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 that is nearly 100 percent about children.
I’m an independent gal with no children. It’s not what I anticipated, but I’m happy with my life, especially with my fulfilling career. The other women have little interest in my profession, and have even poo-pooed what I do. I’ve tried to add different and relevant topics to conversations. The responses are either “I let (insert husband’s name) handle that,” or simply blank stares.
They are all nice women, but these get-togethers with hours of conversation limited to children, children’s spouses, in-laws, relocations, etc., are unsatisfying and somewhat hurtful. I need a way to politely decline invitations until such time that I can withstand the onslaught of kid-talk — if ever. I don’t know how long “I’m sorry I can’t make this visit” will hold up.
I’d appreciate your ideas as to how to decline these invitations, while maintaining the relationships.
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 these visits. People grow apart. Life events — in terms of health, careers, partners, children and various triumphs and losses — affect one’s perspective.
If you choose to reconnect and want to revive and expand the topics covered on these gatherings, you might ask the group members if they’d be willing to play a game of sorts and respond to “prompts.” You can look online or at your favorite bookstore for sets of prompt cards intended to inspire lively conversations.
I also suggest bringing along any artifacts, photos or yearbooks from your shared college days as a way to reconnect by sharing your memories and anecdotes about the beginnings of your friendship.
Dear Amy: My daughter-in-law just completed her PhD. I am very proud of her. She has worked hard for many years to accomplish this goal.
I asked to take her and our son out to dinner to celebrate. My son informed me that, while they appreciate the sentiment, they would rather not. I was a bit miffed to be rejected because I know that they were celebrating with her parents. My son finally confessed that our daughter-in-law has felt “unsupported” by me in her pursuit of the PhD.
I routinely asked after her PhD studies, and she has 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, in all of these years, she has never said anything to me about it. Now I find that I’ve committed the high crime of telling her that I thought she would succeed. Am I missing something?
— The Termagant
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, when they believe they are only venting. This is immature and frustrating.
I suggest that you communicate directly with your DIL. Tell her judiciously what your son has explained to you, and ask if you two can have a “reset.” Maintain an open attitude, don’t resort to sarcasm, listen intently, and do your very best to understand her feelings, and communicate your own.
Dear Amy: “Reluctant Grandma” didn’t want to host a baby shower for her unmarried son and his partner. Twenty-some years ago my niece was pregnant and unmarried. Her 13-year-old brother told her, “It’s not my job to be mad at you, so I’m just going to be happy for you.”
I’ve thought of that many times over the years when I’m tempted to be judgmental about someone.
— Proud Aunt
Proud: I love this wise expression.
© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.