Carolyn Hax: Give the gift of acceptance

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 21, 2012

Adapted from 2011 and 2012 online discussions.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

It’s almost Christmas and I know my beloved ADD husband hasn’t done a thing about my present. I tried to make things easy on him by asking for one thing related to his hobbies and interests, but, honestly, he forgets. I try not to badger him, but keep blurting out attempts at humorous reminders (“Now you’ll have to get me diamonds AND chocolate!”), but I don’t like myself when I say stuff like that . . . I just get so frustrated. Any wisdom?

I Want My Present, Dammit

Can you live with not getting anything, knowing that’s part of the package of your life with this beloved ADD husband?


Re: ADD Husband:

Even if she can live without the presents, how bad does the husband feel when it’s midnight on Christmas Eve and and he’s frustrated with himself for messing up another Christmas?

Another option might be not to write off gifts altogether, but to write off Christmas morning surprise gifts — to either shop together or plan something special together that both acknowledge “counts” and doesn’t make him feel like the screw-up and her the loving/understanding martyr, again.

Anonymous

Right. Adults don’t respond well when they’re set up to fail. And, since each of us has shortcomings, each of us has an area where we can be expected to fail — part of everyone’s package deal.

So, given that the greatest gifts loved ones can give us are acceptance of our frailties and gratitude for our strengths, holidays are great opportunities for people to give each other chances to shine. Ask for things they give well, and erase expectations for things they rarely or never produce.

For example:

●Stop throwing your introvert into your family’s holiday melee for three solid days, and instead break up the melee with a one-on-one outing on Day 2, giving both of you chances to be at your best.

●Tell your ADD spouse you want to skip the gifts and go shopping together at post-Christmas sales, or take a day trip in lieu of gifts.

●Ask your compulsive organizer to take over holiday meal-planning rather than expecting him or her to roll with an unstructured afternoon.

To put an advice-column spin on a Christmastime earworm, every gift begins with knowing who the hell someone is instead of sticking to a mass-produced script.

Hi, Carolyn:

I’m a very silly, good-natured person. I speak loudly, say inappropriate things, laugh at everything and generally enjoy life. I have friends and family who love me and are amused by my behavior (most of the time).

I’m starting to think men like to be friends with the silly, loud girl but don’t want to marry her. But that is the real me. Should I consider toning it down?

Silly

The person you’ll be in a marriage is who you need to be when you’re dating. Anything else is unfair to you both.

There are a lot of personalities that require a patient approach to finding a partner, because they require similar, very specific sensibilities. Call that a handicap, but it works better as a point of pride.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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