Author Topic: The "obligation" of gifting.  (Read 7615 times)

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bopper

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #60 on: February 06, 2014, 09:21:23 AM »
I think the OP wants Jeff to give gifts to younger step brother on his birthday. They would like that to be a strong relationship.

I would like my brother to give gifts to my kids at Christmas. He gets together with us at Christmas. We give him gifts and everyone exchanges gifts.
Except he doesn't have alot of money so doesn't buy gifts.  So what I started doing was getting a couple of itunes gift cards and giving them to him to give to the kids.
He doesnt' mind and it helps strengthen the relationship.

Dindrane

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #61 on: February 06, 2014, 09:33:35 AM »
It was confusing for us when he hinted to DH at Thanksgiving that he's too old to give and receive Christmas gifts but then later asked DH for gift ideas. We didn't know what to do with that. In fact, I said to DH, "I thought he said he didn't want to do gifts anymore." And DH said he thought the same. We then found ourselves doing some last-minute shopping so we could reciprocate and get gifts in the mail. Then Jeff turned around complained to DH a few weeks ago that he had to give gifts at Christmas. This doesn't make sense to us. Jeff initiated the discussion about gift ideas; we didn't.

Did either of you express that confusion to Jeff? If you did, and it still became a thing, it might be worth making a stronger statement to him about what you felt at that time (i.e., "Jeff, we have absolutely no problem with deciding not to exchange gifts with you for Christmas. But that means we will not exchange gifts with you at Christmas, so don't ask us for ideas unless you plan to exchange them without complaint.")

If you didn't express that, I think you could have said to Jeff exactly what you said to your husband. He asks for gift ideas, and one of you immediately (and without giving him any gift ideas) responds, "Wait, I thought we weren't exchanging gifts? Did you change your mind?"

I think part of the disconnect you and your husband are having with Jeff is that he really has sent a mixed message. I won't speculate on why that is, but I'd bet there's a good chance he's not doing it with full intention. It might help you all reach some resolution if you try to be really straightforward on this subject, and even push him to definitively say "yes we are exchanging presents this year because I changed my mind" or "no we are not exchanging presents" (at which point you can ask him why on earth he needs ideas for gifts he's not planning to give).

If he's behaving this way without meaning to, being forced to articulate his desires to you and your DH might help him realize he's being inconsistent and stop. If he is behaving this way intentionally, he's being sort of passive-aggressive, and your calling him on the inconsistencies between his words and actions makes it less rewarding for him to keep doing it.


Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #62 on: February 06, 2014, 09:50:43 AM »
At Thanksgiving, what was your DHs response to him?

Honestly, I find myself thinking a similar thing about gifting as what you're saying Jeff is saying - I'm more than happy to cut gifts out at Christmas.  And I would be taken aback if someone offered to put my name on a childs birthday gift - that is expressing that this is a gifting obligation in some form, especially coming from your father.  Age doesn't matter much in that respect, imo.

The conversation I think your husband should have with him shouldn't be about reminders, but a talk about the gifts - what does Jeff want to do?  And if he does not want Christmas gifts and to stay out of that exchange, I think he is looking for his father to agree to this so there is not the obligation to gift him back.  It sounds like Jeff is looking for this agreement and in not getting one, he feels obligated to gift when he just doesn't want to.

At Thanksgiving, DH responded affirmatively to Jeff about Christmas. We were ready to respect what Jeff said he wanted to do. Given that, we were surprised when Jeff asked for Christmas gift ideas. For us, at that point, it came from left field. We hadn't planned to buy anything. Like I said, we scrambled to buy a few items so we could reciprocate and get them in the mail. I don't know what Jeff's mom said over Thanksgiving about Christmas, but I do know that Jeff blew up about it. (We weren't there for that blow-up. This was relayed to DH by Jeff's stepdad.)

I said in the OP that DH and Jeff spoke for an hour a couple of weeks ago about the issue of gifting. The discussion focused on Jeff's feelings about it, which DH said were very confusing, and that may be why it isn't coming across well here. Among the things Jeff said was that he resented "having to buy gifts for Christmas." As far as we were concerned, at Thanksgiving, he made his statement about Christmas gifting, and we intended to respect that. No one made him buy gifts at Christmas. He asked for ideas, which confused us.

It may help to think about this on a timeline:

Thanksgiving: Jeff makes his statement about Christmas gifting, which was, "I'm in my mid-20s now, and I feel like I'm too old for giving and receiving Christmas gifts." DH understands Jeff's position.

Ten days before Christmas: Jeff asks for gift ideas. We are confused, but we provide gift ideas. We then run out to buy gifts for Jeff and his GF so we can mail them before Christmas.

A few days before Christmas: Gifts from Jeff arrive at our house.

Christmas Day: We open gifts from Jeff. DH receives both gift ideas I'd suggested; DS gets a $50 gift card; I received the gloves. We talked by phone and thanked each other for the gifts.

Two weeks after Christmas: DH runs into Jeff's stepdad. Stepdad asks DH if we had any interaction with Jeff at Thanksgiving about Christmas gifts. DH tells Stepdad about Jeff's comment that he is too old to give and receive gifts. Stepdad tells DH that Jeff became angry at Thanksgiving when they were discussing plans for Christmas. Stepdad's concern was about how angry Jeff was about Christmas.

Three weeks after Christmas: One of my stepsons asks DH if DS's birthday is coming up. DH texts all three of them about DS's upcoming birthdate and asks if they would be interested in putting their names on a gift we already bought. Two respond positively. Jeff is angry. He tells DH by text that every time some event comes up, he feels that he's expected to give a gift. All of this -- Jeff's reaction and his position about gifting in general -- was news to DH. DH had no idea Jeff felt that way. DH agrees to call Jeff to talk about it.

That night: DH calls Jeff. They talk for an hour. Jeff complains that he doesn't like having to give all these gifts. Every time someone has an occasion, it's as if he is expected to give a gift. He doesn't think he should have to participate in putting his name on a gift to DS because as an adult he doesn't gift his adult brothers. He complains that he "had to give gifts at Christmas" to the person he asked for gift ideas. It was a lot of "I don't think I should have to." DH confirmed for Jeff that in fact he doesn't have to. Gifting is his decision. People give gifts because they want to. If he doesn't want to, then he shouldn't. Jeff said he understood that. Then the discussion shifted to how Jeff doesn't like being told about these life events because it makes him feel as if a gift is expected. Does Jeff not want information about life events? No, he does want information about life events. He loves us and wants relationships with us. He doesn't want to overlook events. It was all very confusing. When they got off the phone, DH came into the room where I was and was just shaking his head. Until that phone call we had no idea that Jeff felt such resentment about an expectation that gifts might be given for life events. We also didn't know that he gets heartburn over being told that these life events are taking place.

So, while Jeff's feelings about being asked to participate in DS's birthday gift are understandable now after the phone call, there was no way DH could have predicted that when he asked Jeff about putting his name on the gift. Jeff had never articulated his feelings about gifting in general until that phone call. Until that call, our only interaction with Jeff about gifts was the comment he made at Thanksgiving about being too old for Christmas gifts.

Regardless, from our perspective, we are having difficulty with the idea that he resents giving gifts. He absolutely should not give gifts if doing that stirs up resentment for him. This is why I've been saying that he needs to live his values where gifting is concerned. He has to decide what he wants to do about gifting, and we will respect that. But he has to decide. Whatever he wants to do, we will respect. But it's not okay to give gifts and then complain about it afterward to the people you gifted.

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #63 on: February 06, 2014, 09:52:27 AM »
I think the OP wants Jeff to give gifts to younger step brother on his birthday. They would like that to be a strong relationship.

I would like my brother to give gifts to my kids at Christmas. He gets together with us at Christmas. We give him gifts and everyone exchanges gifts.
Except he doesn't have alot of money so doesn't buy gifts.  So what I started doing was getting a couple of itunes gift cards and giving them to him to give to the kids.
He doesnt' mind and it helps strengthen the relationship.

Good heavens, no. I don't want Jeff to give DS gifts. If Jeff wants to give gifts -- any gifts, that's up to him. What I don't want is for Jeff to give gifts, feel resentful about it, and complain about it later.

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #64 on: February 06, 2014, 10:23:40 AM »
It was confusing for us when he hinted to DH at Thanksgiving that he's too old to give and receive Christmas gifts but then later asked DH for gift ideas. We didn't know what to do with that. In fact, I said to DH, "I thought he said he didn't want to do gifts anymore." And DH said he thought the same. We then found ourselves doing some last-minute shopping so we could reciprocate and get gifts in the mail. Then Jeff turned around complained to DH a few weeks ago that he had to give gifts at Christmas. This doesn't make sense to us. Jeff initiated the discussion about gift ideas; we didn't.

Did either of you express that confusion to Jeff? If you did, and it still became a thing, it might be worth making a stronger statement to him about what you felt at that time (i.e., "Jeff, we have absolutely no problem with deciding not to exchange gifts with you for Christmas. But that means we will not exchange gifts with you at Christmas, so don't ask us for ideas unless you plan to exchange them without complaint.")

If you didn't express that, I think you could have said to Jeff exactly what you said to your husband. He asks for gift ideas, and one of you immediately (and without giving him any gift ideas) responds, "Wait, I thought we weren't exchanging gifts? Did you change your mind?"

I think part of the disconnect you and your husband are having with Jeff is that he really has sent a mixed message. I won't speculate on why that is, but I'd bet there's a good chance he's not doing it with full intention. It might help you all reach some resolution if you try to be really straightforward on this subject, and even push him to definitively say "yes we are exchanging presents this year because I changed my mind" or "no we are not exchanging presents" (at which point you can ask him why on earth he needs ideas for gifts he's not planning to give).

If he's behaving this way without meaning to, being forced to articulate his desires to you and your DH might help him realize he's being inconsistent and stop. If he is behaving this way intentionally, he's being sort of passive-aggressive, and your calling him on the inconsistencies between his words and actions makes it less rewarding for him to keep doing it.

I'm not sure whether DH tried to clarify with Jeff when Jeff asked for Christmas gift ideas. I know that DH was surprised that Jeff would ask for ideas given what he said to DH at Thanksgiving. So was I. We thought he'd changed his mind. We even considered the possibility that Jeff's position was more about receiving gifts than giving them. As it turns out, it's as much about giving gifts as receiving them. We understand that now.

I know DH addressed the Christmas gifting inconsistency more specifically when they spoke on the phone. He told Jeff that we were prepared to respect his position about Christmas gifts, but then Jeff asked for gift ideas. He told Jeff that it's not reasonable to shift positions that way and then complain about it afterward. DH told me that when Jeff started complaining about having to give Christmas gifts, he said, "Now wait a minute. You talked about being too old to give and receive gifts. And then YOU asked for gift ideas. If you didn't want to give gifts, why would you ask for ideas?"

Knowing Jeff as I do, I think what we're dealing with is emotional reactions that aren't fully formed into actual preferences and decisions. I'm not sure he really knows what he wants to do. He's bouncing around in his emotions and thought processes. I don't think he's being actively PA. I definitely think it might help to push him a harder about the inconsistencies.

mj

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #65 on: February 06, 2014, 12:25:02 PM »
At Thanksgiving, what was your DHs response to him?

Honestly, I find myself thinking a similar thing about gifting as what you're saying Jeff is saying - I'm more than happy to cut gifts out at Christmas.  And I would be taken aback if someone offered to put my name on a childs birthday gift - that is expressing that this is a gifting obligation in some form, especially coming from your father.  Age doesn't matter much in that respect, imo.

The conversation I think your husband should have with him shouldn't be about reminders, but a talk about the gifts - what does Jeff want to do?  And if he does not want Christmas gifts and to stay out of that exchange, I think he is looking for his father to agree to this so there is not the obligation to gift him back.  It sounds like Jeff is looking for this agreement and in not getting one, he feels obligated to gift when he just doesn't want to.

At Thanksgiving, DH responded affirmatively to Jeff about Christmas. We were ready to respect what Jeff said he wanted to do. Given that, we were surprised when Jeff asked for Christmas gift ideas. For us, at that point, it came from left field. We hadn't planned to buy anything. Like I said, we scrambled to buy a few items so we could reciprocate and get them in the mail. I don't know what Jeff's mom said over Thanksgiving about Christmas, but I do know that Jeff blew up about it. (We weren't there for that blow-up. This was relayed to DH by Jeff's stepdad.)

I said in the OP that DH and Jeff spoke for an hour a couple of weeks ago about the issue of gifting. The discussion focused on Jeff's feelings about it, which DH said were very confusing, and that may be why it isn't coming across well here. Among the things Jeff said was that he resented "having to buy gifts for Christmas." As far as we were concerned, at Thanksgiving, he made his statement about Christmas gifting, and we intended to respect that. No one made him buy gifts at Christmas. He asked for ideas, which confused us.

It may help to think about this on a timeline:

Thanksgiving: Jeff makes his statement about Christmas gifting, which was, "I'm in my mid-20s now, and I feel like I'm too old for giving and receiving Christmas gifts." DH understands Jeff's position.

Ten days before Christmas: Jeff asks for gift ideas. We are confused, but we provide gift ideas. We then run out to buy gifts for Jeff and his GF so we can mail them before Christmas.

A few days before Christmas: Gifts from Jeff arrive at our house.

Christmas Day: We open gifts from Jeff. DH receives both gift ideas I'd suggested; DS gets a $50 gift card; I received the gloves. We talked by phone and thanked each other for the gifts.

Two weeks after Christmas: DH runs into Jeff's stepdad. Stepdad asks DH if we had any interaction with Jeff at Thanksgiving about Christmas gifts. DH tells Stepdad about Jeff's comment that he is too old to give and receive gifts. Stepdad tells DH that Jeff became angry at Thanksgiving when they were discussing plans for Christmas. Stepdad's concern was about how angry Jeff was about Christmas.

Three weeks after Christmas: One of my stepsons asks DH if DS's birthday is coming up. DH texts all three of them about DS's upcoming birthdate and asks if they would be interested in putting their names on a gift we already bought. Two respond positively. Jeff is angry. He tells DH by text that every time some event comes up, he feels that he's expected to give a gift. All of this -- Jeff's reaction and his position about gifting in general -- was news to DH. DH had no idea Jeff felt that way. DH agrees to call Jeff to talk about it.

That night: DH calls Jeff. They talk for an hour. Jeff complains that he doesn't like having to give all these gifts. Every time someone has an occasion, it's as if he is expected to give a gift. He doesn't think he should have to participate in putting his name on a gift to DS because as an adult he doesn't gift his adult brothers. He complains that he "had to give gifts at Christmas" to the person he asked for gift ideas. It was a lot of "I don't think I should have to." DH confirmed for Jeff that in fact he doesn't have to. Gifting is his decision. People give gifts because they want to. If he doesn't want to, then he shouldn't. Jeff said he understood that. Then the discussion shifted to how Jeff doesn't like being told about these life events because it makes him feel as if a gift is expected. Does Jeff not want information about life events? No, he does want information about life events. He loves us and wants relationships with us. He doesn't want to overlook events. It was all very confusing. When they got off the phone, DH came into the room where I was and was just shaking his head. Until that phone call we had no idea that Jeff felt such resentment about an expectation that gifts might be given for life events. We also didn't know that he gets heartburn over being told that these life events are taking place.

So, while Jeff's feelings about being asked to participate in DS's birthday gift are understandable now after the phone call, there was no way DH could have predicted that when he asked Jeff about putting his name on the gift. Jeff had never articulated his feelings about gifting in general until that phone call. Until that call, our only interaction with Jeff about gifts was the comment he made at Thanksgiving about being too old for Christmas gifts.

Regardless, from our perspective, we are having difficulty with the idea that he resents giving gifts. He absolutely should not give gifts if doing that stirs up resentment for him. This is why I've been saying that he needs to live his values where gifting is concerned. He has to decide what he wants to do about gifting, and we will respect that. But he has to decide. Whatever he wants to do, we will respect. But it's not okay to give gifts and then complain about it afterward to the people you gifted.

Thanks for the timeline.  A few things didn't quite make sense to me - the 3 weeks after Christmas where your husband didn't know Jeff felt this way before?  He spoke to Jeff at Thanksgiving where Jeff told him.  At Christmas when you guys scrambled to get gifts for Jeff, why wasn't it brought up then?  Your husband had the conversation with Jeff not much earlier.

You don't have to answer, it's just something I'm seeing your posts.  I do agree with the pp who said that while you are saying gifts aren't obligatory, the message is coming across to me that you and DH feel as if they are.  It doesn't seem to be much confusion here, really, at least from what I'm reading.  Jeff doesn't want to be asked to put his name on gifts to other people and he doesn't mind hearing about life events, like "oh we took your stepbro to pizza place for his birthday" - NOT "oh and stepbros birthday is next week, do you want me to put your name on a gift to him?".

If you are confused by messages Jeff is sending, I think it's best that your husband clarify in the moment.  As with what happened this past Christmas - "I thought you weren't into gifting or receiving?".

eta - about the conversation with his Stepdad, this could be a lot for Jeff or anyone.  Blended families add on a lot of obligations in not just money, but other resources like time.  The time spent shopping, the money and the time spent shuffling between houses to celebrate with everyone can add up to be overwhelming, especially in a new & serious relationship of his own where he is considering his significant others extended family into the mix too.  That's a lot for anyone, and it may seem like all at once to him.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2014, 12:27:53 PM by mj »

Hmmmmm

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #66 on: February 06, 2014, 12:41:13 PM »
Coley, based on your comments I feel like gifting is considered a big deal by you and your DH.
-Your DH has said that gifts should be given only if you want but the way it's been phrased implies your DH believes you should want to.
-Your DH offered to put your son's name on a gift to a sibling which implies having a gift from a sibling is expected.
-You've referred to gifting as a social norm.

If I'm just reading this as a bystander I can understand why your stepson would feel there was pressure in your family to gift. He's been hearing these statements all his life.

So he is probably feeling conflicted because he is concerned flat out stating "I don't want to give gifts and I don't want to be reminded about these events" will be seen by your DH as going against your DH's value system.

I really think your DH needs to drop the subject.
-Don't remind this son of gifting occasions
-Give him gifts if you choose to for his bday or Christmas.
-Don't discuss reciprocal gifts with him.
-Allow your offspring to decide their future gifting culture amongst themselves. There is no reason for your DH to be involved in their decisions.

 

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #67 on: February 06, 2014, 12:53:13 PM »
Coley, based on your comments I feel like gifting is considered a big deal by you and your DH.
-Your DH has said that gifts should be given only if you want but the way it's been phrased implies your DH believes you should want to.
-Your DH offered to put your son's name on a gift to a sibling which implies having a gift from a sibling is expected.
-You've referred to gifting as a social norm.

If I'm just reading this as a bystander I can understand why your stepson would feel there was pressure in your family to gift. He's been hearing these statements all his life.

So he is probably feeling conflicted because he is concerned flat out stating "I don't want to give gifts and I don't want to be reminded about these events" will be seen by your DH as going against your DH's value system.

I really think your DH needs to drop the subject.
-Don't remind this son of gifting occasions
-Give him gifts if you choose to for his bday or Christmas.
-Don't discuss reciprocal gifts with him.
-Allow your offspring to decide their future gifting culture amongst themselves. There is no reason for your DH to be involved in their decisions.

I'm really not clear on how it could seem that DH and I think gifting is a big deal. We don't think that at all. DH was affirmative with Jeff at Thanksgiving when he made his statement about Christmas gifts, and we were ready to respect Jeff's feelings about it at that time.

I think you may be reading more intent into the statement "People give gifts because they want to" than was actually there. You weren't there when DH said it, so it may ring differently to you here. DH was telling Jeff that there is no expectation that he must give gifts. If he wants to give a gift -- if he believes it's the thing to do -- then he should. If he doesn't want to give a gift, then he shouldn't. DH was letting Jeff off the hook by confirming for him that he is not in fact required or obligated to give gifts.

I have said repeatedly throughout this thread that whatever Jeff decides, we will respect.

TootsNYC

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #68 on: February 06, 2014, 01:06:43 PM »
Then the discussion shifted to how Jeff doesn't like being told about these life events because it makes him feel as if a gift is expected. Does Jeff not want information about life events? No, he does want information about life events. He loves us and wants relationships with us. He doesn't want to overlook events. It was all very confusing. When they got off the phone, DH came into the room where I was and was just shaking his head. Until that phone call we had no idea that Jeff felt such resentment about an expectation that gifts might be given for life events. We also didn't know that he gets heartburn over being told that these life events are taking place.


This is where I might sit down with him, even if I were "just" his stepmom, and say, "Look, Jeff, I'm going to share some thoughts with you."
    "We don't want to  lose you, as you grow up. Things change. It all gets different--time, money, etc. It's a tough transition--when you were a kid, nobody expected you to remember everybody's birthday, and you could get away with relying on the clues around you, or reminders from parents, and parents may have even purchased gifts on your behalf, or you were just rolled into the family's present-giving. Now those reminders aren't as subtle, so it's awkward. And you're your own unit now, too.
    "It's awkward for us, too. So please do us the courtesy of assuming that we're not greedily trying to get gifts from you (ahem) and also of assuming that we're trying our best.
     "In return, we'll assume that you're trying your best, and that you do care about us."

Then I'd point out a few specific other ways he can stay close to people without gifts. (there are grownups I care a lot about who never even send a card on my b'day; I don't even know if they bother to say anything. But we have substantive contact at other times. And you can miss a b'day and still be close--he can dial the pressure WAY down.) And a few specific ways to give gifts that isn't quite as onerous--money-wise, time-wise, etc.

And then I'd say, "Here's a list of all the birthdays or anniversaries that -we- know of that you might care about. You decide which of them you're interested in, and you set them up in your Gmail, Google Calendar, phone, Facebook, whatever works. We're not going remind you. That's the other part of the transition."

Hmmmmm

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #69 on: February 06, 2014, 01:09:32 PM »
Coley, based on your comments I feel like gifting is considered a big deal by you and your DH.
-Your DH has said that gifts should be given only if you want but the way it's been phrased implies your DH believes you should want to.
-Your DH offered to put your son's name on a gift to a sibling which implies having a gift from a sibling is expected.
-You've referred to gifting as a social norm.

If I'm just reading this as a bystander I can understand why your stepson would feel there was pressure in your family to gift. He's been hearing these statements all his life.

So he is probably feeling conflicted because he is concerned flat out stating "I don't want to give gifts and I don't want to be reminded about these events" will be seen by your DH as going against your DH's value system.

I really think your DH needs to drop the subject.
-Don't remind this son of gifting occasions
-Give him gifts if you choose to for his bday or Christmas.
-Don't discuss reciprocal gifts with him.
-Allow your offspring to decide their future gifting culture amongst themselves. There is no reason for your DH to be involved in their decisions.

I'm really not clear on how it could seem that DH and I think gifting is a big deal. We don't think that at all. DH was affirmative with Jeff at Thanksgiving when he made his statement about Christmas gifts, and we were ready to respect Jeff's feelings about it at that time.

I think you may be reading more intent into the statement "People give gifts because they want to" than was actually there. You weren't there when DH said it, so it may ring differently to you here. DH was telling Jeff that there is no expectation that he must give gifts. If he wants to give a gift -- if he believes it's the thing to do -- then he should. If he doesn't want to give a gift, then he shouldn't. DH was letting Jeff off the hook by confirming for him that he is not in fact required or obligated to give gifts.

I have said repeatedly throughout this thread that whatever Jeff decides, we will respect.

I gave 3 examples of why I get the impression that gifts are a big deal in your family. That is the impression I have.

I'm not saying it is bad to see gifts as a way to communicate love and well wishes to others. Gifting in itself is a selfless act. Wanting to give things to people you love is a natural inclination to many people.

But to others, gifts don't have the same meaning. And if a parent called and said "hey I have a gift here that I can put your name on if you want" then I would feel that the parent was communicating that a gift for the occasion is expected. That might not have been what your DH was trying to say. But that is what I hear.

Also, just the fact that your DH wants to sit down and have a discussion about gifts implies to me this is a significant issue for the two of you.

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #70 on: February 06, 2014, 01:33:18 PM »
Thanks for the timeline.  A few things didn't quite make sense to me - the 3 weeks after Christmas where your husband didn't know Jeff felt this way before?  He spoke to Jeff at Thanksgiving where Jeff told him.  At Christmas when you guys scrambled to get gifts for Jeff, why wasn't it brought up then?  Your husband had the conversation with Jeff not much earlier.

You don't have to answer, it's just something I'm seeing your posts.  I do agree with the pp who said that while you are saying gifts aren't obligatory, the message is coming across to me that you and DH feel as if they are.  It doesn't seem to be much confusion here, really, at least from what I'm reading.  Jeff doesn't want to be asked to put his name on gifts to other people and he doesn't mind hearing about life events, like "oh we took your stepbro to pizza place for his birthday" - NOT "oh and stepbros birthday is next week, do you want me to put your name on a gift to him?".

If you are confused by messages Jeff is sending, I think it's best that your husband clarify in the moment.  As with what happened this past Christmas - "I thought you weren't into gifting or receiving?".

eta - about the conversation with his Stepdad, this could be a lot for Jeff or anyone.  Blended families add on a lot of obligations in not just money, but other resources like time.  The time spent shopping, the money and the time spent shuffling between houses to celebrate with everyone can add up to be overwhelming, especially in a new & serious relationship of his own where he is considering his significant others extended family into the mix too.  That's a lot for anyone, and it may seem like all at once to him.

Trimming this thread way back ...  ;D

From Thanksgiving until a few days before DS's birthday, all DH had to go on was Jeff's statement that he is too old now for giving and receiving Christmas gifts. That's what Jeff said at Thanksgiving. DH said at that time that he understood. From that one statement, we thought that meant we wouldn't exchange Christmas gifts with Jeff. A few weeks later, Jeff initiated Christmas gift-giving with us. We thought he must have changed his mind. Perhaps DH could have questioned him at that time, but when Jeff said, "I need gift ideas for Christmas," I think DH probably thought it was clear that Jeff intended to send gifts after all.

For the three weeks after Christmas, there was no discussion between Jeff and us about gifting. DS's birthday was coming up. DH was blindsided by Jeff's reaction about DS's birthday -- which has nothing to do with Christmas. It wasn't intuitive for us to apply Jeff's thoughts about Christmas gifts to DS's birthday. We'd never had any prior conversations with Jeff about gift-giving occasions in general and how he feels about them. All we knew until DH's recent phone conversation with Jeff was that he thinks he's too old to do Christmas gifts. That phone call spiraled into a much deeper discussion about gift-giving and Jeff's feelings he is expected to give gifts. That's when DH told Jeff that gifts are given because people want to give them and not because they have to give them. Like I said in a PP, he was letting Jeff off the hook -- or trying to. He was trying to help Jeff understand that giving gifts is a choice. He gets to decide that. He also let Jeff know during the phone call that we didn't expect to exchange Christmas gifts, and we were confused by his mixed message on that.

In addition, there's the mixed message that Jeff dislikes hearing about others' life events because it seems like a gift is expected vs. him telling us that yes, he really does want to hear about these life events because he doesn't want to be out of the loop. We don't know what to do with that. It's really not that he wants to hear that we took DS out for pizza for his birthday. He says he wants to know when DS is graduating from 8th grade or when so-and-so's baby is due or when cousin J's wedding will be. How do we tell Jeff that these life events are coming up, as he says he wants, without making him feel as if he is expected to give a gift?

If hearing about someone's life event triggers anxiety in Jeff that a gift is expected (i.e., customary), he will have to manage that anxiety. That's true whether he hears about the life event from us or from anyone. If he perceives that a gift is customary, he will have to decide whether he wants to send one. That's Jeff's value to live. 

Really, Jeff has to decide what he wants to do. But if I haven't been clear enough before, please let me clarify now: We do not now nor have we ever expected gifts from anyone, including Jeff.

Edited to add a missing "not."
« Last Edit: February 06, 2014, 02:14:07 PM by Coley »

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #71 on: February 06, 2014, 01:34:38 PM »
I gave 3 examples of why I get the impression that gifts are a big deal in your family. That is the impression I have.

I'm not saying it is bad to see gifts as a way to communicate love and well wishes to others. Gifting in itself is a selfless act. Wanting to give things to people you love is a natural inclination to many people.

But to others, gifts don't have the same meaning. And if a parent called and said "hey I have a gift here that I can put your name on if you want" then I would feel that the parent was communicating that a gift for the occasion is expected. That might not have been what your DH was trying to say. But that is what I hear.

Also, just the fact that your DH wants to sit down and have a discussion about gifts implies to me this is a significant issue for the two of you.

To the bolded, Jeff asked DH to call him to discuss it. This wasn't a discussion DH initiated. It was a discussion Jeff wanted to have.

BarensMom

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #72 on: February 06, 2014, 01:42:41 PM »
"In addition, there's the mixed message that Jeff dislikes hearing about others' life events because it seems like a gift is expected vs. him telling us that yes, he really does want to hear about these life events because he doesn't want to be out of the loop. We don't know what to do with that. It's really not that he wants to hear that we took DS out for pizza for his birthday. He says he wants to know when DS is graduating from 8th grade or when so-and-so's baby is due or when cousin J's wedding will be. How do we tell Jeff that these life events are coming up, as he says he wants, without making him feel as if he is expected to give a gift?"

You need to ask Jeff, "But exactly how can we tell you about events, in a way that you won't think you have to give a gift?  We can either tell you or not tell you - we have no control over how you feel."

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #73 on: February 06, 2014, 02:01:07 PM »
"In addition, there's the mixed message that Jeff dislikes hearing about others' life events because it seems like a gift is expected vs. him telling us that yes, he really does want to hear about these life events because he doesn't want to be out of the loop. We don't know what to do with that. It's really not that he wants to hear that we took DS out for pizza for his birthday. He says he wants to know when DS is graduating from 8th grade or when so-and-so's baby is due or when cousin J's wedding will be. How do we tell Jeff that these life events are coming up, as he says he wants, without making him feel as if he is expected to give a gift?"

You need to ask Jeff, "But exactly how can we tell you about events, in a way that you won't think you have to give a gift?  We can either tell you or not tell you - we have no control over how you feel."

Exactly. We can't control how he feels. We could say something as simple as, "Your cousin Jenny is having a baby," and for all we know, that could spark a feeling in him that now he's expected to give a gift even though nothing of the sort was stated.

This goes back to the questions I asked in the OP: Should we ask Jeff to give us the words that will not make him feel obligated to give a gift? Should we develop some cut-and-paste statement to use if Jeff gets upset when he hears about someone's life event: "Jeff, we've talked about this before, and you know aren't obligated to give gifts."

TootsNYC

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #74 on: February 06, 2014, 02:14:55 PM »
I think the cut-and-paste might be useful--this is still "early days," and you don't know if Jeff is going to work this out. He might.

But I think you can also say, if it feels warranted, "Jeff, it's not fair to get mad at us because you're anxious about giving gifts. We're happy whatever, so don't dump on us."

Right now, I'm not sure those things are warranted, either of them. Jeff is only beginning to identify a problem and work through it. Now's the time to say, "Can we coach you through this a little? Can we tell you some things that might take the pressure off? Give you some ideas; reassure you that we love you too, even if you don't buy us presents? Can we give you all the info, and turn this responsibility completely over to you? How can we help you w/ this transition into a more adult frame of reference to the rest of your family?"