1. Kids & Family

Tell Me About It: Alter traditions for gift-challenged spouse

Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering readers' favorites from her archive.

Q: 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, but I don't like myself when I say stuff like that. I just get so frustrated. Any wisdom?

I Want My Present, Dammit

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

Anonymous: 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.

Carolyn: 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.

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.