Miss Conduct

Advice: Do we warn her?

We found out the man she’s dating has a history of abuse. Plus, a “good friend” who isn’t.

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My husband’s sister is in her 50s, divorced, and has had multiple abusive, difficult partners. Her latest is charismatic and handsome and she believes that for the first time in her life, she’s found a love based on mutual respect. Seeing some red flags in his behavior, we did a search and discovered that in 2001 he was arrested in a domestic dispute involving a standoff with a SWAT team. We wonder if gently asking her about it would be inappropriate (she will be angry that we’ve discovered this information) or if it would be a loving thing to do.

L.J. / Boston

Tell her. It’s a moral imperative.

The fact that you’re even wondering if you should suggests that your relationship with your sister-in-law is so eggshell-paved that you’ve forgotten how to interact normally with her. I doubt you’d hesitate for a second to share such knowledge with a friend or relative whose life decisions you respected. You bend over backwards to honor your sister-in-law’s independence because (not terribly) deep down you don’t believe she’s capable of exercising it well and you feel guilty for that.


Picture a person whom you trust, a friend or relative with infallible judgment of character and a black belt in boundary-setting. Imagine that on a whim, you Googled the man this person was dating, and learned a story like this. Would you not speak up immediately?

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There’s no point in gently asking if she knows. That sounds, frankly, condescending. Tell her outright: “We looked up so-and-so and this came up, and it would be irresponsible not to share the information in case you don’t know.” That’s it. Don’t ask if she already knows or what she plans to do about it. You’re the messenger. You aren’t asking her to end the relationship, or justify herself or him, or anything at all. You’re passing on information. What she chooses to do with it is up to her. Don’t let her sidetrack you on how you found out, either. It’s 2018, people look each other up online.

She may well become angry, but that’s not your problem or fault, nor does it change what you need to do.

I am getting married to a man I met through his brother and the brother’s girlfriend, who had been a good friend of mine for over 10 years. I recently learned she has been speaking openly about her reservations regarding our engagement, and that she initially discouraged my fiance from dating me because I was a “slut.” I was devastated. Both my fiance and his brother understand my decision to cut ties with her, but my fiance’s brother has asked if he can bring her to our small, intimate wedding. Can I say no? R.F. / Quincy

You most certainly can. (Though I also wish you’d say more — what a bizarre situation! I have so many questions. It must have been a surreal experience for you.) I’m generally militant about couples being invited to weddings together, but in this case, it frankly seems a courtesy to free your former friend from any obligation to celebrate a marriage that she disapproves of.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.