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Miss Manners: Man keeps taunting long-ago romantic rival

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Circumstances have placed me in social circles with a couple I have known many years. The wife was my true love from high school. She chose another to wed, and I have always held my tongue and in no way have interfered, or revealed the private hurt the loss of her affection once caused me.

We sometimes meet at group dinners and parties. Whenever I am alone with her husband, my old rival, he rubs it in that she shares a marriage bed with him and not me. He expresses this crudely, in ways that would outrage his wife and all of our mutual friends.

What should I do? If I reveal his vulgarities, he would deny them. If I did something like record them, everyone would think me ugly-minded. He’s been doing this a long time now. What is the polite thing for me to do?

GENTLE READER: Avoid being alone in his company. If you cannot and he continues, excuse yourself saying, “Forgive me. I am sure that our respective wives would highly disapprove of this conversation. You will understand if I take my leave and spare them.” This gives you credit for threatening him, without actually doing so.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband recently threw me a surprise 40th birthday party at a local establishment we frequent. Several friends were in attendance and had braved bad driving conditions to share in the 9 p.m. celebration.

The party was a complete surprise and I had an unforgettable time. I would like to be able to say it was an absolute success. However, the delight I was still basking in the following day was cut short when I talked to my mom. My husband had not invited my parents because he did not think they would attend, due to the party not starting until later. In addition, no other family were in attendance, and the invitation was created via social media, which my parents are not part of.

My parents are very hurt, feel slighted by my husband and said it should have been up to them to decide if 9 p.m. and poor road conditions were enough to keep them home.

Up until now, my parents and husband have had a loving relationship. My husband realized his error and took it upon himself to contact my parents to extend a sincere apology, but my mom is one to hold grudges. I am very saddened to see my parents so upset and feel like I am caught in the middle. How do we move forward?

GENTLE READER: Groveling. Or rather, ask your husband to grovel.

Have him issue another heartfelt apology, this time in writing, and follow up with your parents by telling them how devastated he is, and that he has sworn he will never make a similar assumption again.

Ask them if, in the name of peace in the family, they could possibly forgive him. If there are children – or the prospect of children – Miss Manners recommends you invoke them for maximum effect. These are desperate times.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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