Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Frustrated by Selfish Friend

DEAR NATALIE: I have one of those friends who just never stops talking. She makes the conversation all about her all the time and never even stops to ask me how I am or what I have been up to. I have (no joke) had phone conversations with her that last upward of 45 minutes that are solely about her life, her problems and her issues. I can't take it anymore. She always says I'm like her best friend, but I can't stand her at this point. She's not even that nice of a person. She's just really selfish and full of herself. The only catch is her daughter and my daughter (who are both in the same elementary school) play together all the time, and I feel bad ending my friendship with her for the sake of my daughter. What do you think I should do? The woman is insufferable. -- FRIENDS

DEAR FRIENDS: If it was just about your friendship with this woman, you should walk away and forget you have her number. But, because you sound like a good parent who just is looking for a little peace and quiet, I suggest this instead: When your daughter wants to set up a play date, communicate only with your frenemy through text. Make the text short and simple. "Hi, Stella wanted to know if she and Beatrice could get together Friday after school. I have an aerial yoga class then but can pick her up before dinner from your place if that works. Just text me either way. Thanks." No room for conversation, no questions outside the necessary, just keep it on target. Avoid conversations on the phone with her, but if you do find yourself chatting, preface the phone call with, "Hi! Hope all is well but I have to jump off in five minutes for a (very important something or other) and just wanted to let you know!" Over time, the more you hold to your boundaries the easier it will be to assert yourself around her. Sounds as though she steamrolled you a little bit, and you just need to find your voice and speak up.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)