ASK AMY: Giving and receiving bring trouble

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Dear Amy: After many years of exchanging gifts with my brother-in-law and his wife, my husband and I decided we didn’t want to do this anymore.

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We try to get rid of things. We have too many things!

The gifts were getting more extravagant and some we didn’t even like or use (and the gifts we gave them ended up in their garage sale, so it was reciprocated). It was sucking in the joy of the holidays.

After politely telling them that we no longer wanted to exchange gifts for holidays or birthdays, they ignored our request.

The first year we received Christmas presents and had nothing for them. I was embarrassed and repeated that we didn’t want to do this anymore and that their gifts made me uncomfortable.

Next time my birthday present came with a card that said it was from their dog, so technically it wasn’t from them. Ha-ha.

And still it continues. I even stopped writing thank you notes.

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I hesitate between feeling like the Grinch and feeling angry because I feel disrespected.

How should we handle this?

– Not gifted

Not expensive: The negative twist to this is that your in-laws are being deliberately disrespectful.

Another way to look at this is that they’re as anxious about giving gifts (or their perceptions of cultural or family pressure) as you are about receiving – and they don’t seem to find the way to stop.

The clue that they have received and understood your message and intent – but may not be able to stop – is when they have sent a gift “from” their dog. It’s just sad.

Because your very reasonable and direct communication has not been respected, you could move forward by giving them a specific directive: “We understand your desire to be generous donors, even if, as we have said, we do not want really not continue to receive. So in the future, may we ask you to direct your donations to (a favorite local charity) on our behalf? It would mean a lot to us.

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If – despite all this – you continue to receive material donations, donate them very quickly and… let it go.

I’m sure readers will want to weigh in.

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Dear Amy: My children are now in their forties and have children of their own.

In the past, I liked picking out “just the right gift” for each grandchild and mailing it. I loved to visualize the joy in the eyes of the child receiving a wrapped gift in the mail from his grandparents.

Occasionally we will receive a thank you note, but more often – nothing.

Before Christmas last year, we received an official letter typed on my son’s company letterhead telling us that their child “no longer needs your toys and clothes”. This letter instead demanded that we send the money directly to the child’s new bank account. The deposit slips were attached.

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We were shocked. Although maybe they should get points for being practical, the children are very young and I find this directive offensive.

My husband threw it in the trash.

What to do?

– Grandma in AZ

Dear Grandma: This letter regarding your gift was particularly cold and mean.

That said, many young and successful families complain that their children receive an overabundance of gifts.

You might choose to accept their directive, with a slight twist.

You could let this family know that for future gift-giving occasions, you will send the child a card, and if you choose to give the child money, you will place the funds in an account you open, returning the money to the child at a later date.

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I hope you will direct your material generosity to the children who truly appreciate it, by donating to your local “Toys for Tots” campaign or your local children’s hospital’s holiday appeal.

Dear Amy: “Dreamer” dreamed of contacting his first love.

My advice? Let it go. Don’t. Get help and push yourself. Nothing good will come of it and the repercussions will last a lifetime.

After 22 happy years, my husband and I went through a tough time and had an emotional affair with my first love – my high school boyfriend.

It broke something in our marriage. Five years later, my husband had an affair.

It ruined our marriage and business, deeply hurt our daughter, and our son is still a mess.

– Regret it daily

Dear regret: What a hard lesson. I’m sorry.

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