things come together for you soon, and you are to figure out how you want to proceed. If you wish to, feel free to write back about this or anything else you have on your mind. As the website says, you can also ask for a second opinion. There are many Elders, and someone else may have a different perspective.