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DEAR ABBY: I feel uncomfortable receiving gifts, and I find it hard to meet my husband’s requests for constant gifts, especially when I feel I already give so much. He constantly asks me to buy him things, some of which are very expensive.
I’m a saver, not a spender, and I try to watch my budget. I already pay all the household bills, even though we make the same amount of money. I owned my house before we met, and he chips in with occasional upgrades and maintenance or takes me out to dinner once in a while. But I pay for the vast majority of expenses, as well as perform the majority of chores. I have sacrificed and paid for all our vacations because I wanted the experience, and I accept that.
The problem is, he seems to feel unappreciated, suggesting that if I gifted him more often, he would know he was constantly thought of. He says he buys me random gifts — usually small items to which there are strings attached or implied reciprocity. These requests, especially when he buys for himself quite a bit, seem like a smack in the face to me. I feel he’s impulsive with purchases, and won’t be happy until I have nothing left.
How do I handle meeting my husband’s need for constant validation without going bankrupt or having all the love sucked out from resentment? Mentioning my financial limitations doesn’t seem to quench his thirst for more.
— Excessive in New York
DEAR EXCESSIVE: If my reading of your letter is accurate, you are doing all the heavy lifting in your marriage. What, exactly, is your husband contributing except to ask for more? Gifts are supposed to be freely given, not dispensed because they are requested.
Whether your husband is greedy, selfish or extremely needy, I can’t guess, but the balance is off in your marriage. This is why I’m recommending you consult a marriage and family therapist. If your husband is willing to go with you and discuss these issues, they can be resolved. If not, please go alone so you can gain clearer insight into what (and whom) you are dealing with.
DEAR ABBY: My mother likes to tell people where to sit at every family gathering. It can be anywhere, including at a restaurant or even at my aunt’s house. It’s annoying and feels disrespectful.
I’m 49, and my girls are in their early 20s. I try to be patient, but she doesn’t consider health conditions or if someone is left-handed.
My older daughter was severely traumatized by a former neighbor and doesn’t do well with strangers. A few years ago, my cousin’s boyfriend came, and my mother ordered my daughter to sit next to him. It was horrible for my daughter. We tried one more time last year at a restaurant, and it was the same. Since then, we have skipped family gatherings. I don’t know why she feels she has to tell us what to do. Please help.
— Pushed around in Kentucky
DEAR PUSHED: Have you talked to your mother about this? She may, for whatever reason, need to feel she is in control. If she isn’t hosting the gathering, this may be her way of maintaining dominance in her relationship with her sister, her children, and grandchildren.
I’m not sure you can change your mother, but please don’t cut yourself off from the rest of your family. If you aren’t seeing them individually, please consider it.