Tell Me About It: A neighbour my husband is friends with is invading our space

I’m at my wits’ end. I have made it clear to my husband on a number of occasions that we need more privacy

PROBLEM: My husband and I have just moved house. We were looking forward to it for some time as we were very happy to leave our old neighbourhood. However, since we have moved into our new neighbourhood things have taken a turn for the worse. The neighbourhood is lovely. We have some really nice people all around us. The problem is that my husband has become extremely friendly with a neighbour next door, a lovely man who is quite a bit older than us. We are a couple with young children and I have given up work to be at home with them.

My husband seems to have formed a very close friendship with this guy. He is frequently visiting our house and it almost feels as though he has practically moved into our family. I’m at my wits’ end. I have made it clear to my husband on a number of occasions that we need to have more privacy. But he doesn’t seem to understand, or it doesn’t translate into putting any boundaries around this man’s new position in our family.

I feel that I never get treated as the important person in my house, and I hate that I am feeling angry and jealous. Even when we book a night out, my husband organises to meet this man afterwards in the pub. He says it is just being sociable and that we are settling into the community. What can I do?

ADVICE: It seems that there is a lot going well in your life right now: your new house, a lovely neighbourhood and “really nice people” around you. This move also seems to have highlighted some insecurities in your life; perhaps you could use this as an opportunity to address them. Your response to your husband’s new friend is similar to what you might feel if he was having a flirtation: hurt, abandonment and rejection.

The problem is that this response can sound a bit unstable when it is applied to a friendship. Your husband does not seem to understand your desire for boundaries with this neighbour, and so it is difficult for him to take the situation seriously. The question is whether you are over-reacting or if your husband is lacking sensitivity – or perhaps both.

It sounds as though your husband is excited to have a new male friendship. I wonder whether he has other friendships and how this one compares to those.

Also, this man is older and perhaps is offering your husband a type of relationship that either mirrors or offers a type of father-son bond. It might help you to be calmer about the situation if you could understand it better, so some inquiry or observation might be helpful to you now. Can you support your husband in this relationship while being clear that there needs to be a solid circle around your couple relationship? It could be that your husband feels that it is becoming an either/or situation and so he avoids having to make a choice by pretending nothing is wrong. You might need to find a way to allow him to have the friendship while also ensuring that he puts you as number one in his life.

You must settle this question first: if you find that you are confident that your relationship will last, then you can tackle your own insecurity. It could be that you need more outlets in your life that increase your confidence, such as engaging in activities so that you are not reliant on your husband for all your emotional needs. This could include creating strong friendships for yourself and having interests that occupy your mind and your energy.

Along with this development, you can schedule romantic moments for your relationship where you remind each other of how important the relationship is and how you want to support each other in your lives.

However, if this current situation is exposing a fissure in your relationship, this is the time to tackle it so that your marriage does not slowly erode over the years, leaving you bitter and angry. Rather than demand that your husband keep the neighbour at bay, it is the relationship that needs to be put under the microscope and looked at with precision.

If this is the case, then it is up to you to demand that time and honesty be applied to the relationship. It can be frightening to address this, as it opens up the possibility that there is trouble between you, but the avoidance of action could mean that your husband continues to ignore your concerns and you become more annoyed.

You must make a judgment about the situation is and then have the fortitude to tackle it.