Dear Amy:

My partner and I have a problem dealing with his elderly parents' lack of social skills.

We keenly feel the obligation to be with them to retain a relationship, but after a couple of hours there really is nothing for us to talk about. His parents treat us as the audience for their reminiscences and the family gossip (most of it ancient history) that still fuels their one-sided version of a conversation.

Visits require three hours of travel each way, and so an afternoon or evening together is never enough - there must be an overnight.

We have tried to talk about our lives and experiences but that only reminds them of their lives and experiences and thus the monologue takes flight.

We feel like insensitive and ungrateful brats, but must we endure this? Is it possible that they feel the discomfort but just fill it with the only talk they know how to do?

Can you offer us some way that might help us to be with these people that we would like to love but who make it very difficult?

- Tapped Out in Indiana

Dear Tapped Out: I am frequently around elderly people who are not at all boring. You make a point of trying harder not just to tolerate, but to enjoy these visits.

Try to engineer a shape and direction for these visits to make them less tedious for everyone. You could do this by diving in to family history through old photographs, family trees, etc. Decide that you will be engaged, and ask questions as you go. Ask them to relate their experiences to current events.

On your visits, you should plan at least one outing for all of you - not only a meal out, but perhaps a visit to a museum, concert or local attraction.

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