My formerly sweet neighbor is freaking me out a little. Help!
January 30, 2010 1:01 AM Subscribe
How do I tell my insecure older neighbor that I’m not having a fling with her husband?
posted by vickyverky to human relations (39 answers total)
My husband and I (mid-40s) live next door to Bill and Rita, a married couple in their mid-60s. When we moved here six years ago, they were extremely welcoming. We’ve been in each other’s homes and hung out together quite a few times -- they even have our spare keys. We’ve lovingly called them the perfect neighbors. Bill is pretty mellow and avuncular; Rita is more reserved, but still friendly and warm.
Because Bill and Rita have lived here for decades, I asked them about the history of our neighborhood. Bill told me some great tales and dug out newspaper clippings and photos. Because I help run a local history group, I added Bill – with his blessing – to the mailing list, so he got four or five e-mails a year detailing various events and discoveries.
If Bill came over alone (for example, dropping off lemons from their tree), Rita would phone after 15 minutes or so. He would laugh this off and say, “She likes to keep me on a short leash.” When my husband and Bill went to an early-evening party together, Rita called Bill several times to tell him to come home.
About a month ago, Rita e-mailed me out of the blue: “Please advise on the cost of a subscription to [the local neighborhood newspaper] so you don’t have to waste your time sending these emails. Your neighbor, Rita.”
I was puzzled and a little bit freaked out. Then my husband told me that when he had been out with Bill the week before, Bill had mentioned that Rita had gone through his email and saw a couple of messages from the history listserv. She went ballistic and accused him of having an affair or cybersex, and would not be convinced that the email address belonged to vickyverky next door, despite the clearly innocuous subject matter. Bill said that Rita’s first husband had another woman, house, and kids, who he hid for years – and that she was very possessive as a result.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m definitely not having an affair with Bill, and I don’t like feeling that Rita is suspicious of me when she has no reason to be. She is quite the archetypal sweet little older lady, so I don’t feel threatened or in danger – but I don’t like feeling that there is resentment coming from next door.
I told our former downstairs neighbor, who had been just as friendly with Bill and Rita. She told me that one day, she had asked Bill to help her move some planters in the backyard. Bill did so, but asked her not to tell Rita, because she would be angry at him for going into the home of a single woman. (Again, absolutely nothing untoward happened or was even hinted at.)
Part of me thinks this is Rita’s problem and that I should just keep out of it, but another part of me wants to try to figure out a solution. My husband offered to talk with Bill, but the opportunity hasn’t come up yet.
We haven’t seen either of them since, but that isn’t deliberate – just the holidays, bad weather, etc. So far, I’ve ignored Rita’s email, but I’d appreciate some advice on what to do and/or say -- or not say.
And is it even an issue that Rita is emailing me from Bill's account? I'm tempted to say that I'll take Bill off the mailing list if he asks me to, but I don't think it's her place to tell me.