DEAR MISS MANNERS: In a situation where a husband has had an affair, and this has become known to the wife, and the husband and wife have decided together to discontinue the affair and continue with the marriage -- who else may know of the affair, if anyone?
May the wife confide in her closest friends, or is this asking for trouble of the endless "Why do you stay with him?" kind?
It seems very grim to weather such a storm without anyone to confide in --but it also seems risky. And the couple's parents? It seems very hard for the wife to have to continue hearing from her mother-in-law what a prize she has, under these circumstances, but neither does it seem right to reveal such private marital details.
If no one may know except the people directly involved, what do you think is the best way for the wife to explain to her friends why she seems "so weird lately"?
GENTLE READER: "Stress." That's what everyone else cites as an excuse for strange -- even rude -- behavior, so it doesn't fan much curiosity. "I'll be all right; I don't feel like talking about it right now" is usually enough to quell the probing.
But this is far from solving the problem. There is an urgent need for a sympathetic ear, but Miss Manners has to confirm your realization that this rarely, if ever, comes without a price. Even the closest partisans will weigh in with advice and will show their distaste to the husband long after the couple may have put the episode behind them. Furthermore, they may unburden themselves to confidantes of their own, and the story will soon be all over town.
Ethical professional counselors will not do that, but one can hardly expect them to refrain from giving advice, which is what people go to them to get. Also, they tend to assume that the fault must not be all on one side, putting the faithful partner in the unpleasant position of sharing some blame.
So, yes -- it is harsh not to be able to talk about this but risky to do so.
One confidence you ought to make is to the person who already knows -- your husband. Miss Manners suggests that you confide what it is that you may be driven to reply unless he persuades his mother to stop telling you how lucky you are.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: It drives me nuts when on the phone the person I'm speaking with will say, "Well, I'll let you go."
Does that mean I have permission to hang up? Shouldn't hanging up the phone be a mutual thing and not something requiring permission from one to the other? Or am I the one who is irritating by this bothering me?
GENTLE READER: Probably not, but Miss Manners would like to convince you that it is a useful new-ish convention. It implies that the other person's time is more valuable than one's own. And it beats the sign-off of "I think I hear my mother calling me."