Skip to content

Ask Ellie: Overly-chatty husband needs lessons in small talk

'He’ll corner some poor unsuspecting guest and talk to them incessantly.'

Dear Lisi: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. We have two teenage girls who keep us on our toes. We both have full-time careers that we enjoy. We’ve done a good job of maintaining calm among the chaos and we make a good team, sharing household chores and parenting.

But when we’re out, my husband doesn’t stop talking. When we go out for dinner with friends, we’re often asked to leave by the restaurant either because they want to close for the night or we’ve been at our table too long.

It’s worse at a party. He’ll corner some poor unsuspecting guest and talk to them incessantly. I literally watch people start to close their eyes mid-conversation, check their phones, their watches, etc. If I happen to notice, I’ll go over and set them free.

How can I explain to him that’s not what people want? They want small talk, chitter-chatter, and move on to someone else. They want to have the chance to say hello to everyone in the room.

It’s becoming more and more problematic.

Chatterbox Chad

I’m glad you have a sense of humour about the whole thing. That’s a step in the right direction. Now you have to help your husband see the funny side of his behaviour. And help him change it. All in a light-hearted manner so as not to hurt his feelings.

You obviously have lots of friends with whom you socialize, so he clearly doesn’t bore everyone he comes in contact with. Perhaps enlist one of his close friends to help you get the message across.

My guess is he’d rather not be at these parties, so instead of being forced to mix and mingle, he just finds one person and tries to keep them by his side as long as possible. Help him out. Let him bow out of one or two; and when he does come along, set a quiet alarm and find him every 10 minutes or so.

Work together as the good team you already are at home.

Dear Lisi: My boyfriends’ grandparents say the most racist comments and I can’t handle it. My boyfriend knows that what they say is wrong and he tries to teach them, but they say they’re too old to learn new things.

I think that’s a lame cop-out, and they’re too lazy and set in their ways. They’re not horrible people; they’re warm and friendly, and they accept me even though I am not white and Catholic, as they are.

I am racially different and of a different religion, and they know that. It doesn’t stop them from using racial slurs in front of me, for example, when referring to the type of food from my country. We exclaim and they still don’t get that they’ve said something inappropriate.

How can we enjoy each other’s company?

Off-white girlfriend

Believe it or not, I had the same thing happen to me. Fortunately, when my boyfriend’s grandparents realized that the terms they were using were inappropriate, they stopped. In my presence, at least.

I feel you need to enlist your boyfriend and his parents in this situation. And you need to make a direct link between what they are saying, what they mean with those words, and how those words affect you.

Do you think they are trying to push you away because of your differences? You did say they were warm and friendly, but… I can’t help feeling that this might be their MO.

Talk to your boyfriend and see what he thinks.

FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who wrote in about a friend who has gone dark since her wedding (Aug. 31):

Reader – “I think your response to the friend who attended her friend’s wedding but is meeting with radio silence now was off. The friend may not see that original group of friends as part of her friendship circle anymore, now that she’s married.

“I had this happen to me a few times and it seems like the wedding is the last hurrah before moving on to a new phase.”

Lisi – That’s an interesting viewpoint and may in fact be what’s happening here. But that’s not the vibe I got from the original query. It seemed unnatural and uncharacteristic for this woman to break away from her besties of years and years.

Yes, friendships do change with new phases in life, but that just doesn’t seem the case in this scenario. Like the other friends, I’m more concerned for her mental health and safety.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected].