MUST We Be Friends?

Oh no -- your toddler has befriended the daughter of the frostiest mom at playgroup! How to deal when you have to spend time with someone you don't particularly care for.

Whether it's your husband's best friend or the parent of your kid's playmate, sometimes you just have to hang out with someone who, like a bad masseuse, never fails to rub you the wrong way. Here, marriage and family therapist David Schreiber, MA, of Westwood, California offers six ways to cope when you're forced to associate with some of your not-so-favorite people.

Try a group activity
If you have to see someone you'd rather not, make it a group affair by inviting them to a party or out with a bunch of people. That way, you're not forced to make small talk with them for hours, but you're still honoring the relationship they have with someone important to you.

Make plans for later
If one-on-one time is on the table -- limit it. Go ahead and make a commitment with the difficult person from 10 to 11, but make sure to have something else going on at noon. That way there's a set deadline to your time together.

Get busy
When you ask someone you don't care for to do something, emphasize the do. For instance, on play dates with parents you don't really connect with plan an activity like an art project for the kids rather than just letting them play. Then you can concentrate on your child and the project rather than have to fill open time with the parents. You might also meet less-than-favorite people somewhere that takes the focus off them, such as a farmer's market. That way, since you'll be otherwise occupied, you won't feel you're just blowing your afternoon with someone you don't like. Other suggestions: See a movie, go to the gym, or visit a museum.

Kill them with kindness
Remember, the person you dislike may be reacting to your dislike of them, creating an endless cycle of annoyance. So try breaking the cycle. When you make an effort to connect with someone you don't really like, it can warm up the other person and take the relationship in a more positive direction. This can be difficult, since when we're angry we tend to shut people out, but overcoming that can be a great learning experience.

Figure out why they make you nuts
What is it exactly about this person that annoys you? They may remind you -- often unconsciously -- of someone who is or has been very important in your life. If you realize that this person acts like one of your parents, for example, that could clue you in to some unresolved personal issues that you may want to work on. In other words, rather than just letting yourself get upset around someone you don't like, think of it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself.

Stay away if necessary
If you become very irritated or resentful around someone and don't have the energy to work through it, just stay away. In some instances you may have to say to your husband, "If you want to spend time with this person, that's fine, but I'd prefer not to." Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can't relate. If you do talk to your husband about the situation, make sure you focus on how you feel around the person rather than complaining about them. With time, you may find you can approach the relationship more constructively. But sometimes it really is OK to decide that you don't want to be around a person and find someone you do like to be around.

Elizabeth Hurchalla is a freelance writer in Venice, California.

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Tara76's picture

What if you are getting to be good friends with a parent but their child is not someone you want your child to play with? How do people deal with that?

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