Hus­band has a habit of giv­ing thought­less gifts

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - LIVING - Carolyn You can reach Carolyn Hax by email at tellme@wash­post.com. You can chat with her at noon Fri­days at Wash­ing­ton­Post.com.

(Adapted from an on­line dis­cus­sion.)

Dear Carolyn:

Hus­band re­cently bought me a watch. It was not some­thing I would wear, and when I passed it along to my daugh­ter, he called me un­grate­ful.

Back­story: Hus­band has a habit of buy­ing peo­ple gifts that are not what he thinks they would like, but things HE likes. Now, I do need a new watch. He was buy­ing one for him­self and he had a coupon to get a sec­ond watch for free. The free watch is what is called a “fashion watch” — large face, wide band, raised dec­o­ra­tive features around the face.

We’ve been mar­ried 40 years and in all that time I have never worn any­thing like that. I don’t wear jew­elry, my go-to watch is a prac­ti­cal Timex.

So I ac­knowl­edged the “gift,” ex­plained that it wasn’t some­thing I would be com­fort­able wear­ing, and turned it over to my daugh­ter. That re­sulted in my be­ing called un­grate­ful. So am I?

— Un­grate­ful Wretch?

You know you’re not, right? You’re just seek­ing af­fir­ma­tion? And you also know he’s self-cen­tered and/or stub­born?

If he were a thought­ful guy (and even a ro­man­tic!), he would have bought you ex­actly the watch you wanted even though he wished for once that you’d wear some­thing fashion-y.

As­sum­ing you don’t want any ad­vice beyond this sit­u­a­tion, then per­haps: “I’m grate­ful for many things about our lives to­gether, but right now I just need a Timex.” And ride out the har­rumph­ing.

If you do want more: This sounds like a rel­a­tively bear­able frus­tra­tion that’s had its in­su­la­tion rubbed off by four decades of mar­riage. In that case, maybe you just need to own it: “I’m un­grate­ful, you’re stub­born, good thing we have each other. I’m sorry I hurt your feel­ings.”

Dear Carolyn:

How do you know if/when it’s time to throw in the towel with a friend who ap­pears to have so­cial anx­i­ety dis­or­der? I don’t re­mem­ber the last time we made plans where she ac­tu­ally showed.

When she can­celed be­cause her un­cle died and I al­most felt the need to fact-check an obit­u­ary. I also haven’t been able to re­spond to her sad news be­cause I feel more frus­trated than em­pa­thetic. Is there any­thing a friend can say to con­vey how frus­trat­ing this is? Or is it just how she is and if I can’t han­dle it I should just walk away?

— Anony­mous

If you care about your friend still and if there is some­thing en­joy­able you can plan that she will agree to do — some­thing on her terms — then please make those plans.

Peo­ple with so­cial anx­i­eties, pho­bias, de­pres­sion, other chronic ill­nesses, etc., gen­er­ally don’t want to be iso­lated and cer­tainly don’t want to be hostages to their health con­di­tions. If the peo­ple who love them can find a way to meet them where they are then both par­ties can ben­e­fit.

One less emo­tion­ally charged way to look at it: Set peo­ple up for suc­cess, not fail­ure. The de­tails change from case to case and per­son to per­son but the idea is the same.

And yes, if you just don’t like this friend any­more then you can opt out.

Hax

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