Post # 1
When my husband was a child, he tells me that it never occurred to him that he could complain about something his mom made for dinner. I think this is the theme of his relationship with the adults in his family. His grandma used to make brownies with loads of frosting, but he never piped up to tell her that he doesn’t like frosting on brownies. He just ate them up without a word. So she makes them when he visits and thinks that he loves her brownies. To this day his relatives will send him gift cards to stores he doesn’t shop at, or restaurants he doesn’t like. He never really says anything to correct them. He just tosses birthday and Christmas cards in a pile of papers on his desk, which sit for 6 months or so, then get moved into a drawer or a box. I recently found a stack of various gift cards totaling over $500 given to him by family over the years. He never even made an effort to use them. This whole situation doesn’t bother him in the least, but it bugs me. Now that we’re married his parents are giving “us” gifts that we will never use or gift cards to places we don’t ever go to. They don’t really know us well at all, but they think they do and they think they’re doing something nice for us. I wouldn’t let my parents waste their money on gifts I couldn’t use, and I wouldn’t let my grandma slave away on brownies that I don’t like. Since my husband has obviously been raised to behave this way with his family, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, if anything. Ok ladies, would you say something or bite your tongue?
I realize this isn’t the worst inlaw problem in the world, but I’m used to more open communication with my family. Because he has this very insincere thing going on, I feel like I cannot really make friends with them. [sigh]
Post # 3
You shouldn’t dictate the gift a giver gives you. You (should) thank them for their gift.
I think your best bet is to try to develop an actual relationship with his parents so they do start to know what you two like and where you go.
And, once you develop a relationship, you could perhaps tell them what you’d like for special occassions (but only if asked) or drop subtle hints.
Everyone has different ways they relate to their families. Just because you are used to one method with your family doesn’t make the way Darling Husband relates to them wrong.. it’s just different.
Post # 4
I think you largely have to wait until you’re asked about gifts. It’s not really appropriate to complain about a gift to the person who gave it to you.
The other thing you can try is to visit the stores with the gift cards and see what they have that you might use. One creative example is an annual gift my guy receives to Best Buy from a friend’s mother. We would sometimes make an effort to find a DVD or something that we might watch, but we were never excited about it. Then, last year, it hit me that Best Buy sells iTunes gift cards. We buy music, books, etc., so we will definitely use it. We went in and promptly “purchased” two $50 iTunes cards for the $100 Best Buy card. Suddenly, he no longer dreads her Christmas card. 🙂
I’m with you that I can be far more forward with my family. On the other hand, my family is more likely to ask about the usefulness of a gift first.
ETA: You can start giving hints on the brownies though. Ever think of mentioning that you tried a “new” recipe recently and Darling Husband loved it? Offer to make them for the family sometime, then they can get an idea of what he likes.
Post # 5
@mrscruise: I have the same situation generally. My husband is from a family where people aren’t really honest with each other about their opinions. They weren’t even allowed to say they didn’t “like” something, it was always “I don’t care for it”. But that was also rarely said. It is very fake and uncomfortable and the exact opposite of my family. Honestly, not much to be done about it besides trying to not let him bring that into the family you two are creating together.
And yeah, I get all sorts of useless gifts too. But I have never figured out a way to tell them to save their money without being insulting. We tend to just donate/ throw out a lot of it. I wish we got gift cards – we get clothing we would never wear, art we would never hang, etc.
Post # 6
I almost wish I had your problem, haha. I used to get lotions from B&BW every time I got a gift from someone in FI’s family–and I still hate saying this–and they always got thrown away. I can’t use stuff like that because it breaks me out in hives, and I refuse to let things just sit around and take up space. I finally had to say something to Fiance, and he passed it on to his dad’s side. I ended up breaking it to his mom’s side after she came home from grandma’s with a bunch of B&BW lotions (that grandma had given to her to bring home) and asked if I liked the scents, and I had to tell her that I couldn’t use stuff like that. FI’s mom used to get me decor like kitchen towels with a Christmas theme or sunflowers or something that was just not my taste (I don’t really decorate for holidays or seasons). I think she finally noticed that they weren’t displayed and stopped doing that. I’ve also gotten one of those awful, creepy Willowtree figurines from FI’s dad and stepmom after I graduated college, but I kept that and put it on display. Unfortunately, I’m sure we’ll end up with at least one more (the marriage one, if not also the baby one when we have kids), since she got one for his brother and SIL when they had their son.
I don’t know, I get that you’re not supposed to dictate what a gift should be, but in cases where it’s something that is really useless to you…I think you should really be able to say something tactfully.
Post # 7
I don’t have much advice but I can see how it could be frustrating. I can see both sides of it actually his and yours. thats tough! but rather than causing trouble i would probably be like your husband and just say thanks. check out plastic jungle! you can buy and sell gift cards 🙂
Post # 8
I guess I feel bad about two things. First, that his parents think they know him very well, meanwhile he never actually shares anything personal with them or let’s them know about his likes and dislikes so they can’t really get to know him. Second, that they have wasted so much cash on gifts over the years. Most of the gift cards have expired since they’re well over a year old. Seriously, he just throws stuff into his closet or in a box and never thinks of them again.
It’s true that I haven’t really made any efforts to get close with them or try to direct them into buying us gifts that we actually want or need. Typically, when they present us with something it’s out of left field and I wasn’t expecting anything. For instance, last night they gave us an early anniversary card with a $50 gift certificate to the only restaurant in town that we both dislike. If I had known they were going to buy us a gift certificate to a restaurant, I could have given them plenty of suggestions. They never asked. So, this miscommunication puts $50 in the pockets of a restauranteur, my inlaws thinking they’ve done something very special for us, my husband with another card for his box of junk, and me thinking they’re all nuts.
This seems par for the course when it comes to a great aunt, but a little odd when it’s the actual parents who seem to actually want to do something nice, and try to do nice stuff pretty often.
Post # 9
I don’t think this is that big of a deal. My mom gives me Starbucks gift cards that her customers give her, and I very rarely go to Starbucks. I just sell them on Plastic Jungle or give them away to friends. We get Applebee’s gift cards from my aunt all the time for birthdays and holidays and that’s the one restaurant we avoid. We just try to use them creatively – e.g., we once treated our friends to happy hour, and we used another one when we got back from a trip and didn’t feel like grocery shopping yet. If you’re truly not going to use it, just sell it and get some cash out of it.
Or you could lie. “Oh, we had such terrible service there, we vowed never to go back!”
Post # 10
I agree with @sportsgal31 about using them creatively. If you don’t like the restaurant, do they still have a bar where you can sit down and have a few drinks? In a worst case scenario, even beer out of a bottle or wine is pretty much impossible to screw up.
Or, if you guys don’t want to use it, start laying the ground work for preferences. When they ask how it was, then mention again how appreciative you were of their thoughtfulness, but you don’t think you’ll be going back. Cite whatever incident actually spurred you to make it a no-go joint and then they’ll assume that happened when you used the gift card. No, it’s not 100% honest, so you are taking a risk that they could figure it out. However, it’s probably a less awkward way to express a preference without outright asking for some other kind of gift.
Post # 11
Also, Darling Husband is an only child, and an only grandchild, and only nephew in his family. So he sort of gets bombarded with gifts that end up in his closet unopened and unused and he never says a word. They just continue to get him things he doesn’t use. As a one-of-many child and grandchild, I never get this much stuff or attention from my family. If my parents do spend money on me, they make sure its for something I really want or need.
I agree that it’s not that big of a deal in the scheme of things.
Post # 12
@Sunchick19: This makes me feel better that there are other families out there like my DHs.
Post # 13
@mrscruise: “I guess I feel bad about two things. First, that his parents think they know him very well, meanwhile he never actually shares anything personal with them or let’s them know about his likes and dislikes so they can’t really get to know him. Second, that they have wasted so much cash on gifts over the years.”
I have this problem with my parents. I have a list a mile long of gifts from them that make me think, “Do you even KNOW ME?!” I wish we could just stop exchanging gifts. It’s ridiculous. My husband and I don’t even exchange gifts. I don’t care about receiving gifts, and I would much rather not receive gifts that make me feel guilty!
Whenever I try to share something personal with my mother, all I get is unsolicited advice and questions that imply I haven’t already thought something through. It’s annoying and borderline insulting. So I prefer not to say anything at all. I did my best to avoid her “suggestions” during wedding planning, and I mostly succeeded.
Meanwhile, she thinks I give great gifts. Of course this is because I pay attention, and I buy things I think she would like. (As opposed to things that I think she SHOULD like! Ahem.)
This illustrates my experience pretty well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmecyCCdknk
Post # 14
@ElbieKay: That’s hilarious. At least you try to talk to her mom about likes and dislikes. My Darling Husband would have just eaten the fish and never said a word. He avoids having any meaningful conversations with them at all. I think he loves them, but then he also doesn’t have strong feelings for them positive or negative. It’s so strange to me, and as the outsider I’m not sure where I fit into this. I’m not used to having such a cool relationship with immediate family. Either we love eachother or we hate eachother, but there isn’t a lot in between.
Post # 15
Just try and make the most of it. They are being thoughtful. I get things sent to me from my Mother-In-Law all the time that isn’t my taste but think its sweet and try and put it to use however I can. I’m usually all for open communication but in this case I wouldn’t want to come off ungrateful or make little granny feel bad for force feeding her grandson brownies he hates all these years.
Post # 16
I would honestly call and check on the cards. Most of the places I know will keep money on the cards for years. I always check a card before I use it and there are some I ran across from 5 years ago that still have the full balance on them.