Feeling uncomfortable with future in-laws

posted 3 years ago in Family
Post # 106
Member
2918 posts
Sugar bee

hevnm :  I come from a family who have a lot of disfunction when it comes to gifts. Christmas and birthdays can be a nightmare.  My brother never gives gifts.  My cousin never accepts any, or if she does then she doesn’t like them and always takes them back so that she can exchange them.  My parents had a monetary approach to gifts and over the years such gifts came with guilt-provoking strings attached.

I think that you need to think long term.  The first thing is to have a big discussion with your Fiance about gifts and how you want to run your life together. It sounds to me that he is accepting too much from his parents and needs to say no. He’s an independent grown-up and needs to behave as one.

In general, I would say that it isn’t a good idea to accept lots of gifts, including those from close relatives, because sooner or later it leads to a feeling of obligation.  I would also that never accepting gifts or that feeling the need to give a gift back that is financially equivalent to a gift given doesn’t allow for other people’s generosity of spirit. 

So I think there is plenty of room for you and your Fiance to think of a new way of doing things, where the acceptance of an occasional gift is a good thing and where return gifts are allowed to be fun/beautiful/thoughtful without being of a particular set monetary value. You both need to talk about this a lot to make sure that you are on the same page.

You are clearly very independent and don’t want to rely on anyone or feel that you are taking advantage of anyone.  This is all very good.  Explain this to your inlaws. Be clear that if you are saying no to their expensive gifts then you are not saying no to them.  After all, they have managed to give you the greatest gift of all – their son. What you are doing is maintaining your independence and making sure that neither you nor they feel that you are taking advantage of them.

Let them know of ways in which they can help you.  It might be that the best gift they can give is to encourage and enable you to be yourself, and being yourself is being proud and feisty and determined. It may be that if they insist on trying to give you expensive gifts that you can ask them to stick to major occasions such as 10th wedding anniversaries, 30th/40th birthdays, etc.

I know that you don’t like to be beholden to others but longterm sometimes we are beholden to others and other times they are beholden to us.  If the giving and receiving are about right it eventually evens out.  

Post # 108
Member
2918 posts
Sugar bee

hevnm :  Think about a few strategies where you can give and receive help on an ordinary basis.  Is there something where you can help your in-laws. Maybe they are novices at computer program installation or maybe they have plenty of money for new furnishings but no idea of interior design. Maybe you are just much more exciting than they are and can encourage them to be more adventurous.

I do suggest that you run through what you would like to say to them past your Fiance before you actually say anything. Quite soon you and your Fiance will be you and your new husband.  The pair of you will be approaching life as a team and will need to have each other’s backs.

Do let your future in-laws welcome you into their family in some way.  If there is some simple (and inexpensive) thing they can do for you then let them know. But then be firm with them.

They might try to sneak in an expensive gift anyway.  Discuss with your Fiance what you will do if this happens.

Post # 112
Member
6431 posts
Bee Keeper

hevnm :  Woww.  I expected an actual complaint.  Unless they are the type that give and expect an arm and a leg back, then they’re being nice.  I haven’t read the 8 previous pages of comments.  My mother does this adn she never expects payment back.  What we instead do is help her and offer her assistance when she needs it

Post # 113
Member
973 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2015

hevnm :  It’s not the same situation at all, but I feel like I understand where you’re coming from.  

I grew up in a large family where everyone always budgeted to be “fair” in terms of gifts.  To buy someone a “just because” gift is a really special gesture for me to do or to have someone give me.  But to have someone cover something that I should be responsible for is rather offensive and shameful to me no matter what anyone else’s perspective is.  I have accepted help before but also felt the need to pay it back.  

And my mother in law spends WAY too much money on gifts for me.  But, my husband has told me she shows her love this way.  So I’m still figuring out how to explain that I don’t want her to spend that type of money on me.  Because, I actually know she doesn’t have extra money for that.  I know its not my job to watch out for her spending, but I do know she’s not in a good financial position, and I cannot accept these gifts without feeling guilty.  I hate it!  

But I love her.  I think maybe if she knew that her gifts make me feel bad instead of good, it might help.  But I don’t know how to tell her that without probably causing her more offense than I even feel…

But it doesn’t sound like your future in laws are putting themselves in a risky financial place or anything with their gifts.  I think maybe this is a bit of a class thing like a PP said.  However, the thing is, you’re antagonistic toward a benefit of their class because it’s not what you experienced.  And you believe you are better than they are because of it, and you believe that your kids will be better than them and better than your fiance, too, if they do not experience easy wealth/money.

 

So really, I think you and your fiance need to come to an agreement on how you handle money and gifts and communicating with each other first. Did you discuss your email with your fiance?  Did he get a chance to read it and feel like his views were understood and respected?  Does he understand why it would have been better to talk to you before you came home and saw a new car in the driveway?

This is mostly about you two and how you will be a team on this.  You can have your views, but you can’t force someone else to have them too.  And again, you’re sending the message that you are better than they are because your experience and “values” are different.  But you love your fiance, right?  And you respect him?  You chose to marry him?  His parents helped make him the person he is, you know.  Experiencing something different isn’t automatically bad or lesser than your own experience.

There are plenty of options for compromise.  You can refuse gifts for yourself.  But you don’t have the right to refuse gifts on behalf of your husband.  And if you have kids, you need to remember they’re not just YOUR kids.  They are HIS, too.  

I think you had every right to write your email and explain.  But I think you have overthought this and projected frustrations you already deal with into this, and you do need to be able to explain it to them.  But I hope you can choose to communicate kindly with them about this and keep in mind that they have only the best intentions at heart, even if you find it insulting.  There was nothing malicious or intentionally hurtful to you here.  And no matter what happens you should keep that in mind and be sure to treat them with the same respect you want to be treated with.  

 

Post # 114
Member
11806 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

Personally, I think you are reading so much more to this than there is and misinterpreting both their intentions and what it would mean about you if you were to accept the occasional gift. 

To me, this has absolutely nothing to do with you being able to do it on your own. As a matter of fact, if you and H were not already the responsible adults you are with a capable track record to back it up I highly doubt your in-laws would be so willing. 

Most people want their kids to have it as good or better than they did. And most parents of means would rather help their kids  when they are young because they know it is a great head start at a time when the help means the most.

If you really want to pay it back, why not resolve that it will be for the benefit of your future children, nieces and nephews, or even once you are truly financially independent a worthy cause of some kind? 

Truth is, nobody does it all on their own. Connections, mentoring, resources, and financial help are all advantages of one kind or another. The difference between more financially secure families and less is that the former have the ability to invest in the next generation in ways that most families simply can’t afford. 

Fostering independence and self reliance in your children is a very important thing, I agree. No one should ever expect or feel entitled to have anything handed to them. But you aren’t children. You have a work ethic and ambition. No gift can take that away from you.

Nor is there evidence of strings attached. Cross that bridge if you ever come to it. If used to help achieve your dreams, and give you a few more options, I see nothing wrong with that. 

Personally, I think an email was impersonal and ill advised. Sorry. 

Post # 115
Member
306 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2017

Reading through this reminds me of one of my relatives. She hasn’t been through the same physical trials but has a lot of the same views. She views accepting gifts or assistance as weakness or entitled. She has lived in essentially self-imposed almost poverty out of a sense of moral obligation to never accept help and for everything to be hard earned. When she hears about one member of the family giving another an expensive gift or parents taking grown kids on vacation, she sends them an email to tell them why it’s wrong. Do we all know she is strong and independent? You bet. No one would ever mess with her and we all know she can handle whatever she needs to.

She is also universally regarded by the family as judgemental, and no one wants to invite her anywhere or spend time with her. We feel like she’s judging everything we do. Sorry to be the bearer of additional truth tea, but when you go into a family and tell them that their way of life is spoiled and entitled, it can really only lead to being ostracized by them. In this case you have to choose, do you want to feel right or do you want to be part of the family?

Gifts aren’t supposed to be transactional and nothing you’ve said makes me think they feel that way. I make a lot more money than my siblings. I love them and always get them presents on birthdays and at holidays. They usually just get me a card or sometimes nothing at all. That’s absolutely fine with me. It would make me DEEPLY uncomfortable if they stretched themselves thin financially to pay me back. They pay me back by just saying thank you and enjoying their gifts.

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