Dear Amy: My husband and I get along very well with his parents, but spending time with them around gift-giving holidays can be extremely stressful. My in-laws give my husband’s siblings much more in the way of gifts than they give us, both in monetary value and quantity. This is very hurtful for my husband.
Two of his siblings live with his parents and one lives in an apartment a few hours away. (We’re all in our 20s). We open gifts as a family when we are together.
For the past three years, we’ve tried to keep up with the “everyone opens one at the same time” pattern, but we’re often left with 10 or 15 minutes of not opening presents while his siblings open gifts from his parents. We’ve tried to casually bring it up by mentioning gift ideas a few months before each holiday, but my mother-in-law always stops us by saying she bought our presents ages ago, and she doesn’t want to spend any more money on us.
We’ll be having our first child (their first grandchild) next spring, and we’ve been considering withdrawing from these holidays. I don’t want to cut my in-laws out of holidays, but I can’t stand the thought of my child feeling the same way their father does. What can I do to change this?
Dear Upset: You don’t outline any theories behind this gift imbalance, but I wonder if something as simple as gender or marital status might be factors. Your in-laws live with two of their children. You should assume that they have greater awareness of what these siblings might want/need because they share a household. If all of his siblings are single and/or female, his parents might be reflexively giving more to them because either they consider men to be harder to give to, or because they consider the two of you to be the equal of one of their other children.
Hinting is not going to fix this. Your husband should talk to his folks. He should not expect them to change, necessarily, but he should be completely honest about how this makes him feel.
Do not withhold your child during holidays. This is the essence of two “wrongs” not making a right. During your child’s life, you should slowly transition away from your own desires and toward your child’s. If the grandparents ignore or mistreat this child, you will necessarily limit contact, but your baby’s presence in this family might be the perfect antidote to this deficit of attention. Give them a chance and then make any decisions based on their behavior toward the child.
Dear Amy: I am a single mom. I’m in love with my best friend. He means more to me than anything, but the one thing he can’t give up is his freedom of being single. He loves me, but wants his cake and to eat it, too.
When I try to move on and date other people, he pulls me back into thinking that he wants to be with me.
I love him so much that I keep letting him play with my heart.
I am having a hard time trying to be “friends with benefits” because I have such strong feelings for him. His family loves me, his daughter loves me and my kids love him and his family.
We’ve been doing this for almost two years. I practically live there when my kids are not with me. I am afraid of letting him go. I’m afraid I won’t find someone like him. What should I do?
— Confused Heart
Dear Confused: When you start loving yourself as much as you claim to love this guy, you will find the strength to move on. Your stark choice is to either accept this relationship as it is, or to leave the relationship because it is not what you want. You’ve spent two years accepting a relationship that you claim is not good for you. You will never get those years back.
It might help if you imagined one of your children grown up and in a relationship like this. What would you tell them to do?
Dear Readers: My own life is probably a lot like yours. I’ve experienced poverty, prosperity, marriage, divorce, remarriage, step-parenting, caretaking, loss and grief. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind the advice column, I hope you’ll consider picking up my memoir, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home.” (2017, Hachette).