Dear Annie: My husband and I enjoy getting together with a group of friends every couple of months. But recently, one of them has hijacked every evening with her saga over looking for a new husband. We feel bad that her husband left her for, quite frankly, an extremely expensive car. Another woman was involved, too, but it was mostly the car. He left his wife holding the bag – kids, mortgage, loans and so on. He wiggled out of all of it. She trusted him with the finances and got badly burned.
It’s a sad situation, and we’ve all tried to be supportive over the past few years. She really wants to remarry. She is very smart and pretty and has no trouble getting dates. But that is all she talks about.
I don’t want to be insensitive or uncaring. I am truly concerned for her well-being. The rest of us are happily married and far from the dating scene. I don’t take that for granted, but I guess that what really bothers me is that she dominates every conversation with her dating woes. It has gotten to the point where the host has canceled a few of these get-togethers to avoid her.
How can I be supportive but also let her see that these should be friendly evenings of games and such and not group counseling? It’s hard, too, because she’s more of an acquaintance than a close friend. I only see her at these small parties. I certainly don’t want to hurt her. – Cautious in Canton
Dear Cautious: You are right to be cautious with your friend. She suffered a huge trauma, and when people are traumatized, they can become frozen in the experience. She seems unable to stop reliving the pain she suffered when her husband betrayed her. It appears that if there is an audience to listen, well, all the better for her. Canceling get-togethers to avoid hearing her talk is a passive-aggressive approach, and such approaches never work.
This woman clearly needs a professional therapist or support group who will listen to her and help her unfreeze and move past what her husband did to her and her children. If you truly don’t want to hurt her and you want be a friend, then you have to have a loving and honest conversation with her. Tell her all the wonderful things you told me about her in this letter – that she is smart, pretty and kind. But then tell her that she is stuck in the past and that though you’re not a trained professional, you think one could help her.
Dear Annie: It would be really nice if waitstaff and other people in customer service would not address older ladies as “honey,” “sweetie” and the like. I know they mean to be pleasant, but it’s like the old (and thankfully outdated) custom of calling women “girls” – even into old age – sort of relegating us to a lesser place in this world. I fight the urge to say, “Oh, if you knew me, you wouldn’t call me that. I’m really not so very sweet.”
We may have gray hair, but we still have gray matter underneath it, friends. – My Two Cents
Dear Two Cents: You’re not the first person who’s written to me with this complaint. Though these servers might mean well, such terms of endearment can come off as patronizing to people they don’t actually hold dear. Thanks for writing.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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