July 1, 2011 in Features

Wishing to be married won’t make it happen

Judith Martin,
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been dating a very special gentleman for almost two years now. He was married before and says he won’t do it again!

I am 41 and have never been married. I have brought it up a few times; he pretends to ignore it.

I was wondering, do you think he is just saying that, or will it take more time? Or will I never be able to wear his ring and last name? Should I stop thinking about it, or should I just accept the fact I will never be married? I love him very much, and it’s hard to imagine not ever being married to him.

GENTLE READER: You have reminded Miss Manners to be grateful that she does not write a lovelorn column. The etiquette analysis, she is sorry to say, is that you must take a gentleman at his word.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I wonder what the appropriate expression of sympathy is in the event of a suicide?

My beloved older brother committed suicide a year ago after a long battle with depression, alcohol and prescription drugs, and I am flummoxed at the response from my husband’s family. One sister-in-law sent me an email that read only, “Sorry about your brother. Too bad he couldn’t work through his dysfunction.”

Others have not even acknowledged it happened, while others sent a card, but have not mentioned it since, even after a visit exactly one month to the day of his death (they live in a distant state).

The message that comes across is that he brought this on himself, his actions are shameful, and that somehow we are grieving less because of the circumstances surrounding his death.

I can’t help but think that had he died of, for example, cancer, they would ask me frequently how I am doing, how the rest of my family is doing, about his final days. I want to talk about this, as I feel a need to defend him, but am not sure how to approach the subject, or if I should simply accept their questionable response. I’m afraid it’s done some real damage to our previously friendly relationship.

Approaching it as a matter of etiquette, what is a typical response to a death by suicide?

GENTLE READER: The proper response to any death affecting people one knows is to express condolences and, if possible, say kind things about the one who died. Your relatives seem to think that ignoring it or attacking him will do just as well.

Unfortunately, they are not alone, and you are sadly mistaken that a death from cancer or another disease is always treated respectfully. Miss Manners is often told that the reaction is to complain that the person did not have whatever healthful habits the speaker believes in. And when someone dies at a very old age, there are those who think it a comfort to tell his or her descendants that they must be relieved.

The chances of getting the reaction you want from people who have been that callous are not good. Miss Manners would not advise opening the subject again, thus exposing yourself to another dose.

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