Dear Annie: Over the past six months, a wonderful friendship has been developing with a potential friend who enjoys the cultural and outdoor activities that I do. We are both exchanging viewpoints, backgrounds, likes and dislikes freely. However, I have two problems: When I share my experience about a difficult health situation or maybe a familial situation, she has to top it or go one better with her own personal experiences. I don't ever feel as if she's really listening in a compassionate way. And sometimes her response doesn't even relate to the actual topic at hand. The other difficulty is that she repeats and repeats her own stories. I respond -- kindly, I hope -- with ''Yes, I remember you telling me about that.'' How can I bring about changes without hurting feelings or losing the friendship? -- One-Upped
Dear One-Upped: Though relating to a friend is nice, listening is even better. That's something your new friend doesn't seem to understand.
Her serial one-upmanship may be an attempt, however misguided, at impressing and connecting with you. You can try gently raising the subject: "Have you ever noticed that when I tell a story, you seem to have a tendency to tell a similar but more extreme story? I think you're trying to relate, but sometimes it makes me feel as though what I had to say wasn't important." She's probably annoyed other people with this habit, too, and you'd be doing her a favor by bringing it to her attention so she has the chance to correct the behavior.
But the one-upmanship and repeat storytelling could also be a case of pure self-absorption. In that case, calling the issue to her attention would do little to change it, and you'd have to look for close friendship elsewhere.
Dear Annie: I'm writing in to sound the alarm bells. I just read the letter from "Problems in Pennsylvania" -- about her husband's porn habit, as well as his sudden interest in connecting with friends on Facebook -- and it could have been the story of my ex. He had become more and more interested in sexual fantasies and looking at porn online, and when I realized his interest in our marital intimacy had diminished, I discovered long letters and conversations he was having with old girlfriends on Facebook, in which he expressed a desire to hook up again, with some very suggestive language. I subsequently learned that some meetings were taking place, and I moved out. When he begged me to come back, promising he wouldn't continue, I foolishly did. Not a month later, I learned he was in a new affair, and this resulted in our divorce. I do believe, looking back at other behaviors, that he was a sex addict. Don't overlook the warning signs. -- Been There
Dear Been There: No voice is wiser than that which speaks from direct experience. Thanks for sharing your cautionary tale.
Readers, if you think your spouse may be a sex addict, visit the S-Anon International Family Groups website for resources: http://www.sanon.org.