Miss Manners: Husband’s carelessness leaves stain on his marriage

November 6, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I came home to find that I had accidentally left an ink pen in my shirt pocket. This is the second time I have done this, the last time being about six months ago.

After cleaning the dryer, I approached my wife and proposed that we both recommit ourselves to checking for pens and other items in clothing before washing them. My wife does the laundry most of the time. I always check the clothing for stray items because I know myself and that I may forget to check when I put clothing in the hamper.

But my wife exclaimed that she didn’t want to take care of me in that way, that I needed to be responsible for making sure that all my clothing is free of pens and other items before putting them in the hamper. Is it reasonable for me to ask that we both check?

GENTLE READER: Reason has nothing to do with it. Would a reasonable man leave a pen in the pocket of a shirt he was putting in the laundry? Twice? And then claim that he always checks?

Well, maybe. Probably also his good cuff links in the sleeves and the grocery list in the pocket. But it is also possible that this would drive an otherwise loving wife into a state of unreason, where it is not the extra chore that sets her off, but the fact that you won’t follow a simple precaution. Miss Manners advises you to do so.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I had a visit from a couple we knew in college 50 years ago, the first time we’d seen them since then. The wife hardly stopped talking in the seven hours we were together, going into excruciating detail about everything that had happened to her and that she’d done for most of those 50 years.

“And we had breakfast at 10 o’clock on the day of the rehearsal dinner, and I cooked everything except the lasagna, and they opened their gifts in the living room with just the immediate family ...” And “I became president of the church women’s group after I’d been the secretary and the regional administrator and ...”

The husband would start to tell a story, and she’d jump in and correct him and take it over. My husband and I were polite and nodded in all the right places, but we really wanted to hear more about what the husband had done.

At the end of the visit we were totally exhausted. Was there any polite way we could have indicated to her that she should stifle herself?

GENTLE READER: Your classmate has worked on becoming a bore for at least half a century, and who knows how many years her husband has been trying to finish a story. Surely you don’t think you could have cured her with a little phrase.

Well, you could have waited for her to pause, if in fact she ever did, and said to the husband, “Calvin, you were saying ...?” That would not prevent her from breaking in all over again, but it might have provided a modicum of comfort to him that at least someone wants to hear him.

Miss Manners’s other advice is to wait another 50 years for your next reunion with this lady.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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