Because etiquette is about building relationships, etiquette will always play a significant role in how successfully these two people interact, whether they realize it or not.Peter Post, Essential Manners for Couples
I recently finished reading Peter Post’s Essential Manners for Couples. It’s an etiquette book about being a couple, both in private and in public. He does a really good job with the topic throughout and I was generally impressed with how balanced the book was (even if somewhat traditional in some ways).
The biggest point that Post makes throughout the book, over and over, is that most problems are fixed with communication. Frequent, open, and respectful communication are the keys to any good relationship and can make any number of problems less severe or damaging than they might otherwise be. Talking to your significant other can reduce jealousy, suspicion, and resentment. Listening does the same, and is equally important, but often overlooked. He clearly sees a modern couple as a team of equals and the responsibility of communication rests equally on the members of the couple.
People like to sing the praises of intuitive behavior. But “acting intuitively” frequently turns out to mean “not bothering to think about how my actions are affecting anyone else”.Peter Post, Essential Manners for Couples
Another frequent refrain in the book is the idea that how one person in a couple acts in public affects both members of the couple. If one of you snubs someone, they will stop inviting both of you to parties and are likely to think less even of the person who didn’t do the snubbing. This means that even when you are apart, it’s important to think about how your actions affect you both. It’s an interesting and important point that I am glad he spent so much time dwelling on, actually. I think it would have been easy to overlook this piece and focus on when the couple is together, but in reality, often those actions taken separately are the most impactful.
One thing that I was surprised about, and that was clearly entirely not intended on the part of the author, is that this book got me thinking about how etiquette and disability intersect. Etiquette tells us what to expect and what others expect, but sometimes those expectations aren’t possible for someone and that doesn’t mean the jar of the expectations not being met is eliminated (although, the more visible the reason why, the less it is likely to have lasting repercussions). I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and may do something with the concept, but I’m not sure what yet. It definitely bears consideration, though.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and found it very useful and insightful. I’m glad that I read it and would absolutely recommend it. I liked that it was designed to be a guide for couples before there are problems in order to keep it that way, which isn’t what you generally find, but which seems important. It was a useful book and well worth reading.