Just Behave

Just Behave: Isn’t My Tragedy Bad Enough?

Our etiquette expert answers your questions.

BY March 6, 2018

Recently there have been a lot of terrible things happening in my life. Is it just me, or does anyone else have friends who try to “top” your crisis with something they consider worse than what has happened to you? I have a friend who, instead of sympathizing, diminishes my sadness and makes me feel ridiculous that my situation isn’t as bad as hers. What should I do? — Michelle, Bonita Springs

Dear Michelle,

This is not about who has a higher score on an emotional pain index. People’s situations are different and everyone grieves in different ways. So, instead of turning this into a competition, let’s all be understanding and kind to each other. Sometimes friends tell you their troubles to try to make you feel better and know you’re not alone. If that’s not the case with your friend, just kill her with kindness. Maybe it will become contagious.


I’m in my late 30s, and my relatives keep asking about my dating situation and when I’ll get married. How do I tell them, politely, to mind their own business? I hate going to family events because I feel like I’m being judged.​ — Mary, Fort Myers

Dear Mary,

I can certainly relate because my relatives asked me the same question for many years. Maybe they just don’t know what else to talk about. No matter. Misdirection is the game to play here. 

When they ask about your dating—and you don’t want to share—just answer with positive things you want to talk about. For example, you can respond with, “I’m so excited about my new job promotion,” or new yoga class, or hobby. “Did I tell you I’m now responsible for blah, blah, blah, etc.?”

I’m glad you asked how to go about this politely. Your family is probably just concerned about you and want you to be happy. But they’ll now see what makes you feel good and perhaps get the unspoken message to lay off the questions about your love life.


My dad is almost 80. My mom passed away 18 months ago. My dad recently started dating a woman in her 70s. I like the woman, but I don’t think he should allow her to stay the night in the home he shared with my mom. This woman lives about an hour away, so he’s invited her to come up and visit. I was furious when my dad let me know she stayed in the house overnight! My dad thinks I’m overreacting. I don’t. Who is right? — Carolyn, Naples

Dear Carolyn,

I’m sure it has been a difficult time for both you and your father. I’m assuming that your parents were married for many years and you are likely in your late 40s or 50s. Your dad must be very lonely. In your objection to the sleeping arrangements, whose interests are you serving? Maybe just yours? Try not to let it bother you if your dad is happy. I have a feeling your mom would want him to spend his remaining years with someone nice instead of being lonely and sad. You should want the same for him. 



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