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Ask Amy: I thought I was being supportive


Dear Amy, I am part of a group of friends who met in college 50 years ago.

We got back in touch 20 years ago and now we see each other a few times a year.

At first, the conversation was varied, with personal updates, talks on current affairs, shared book recommendations, and so on.

Very quickly, this turned into a conversation that is almost 100 percent about children.

I am an independent girl without children.

It’s not what I anticipated, but I’m happy with my life, especially my fulfilling career.

The other women have little interest in my profession, and have even made fun of what I do.

I have tried to add different and relevant topics to the conversations.

Responses are “I let (inject husband’s name) take care of that,” or just blank stares.

They are all good women, but these gatherings with limited conversation hours to children, children’s spouses, in-laws, movers, etc., are unsatisfying and somewhat hurtful.

I need a way to politely decline invitations until such time as I can handle the onslaught of childish talk, if ever. I don’t know how long, “I’m sorry I can’t make this visit,” she’ll hold on.

I would appreciate your ideas on how to decline these invitations while maintaining relationships.


Dear M, “Sorry I can’t make this visit, but keep me in mind for next time” is a polite way of responding to an invitation you don’t want to accept.

You should review whether you want to keep these relationships outside of these visits.

People distance themselves. Life events, in terms of health, careers, partners, children, and various wins and losses affect one’s outlook.

If you choose to reconnect and want to revive and expand on the topics discussed at these meetings, you can ask the group if they would be willing to play a game of sorts and respond to the “prompts.” You can look online or at your favorite bookstore for sets of prompt cards designed to inspire lively conversations.

I also suggest bringing 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 has just completed her PhD.

I’m very proud of her. She has worked hard for many years to achieve this goal.

I asked to take her and our son out for dinner to celebrate. My son informed me that while they appreciate the sentiment, they would rather not.

I was a little annoyed that they turned me away because I know they were celebrating with their parents. My son finally confessed that our daughter-in-law has felt “unsupported” by me in her PhD pursuit.

I routinely asked him about his Ph.D. studies, she and often she has responded with something like, “I’m stressed about (this or that).”

My typical response was to tell him that I was sure he would do very well at whatever it was.

I thought I was rooting for her, but apparently she hears this as, “You’re complaining about nothing and it’s wrong for you to be stressed.”

At this point, it seems that we are at an awkward impasse.

Am I wrong to be hurt and insulted? I think he was being very sensitive in interpreting my comments in such a negative way.

Besides, in all these years, he has never said anything to me about it.

Now I find that I have committed the serious crime of telling him that I thought he would succeed.

Am I missing something?

– The Termagant

Dear Termagant, Your feelings are justified. His daughter has been honest with you about his wife’s sensitivities. Some people view any feedback, even positive feedback, as criticism, when they think it’s just venting. This is immature and frustrating.

I suggest you contact your DIL directly. Tell him judiciously what your son has explained to you, and ask if the two of you can have a “reboot.” Keep an open mind, don’t resort to sarcasm, listen carefully, and do your best to understand their feelings and communicate yours.

Dear Amy, “Reluctant Grandma” didn’t want to throw a baby shower for her single son and his partner.

Twenty-odd years ago my niece was pregnant and single.

His 13-year-old brother told him, “It’s not my job to be mad at you, so I’ll be happy for you.”

I’ve thought about that many times over the years when I’m tempted to judge someone.

– proud aunt

Dear Proud: I love this wise expression.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @asking either Facebook.)

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