Spousal Suggestions : How to address a couple that is not married

Q.  I would like to know how to introduce my brother’s partner correctly. They have been living together for many years and have two children, but are not married. I have introduced her as his ‘partner’ at a social function but my brother did not like this and asked that she be introduced as his wife, or my sister-in-law. I do not feel comfortable doing this as it is in essence a lie. One should not simply decide that they want to be called married and asked that others perpetuate the lie, should they? Couples go to lot of trouble financially, emotionally, spiritually and socially to get the status of marriage and it shouldn’t come to those that simply choose to call themselves that.

I have taken to simply introducing her my name and letting her explain her relationship which I know is probably not the best way of handling this.

A.  Yes, your protocol is the best way of handling this. It is never necessary to explain relationships when making introductions. Someone’s name is all you need convey and your solution covers both bases – your brother’s dislike of “partner” and your uncomfortableness with using the word “wife.”

New Kid on the Block : What to do as a new neighbor

Q.  My husband and I recently moved into an upperclass neighborhood where our neighbors are all 50+ years in age. We are newlyweds at the age of 27 and 31. Our neighbors have been very sweet and inviting bringing us a fresh lemon meringue pie the week we moved in and now are planning a ‘Block Party’ in our honor. My question is, what is my responsibility as the new person on the block? Is a handwritten thank you an appropriate gesture or should I do something more elaborate? We are not sure what our role is as the newcomer.

A.  That’s so kind of your new neighbors to welcome you so enthusiastically.  Thank-you notes to your neighbors would be appropriate.  You might offer to take a dish to the party or beer or wine.  As the newcomers just enjoy being feted for now.  As time passes you will find many ways to return the kindnesses of your neighbors.

Returning Rules : What to do when someone asks for a gift back

Q.  I went out with a man for almost two years. During that time we became engaged (the ring was a family heirloom). I did everything for him- bought him clothes, food, did his laundry and cleaned. I’m a college student and we didn’t live together- I did all these things out of the goodness of my heart because I truly loved him. He was very controlling.

He decided he wanted to break up. During the course of our relationship he had given me many lovely gifts, all for my birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. Now, three months later, he wants the jewelry back. What do I do?

A. The woman returns the engagement ring to the man – it was not a gift but rather a symbol of the engagement.  However, the jewelry your former fiancé gave you for all other occasions were gifts and needn’t be returned.

You Got Mail! : Can you send thanks via e-mail?

Q.  I have been receiving email ‘thank you’ notes for gifts that I have sent for various reasons.

Are email thanks you’s acceptable for receiving a gift (housewarming, baby, birthday, etc) or should hand-written notes still be sent? Does this vary by age?

A. Handwritten notes should be sent rather than email greetings. However, given how many people don’t write their thanks at all, an email thank-you is better than none at all.