Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Boyfriend's fidgeting while on the phone is making her fume
South Carolina: I had a fight with my long-distance boyfriend of two years over his very audible multitasking while we are on the phone. We talk about 20 minutes every night. He tends to rummage around the kitchen and straighten up. There's a lot of background noise as a result.
Basically, my feelings were hurt last night when he was packing for a business trip and I was focusing on the conversation. Do I just need to get over this and stop feeling like a chump?
Carolyn: It is possible, of course, that he's less attached to you than you are to him, and this is a sign.
But it's also possible he hates being on the phone, and you're about the only person on Earth he's willing to talk to for 20 minutes daily, and he's doing it just because he thinks you're swell and it's totally worth it to suck it up in this small way to make you happy. But he gets fidgety.
Since two (or more) completely different interpretations are possible here, I wouldn't say you need to "get over this" — maybe you do, maybe you don't — but you do need to weigh the context. If you're surrounded by signs the affection is waning, then maybe it's time to stop doing relationship CPR and see what happens.
If instead you're strong, but distance-weary, then consider a more flexible approach to staying together — namely, loosening up on daily contact and (re)committing to visits and long-term plans. Sometimes your best chance at staying close is in understanding that there's a point where the effort to stay close has diminishing returns.
Variety of ways to short-circuit a constantly whining friend
D.C.: How do you deal with a narcissist? I am often around a friend who constantly intimates how much harder her life is than everyone else's. While I want to be sympathetic, I'm not. Any suggestions for how to deal with this? I'm not sure my fantasy of screaming back, "You've made these choices, now deal with it!" would work.
Carolyn: Surely there's a middle ground between fake sympathy and your fantasy truth?
Like, for example, spending less time with her. This is a friend, not a co-worker; you're not yoked together.
Another is to reflect her feelings back at her — "Wow, you seem really unhappy" — and then ask what she's doing about it.
Another is to offer perspective: "I don't know — you're employed, have a nice family, have rights and freedom, maybe it isn't all bad." Sanctimonious, yes, but some people really are asking to be bopped on the head with their own whole-grain artisan baguettes. And if she has any awareness of anyone but herself, she'll know not to keep whining to you.
"Cindy": Re: D.C. whiner: I once whined too much to a friend and he finally said: "Cindy, you need to talk to someone." Period. I realized he was saying so much: "You can't unload on me like this, you need to move forward, you have to learn to fix this."
Carolyn: You said so much, too — that you're receptive to unflattering hints, which many aren't. Well done.