Author Topic: The proper way to refuse a gift (update #19, 56)  (Read 13772 times)

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mspallaton

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The proper way to refuse a gift (update #19, 56)
« on: September 30, 2013, 01:35:37 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 10:32:20 AM by mspallaton »

Lynn2000

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2013, 01:44:11 PM »
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.
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nuit93

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2013, 01:45:21 PM »
Maybe return the gift with an explanation as to why?

pierrotlunaire0

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2013, 01:52:02 PM »
Have you actually received the gift?  Is there a chance that FIL won't send it?
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Vall

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2013, 01:53:50 PM »
Have you received the gift yet?  Is it possible that you may never receive the gift--thus, never have to deal with this situation?

TootsNYC

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2013, 01:55:35 PM »
You haven't received the gift yet. So you don't need to do anything.

If you avoid all contact, they can't hand it do you. If they go ahead and send it,  you can mark "return to sender" on the front and hand it to the post office to return (unopened). Which will create extreme drama as well.

Also:

There's a famous saying: "least said, soonest mended."

Seriously, drop the rope.

Hide SMIL's Facebook feed.
Edit the settings so she can't see what you post.

Don't keep fueling the fire (don't keep allowing HER to fuel the fire).

Just let it be.

In a couple of years, your DH may not feel quite as strongly--and if you guys get all proclaim-y now, you make it harder than ever for *either* side to ever back down.

Defend your reputation in the larger family where you think you need to, but do it without anger (throw in some sorrow--it'll help with the P.R. campaign).

Twik

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2013, 01:57:53 PM »
I agree with previous posters that this sort of card is often an symptom of "words over deeds". By saying a present will be sent later, they can consider they've done their job, without actually putting a plan into action or spending money. In which case, they can be ignored.

If it does arrive, I would (if practical) simply readdress it and send it back to FIL. Do not bother to explain why. Just let them know through your actions that you are not accepting anything further from them.
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mspallaton

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2013, 02:00:13 PM »
We have not received anything yet - I ask because FIL's pattern includes doing things to seem magnanimous with a guilt trip attached so DH has said he's more likely to send a gift with a note about loving DH so much and when DH is 'ready to apologize' he'll be waiting -- he's done that to DH and the sibs in the past.

I hope we simply don't get anything.  That would be easiest.

As to the FB portion - we have deleted them from our lists entirely so there won't be any further drama on that regard.  That was a hard decision for DH, but it was his choice and I simply followed suit.

sevenday

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2013, 02:11:32 PM »
I've actually gotten a package from someone I had cut ties with.  As soon as I saw the address on the box I took it the nearest post station (about half a mile away) and simply told the man at the desk that I was refusing the package.  Since it was unopened, he just took it and didn't charge me anything.  I don't know what happened to it from there, but... yeah.  Alternatively, open box, dump contents into trash bag without looking, and drop the bag off with other donated goods at your local donation site.  (Goodwill, etc if you have one)

Pen^2

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2013, 02:53:31 PM »
People here have good advice. I particularly like the phrase, "be a black hole."

If a gift arrives, you can either dump it or return it. If you're worried about FIL gossiping with other family members about how rude you are not to send a thank-you note, then returning the gift is the best option as it frees you from any thank-you note obligations.

Ignore anything and everything from them. From what you've said, it sounds like they very much do owe you both an apology. It sounds like they don't think that them saying sorry and possibly salvaging a damaged relationship is worth more than their own pride and appearance to others. This is the kind of mindset that won't change for a long time, generally. Sending a note to them explaining why you're returning their gift would therefore accomplish nothing, as they already know exactly what they did wrong (they were there!) but don't want to admit it. A note won't change that until they change their mindset. So get into a mode of life where you don't actively seek out information about what they've been up to, and have fewer conversations about them, until they are as gone as is reasonably possible from your minds (not completely, of course, but not taking up nearly as much space as they currently are).

In a few years, you might receive a message from them that's mindful of how they've hurt you, and then you can choose where to go from there. But for now, be a black hole and change your way of life to one that doesn't feature them very prominently. deleting them from Facebook was a good move in this direction.

Also, ((hugs)) because it sucks when people are horrible. Your spouse is very lucky to have someone who is supporting him during something like this.

Arila

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2013, 04:13:03 PM »
There's a famous saying: "least said, soonest mended."

Seriously, drop the rope.

Hide SMIL's Facebook feed.
Edit the settings so she can't see what you post.

Don't keep fueling the fire (don't keep allowing HER to fuel the fire).

Just let it be.

In a couple of years, your DH may not feel quite as strongly--and if you guys get all proclaim-y now, you make it harder than ever for *either* side to ever back down.

I agree with Toots in the quoted portion above. There's a lot of emotions tied up with the whole wedding and merging lives, and better to "take a break" or even just cool down the relationship than cut all ties.

If a thoughtful/nice gift arrives (anything not P/A or obviously insulting), I would acknowledge it with a brief note, full of civility, but it doesn't need to be warm. "FIL, SMIL, Thank you for the peach vase you sent to us on occasion of our wedding. It will compliment the color of the roses from our most prolific bush in the garden. - Mr & Mrs Pallaton"

snappylt

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2013, 03:29:48 PM »
September 30 was yesterday.  Did anything arrive?

If something did arrive, I would encourage you to either accept it, write a curt thank you note, and then do whatever you want with it OR refuse the package and return it to sender.

TootsNYC

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2013, 03:48:33 PM »

If a gift arrives, you can either dump it or return it. If you're worried about FIL gossiping with other family members about how rude you are not to send a thank-you note, then returning the gift is the best option as it frees you from any thank-you note obligations.

Well, if you are worried about him complaining about the thank-you note, I would think that the family fallout from sending the gift back unopened, "return to sender," would REALLY give him something to complain about.

Something that would probably not be acceptable to other family members.
They'd be more likely to forgive you for not writing a note, but they aren't going to be willing to understand why you'd so dramatically and hurtfully turn your back on your own father(-in-law).

Not that I'm saying you should retain ties, etc., etc.--I just don't want you to send the package back without realizing that it is a MUCH bigger and much more REAL risk, in terms of "family P.R.", than no thank-you note.

My vote would be to minimize drama at every turn. Sending him a cursory thank-you note and donating the gift is the low-drama option.

You can be Teflon instead of a black hole. If you always choose the path that is the least involved and creates the least conversation--with others and **between the two of you**--you'll probably be happier.
    So, gift comes?
Option A:  Write a rote thank-you note, donate gift, move on. Total time spent: 20 mins.
Option B: Write "return to sender" on box, drop at post office. Listen to brother, sister, aunt, uncle tell you how FIL and SMIL told them, and how they think you're rude, and he's your FATHER, yadda yadda yadda. Total time spent: 20 mins. plus 2 hours of them talking, plus 2 hours of the two of you talking at home in an effort to detox.

My vote: option A.

Just do a fade-out.

If FIL calls, say: "Sorry, Dad, I'm in the middle of something, I can't stay on the phone--is there something specific? No, OK, Sorry, I've got to go. Bye." <click>

(Also make a pact with each other: If you choose the Teflon route, then NO TALKING BETWEEN YOURSELVES about it, because that destroys the non-stick coating, sort of like a metal utensil on Teflon.)

Your goal--am I right?--is to eliminate the potential for hurt, and to allow yourselves time to heal from the current bruising. Further drama is not going to do that.

The other advantage of the fade-out--of being Teflon--instead of the declared break:

It preserves options for the future.

Because, seriously, making a *permanent* break from your father is a big, honking deal.


mspallaton

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2013, 04:35:30 PM »
To update:  we did not receive anything yesterday - I continue to hope that we won't get anything at all so there is no issue.

After taking SMIL and FIL off of our facebook pages, DH called his mother and talked to her a little about what was going on (the continued passive aggressive behavior and his desire to end his relationship with his father).  To our complete and total shock, MIL's reaction was to agree with DH that he shouldn't communicate with his father right now.

We had expected (as TootsNYC warned in his/her last post) that any decision to truly break contact would be met with serious resistance.  DH talked to his mother partly because this is just a hard situation and partly to start easing her into the idea that even if things aren't fully broken, it will be a long time before they are fixed - in other words, pressure to fix it faster will turn him off of the conversation.

MIL said a lot of things that I was really surprised at (in a good way).  She agreed with DH that he'd been treated terribly by his father.  It was the first time she'd said that to him.  She told DH that she thought he and I should take FIL and SMIL off of facebook if we hadn't already and that she didn't think DH should be trying to have a relationship with his father.  She said that if FIL went to her and talked about DH she would shut it down (which is HUGE for MIL because she hates conflict). 

Basically her message was: the relationship DH and FIL have had is toxic and while maybe a relationship of some kind can be had in the future, it basically needs to be a from scratch deal for it to be okay.

She also said she'd been talking to SIL at length.  SIL is a daddy's girl so it takes a LOT for her to think he's done wrong.  When she found out about the letter to DH, her response was that DH simply must have done something wrong to cause that kind of letter and if DH would just apologize to FIL this could all be over.  SIL is the main person who FIL and SMIL have been lying to and trying to start rumors with.  MIL has been (without us asking) on and off the phone with SIL since the wedding basically explaining that she'd been lied to and sharing what really happened.

I was shocked when DH told me just how much and how strongly MIL has been going to bat for him.  She's a wonderful woman, but she never met a fight she liked in her life and she seems to have taken on this one in spades.

The reason I share all that detail is this -- if we do receive something from FIL and SMIL, we have someone who will set the record straight without us having to get in the middle.  Because of that and the advice we've gotten here, I believe our plan is to simply discard the gift without opening it and be a black hole.

We definitely want to avoid creating drama so sending it back seems like less and less of a good idea after hearing from people.  However, DH cannot stomach the idea of thanking his father for much of anything after everything that's happened.  Given that, it seems like black hole is the best option.

....that and keeping fingers crossed that nothing arrives... I'll begin breathing easier if we get all the way to Friday without anything in the mail from them.

And... as always... thank you all for your advice.  I feel like we would've made much worse/drama causing decisions even with the best of intentions if this board weren't here to bounce ideas off of.

Luci

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Re: The proper way to refuse a gift
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2013, 05:28:59 PM »
It's almost frightening how important parental approval is, isn't it? I'm so glad your husband had support from his mom, and it's even bettter that it is surprisingly stong if it is out of character for her. Go! MIL!

(I had a wicked stepmother aquired at the age of 25. Daddy outlived her, so we got back together and our kids got to meet the REAL grandpa D! We were very fortunate.)

Best wishes to you all.