I wonder if you can help advise me on a problem we’re having. A woman and her husband have been coming over to our house to play cards with my husband and me once or twice a week for almost a year now. We’ve enjoyed their company and, of course, have talked about many topics, including health issues. However, the woman of has recently been dominating the evening by incessantly running down a list of her ailments, doctors who she has seen, treatments that have worked or not, etc. Even when we try to change the subject, she always steers it back to her ailments. While she rants on, we just sit quietly, rarely saying a word. Really, how can we? I feel sorry for her husband, as I’m sure he has to listen to all this everyday.
We don’t want to sit through another evening with this woman anymore, but I don’t how to break it off. I’m sure the woman has no clue that she is the problem. Each time the woman has called to confirm our regular evening card game, I’ve come up with a different excuse. I’m running out of excuses! What do I do now?
Making excuses can be exhausting. Also, every excuse you make avoids the important task of helping this woman understand just why you are having difficulty with her. This is not easy to do, but it is time to “bite the bullet” and be honest with this woman.
Harassed, I suggest you take the initiative to call this woman and ask if you can get together, just as two women, perhaps at a “neutral” space like a cafe. If she wants to know why, you can just say that you want to share a personal problem. After greeting each other, allow a few minutes to settle down, catching up with recent events, etc. Then gently, but directly, come straight to the point, letting her know that you are having difficulty having to always hear about her health issues during your evening card games. Be prepared for whatever she says in response. She might thank you for bringing her behavior to her attention, as she’d been unaware that this was causing a problem. However, she could become angry with you, upset with herself, or deny everything. Then simply listen and try not to become defensive, as this will only exacerbate the situation. She may ask if your husband feels the same way, and it’s all right to say yes. However, try to leave him out of the conversation as much as you can to avoid her feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed.
No matter what her reaction, you have done the right thing by being direct with her. Whether you get together again or not, know that you are helping her by making her aware of this problem, and by giving her the opportunity to change her behavior.
Good luck with this, and let me know how it goes.