DEAR HARRIETTE: I am part of a relatively small group of couples who get together mostly during the summer, although sometimes during the rest of the year. We've been hanging out more, and I have noticed that some of the couples are going through difficulties, as I guess is normal. I am not naive to this, as I have been married for a long time. What I do not like is when hours seem to go by with people talking about each other, evaluating their lives, etc. I don't want to stand in judgment of other people or get caught up in their drama. How do I bow out of those conversations without seeming uppity? I do not want to participate. -- Outside the Circle, Ocean City, Maryland
DEAR OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE: It may be refreshing for your friends to hear your perspective. When you notice that a subset of your friend group starts talking about other members of the group, speak up and ask if you can change the subject. You can be direct about it and say that you think it would be great to give the people in question some privacy as they go through their lives. You could also be less direct and either change the subject to get folks to talk about something else, or you can physically remove yourself from the conversation. Excuse yourself and go to the restroom, go into another room to check on the kids, take a walk, etc. It is possible to avoid this gossipy conversation without completely leaving your friend group. Find your comfort zone.