Los Angeles Times
Wants to change the topic
Dear Amy: I’m part of a group of women friends who met in college, 50 years ago.
We got back in touch 20 years ago, and now meet a few times a year.
At first, conversation was varied, with personal updates, talk about current events, shared book recommendations, etc.
Very quickly, this changed to conversation nearly 100% about children.
I’m an independent gal with no children. I’m happy with my life and my fulfilling career.
The other women have little interest in my profession, and have even poohpoohed what I do.
I’ve tried to add different and relevant topics to conversations. The responses are either “I let (inject husband’s name) handle that” or simply blank stares.
They are all nice women, but these get-togethers with hours of conversation about children are unsatisfying and somewhat hurtful.
I need a way to politely decline invitations until I can withstand the onslaught of kid talk — if ever. I don’t know how long “I’m sorry I can’t make it” will hold up.
Dear M: “I’m sorry, I can’t make this visit — but keep me in mind for next time” is a polite way to respond to an invitation you don’t want to accept. You should review whether you want to maintain these relationships outside of these visits.
If you choose to reconnect and want to expand the topics covered at these gatherings, you might ask if they’d be willing to play a game of sorts and respond to “prompts.” Look online or at a bookstore for sets of prompt cards intended to inspire lively conversations.
Also, bring along artifacts, photos or yearbooks from your shared college days to help you reconnect by sharing your memories.
Dear Amy: My daughterin-law just completed her PhD. I am very proud of her. She worked hard for many years to reach this goal.
I asked to take her and my son out to dinner to celebrate. He told me that, while they appreciate the sentiment, they would rather not.
I was a bit miffed to be rejected because I know they were celebrating with her parents. My son finally confessed that our daughter-inlaw felt “unsupported” by me in her pursuit of the PhD.
I routinely asked after her PhD studies, and she often responded with something like, “I’m stressed about this or that.”
My typical response was to tell her that I was sure that she would do just great at whatever it was. I thought I was being supportive, but apparently she hears this as, “You are complaining over nothing and it is wrong for you to be stressed.”
At this point, we seem to be at an awkward impasse.
Am I wrong to be hurt and insulted? I think she was being very oversensitive to interpret my comments in such a negative light. Also, she has never said anything to me about it.
Dear Termagant: Your feelings are justified. Your son has been honest with you regarding his wife’s sensitivities. Some people regard any feedback, even positive feedback, as a critique.
I suggest you communicate directly with your DIL. Tell her judiciously what your son said and ask if you two can have a “reset.” Maintain an open attitude, don’t resort to sarcasm, listen intently, and do your best to understand her feelings and communicate yours.