20-40-60 Etiquette---Too many pictures!
QUESTION: I have been dating a man whose wife died several years ago. He has framed pictures of his deceased wife all over his house. Would it be rude of me to ask him to just put them all in one room? I am really uncomfortable when I go over there because there are so many of the pictures everywhere.
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Yes, my opinion is this is not your place. He can move them when he’s ready. I wouldn’t push him.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Grief unfolds in its own way and in its own time. She clearly meant a lot to him and still does in his memory, which speaks highly of him and could say a lot about his capacity for love (unless he is doing other unhealthy things like comparing you to her.) I haven’t been in this position, so I don’t know how you would feel or how he does, but I would imagine if everything else is going well, you aren’t in competition with her. Maybe it would help if you figured out why you were so uncomfortable with these photos and address those feelings by yourself or gently with him apart from the context of the photos. But I don’t think I’d push him to pack away those memories until he’s ready.
HELEN’S ANSWER: The “before” pictures may be consoling for your friend or he might have just left everything the same as it was when his wife was alive. It is his home, and the displayed pictures probably remind him of a happy time. He will put them away when he is ready to do so. Maybe you can meet at your house more frequently.
If you decide to tell him to put them away, do so gently.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Patti Leeman, community volunteer: To be rude is to be deliberately insensitive in a remark or act to other(s).
Because I used to get incensed that my only sister would change around my furniture when she came to visit, you will understand that I believe any such suggestion to someone you enjoy seeing is problematic. When the gentleman is ready to remove the pictures, he will do it. Until that day or the day you marry him, whichever comes first, I would leave it alone.
However, if the pictures really make you uncomfortable you might subtly turn them to face the wall when you next leave his home. He will get the message and you probably won’t have to worry about seeing him or the pictures again.
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is 40-plus, and Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.