DEAR MISS MANNERS: During the time I was with my now-ex-fiance, I treated his kids like my own and purchased small gifts for Valentine’s, birthdays, Easter, Christmas, etc. I bought his ex-wife a small box of chocolates one Christmas, and a tin of flavored popcorn the next year as a gesture of politeness.
I did such because despite my parents having had a nasty divorce, they never bad-mouthed each other and made certain the other had a gift from my brother and me. So, I was raised seeing that positive and mature behavior from my parents.
While the kids said thank you, I never received a thank-you from the ex-wife -- she never told my fiance to thank me, never told her kids to tell me on her behalf, nor did I receive such via a holiday card.
To clarify, I didn’t expect a gift in return from the ex-wife or kids. I realize that the ex-wife might have taken my gesture as an attempt to suck up to her, which it wasn’t. Yet I find it incredibly rude that she never said thank you on any level.
Now I am dating again. What should I do if I find myself in the same situation? Were my past actions too nice?
GENTLE READER: “Too nice” is not a concept with which Miss Manners is familiar, and she never wants to discourage generosity. But there is a difference between keeping up customs with someone you have divorced and doing so with a stranger that someone else has.
If the presents were intended to come from the children, the ex-wife would have had no reason to thank you. But if you considered her indebted to you for providing them, you would have given the lie to that and left her understandably flummoxed.