DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sibling and his spouse of 20 years are acrimoniously divorcing. The toxicity surrounding the breakup led the families of both parties to stick with their respective family member, and support that person during this very unhappy time. My family is very focused on the children, doing our best to ensure they feel loved, secure and supported.
My soon-to-be-ex in-law’s parents have both recently been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. My sibling has been told in no uncertain terms by his spouse not to reach out in any way to the parents, either to express sorrow or to offer support.
As a result, my sibling has instructed our family to ignore the illnesses and remain in the background. I do understand where this is coming from, but after 20 years marking milestone events in the children’s lives, holidays, etc., I feel like an awful human for not at least sending some sort of card or letter or basket of fruit to these elderly, ill people.
Can Miss Manners please create a directive of proper etiquette between about-to-be-ex families? I can’t believe I’m the only person to face this very awkward and sad situation.
GENTLE READER: One of the things most divorced couples realize too quickly is that they no longer have to do what the other says.
Miss Manners therefore appreciates that your sibling is intending to put harmony first in this case. But even if he avoids his soon-to-be-ex in-laws, the ban does not reasonably apply to you. Contacting your ex-relatives is the compassionate thing to do; just make allowances for the awkward position in which they may then find themselves with their own family member.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am getting married in April. A wedding guest who lives out of town told me that she is planning an engagement party for my bridesmaid, who moved out of state with her fiance, for the day after my wedding.
We are planning a wedding brunch on Sunday, and I will not be able to attend this engagement party for one of my best friends. My engaged friend will have already been engaged for four months by the time my wedding occurs. I initially told the planner that I was OK with this, but then told her that it would be hurtful, and it sounds like she is still proceeding with booking a venue and sending invites to this engagement party during my wedding weekend.
Should I be hurt by this? I also want my friend to be able to celebrate her engagement with her family and friends who live here, but it feels very rude, particularly when many of the invitees will also be at my wedding. I can’t prevent her from planning this event, but am not sure how to handle this. Is this a total faux pas, or something I should try and let go?
GENTLE READER: Sometimes conflicts can be avoided, and sometimes they cannot, but no one owns the calendar -- not even brides.
Miss Manners advises against arguing about the relative importance of the events -- not only because the value of a delayed engagement party versus a day-after wedding brunch is hard to measure, but also because you have already confused the issue by agreeing to the conflicting date for the party.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)