Miss Manners: Husband keeps ruining events and then apologizing

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Dear Miss Manners: How do you respond when someone apologizes for a habitual offense?

My husband often behaves miserably at events that have more interest for me than for him. He destroyed a recent weekend getaway with my extended family by being argumentative, critical and moody. As we were nearing home, he apologized for being grumpy.

I had no idea how to respond. He is moody very often, and his behavior was not okay.

Your husband is, Miss Manners hopes, habitually apologizing for specific similar offenses. But he is not apologizing once for them all — a more-than-semantic distinction, as the latter might cover as-yet-uncommitted transgressions.

After graciously accepting multiple apologies, no husband would be surprised that any spouse would say, “Thank you for apologizing, dear. But you must be as tired of doing that as I am of it being necessary. What can we do to ensure it doesn’t happen again?”

Dear Miss Manners: A small college is in my will as a beneficiary, and the planned gift it would receive one day could conceivably be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When the college’s president was in town on a fundraising trip, he contacted me to see if we could meet for coffee or a meal. Since I know budgets are tight at his institution, I insisted he be my guest for dinner at a lovely, and not inexpensive, restaurant.

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It’s been nearly two weeks since we met, and I have yet to receive a thank-you note, email or text. I know everyone is busy, but are business thank-you notes now optional?

They are not optional, a fact Miss Manners is surprised that someone expecting something (your college president) forgot.

Dear Miss Manners: We live in a popular vacation area and often host friends and family for long weekends and even full-week stays. We’re often asked to accommodate additional guests and sometimes even animals.

We have plenty of room, so that’s not the issue; we really just don’t want to. I’ve answered “sorry, no” with a smile, but have never done so without repeated challenges — being asked why, or having to rebut “but this is how it could work” arguments.

I can stick with “sorry, no,” for about a half-dozen responses, but eventually end up telling them my reasons: I don’t enjoy being in that person’s company for more than two hours; I don’t enjoy hosting people I barely know; your untrained dog pees in my house — and yes, I care more about my rugs than your dog being kenneled.

I have even told someone who explained that they had already issued the extended invitation that rescinding it was going to be awkward and uncomfortable for them. And “sorry, no” comes across as rude after the second or third time.

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I know I’m failing in the politeness area, but I’m at a loss as to how to do better.

Not taking “no” for an answer is rude; repeating “I’m sorry, but we just can’t” in the face of such pestering is, emphatically, not. Unless, of course, you insult their dog.

If you will settle in for repeating yourself, and stop confessing unpleasant truths, Miss Manners will support you against your assailants.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.



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