Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Unknown Marital Status Leads to Awkward Moment

DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a black-tie dinner last week and ran into a man I know. As I walked up to say hello to him, I was about to ask him about his wife when I saw that he was with another woman. He quickly introduced me to her and called her his girlfriend. I was so confused. I know that he was married last year when I saw him. It was an awkward moment that got me to thinking. On the one hand, you want to be thoughtful and ask about people's spouses, especially when you are a single woman and you approach a man to say hello. I was attempting to be appropriate. Was that wrong? What do you do in a situation like that, other than just say hello? -- Uncomfortable Encounter, Chicago

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE ENCOUNTER: I feel your pain. Recently I went to an event and ran into a woman I had not seen for years. As she approached me, she haltingly said that she wasn't sure if she should dare ask about my husband. I was happy to report that we are still married after 20 years. But, as she pointed out, many people are not.

In a situation like yours, what may be wise is to take the lead of the person you are greeting, especially if he is standing next to another woman. By simply saying hello, you will have acknowledged him in the moment. Do know that he has probably gotten a few asks on behalf of his ex, though, especially since the breakup is relatively new.

As a single woman greeting a presumably married man, you can remain appropriate by being gracious and reserved. If he is standing alone, by all means ask about his wife.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I call my husband every day during the day to say hello. He used to like it when I called, but now it seems like I am annoying him. I don't stay on the phone long. I just check in to see how he's doing. I thought that was nice considering that we work all day and don't see each other much during the week. I don't know what to do now because it hurts my feelings when I call and he brushes me off. Part of me wants to just shut down and stop calling, but deep down inside I want to figure out things to do to keep us interested in each other. I don't want to end up like so many of my friends who have drifted apart from their spouses. Help! -- Lonely, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR LONELY: Talk to your husband. He may not realize that you have this daily practice since it is something you have always done. Ask him if he likes for you to call. If not, why not? It could be that he is busy at work and your call interrupts his flow. It could be that he doesn't like to talk on the phone.

Tell him that you want to be close to him. Be honest that you don't want to end up like some of your friends who are no longer close in their marriages. Ask him for ideas on how you can be more closely connected. Starting the conversation may lead to great shared ideas.