Miss Manners: My husband’s family ignores me and I’ve had enough

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Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I are an older couple, and my husband isn’t in the best of health. With that, a lot of care falls on me. I knew this going into the marriage seven years ago, and accepted the responsibility willingly – grateful that I can share these years with the kindest, most gentle man I have ever known.

Maybe I am being a bit thin-skinned, but my husband’s family and kids by a prior marriage seem to think I don’t exist. Cards and invitations all come addressed to him only, or him “plus guest.” I may be old-fashioned, but I did teach my children that even if you don’t care for the husband or wife, you always include both. Lay your battles down for that day and be nice for that event.

The kicker was a graduation where we both had grandchildren graduating. My daughter included both of us on the invitations to the ceremony and party. His son sent an invitation just to my husband. We just went to our separate families’ parties. When I saw them at the stadium, we all waved, but his family gave us all the cold shoulder.

This also happened when my hubby was in the hospital: I kept his family informed, but on the two times they visited, I was excluded from the conversation.

Now he can’t understand why I refuse to go out to lunch with his family, or even be around them on the very few times it happens per year. I have explained that I am too old for these games. They have made it clear I am unwanted, so I refuse to put myself in the position of being pointedly ignored.

I know it hurts his feelings, and I feel bad. How would you handle this?

With a less-frank characterization when speaking about the situation with your husband. Yours emphasizes the wrong being done to you. This does more than hurt your husband’s feelings: It also embarrasses him, as, being their father, he bears some responsibility for their rudeness.

Say (and mean, which Miss Manners realizes will be harder) that you are happy for him to spend quality time with his children. You know how much it means to them, and you know that they would prefer that it be just with him.

If you can convince him, then he will come to realize that your absenting yourself truly is the easiest solution. That, or he will take a fatherly responsibility and speak to his children about correcting their manners.

Dear Miss Manners: I overheard a conversation in which it was stated as fine and customary to listen on the extension when your spouse is speaking with an ex, perhaps about their children.

Is this true? I always thought it was rude, unless all parties on a call were aware of all participants involved.

For yourself, and anyone listening in, Miss Manners says emphatically that it is rude to eavesdrop on other peoples’ telephone calls, no less so if you have your suspicions – or if “an ex” implies the existence of more than the usual number.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her eRealMissManners.

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