Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: My husband doesn't enjoy holidays. Everything about holidays is reluctant and grudging. He will dutifully eat any holiday meal I plan, shop for, prepare, and clean up after, but his interest goes no farther. I decorate or it doesn't get done. He doesn't seem to care one way or the other.
I've asked him to do things with me, but he has such a long list of things that come first that nothing happens. Gifts are likely to be random and perfunctory, like a calendar he picked up in the grocery store. He hates wrapping, and does a minimal, sloppy job of it. We are not short of money, and he's not ungenerous about anything else.
Every year, I feel like I'm trudging uphill with him on my back. I finally suggested we just give it a miss, but he was terribly upset. If I didn't make all this empty effort, apparently he'd feel guilty. I'm not sure what to do at this point. I'm worn out.
Holidays are no fun anymore, but I seem to be trapped in a producer role for an audience who doesn't care but won't leave the theater. Suggestions?
Answer: Say your theater analogy is genius.
What if you take your show to someone who will appreciate it? Senior center, homeless shelter, battered women's shelter, community center or high-need elementary school, VA hospital. Imagine seeing the faces of people who want what you have to give.
Your husband would be guilt-free, because he wouldn't be stopping you.
I'm sorry your husband won't just enjoy the show or leave the theater. It's OK for you to make up his mind for him, though, and find a reciprocal Christmas somewhere.
Question: I am meeting part of my family for an early Christmas celebration. Five days out, my cousin emails everyone to say she will be giving a present only to her mom and our grandparents. She is skipping our aunt, my mom, and me. That is the entire party.
We gave one another small inexpensive gifts last year. I don't know whether they are tight on money or time, or whether there is a more selfish reason. I would be very happy with a card. It also hurts my feelings because I put a lot of thought into her gift and it is already wrapped.
Do I not give it to her, or ignore the email and give it to her because it is already wrapped? I don't want to create an awkward situation or come off as passive-aggressive. It is a gift I know will make her laugh, but now it feels weird.
Answer: Generally - very generally - reasons to suspend gift-giving are negative for the giver, like being broke or tired or overextended.
Reply to her email that you already got her a gift and want her to have it anyway, no reciprocation expected. Say the important thing is that you'll get to be together again in just a few days.
If she pushes back on the gift, then say OK and just unwrap and return it, save it for next year, or keep it for yourself.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.