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Q. For three years, I’ve exchanged small but thoughtful Christmas gifts (tea, toiletries) with a friend, a practice she initiated. We exchange them wrapped and thank each other then, but open them on Christmas. Not once has she acknowledged or thanked me for the specific gift, despite my doing it every year by phone or note or in person. Her behavior may just be a difference in upbringing. Still, I am left wondering if she lost the package before opening it or really hated the gift and didn’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me. —Stymied
After three years of this, yes, it’s clear you two have different styles. She thanks you in person and doesn’t follow up later. You want her to know how much you liked that particular gift (admittedly a sweeter scenario). But can you live with her way, if it doesn’t change? Prodding for follow-up might be awkward, ineffectual at changing her habits, or both. And this isn’t a situation where you send a huge wedding gift, receive no acknowledgment and have a valid need to know if your gift card/dishware/glow-in-the-dark bocce ball set was lost in the mail. No, this is her being too busy/absent-minded/averse to thank-you cards to acknowledge some tea. It would be nice of her to do it — especially since you are giving her such a good opportunity to do so — but if she’s simply not up to the task, you must decide: Is the gift-giving still worth it to you?
Troubled by a bad connection
Q. When I married, my husband had adult kids in other states. I’m not a big telephone or social media person, so I learn from him what is going on with them. Is this wrong of me? I have no connection with them or the grandkids. They do not reach out to me either. When we see each other in person (maybe annually), we get along fine. We are retired and have limited funds for traveling. Is more required of me? I like to do things jointly or not at all. —Wondering
Well, right now you’re doing the “not at all” — and the ache you feel is a sign that it’s not optimal. And doing things jointly just might not be realistic because you don’t like phone calls or social media. So, how do you choose to communicate with those you care about, and why can’t your stepchildren and their families be brought into that fold? It’s not about what’s “required” or what’s ‘right or wrong’; it’s about whether you value connection with them. When someday you look back on the relationship you did or did not develop, logistics are going to seem a silly excuse. You either go for the emotional connection or you don’t. You either choose to spread the goodwill of the visits into year-long warmth, or you don’t. It’s truly up to you, but your letter seems to say you want more.
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