The Washington Post

Miss Manners: Father-in-law’s instruction may not be what it seems

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband plays quite a senior role in his father’s company, and we own a small percentage of said company. This means that oftentimes, at dinner, the two men will talk business.

However, during these business talks my father-in-law will often turn to me and tell me that my job is to make sure everything runs smoothly at home so that my husband can go to work.

I find this very offensive, not necessarily because I disagree (I am, indeed, a housewife, and my husband and I have amicably agreed to share certain household responsibilities accordingly), but because I find it inappropriate to be told by him how to organize our marriage and my life. I am worried he may start telling me how to raise my children, how to cook dinner, how to best organize laundry -- I think you get my point.

I have voiced this concern to my husband, who tells me that I am being overly sensitive and that it is merely an attempt on my father-in-law’s part to involve me in the conversation and also an attempt to calm my husband down with any stresses he may have due to his workload.

We have agreed that I will ask my father-in-law not to “boss me around,” as it were, should he bring the subject up in the future.

Nevertheless, I have a great respect for my father-in-law. I enjoy his company, and I am very grateful for all the times he has helped us out as a family -- I do not want to be rude.

How should I best word this? Should I even approach the subject at all, or should I simply nod along and smile as I have done in the past?

GENTLE READER: The point you need to make, which he as a businessman should understand, is that it is bad for morale to allow others to suspect that you do not know how to do your job.

He will protest that he is merely calling attention to your contributions, and indeed, Miss Manners believes, as does your husband, that such is his intent. So rather than react as if he had attacked you, you should gently explain that he has worded it as if he were giving you new instructions.

If he persists, you could respond to his comments each time by asking, in a good-natured tone, “Am I doing all right? May I keep the job?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have been invited to a very small dinner party. He has a bad cold, but feels fine to go. My question is, should we go or not because he could spread germs?

GENTLE READER: Your husband feels fine about infecting his friends? Charming.

Miss Manners recommends locking him in the bedroom while you convey his regrets to the host, and making sure that you have all the car keys with you at the dinner party.

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

2011, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS



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