Newlyweds must figure out how to handle holiday traditions
Q: I am recently married and have a holiday dilemma: My wife just bought an expensive perfume, came home, placed the perfume in front of me and instructed me to wrap it up and put it under the tree for her on Christmas. I thought she was joking, but she was serious.
I am from a family that takes pleasure in trying to come up with gifts that bring surprise and joy. Her family members go out shopping together, tell each other what to buy for them, and then go through the checkout line together.
Please help me find a happy medium before I explode and say something that will offend her and my in-laws.
Desperately seeking Santa
A: It couldn't be more obvious that you find your in-laws' tradition repellent if you typed out "I find my in-laws' tradition repellent."
It's not a spouse's place to judge or change her — it's to find the good in her. The family that produced her tradition also produced her — and whether your wife defines herself as a happy extension of this family or a survivor of it only because she learned from their mistakes, the result is one you found lovable.
So, figure out the lovable part of her that explains why she embraces this tradition. Her pragmatism, say, or her childlike contradictions. Her loyalty to family. Her gift for unwitting absurdist humor.
Once you can get/respect/grudgingly appreciate her family's way of handling gifts, tell her you'll play her way, but you'd also like to keep your way alive, too.
You can decide how you do that in a civil conversation made possible by your not going up in judgmental smoke.
Tired of buying Christmas gifts? Stop, no judgments necessary
Q: We have two adult children, both married, no children of their own. Neither of them holds Christmas in high enough esteem to attend church services. They enjoy the parties and gifts, however.
Recently, especially in light of the fact that my husband and I have been laid off, I wonder why we are getting them gifts year after year (with low response from them) when they don't seem to be able to respect the day for what it really is. Our daughter lives within easy driving distance, yet they cannot even bring themselves to visit us on that day, and yes they have been invited. Am I being too judgmental?
A: Yes, if for no other reason than judging isn't even necessary.
You've just been laid off; you have all the grounds you need to skip buying gifts for your adult children. Many adults stop buying each other gifts anyway, just because they're all adults and don't need things under the tree as proof that somebody cares. (If it's fun for them all, then, of course, said adults are free to indulge away.)
Maybe this rationale won't apply next year, and unemployment — I do hope — won't be an issue anymore. But even then, there's still no need to base your buying decisions on whether they "respect the day for what it really is." They don't respond well to the gifts and they don't accept your invitations, so, there you have it — all the evidence you need that it's time for a different approach.