I have a problem that has cropped up a number of times, and need a few tips on graciously getting untangled before the ever-popular "bean-dip" diversion is uttered...
I have two friends who occasionally (but not always) turn my personal likes into some sort of personal referendum on themselves: if I like something, or do something, it's not really because I like or enjoy it, but rather, it's all a big statement on how I feel about them. A perfect example: I collect silver, the more ornate & crazy, the better. So I had a dinner party not long ago where I served the dessert, ice cream, in little old trophies (with engravings such as "3rd Place, Little Tidewater Guppy Race, 1922," etc.), and with silverplate dessert spoons, all from diffferent patterns. Most people thought it fun to talk about what was on the trophies, but Friend thought that I was looking down on her with this "extravagant display." She cornered me during the dish clearing, and after asking a seemingly innocuous question about where I got the trophies (online auction sites), proceeded to unload about how thoughtless I was, that now she would forever and always feel self-conscious when asking me to dinner, because she wouldn't serve everything with silver, and how badly I must think of her with her stainless, et cetera ad nauseum.
The thought that I just like to collect silver/silverplate and use it hadn't even occurred to her.
This isn't the only example, but these two friends I have are like landmines. They only occasionally do it, but they get so overwrought when it happens that I find myself warily checking myself in all of my interactions with them. Any question from them about something about which I've expressed even just a passing interest indicates a possible tripwire, and I find myself tensing in anticipation of some sort of epic crisis of self-esteem.
My STBXMIL did this all the time, but I just lumped that in with the rest of her craziness and shrugged. This is different, b/c I like these people. However, I don't like these meltdowns, or feeling like I have to constantly censor myself to avoid hurting thair apparently oh-so-tender feelings.
What do I do?