Dear Carolyn • Years ago my family of three moved to a new part of the country where we knew no one. A woman at my job befriended me and I was very grateful. Over the years we grew close.
Since then she has retired, and her negative aspects seem to be getting much worse.
For example, she has NOTHING positive to say about her husband, who is a decent guy. Her remarks are cutting. She feels her son-in-law is a good-for-nothing and totally inept father to her new grandchild. He works and seems faithful. (I don't know how good a dad he is.)
I've tried countering with modulating remarks, but they ALWAYS are ignored. My inbox is flooded with pics of grandchildren who are "fantastic." I'm just tired of it all. I want to walk away and be a twice-a-year friend, but how? She continues to seek me out.
Dear J. • You skip the easily ignored "modulating remarks" and tell hard-to-ignore truths: "When you rip your husband, I feel uncomfortable/put off/sad."
Or: "I do wonder how you'd feel if your in-laws wrote you off as inept."
Or: "You so rarely have a kind word for your husband. Is it possible your negativity is as much cause as effect?"
Or: "Isn't it good for your grandkids to give their dad the benefit of the doubt? (They got 'fantastic' somehow.)"
Maybe these seem unfriendly or ungrateful? but appearing supportive while silently wishing she'd go away won't sweep any kindness awards, given that she's presently unaware that you aren't in her corner.
Whether her negativity stems from boredom or advancing age (both common culprits), there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't express your unhappiness with it. If she appreciates your candor, then your friendship will be better for it - and if she resents it, then she'll likely "walk away" for you, sparing you the trouble of doing it yourself.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.