Should I Make Nice With the Girl who Broke My Brother’s Heart?: Ask Harry & Louise

One reader asks how polite—or impolite—she needs to be to her brother’s former fiancée.

Dear Harry and Louise:

I need advice on what could be an awkward and uncomfortable situation. I am going to a friend’s wedding in a few weeks, and she has recently reconnected with an old high school friend of hers, who will also be at the wedding. Here’s where it gets interesting. I was almost the maid of honor to this old high school friend. She was engaged to my brother, but she had an affair and ended the engagement. I haven’t seen her in four years, and I’m not sure how friendly—or unfriendly—to act.

Brother’s Keeper

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Revenge or etiquette? Which road to take? Luckily, the destination of both roads is the same. Recall the old adage that living well is the best revenge. This manifests itself by you showing up to the wedding with a smile on your face, full of goodwill toward to the bride and groom. You stand up straight and greet each guest with eye contact and a broad smile—including the girl who broke your brother’s heart. This isn’t easy, but it’s the right way to go. There is no need to go out of your way, however. If she works hard to avoid you, then delight in your friends’ company without so much as a glance her way.

The etiquette road takes you to the same place. Whenever we attend a wedding, our focus should be on the lovely couple. Even if our shoes are killing our feet, we just had a knock-down, drag-out fight with our spouse, or our number one enemy is a fellow guest, all of our of negative energy must be left at the chapel door. It is our obligation as invited guests to enhance the couple’s wedding experience.

Your equanimity will help you feel stronger, which will only enhance your enjoyment of the day. I sure hope you have stellar heels and a lovely dress. That will surely enhance your enjoyment, as well!

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A few years ago, Louise and I attended a swank national book award ceremony and dinner at the Folger Library . . . so haute intellectual. Across the room, I spotted a writer with whom I had once been very close. Though we had become alienated because he thought I’d behaved badly with a woman, he still affected a faux closeness and always greeted me as if we were still tight. This phoniness had been festering for four years. So that evening, I crossed the room, tapped him on the shoulder, and told him he could take his false friendship and shove it.

I felt great—for about an hour. We haven’t spoken since. I regret my impulsive reaction.

Perhaps my short-lived self-satisfaction will help you through your unexpected meeting with the woman who brought your brother low. If you confront her, it might make you feel better for a few minutes, but it won’t last. Best to be cordial, perhaps chilly. She did unto your brother, not unto you. Besides, there’s no need for drama. It’s your friend’s wedding. Do nothing to ruin her day.

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Harry’s response does add another wrinkle to the evening. If she’s taking a date, the confrontation will surely deflate his enjoyment of the wedding. I remember the excitement of attending my first literary soiree and spending much time alone while Harry told his former friend to f%$# off. The food was delicious and the wine divine, but keeping a smile on my face while my date re-created a scene out of The Godfather was challenging. Think of your date and those around you, Brother’s Keeper, and keep your composure.


Agreed. I created drama where none was necessary. It didn’t accrue to my benefit, but, truth be told, Louise enjoyed it.

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