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Miss Manners: Friend with marriage woes needs only a sympathetic ear

Dear Miss Manners: A friend of mine, who is married and has a 10-year-old son, asked for my advice. She said that her husband was texting a “friend” at midnight, and he denied that it was an affair.

However, she has other examples of his questionable behavior, leading her to believe that he is, in fact, having an affair.

For example, he says that he’s working but comes home very late and has been drinking.

I don’t think she wants a divorce, but I’m at a loss to give her advice.

Gentle Reader: Very sensible of you. Miss Manners advises you to pay attention to that feeling, because whatever the outcome for the couple, you would be the loser.

If they reconcile, whether or not there was an affair – something you are not in a position to know – they will be embarrassed you know about their troubles.

If you advise her to separate from him, she will associate you with the unpleasantness involved.

This is not to say that Miss Manners thinks you should turn away from your needy friend – only that you should refrain from offering her advice.

It is a greater contribution to listen to your friend’s worries and to draw out from her what might be the result of various actions that she (not you) is thinking of taking.

Butter knife etiquette

Dear Miss Manners: Have the etiquette standards changed regarding correct use of the butter knife?

I was taught to use the butter knife to transfer an appropriate amount of butter from the butter dish to my plate.

Frequently, however, I see diners (and often my guests) buttering bread using the butter knife, instead of their dinner knife.

Also, is it now appropriate to convert a dinner roll into a mini-sandwich?

Gentle Reader: Even if the Etiquette Council had enough time on its hands to tinker with such matters, changing butter rules would probably not be high on its agenda.

If one person appropriates the master butter knife (and don’t tell Miss Manners that they claim to put it right back, because she saw them abandoning it on their plates), others will have trouble getting any butter.

They will use their dinner knives, which have already cut something else, and leave traces of it on the communal butter. And you can’t stop them.

And about that mini-sandwich: This would be an emergency measure.

Nothing short of a total lack of utensils would justify stuffing food into a dinner roll to make a sandwich.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.