Miss Conduct

An ex gets engaged

How do you congratulate a former boyfriend? Plus, politics on Facebook.

By Robin Abrahams
October 3, 2010

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My ex-boyfriend recently got engaged. We dated briefly years ago and remained close friends the last five years. We talked on the phone at least once a week until he met the woman to whom he is now engaged, at which point he ended all contact with me. Then, two months after they met, he sent me a text message saying, “I’m engaged.” Regardless of their relationship, I feel he doesn’t value our friendship. How should I acknowledge the engagement? D.S. / Boston Congratulate him in return (no fancy card in response to a text message – a call, e-mail, or Facebook post will do) and ask where they are registered. It’s always a good tactic to take the high road with one’s exes, and never a good one to object to a friend’s intended for any but the most severe reasons. Even then, you say your piece once and shut up forever after.

You don’t say – perhaps because you don’t know – why your ex had stopped contacting you. It could simply be the normal, if aggravating, self-centered behavior of the newly in love. Perhaps his bride-to-be is threatened by your friendship. Or maybe your friendship wasn’t, on his side, what you’d always assumed it was. Unlike some folks, I’m a big believer in straight men and women being able to maintain long-term nonsexual relationships. All friendships change over time, however, and clearly this one is headed for some kind of transition. Ask him if you can take him and his fiancee out for a drink to celebrate, and see where things go from there. The bottom line: You can’t force someone to remain your friend, but you can always behave so that you can look back on your own behavior proudly.

Most of my family has polar-opposite political views from my own. When I post anything even benignly political on Facebook, a few of my relatives comment loudly, negatively, and persistently. I’ve tried to set a precedent by not commenting on any of their political posts, but they obviously haven’t gotten the hint. These comments are ruining the discourse on my Facebook page and annoying me. Unfriending isn’t an option, as I still want to know what’s going on in their lives. Do you think it would be OK to delete their comments? I’m uneasy about shutting people down just because I don’t agree with their opinion, but this is ruining my Facebook experience. M.P. / Merrimac Don’t worry about violating people’s First Amendment rights. You can’t, because you’re not the government. You are, as it were, the host of your home page, and that implies certain privileges and responsibilities.

Post an update stating that you’ve decided Facebook isn’t a good medium for dissenting political discussion. (If you blame the medium rather than “certain people,” it will go over much better.) You won’t comment on posts you disagree with, and you ask your friends to do the same with your posts. If people disagree with you, you’d be happy to discuss the pertinent issues with them in person, but not on Facebook. Then continue posting as usual. If any relatives post negative responses, delete the comments and message them privately. Say that this is the kind of thing you were talking about, and you won’t argue on their pages if they won’t argue on yours. If they continue, unfriending them is, in fact, an option. Unfriending someone on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t friends in real life; it may only mean that you’ve decided a particular kind of communication technology doesn’t work for a given relationship. You’ll still know what’s going on in their lives. The family grapevine has been around a lot longer than Facebook.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology. Got a question? Write to BLOG Read more of Miss Conduct’s wit and wisdom at CHAT Get advice live this Wednesday, noon to 1 p.m., at

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