My friend of 15 years likes to complain. She's had a couple of difficult years (infertility, struggle with depression, her husband works long hours, etc.).
She’s a lot better off financially than me and our other friends, and still has always been a complainer.
Now, things are going well – she has the long-awaited baby. Still, she complains a lot.
I’m sympathetic to some stuff – being at home with a new baby is difficult (I don't have one, but I can empathize).
But some ridiculous complaints are getting to me:
Example: About having to fly coach to her five-star vacation instead of business class, or about homes in her high-end house search that aren’t absolutely perfect.
How can I stay sympathetic and support her, but also help her put things in perspective?
It’s hard to not lose it at someone who’s complaining over something for which I’d love to have access.
Chronic complainers are annoying. Fortunately, you’re a long-time friend who was empathetic during her tough times.
But you’re now letting some (natural) envy cloud your judgment.
She “struggles with depression,” and is on her own a lot. Those issues don’t get easier when adjusting to new motherhood.
Infertility treatment and hormone reactions may still be affecting her moods.
Separate out the ridiculous stuff from your friendship. Gently say that her “good-life” complaints don’t warrant discussion and interfere with being good support for each other on things that really count.
For 20 years, my common-law partner has behaved like Scrooge at Christmas. He isn't big on gifts, which I can accept, but this Christmas he stayed in the basement throughout dinner.
The kids didn't know what to make of this.
When it came time to open gifts, he was absent. I left his gifts under the tree and when the children and grandchildren had left, I brought them to him.
He refused to open them saying there’s nothing he needs.
I’d bought him a watch he’s been wanting for a long time, so I was annoyed. It took me months to save the money to buy it.
On Christmas Day he’d left three gifts for me under the tree. But I was very hurt by his behaviour the night before and never opened them.
He keeps bugging me to open them, but I don’t feel that I can accept them.
I returned his watch, opened his gifts from other people, and put them away in his closet.
Am I wrong to feel this way, that he ruined Christmas for his family?
He did ruin the Christmas celebration, intentionally. The important question is, why?
Also, if he’s been Scrooge-like for 20 years, the next question is why has this gone on so long without you already knowing why and what to expect.
You two need to talk this out. It’s not about the watch, though I understand your hurt feelings. This is about your life together and as a family.
Though he’s apparently been a Grinch in the past, it seems he went to an extreme by not joining the children and grandchildren for a holiday dinner, putting a damper on their festivities.
Perhaps he has some strong reasons for all this from the past. Or something’s made him more negative than ever before.
You need to clear the air. It may require help from someone else – his doctor, a counsellor? – to help you find out and try to accept the answer, if possible.
FEEDBACK Regarding the daughter-in-law accepting financial help when she stopped working when expecting a third child (Feb 8):
Reader – “How wonderful that the grandparents can afford to give their grandchildren the security of a mother who has them as a priority.
“She’s not freeloading off them. She’s investing in their future.
“I placed my kids as a priority in their formative years, sacrificing many other things such as family vacations, because I worked only part-time and money was tight.
“I can see what the mother’s trying to achieve.
“Once my young-family responsibilities passed I returned to college, studied Accounting, and joined my husband in the family business.
“It made our company successful as we became a team. Now my daughter-in-law has taken over the accounting along with our son who manages day-to-day operations.
“We have a rich retirement thanks to their contribution and we’re always available for advice.”
Tip of the day:
With a chronic complainer, respond to the issues on which you can be supportive, and sidestep the nonsense.