Susan from That's Life magazine has kindly suggested the following:
Thanks so much for your email - and what a tricky situation you are in! You obviously feel caught between wanting to tell your neighbour to back off, and wanting to maintain the friendship and the support system you've built up between you.
Like you, I don't think the answer is simply to laugh the whole thing off and pretend it's not happening. That's possibly the right way forward when it comes to your neighbour's flirty behaviour - but she is also criticising your husband, and that's very serious indeed. So while what she's doing may be entirely innocent - just an attempt to bring you closer as friends rather than as lovers - I do think you ought to challenge it.
How can you challenge? You say you don't want to offend your neighbour - but I think that in an attempt not to offend, you may be acting too softly softly. Especially in Britain where we are encouraged not to let our feelings show, we can tend to hide our emotions much too much - so that people never reaslise we object to something that's happening. When others say or do outrageous things we may feel uncomfortable or irritated, but we smile and nod - in an attempt to hide the irritation - and then our smiles and nods give the unhelpful message that we don't mind what's happening and don't want it to stop.
The upside of all this, though, is that because Brits don't normally cause a fuss, it will only take a slight objection on your part for your neighbour to get the message. Here are some examples of gentle but firm messages that you don't like what's happening - maybe you can think of more for yourself.
- flinch next time she grabs you
- frown and say 'that seems too personal to me' next time she offers to tumble dry your laundry
- shake your head and say 'I love my husband very much and he's not a ne'er do well' next time she criticises him
You won't need to throw a temper tantrum or get upset to make your point. You probably won't even need to say very much. A clear body language sign that you are not happy (frown, flinch, shaking your head, wrinkling your nose, grimacing) will almost certainly make your neighbour realise she needs to back off .
If she doesn't realise, of course, then you need to say it more clearly - sit down and have a heart to heart. But I think you're very far from that point - if you act immediately, I think you can nip things in the bud. So start today, and hope she gets the message!
Oh, Susan, if only it were that easy. I am tempted to reply with the following:
Thank you for your reply and advice. However, I fear it is too late, for last Tuesday my neighbour invited me over for a seasonal coffee, then leant in for a kiss.