Carolyn : Several years ago, I cut ties with my physically, emotionally and mentally abusive father and his wife. Now I’m planning to attend a family wedding. They will be there and will probably be prominent guests. Gaslighting is one of his specialties, so who knows what he has told extended family members.
How do I handle seeing him and answering awkward questions from family who don’t know the whole story? I’m not really interested in getting into the nitty-gritty or making this event about me, but I’m also not interested in being lectured about my absence from his life or being told to “get over it.” How can I respond and move on?
Moving On: You’re brave to go. Clearly you have a powerful reason to, so please keep that squarely in mind as you navigate the various obstacles.
For those, I suggest a few carefully chosen deflections: “Hm, interesting,” “I’ll keep that in mind” and a stage-bright, “Thanks!” all work really well as the thing you say right before you excuse yourself from the conversation. You really, really don’t need to stand in there and listen to anyone’s ill-informed opinions.
If there’s anyone you wish would give the whole thing a little more thought, then say something more pointed: “I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of things about this. If they’re not from me, though, then they warrant skepticism.” Or just, “Well, that’s one version.”
But, again, you do not have to engage anyone on this. You can mentally put on blinders that allow you to see the people you’re there for, and only the people you’re there for. Others can lecture the air that displaces you when you walk away.
Carolyn: How can I stop a longtime friend from giving unwanted advice? Asking her to stop has not worked. I cannot tell her anything that’s on my mind or any experience I have had, no matter how large or small, without her interrupting and pointing out what I did wrong or how I should proceed. I get angry at her during pretty much every phone call. Is it time to end this friendship?
Anonymous: Maybe. But it sounds as if you have at least one more option: blatantly ignoring what she says. Like, wait three beats after she finishes and say, “Are you finished?” Then proceed with whatever other topic you want to cover.
Another option is to focus on the interrupting itself: “Okay, but I wasn’t finished. May I continue?” A rhetorical question, always.
There’s also a range of options for rethinking what and how you share with her. Are you, for example, constantly re-tilling old soil? Is this just her way of saying, “Holy hell, fix it or move on!!!” Not that I’ve ever experienced that myself, ahem.
Alternately, do you just work better as friends when you talk about ideas instead of events? Some people are great places to offload stuff, and some people just … aren’t. And maybe this friend now needs you to talk about movies or dogs, not the jackhole you deal with at work.
Larger point being: You asked her to stop, and it didn’t work, so now try changing your own behavior toward positive, productive ends. See whether friendship follows you there.
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