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OPINION | DEAR ABBY: Combative conversationalist won't tone down approach

by Abigail Van Buren | January 2, 2022 at 2:14 a.m.

DEAR ABBY: My significant other is a super-nice guy, who everyone likes and gets along with -- until the topics of religion, spirituality and afterlife come up. Any discussion of these subjects (whether or not it involves him) is injected with his sarcasm, hostility and sharp criticism.

He refuses to be silent during the discussions and ends up intimidating people, which leaves everyone feeling judged and negative. I have tried telling him his attacks are unnecessary, unwelcome and as closed-minded and naive as the arguments put forth by those who unquestioningly follow any set of teachings.

His diatribes are long, monotonous, offensive and always ending with, "show me proof," which is nearly impossible. He considers it a "win," which reinforces his behavior. We've had this discussion several times, and I'm not getting through. I have a strong belief system, but I believe everyone has their own process for achieving spirituality. This is why I can accept him as he is, and I'm happy to spar with him in private.

How do I convey how inappropriate and disrespectful his behavior is when he hijacks a discussion with his uncalled-for arguments and negativity?

-- Sparring Partner

in Michigan

DEAR PARTNER: How unfortunate, not to mention rude and obnoxious, that your significant other can't control his impulse to hijack other people's conversations on these subjects. His craving to be the center of attention appears to be bottomless. I doubt there's anything you can say to him that will transform him into someone capable of civil conversation. If it hasn't already happened, your boyfriend the boor will eventually find himself as welcome as a polecat at a picnic. This ultimately may affect your own social life -- so be prepared.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been having the same disagreement for nearly the entire 20 years we have been married. He likes having his family (anywhere from two to five people) stay overnight at our house for three to four days every year. I'm an introvert. I need some alone time, and I'd prefer they stay at a motel. He insists it would be "inhospitable," even though we'd still spend 10 or 11 hours a day with them.

I do not like waking up to other people, family or not. He grew up in a large family, while I did not. He actually threatened me with divorce (I'm not sure if he was serious or if it was just a scare tactic, but it hurt) if I was going to make him tell his family they can't stay here. I am 58. I haven't worked in eight years and I have no skills. He knows this, so I feel I have no choice but to agree.

He says I'm being selfish since it's only once a year. I know I'm lucky. He provides well for us financially and is a wonderful husband except for this one obstacle, so I know I should just agree. But how do I get over my anxiety about this?

-- Dreading in Texas

DEAR DREADING: The most effective way to deal with an anxiety is to talk about it with a licensed psychotherapist. Because your husband provides well for you financially, you can afford to consult one. If you do, it may help you learn how to get moments of alone time in which to recharge while the relatives are there.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Print Headline: Combative conversationalist won't tone down approach

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