I have a situation that I would like some help with from E-hellions so that I can maintain grace and poise.
My husband and his brother are currently going through the same milestones of life in the last few years. We both got engaged and married in the same year, bought our first houses, had 30th birthdays and now the brother is having his first baby with his wife.
Such milestones warrant thoughtfulness from your close family members to mark the occasions, well, at least on our behalf…
My husband and I have been putting a lot of effort into marking his brother’s occasions appropriately, helping to set up and attending all their events even if it means taking time off work or using our own money to contribute, buying generous and thoughtful gifts and writing heartfelt things into cards expressing how we are proud and happy for them. But it’s all very one-sided. They didn’t come to our last two events because they were tired after work. And they can barely manage to even write a message in a card sometimes.
So I’m not sure what to do, does this mean that they could be embarrassed by our generosity because they are unable to match it? We know that they are not rich people, but they aren’t even generous with their time. I don’t think they are deliberately being mean, but just thoughtless. I’m getting a bit sick of forever buying them gifts and rearranging our lives for their occasions when we seem to be receiving no appreciation or reciprocal effort. Maybe they just don’t care about these milestones like we do and think that we’re over the top? But then the brother got mad at me this year because I didn’t remind him about Mother’s Day, so that makes me think that he does care about personal occasions.
The next big occasion will be the birth of their baby, which will be the first grandchild in the family. What would the polite thing to do be – to give this milestone the enthusiasm it deserves, or do you think that I should tone it down to meet the same level of enthusiasm that they have been giving us? 0701-13
There are always thoughtless, selfish, tired people in our lives and unfortunately some of them happen to be related by marriage or birth. I don’t think it is productive to have an expectation that they have the same values as you because you will walk through life disappointed far too much. I also do not believe it is productive to engage in social interactions that are burdensome and done out of a sense of obligation that has a detrimental affect on your family life. You should be blessing them with gifts and your time because you love them and this is your expression of that love that does not have an expectation of it being returned in kind. When you reach the point where the things you do for people are motivated by a selfless love, then you’ll find more balance in how much you actually do for them and you will be happier with that balance. I hope I am communicating my meaning on this cogently. There can be hidden motives for why we do things for others….we can be people-pleasers, wanting to score points, fear of rejection, one-up-manship, misplaced duty, and so forth. In other words, I have found that if I feel a sense of striving when I do some kindness, I ponder whether my motives are altruistic or if I’m doing it out of a misguided obligation or expectation that I am owed something. I don’t think kindnesses are wasted but I will be a happier person when I do them freely…and that may mean I scale back my expressions of hospitality so that they are done with sincerity. Make sense?
However, I would nip in the bud your brother-in-law’s belief that you are his personal secretary employed to alert him of impending holidays that have an implied expectation that him actually do something (like bless his mother). You may love him but it’s not love or kindness to facilitate his failure to keep track of his calendar.
Note to readers: I’m taking a vacation from approving comments Thursday through Sunday. You can write them and they will eventually be approved but don’t expect to see them til Monday.