Ask Alma: My brother’s non-breakup breakup


— Dear Alma,

My brother and his fiancée broke off their engagement, which was a surprise to my whole family. Nobody totally knows the story, but she moved out of his house, unfriended him on Facebook, the whole shebang. Over the holidays, we all got together, and everyone started trashing the girl. My brother got really awkward and left, saying he didn’t feel up for hanging out.

Fine, right? Except I just found out he and his girlfriend have still been talking, and they haven’t told the rest of my family yet. The problem is, my family’s still badmouthing this girl at every opportunity, but it’s starting to look like they might get back together. My brother doesn’t want me to say anything, so how can I tell my family to cool it without spilling the beans?

Name withheld

Dear Name Withheld,

Your brother asked you not to say anything because this is his issue, not yours. He knows the hardest part of this debacle is going back to family members, face-to-face, asking for grace. Not for himself, because as a family member, he understands he gets a pass. It’s the outsider, his unrelated other half he’s pleading a case for. Yep, the one that hurt him. The one that everybody knows, or at least think they know, hurt him.

Indulge me for a minute. This takes me back to a time when I was bad-mouthing my first husband. My Mama was like, ahhh, no, rule #1: What happens in your house, stays in your house, I don’t wanna hear it. I was like whaaat? Really?? You gotta be kidding me. Then she said to me, keep it to yourself until it’s over. You’ll be back on his pillow in the morning and I’ll still be sipping on a glass of wanna kick a – well, you know what I’m sayin, LOL. I was ticked at first, but over time, I totally understood where she was coming from. I stand firm to that same rule with my family members to this day. Some relationships are like beach water, back and forth. One minute they’re breaking up, no making up – throw your hands up – who really knows for sure?

Nonetheless, it happens, this isn’t that unusual at all. So here’s my suggestion of what you can do to help. Like an All-Pro left tackle, safeguard your brother. When the family’s on the sideline having a field day, rooting against his fiancé, you say, “She’s not all bad” (bob ‘n weave, here come the side-eye, LOL). Follow up with “I like her and I hope they get back together.” Whaaaat, you just scored a touchdown! I betcha over time, this, my friend, will set your brother up for win-win. Remind him to take it slow, your Mama’s still sipping on her glass of – you know. Just make sure your bro knows you’ve got his back. That’s the best way you can help him right now. If he and his fi’ decide to weather this storm and get married, Mr. & Mrs. must, under any and all situations, stick to, adhere, follow and abide by rule #1.


Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.