General Etiquette > Family and Children

The proper way to refuse a gift (update #19, 56)

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Hello all -

I've posted questions about DH's family on a few occasions as we're trying to navigate a fairly unfortunate situation.  Here is some background for understanding the question (and to be honest, for advice for the future because I know it probably could've been handled better on our end as well):

[BG] DH has recently made the decision that he no longer wishes to have a relationship with his father.  FIL and SMIL had attempted to pressure us into inviting SMIL's whole family to our wedding though DH has no relationship with them.  It grew into a huge fight with FIL writing a nasty and condescending letter to DH just a few weeks before our wedding and DH responding with his boundaries and expectations for behavior at the wedding.

At the wedding, as I mentioned in another thread, FIL and SMIL gave us a clear cut direct when we tried to speak to them.  FIL can be immature and overly emotional so we had hoped that he simply wasn't over the conflict yet.  We found out after that they'd begun lying about how the fight had happened to make themselves look better to our extended family.  We also found out that FIL and SMIL walked around the wedding telling everyone what a wonderful time they were having, gushing about how happy they were and (in a few cases) trying to take credit for the reception as though they'd thrown it** [/BG]

Since the wedding, a stream of passive aggression has erupted on facebook.  I will admit to not being as far above the fray as I should've been.  SMIL goes on daily to post little pictures (you know, the inspirational pics with words in front of them) with the same theme: "you should love and respect your parents because they are the only people who are really there for you ever in the whole wide world".  Around the same time, she began being very overly effusive with DH's siblings (something she never did before).  You know - "oh I love you SO MUCH" on everything they write.

It really came to a head when I put a basic love note to DH.  (Yes, I know the lovey-dovey couples can be annoying - it is a habit I try to break, but little notes make him smile).  He responded with something we have said to each other for years, which is the phrase "two against the world".  It's something we've always said to each other, but I do see how she could've taken it badly.  She went on within a few minutes of it being posted with another picture, this time with the caption: "Some people need to get hit with reality, kick by karma and grow the F@&$ up".  (The curse word was not edited in her version).

That was the final straw for DH.  SMIL has always spoken for both FIL and herself so DH takes this as a statement from both of them.  We deleted them from facebook so there would be no more of the back and forth and DH is pretty set on not having a relationship with his father for a long time.  DH still believes he is owed an apology for the pre-wedding treatment and the recent comments show that FIL and SMIL not only don't agree, but think they're the ones who've been slighted.

That brings me to my question (but as I said, overall advice is totally welcome - DH and I are both still learning proper etiquette): when we looked at our cards and gifts, there was a card from FIL that said "your gift will be at your house on 9/30 - sorry for the poor planning".  DH does not want to accept this gift.  He wants to sever all ties at this point and accepting the gift wouldn't fit that message.  I've seen posters talk about abusers sending them gifts and they were advised to throw it away and not respond - but DH isn't afraid of FIL.  He's concerned that rather than being seen as no contact, simply throwing the gift away would allow FIL and SMIL to go around telling everyone we didn't send a thank you card. 

Is there a proper way to refuse a gift from someone you've decided not to have a relationship with?  Does it need to be thrown away or can it be returned without comment?

**Almost forgot to explain that: one of the guests has been my mother's best friend for over 20 years.  SMIL walked up to her and gushed about how beautiful everything was and how "everything turned out just how they'd planned" and wasn't this reception such a lovely way to welcome me to "her family".  The guest smiled and said: "we mustn't have been introduced.  I'm PallaMom's best friend.  And you are?"  SMIL gave her name, clammed up immediately and slinked away.

If you're going to do the cut direct, I think the key phrase that is often used around here is to "be a black hole." Emails, letters, cards, gifts, anything they send to you goes into the black hole and is never heard from again. The thing with refusing a gift/sending it back is that it generally ups the drama, and forces you to have contact with the person you're trying to avoid. So when the gift comes, I would just donate it or sell it or throw it in the trash, whatever you want to do, and try to never think about it again.

In a true cut direct, in my understanding, the person simply ceases to exist for you. Obviously easier said than done. But the thing is, if you're always thinking about what they're going to do--if we refuse the gift, they'll tell everyone we were rude for not sending them a TY note!--you're still giving them power over you, still giving them head space. I think you try to find the path where you think about them the absolute least amount possible, so you can get on with your life, rise above their nonsense, and be happier overall.

Maybe return the gift with an explanation as to why?

Have you actually received the gift?  Is there a chance that FIL won't send it?

Have you received the gift yet?  Is it possible that you may never receive the gift--thus, never have to deal with this situation?


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