How Should I Handle a Situation Where a Married Man Is Giving Me Gifts?

Updated on April 10, 2019
J.M. asks from Ann Arbor, MI
14 answers

I'm looking for some friendly and unbiased advice. I have some neighbors who are married that I like a lot, and feel like they are my friends. I'm a divorced female and have lived across the street from them for 6 years. When I'm outside and see the neighbors I visit with them, but I mostly see the husband. I have asked the husband for help around the house with stuff that I can't do myself, like cleaning the gutters. Sometimes he offers the help without me even asking. I always give him money, for the help, even though he says he doesn't want it. He started giving me flowers, candy, cookies, jewelry and other gifts, a few years ago. I feel really awkward about this. I've told him that he needs to give his wife the flowers. He says that he already does. The first time he gave me flowers, they were left on my front porch. I asked his wife if they were from them and she told me that her husband may have left them there for me. He in fact did leave them for me, without telling her. That felt really awkward. I try to refuse things from him, but he insists and I worry about offending him, but also that his wife will be offended that he is giving me these things. Just before Valentine's Day this year, he knocked on my door at night to deliver some heart shaped cookies. I just started a diet and refused them. I let him know that I was trying not to eat sweets. Since that night, he has acted distant and cold. It really hurts my feelings that because I don't want a relationship with him, like the kind of relationship that I think he wants, that we can't be neighborly any more. I don't think that I have ever done anything to lead him on. I don't flirt with him, or talk about anything that would encourage him to think we had a relationship. I have felt a little bit stalked by him. He has showed up in places that I was at. As soon as I go out the front door, he used to have a radar that I was there, and would come over to talk. One day he was asking me if I was dating and other questions that made me feel uncomfortable. Other than that he really hasn't hit on me. Some of the times that he has brought me flowers or sweets, his wife has been away on a trip. That made me feel really uncomfortable. I don't know what to do. I think they have both been great neighbors and I don't want to lose their friendship. I just know that I would be very angry if it were my husband giving another woman gifts. I really think there is already a strain in their marriage. I have no plans in coming in between them. I'm really not used to this kind of attention. I'm a fairly shy and quiet person, with social anxiety. I'm also kind and friendly to people, despite my shyness. I don't want my friendliness to be misinterpreted as if I am interested in this man, because I am not interested. Can anyone please give me some advice or share any similar experiences? Thank you!

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answers from New York on

I agree with Margie's phrase below, "borrowing husbands". It's easy for you to say you paid him for the work (or: "don't blame me, he *asked* to clean my gutter!"), but really, that shows an inappropriate lack of boundaries. He is not a hired handyman.

By the same token, his gift of jewelry (!! that's crazy!!) is like a "payment" to you for giving him extra opportunities in his daily life to feel like a Big Man - which is something that only his WIFE should be doing.

Go online. Find repair people and gutter cleaning services. Pay them. Problem solved. (Who knows - maybe one of them will be a handsome *single* guy, you'll fall madly in love, and we can all watch the Hallmark Movie version of the story soon.)

Nice neighbors wave and say a cheerful hello when they see each other. From a safe distance!

10 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

I was suddenly widowed in October, 2015.

Step 1: I do NOT ask anyone for help around the house. I have no family in the area but I will not put myself in the situation of "needing" anything from any male friend.

Yes, it cost me extra money but I hire a professional.

Some men assume interest if a woman asks for or accepts any type of help. WAY back when I was a teen and my mom newly divorced in a small rural town, I remember men neighbors and co-workers always stopping by to "help" her in some way. Sadly, many of them have an alternative angle for offering their services.

Like you, I do not like confrontation but I would continue to refuse any gifts (and services) but be gracious about it and I be firm. You can be firm without strong confrontation.

It sounds to me you didn't knowingly flirt but you were in need and he bit on that. If someone were to show up where I am once or twice max, I wouldn't think much about it but more than that, I would start thinking stalkerish. Stop answering your door. Keep communicating with the wife.

Has he been inside your home? If so, as a precaution, and because of his behavior, not taking no for an answer, and persistence, I would hire someone to check for any hidden cameras in your home.

Unfortunately, you need to limit contact with him and may lose them as friends in the process but better off to lose a friend than deal with someone like this. Moving may be an option?

My late husband and I owned our own company and I have continued it on my own. I know how you feel because I have vendors who want to take me to dinner, etc which is perfectly ok with the business and negotiating that takes place BUT, I have a couple of vendors I no longer meet for lunch or dinner just because they are like your neighbor.. a little too friendly and interested in my personal life. With those people, I will only work via phone and email and I am unavailable when they are in town.

Best wishes to you.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i think you know the answer. it's very clear that he's coming on to you and that his wife wouldn't like it. i'm sure you're right in that you're not sending him signals of interest, but you're also not getting through to him, so you need to worry less about offending him and more about being clear.

if he were really paying attention he'd have picked up on your subtle signals, but he's a cheater and a jerk and wants to push himself on a single woman he senses will be vulnerable to his predation.

help cleaning your gutters is great but it's not worth this.

i know you are anxious and shy about this, but fake it til you make it. rebutt all of his overtures firmly. refuse his gifts. refuse to talk to him at all unless his wife is present. yes, there's a very good chance they'll both stop being particularly friendly to you, but that's way, way, way better than continuing this awkward dance.

unless you're secretly wanting to give in to him, make it abundantly clear that you ain't. the rudeness is on his part, not yours.


11 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Why is this guy paying you to help you? You should have seen that as a red flag right away - jewelry? I would have ended the favors right away.

You might not have seen yourself as leading him on, but I wouldn't worry about offending him. If you feel uncomfortable you just say "Sorry, I can't accept this". You have an out - you just say "I should be paying you". Then offer to pay him money - that would be the appropriate thing.

That would make it an actual transaction - because he's doing something to spare you paying someone else - like a handy-person.

I personally would just find someone else to do these jobs around your home, and be done with it. Problem solved. Call him/her next time. Or get a manual and learn some of it yourself or YouTube. You don't want to be borrowing husbands. Not cool to the wife.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Stop asking your neighbors to help you around the house and hire someone to do it. When your neighbor shows up with anything tell him to stop and send him home.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I get wanting to be neighborly and not have tension. You've made efforts to connect with his wife or with them as a couple, and that's fine. Originally getting some help from him and paying him was fine, but he can't handle it. If he had baked a bunch of stuff and just given you a little, that would be one thing. My neighbor (a single guy) has a bumper crop of cucumbers or zucchini from his garden now and then, and he leaves a bag on my doorstep and the doorsteps of a few others. But that's not what's happening to you.

The absolute red flags are the following: 1) He does it when his wife is away. 2) Even if she's home, she doesn't know about it. 3) Jewelry! Seriously? That is WAY too intimate a gift from a neighbor! 4) The big one that should cause you concern: he shows up where you are. Trust your instinct - this is stalking.

You sound like a person who tries to be very nice to everyone. You are shy and quiet, with some social anxiety, yet you push through that to be friendly. This is admirable. However, there are people you should not do that with. He's one of them.

I believe you should recalibrate your thought processes. You are more worried about his feelings and hers than about your own. You say you don't want to "come between them" but you don't see that YOU are not the one messing up their relationship - he is! This is all on him, or them - and not on you. Where you have made a mistake is in doing things for years that make you uncomfortable, rather than find a way out of it. You refuse, he insists, you relent, at least enough times that he keeps trying. And now he's cold and you feel responsible. I hope you can get to the point where you feel relieved. I do think you need to find a stock phrase or two, so that you let him know you are not comfortable with personal tokens from a married man. You can either return the jewelry to him (which may make him angry but will be a clear message) or you can give it away - but don't wear it. Instead of refusing heart-shaped treats because you're on a diet, you have to find a way to say, "You should give these hearts to your sweetheart, (wife's name). I insist! She's lovely and is the rightful recipient." If he pushes back, you say, "I insist. Gotta go. Bye now." Or, you can recall the old adage that goes: "No" is a complete sentence.

I agree with others that you hire neutral people to help you. You can go on Angie's List or Thumbtack or other services to find someone and check their reviews/references. If you are on Facebook, you can ask friends for recommendations. (If he's on Facebook and is "friends" with you, block him. If you can't afford all this outside help, then take a course at the bigger hardware stores on how to do some things, or barter your own services with another pro (just trade off what you can do for something they can do). You need an insured pro to clean gutters or do plumbing, but a resourceful teen can rake leaves and help you stack firewood or wash your deck. (I don't know what you need - these are just examples.)

If you want to continue being good neighbors, I would do things for his wife. Cook a meal and give half to her. Yes, he's going to eat it too, which makes it look like you're being friendly to both, but the favor is done for HER. It sounds like she doesn't get as much from him as she'd like. But I'd keep my distance overall, lest he see your gifts as outreach to him.

I hope you can find the strength to stand up for yourself and not feel the need to take on all kinds of anxiety and stress just to alleviate his. This could become an unsafe situation so stop him now.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Don't ask him for help around the house anymore. Hire a professional. If he comes over to talk ask about his wife a lot. Don't accept gifts. He has a crush on you. It's not right.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If he was truly a friend he would listen to you when you said his actions were making you uncomfortable. A friend would say, oh gee I'm sorry I made you feel that way, not act distant and cold because you aren't interested in his gifts.
I know it's hard being neighbors and having a history, but I would definitely distance myself from him. You can still smile and say hello but keep it short and hire a handyman the next time you need work done. Hopefully he'll get the message, and if not do NOT be afraid to be firm with him.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

He's being inappropriate.
Few things tick me off more than a married man on the prowl.
He crossed the line when he began courting you - flowers, gifts, candy, jewelry - should not be coming from a married man unless you happen to be married to him.
I'm not sure what the heck he is thinking but a romance would surely spoil the friendship and make living in the neighborhood down right awkward if not impossible.

Tell him in no uncertain terms that while you are grateful for his handyman work - which you are willing to pay him for his time - his gift giving is making you feel uncomfortable.
Your neighbors marriage is not your problem to fix.
Anytime he asks about your personal life just ask him why he wants to know.
If he magically turns up where you are - say it's good to see him but you don't have time for small talk at the moment - then go about your business.
Anytime the subject of gifts comes up ask him if his wife enjoyed hers.
Get good with answering questions with questions.
I'd go out of my way to be friendly toward the wife - meet her for coffee every few weeks.

It might be wise to look for a new handy man - while maintaining the wife friendship - there are a number of Honey Do type businesses out there where you can find someone who will be more business like.
It might also help if you eventually start dating - because having a boyfriend will put this neighbor guy off.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Ok. This guy needs to stop. You are going to have to be blunt. As to ruining the friendship, he already has. He has overstepped boundaries in friendship and marriage.
Sever contact other than a neighborly wave.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

To reinforce some things said by the other posters:
Your instincts were absolutely right that this guy was doing all sorts of inappropriate stuff and looking for a romantic relationship. I understand your reluctance to refuse the offerings because it's awkward going forward, however you really do need to re-establish the boundaries with him which HE has walked across. Maybe he finally got the message when you refused the cookies--and it's all for the best that he's acting cool! While it is awkward and it would be nice to be able to be friendly neighbors, you don't want the prior kind of contact with him, right? You couldn't have a friendly neighbor interaction with him because he was pushing for something else. Now that he has stopped bugging you, don't re-establish any close contact with him. Ask friends to refer you to good professionals who can clean your gutters and do other tasks for you, and use Youtube to learn how to do some of the easier tasks. Don't ask him to do anything for you again--it would be opening a door which needs to stay shut. Polite greetings to him and maybe interacting with the wife, but that's it. Good luck with it--hate when things get messy!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

He is bored and likes the attention and fantasy you bring him.

You are the girl next door and his mind is literally in the gutter while he is cleaning your gutters.

I have lived on military bases and this actually has happened a lot to me as a single mom. Married men who I was friends with the wives would start dropping things off on my door steps perfume, chocolates, cards, flowers, even shoes. It was as if they felt sorry for me. They also became protective of me too, making sure I was alright in bad weather etc.

You need to make up a boyfriend or get one...that’s what I did and it popped the fantasy. As soon as they saw another guys pick up truck in my driveway they left me alone. Set boundaries and he will back off.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

This guy sounds creepy and your intuition is right on point. I get that you are sad to lose friendly neighbors, but it doesn't sound like this guy can just be friends. That's good news for you that he has already distanced himself after denial of the cookies. Just continue to distance yourself b/c this can't go anywhere good. Find friends elsewhere!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would refuse any and all gifts from him. You did the right thing in refusing the cookies. Now he is acting cold and pouting because he wants the attention and wants you to apologize and allow him to keep his manipulation going on. Don't fall for it. I would also tell the wife to keep better control of him so he doesn't wander off to your home with gifts or awkward conversations and I would tell her of all the things he has purchased (she may be unaware and in shock, as well as pretty angry, when she finds out). I would feel embarrassed enough to have a talk with my spouse, if some woman came forward accusing my husband of hitting on her, so hopefully, she will too. I am single and have never had a married man do these things to me, and while at first I would have taken it as a friendly gesture to offer to help me with things around the house, if he started coming over alone and with gifts, I would have easily accepted to pay a hired stranger and avoid him completely, than to constantly be put in these awkward situations with this man. This is not stemming out of kindness (as in, wanting to help, feeling a brotherly sense, and expecting nothing in return), but out of ulterior motives on his part.

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