Author Topic: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?  (Read 1841 times)

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ChiGirl

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Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« on: August 10, 2010, 08:35:29 PM »
I've been thinking this over with regards to my SIL (my brother's wife) for awhile, so I thought I'd get ehell opinions.

SIL is developing a pattern of not thanking family members for things.  It comes off that she's unappreciative of gifts or favors.  And it's starting to tick me off.

Examples:

1) For the first birthday she had after she and Bro married, I went to a lot of trouble getting her a birthday gift.  (It wasn't terribly expensive, but I put a lot of thought into it -- consulting Bro and my mother about what SIL would like, going to stores I don't normally shop at, picking out a gift bag in colors she liked.)  I wasn't physically present when she got the gift, but I know she got it (Bro told me). 

No thank you for the gift -- I don't care about thank you notes particularly, but she could have called, or emailed, or sent a text message, or mentioned it at the next family holiday dinner.  The same thing happened when I brought her a gift from my trip to Europe -- no thanks, no acknowledgment of the gift.

2) A few weeks ago, her car was at my parents' house because it was in need of a quick repair.  My SO (ChiGuy) and I were at the house with my car, and ChiGuy decided to wash/wax my car for me.  (ChiGuy loves anything car-related.  I don't understand it, but I love it.)  He had soap left over, so he washed SIL's car too.  He also helped my dad with the repair. 

When Bro and SIL arrived to pick up SIL's car, we told her that ChiGuy had washed it.  No thank you from her.  ChiGuy is really nice, he likes doing things for people, and I hate to see that go completely unacknowledged by the recipient.  I could tell he was a little hurt by her non-reaction. 

What I find really odd is that she's not unappreciative to everyone.  (That, at least, would be consistent.)  She was really on-the-spot writing thank you notes for wedding gifts.  And she spent hours picking out a thank-you gift for the owner of the hotel where she and Bro stayed on their honeymoon. 

So, my question is twofold:

1) If she takes gifts from me and favors from my boyfriend for granted, and can't be bothered to even say "thank you," I'm less inclined to buy her time-consuming gifts or encourage my boyfriend to do her favors.  Am I overreacting?  The standards of formality for family members are obviously different; am I expecting too much from her?

2) She's...well...a little high-strung.  I'd rather not involve Bro -- he's not responsible for the behavior of a grown woman.  Is there any way of expressing my irritation to her without it becoming a major confrontation?  Looking for some patented ehell phrases to use when the subject of gifts/favors arises.  (I can't think of anything that isn't either passive-aggressive or just outright aggressive.)

Thoughts? 

Animala

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2010, 08:59:05 PM »
I would be disinclined to go out of my way to do something for her.  I would probably go the gift card route in the future.  Don't dwell on it though.  It isn't worth risking or ruining a relationship over.

mj

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2010, 09:04:20 PM »
Some people just aren't gift people and it's not the way they love or receive love.  Not that I think she was right, but there's a good chance it's not as important to her as it is to you.  I think many people get caught up in thank you's and thank you notes as a concrete form of appreciation when it's not always the case.  And when families form through marriage, you've got another member with an entirely different culture including gifts on your hands.

I know with my siblings we don't expect thanks and don't expect gifts.  If we get one or the other, it's fine but we just don't have a set way to do things.  When other siblings marry and the dynamic changes, I think some of my sibs will be in for an awakening lol.

In any case, I think it's clear that gifts aren't her thing, I'd go with a card from now on.  Does she give you gifts?

CakeEater

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2010, 09:11:53 PM »
My BIl and SIL are shocking at doing thankyous. I don't think they even sent notes after their wedding. To me, because they're lovely people otherwise, it's absolutely not worth making a fuss over. We have to be related for a long time!

I get how frustrating it is, though.

I wonder if your SIL sent thankyou notes after the wedding because that's a more formal occasion, and TY notes are possibly on lists of wedding things to do.

A.P. Wulfric

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2010, 09:16:30 PM »
I can see how a thank you for a gift for her birthday or vacation might be overlooked. Maybe. However, I have a difficult time figuring out how the car washing conversation went without a thank you.  

It should be automatic after someone tells you that he/she did something nice and unexpected for her.

"Hey, we had soap leftover, so we washed your car!"
"Thanks!"

What did she say? That's nice? nothing? Wow, I appreciate that?

ChiGirl

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2010, 09:31:22 PM »
I can see how a thank you for a gift for her birthday or vacation might be overlooked. Maybe. However, I have a difficult time figuring out how the car washing conversation went without a thank you.  

It should be automatic after someone tells you that he/she did something nice and unexpected for her.

"Hey, we had soap leftover, so we washed your car!"
"Thanks!"

What did she say? That's nice? nothing? Wow, I appreciate that?


My recollection is that she said something like, "oh, ok. [Bro], let's pack up the car and get going."  I just remember being surprised at not hearing "thanks" or "I appreciate it" or "wow, ChiGuy, you didn't have to do that!"

To answer other questions, yes, her family of origin (such a handy phrase!) does exchange gifts, and she and brother sent me a gift for my birthday this year.  (And I promptly called to thank them.)  Since that first gift to her went unacknowledged, I've been buying gift cards for her on gift-giving occasions.  And I think mcaulir nailed it on the wedding thank yous: I remember SIL being REALLY concerned with everything at the wedding being done "properly."

Sigh.  I think I'll just get accustomed to it and save my true gifting effort for others. 

ipsedixit

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2010, 09:50:18 PM »
I could see how the birthday gift thanks might have gotten lost, especially if you weren't present when you gave it to her.  But she should have called when she received it or at least said something the next time she saw you.

And as for the car, I guess, I do nice things for others to be nice and usually don't expect a thank you.  Maybe she was caught off guard?  It wasn't something she expected or asked for, it was something he just did.

Of course, it might make me rethink how much planning or favors I do in the future, however I wouldn't confront her over it.  I'd just change my habits.

Danismom

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2010, 10:14:15 PM »
Out of curiosity, did she thank your dad for the repair work?  From what it sounds like, she's not thanking anyone in the family.  I understand that you don't want to get brother involved because he's not responsible for her actions.  However, I think he might be able to give you some valuable insight into his wife's personality.  Would you perhaps be willing to ask him something along the lines of:  Hey, bro, I noticed SIL doesn't seem to say thank you for gifts or favors.  She didn't say anything about her gift from my trip and just said "ok" when ChiGuy washed her car for her.  Did we do something wrong or somehow put her on the spot?  I just don't want to do anything to make her uncomfortable, KWIM? Do you have any suggestions?

I guess, what I mean is that you can ask for his advice to make her feel more welcome in the family without blaming him for her lack of expressed gratitude.  If he doesn't have anything to offer or if you really don't want to ask him anything I'd be tempted to go the more direct but uncomfortable route the next time you give her something or do something for her and get "ok" for a response:

Okay?  SIL, I guess we shouldn't have done this for you.  Don't worry, we won't put you through gifts/favors again unless it's something you've expressed that you actually would appreciate.  But then, that's somewhat snarky.

mj

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2010, 10:26:33 PM »
I can see how a thank you for a gift for her birthday or vacation might be overlooked. Maybe. However, I have a difficult time figuring out how the car washing conversation went without a thank you.  

It should be automatic after someone tells you that he/she did something nice and unexpected for her.

"Hey, we had soap leftover, so we washed your car!"
"Thanks!"

What did she say? That's nice? nothing? Wow, I appreciate that?


My recollection is that she said something like, "oh, ok. [Bro], let's pack up the car and get going."  I just remember being surprised at not hearing "thanks" or "I appreciate it" or "wow, ChiGuy, you didn't have to do that!"

To answer other questions, yes, her family of origin (such a handy phrase!) does exchange gifts, and she and brother sent me a gift for my birthday this year.  (And I promptly called to thank them.)  Since that first gift to her went unacknowledged, I've been buying gift cards for her on gift-giving occasions.  And I think mcaulir nailed it on the wedding thank yous: I remember SIL being REALLY concerned with everything at the wedding being done "properly."

Sigh.  I think I'll just get accustomed to it and save my true gifting effort for others.
 

I think that's the best thing to do. 

shhh its me

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2010, 04:04:15 AM »
   Only addressing the car , I'd actually be annoyed if someone just washed my car without giving me the chance to decline ,but I have PA controlling people in my family so that causes some sensitivity.

high dudgeon

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2010, 11:50:19 AM »
  Only addressing the car , I'd actually be annoyed if someone just washed my car without giving me the chance to decline ,but I have PA controlling people in my family so that causes some sensitivity.

I might feel a bit taken aback too if no one had asked me in advance. Depending of how close you are to her, it may have felt intrusive or pushy to her and didn't make her feel good, even if that's what you and your SO were aiming for. Maybe she didn't want her car washed, or didn't see the point of it and didn't know how to say anything about it, so she said nothing at all?

As for situation #1, that's definitely rude to not send a thank you note or at least call, but not uncommon these days, sadly. If you don't want to go to those lengths regarding gifts in the future, just get her a gift card or pick something off her wishlist and call it good. It's nice but not necessary to run around to special stores or get special gift wrap, and if she doesn't appreciate it, then it's extra effort with no benefit.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2010, 11:51:58 AM by high dudgeon »

mj

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2010, 12:48:52 PM »
   Only addressing the car , I'd actually be annoyed if someone just washed my car without giving me the chance to decline ,but I have PA controlling people in my family so that causes some sensitivity.

Yes, I wouldn't have known quite how to take that either.  It would have felt odd to me but I would have said thank you too. 

Onyx_TKD

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2010, 02:07:26 PM »
  Only addressing the car , I'd actually be annoyed if someone just washed my car without giving me the chance to decline ,but I have PA controlling people in my family so that causes some sensitivity.

I might feel a bit taken aback too if no one had asked me in advance. Depending of how close you are to her, it may have felt intrusive or pushy to her and didn't make her feel good, even if that's what you and your SO were aiming for. Maybe she didn't want her car washed, or didn't see the point of it and didn't know how to say anything about it, so she said nothing at all?

As for situation #1, that's definitely rude to not send a thank you note or at least call, but not uncommon these days, sadly. If you don't want to go to those lengths regarding gifts in the future, just get her a gift card or pick something off her wishlist and call it good. It's nice but not necessary to run around to special stores or get special gift wrap, and if she doesn't appreciate it, then it's extra effort with no benefit.


Or on the other side of the spectrum, someone who is fussy about their car may not like someone else washing it. My brother isn't even super-protective of his car, and I know he would much rather wash it himself than trust someone else not to accidentally damage the finish. Granted, he's a polite person, so he probably would have managed a "thank you" in some form, but he might be racking his brains for how to say "That's nice of you to think of me, but please don't do that again!"

high dudgeon

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2010, 02:39:05 PM »
I think there are a lot of reasons that could make a reasonable person uncomfortable with their car being washed without their knowledge or permission. It was a very nice gesture, but I think it would have been better to ask first, even if it meant a quick phone call. But I agree, she should have at least thanked them for making the effort and I certainly hope she thanked your dad for the repairs! If she didn't, there would be nothing wrong with him directing her to a good professional mechanic the next time she needs help.

TootsNYC

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Re: Different "Thank You" Expectations for Family Members?
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2010, 11:16:14 PM »
I do think there are different "thank you" standards for family members.

As in, the STYLE of the thank-you can and perhaps should be different.

If my mother, or my SIL sent me something, even w/someone else delivering it, I would absolutely NOT write a thank-you note. In my family, it might come off as a distancing tactic. A phone call would be appropriate.

Or, if I was going to see them soon, I'd mention it and thank them in person when I saw them.
I might hope to be forgiven if I forgot, but I'd certainly bring it up when next I saw them or spoke to them.

I think you are absolutely appropriate to scale down your effort (and even your expenditure) on gifts for her. She is acting the way someone would act if they don't like the present, or aren't comfortable w/ the intimacy that the present indicates. So, respect her signals.

If you wanted, you might be able to say to your brother, "I feel bad, I never know what to get your wife. I've tried hard to pick out presents that would please her, but I never hear anything from her at all, so I'm assuming she doesn't really like them. I'd hate to give up, but I may have to."

And I like Danismom's suggested approach. At the very least, it's a hint; at the best, he might be able to tell you that she's uncomfortable around his family, that she's used to stronger boundaries or less generosity. (That's true of me w/ my in-laws, and it's hard to send that message, that you're feeling pushed around, or feeling that your natural instincts toward autonomy are being shoved aside.)


If there is someone else that she doesn't thank, you can say, in a "between us allies" tone, "Oh, don't forget to thank FIL; he was very pleased about giving you that, and I know it hurts him if all that loving effort goes unacknowledged. I make a point of reminding myself each time he does something nice for me."