Helpful hints become criticism to girlfriend
DEAR ABBY: I’m frustrated about how to connect with my young adult son’s 18-year-old girlfriend. He told me she has a bad relationship with her divorced parents, so he’s hoping we can bond.
A problem that comes up frequently is, she’s so anxious to show me how skilled and knowledgeable she is, she misses any tips and techniques I try to subtly teach her. They live together in another state, so our weekend visits at each other’s homes seem to amplify the problem.
I’ll give you an example: When I removed ice cubes from an ice tray, I ran water over the bottom briefly before twisting the tray. She laughed like I was clueless and said, “You don’t have to do that, just twist the tray!” I replied that the water helped release the cubes more cleanly “because of the physics of the warmer water.” She teared up, left the room and told my son (who repeated it to me) that I was being critical of her.
I have expressed appreciation for her, and my son has reassured her of my intentions, but I’m getting tired of tiptoeing around her issues. How can I help her understand that she can learn from me without it meaning that I think any less of her? – ON EGGSHELLS IN MONTANA
DEAR ON EGGSHELLS: It might be a good idea to quit trying to mother or teach this young woman anything unless you are specifically asked, because it appears she’s not interested in learning from you.
From where I sit, you not only were not critical of her, but the opposite was true of what happened in that kitchen. If she hadn’t laughed at you – ridiculed you – for the way you emptied the ice tray, you wouldn’t have felt it necessary to explain your technique. So take a step back and stop trying to help her, because it’s obviously not appreciated.
DEAR ABBY: I have new downstairs neighbors. While they appear to be pleasant in most circumstances, I cannot ignore the fact that the wife cries inconsolably in their bedroom three or four times a week, late at night. I never hear any yelling or disruption that leads up to this, just loud sobbing in the bedroom that keeps me up several times a week. I don’t think she’s being abused, but I do think she might be depressed.
Can you think of any kind way to send her to my therapist up the street for some help? Stick a business card in their door anonymously? Bring it up more directly? – UP ALL NIGHT IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
DEAR UP ALL NIGHT: Talk privately with the woman and tell her you are concerned about her because you have heard her crying. Do not ask her why, but if she volunteers, listen to what she has to say. She may need a grief support group or, as you suggested, a therapist. If either of those is the case, you should suggest it.