Q: One of my female friends and I have been pals since we were kids. Now we live about three hours apart. It is difficult for my husband and I to go places because of our animals, so we really stress ourselves out just going anywhere. The problem is, when I visit my friend, she feels the need to use up all our visiting time to mostly talk about her problems. She isn't so interested in listening to mine. I don't want to spend what time we have together talking only about her issues, so how do I go about using distractions? -- Carol, 64
Dr. Susan: Good friends since childhood should be able to talk openly by now. You're thinking of using distractions in order to avoid confronting your friend directly, but I don't think that would work very well. It's certainly not unusual for friends to compete for each other's attention. Each of you wants to be heard more than anything. It would be great if your time wasn't so limited, like perhaps finding some way to spend a couple of days together (without animals and husbands). If that's not possible, then you might have to come right out and say, "It's my turn now. I really need to talk this stuff over with someone, and you're still my dearest old friend." Try to really listen to her when she talks, and respond with your full attention, but when the visit is about half over, be direct and claim your time. I feel certain this can be worked out if both of you are caring people. And there's always the telephone for between-visit sharing.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.