Ask Amy: Conflict over presents calls for some give-and-take

December 19, 2011

DEAR AMY: I love my family dearly, but every year we get into huge arguments over gifts. I hate receiving presents. I just don’t feel I deserve them. I want Christmas to be about spending time with my family, not about who can spend the most.

My parents refuse to see things my way and continue to buy me gifts I don’t want. It really hurts me when they do, and they refuse to stop. It seems as if my feelings aren’t important, and I must always do things their way.

What can I do? I don’t want to be a downer on Christmas but I stay depressed all month because I’ve done things their way for 28 years and they refuse to acknowledge my beliefs for just one Christmas. Your thoughts? -- Downer

DEAR DOWNER: Being depressed for the entire month of December is most definitely not the way to go. Because you cannot change your parents but can only ask them to change, you might need to be the one to actually behave differently.

I agree with you that your parents should be sensitive to your wishes, and yet this equation runs both ways.

They have feelings, too, and you might be able to influence them by affirming their intent and letting them know you appreciate their generosity toward you, even though the material aspects of it make you miserable.

It’s possible that your expression, “I don’t feel I deserve gifts,” has ignited a dynamic in them where they respond to your reluctance with overabundance. I agree that it is inappropriate, but they may be overreacting to prove that you are deserving.

Ask your folks yet again to limit their gift-giving to only one gift and bring one gift for them.

If at age 28 you cannot find a way to negotiate this, with some compromise on each side, then you should rethink where and how you spend your Christmas holiday.

DEAR AMY: Our good friends recently had to put their family pet of 12 years to sleep, and they are grieving.

My husband and I are not pet lovers, and our friends are aware of this. We want to make a meaningful gesture toward them to acknowledge their loss, but we fear coming across as inauthentic since we have never had a family pet.

We have told our friends that we love them and are sorry that they are hurting, but is there something else besides a card that would be appropriate as well? -- At a Loss

DEAR AT A LOSS: There is nothing “inauthentic” about acknowledging another person’s loss, even if you have never faced this sort of loss yourself.

Euthanizing a pet is a very tough choice to make — and the experience itself can be an ordeal, because this choice is often made after many bouts with illness and treatment.

Sending a card is thoughtful. My most recent pet that died, a gigantic tabby cat, left an equally massive void in my life with his passing. I never expected to receive cards in the mail about this loss, but when I did I was extremely touched by the gesture.

You might also make a small donation to your local animal shelter in this family’s name. Otherwise, don’t worry about your authenticity; just be sincere.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I think that you are wrong in your answer to “Brokenhearted Bride,” whose husband had cheated on her during their engagement.

The husband did not enter into this marriage honestly, so in our minds it is not a marriage.

She should ask for an annulment, cut her losses, move on and meet someone deserving of her.

From our observations, once a liar and cheater in a relationship, always a liar and cheater. He was never faithful. How can she ever trust him? She should move on before it destroys her.

If she had been married for 25 years, then perhaps the marriage could be saved, but it did not start out as an honest relationship. -- K and D

DEAR K and D: Several readers agreed with you that rather than fight for their marriage, this “Brokenhearted Bride” should make a break for it.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2011 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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