Dear Amy: My daughter-in-law is extremely close to her family and although she tries to show affection for us, it’s only out of obligation.
A few years ago, I purchased a very expensive handbag (which I couldn’t afford) as a Christmas gift for her. On occasions I’ve been asked to clean their house, and while cleaning I’ve seen the handbag in her closet.
This past Christmas, I received the same bag from her.
It is obvious what transpired: While she and my son bought luxurious gifts for her family, she went shopping in her closet for me.
She’s a good person but can be manipulative and narcissistic at times.
I feel disrespected and unappreciated for everything I do for them (which is a lot).
I would like to address her (or the two of them) about this, but I’m not sure how.
A part of me just wants to put the bag back in their closet to see if I receive it a second time, or to give her instructions on how to properly “regift,” which includes putting the name of the person on the article, so you don’t regift it back to them.
I cannot use the bag because every time I see it, I am reminded of how little I meant to them.
How should I address this?
Dear Lonely: You are not obliged to prove your affection for your son and his wife by cleaning their house. I hope you are at least compensated for this work.
And even though your generosity is evident and your motivations understandable, you should not purchase a gift you can’t afford.
You are tempted to retaliate in some way for this embarrassment, but sarcasm or humiliation is not a mature response.
I hope you can summon up the courage to calmly approach your daughter-in-law about this. Tell her, “This is embarrassing, but I want you to know that on Christmas you regifted to me the bag I gave to you – two years ago. I realize that you and I don’t have a very close relationship, but I do want you to know that this has made me feel sad and somewhat unappreciated. I’ve tried my best to get to know you, but I wish our relationship was on a better footing.”
Dear Amy: Five years ago, my husband and I moved to a new town where we knew nobody.
We began inviting folks to play on our tennis court, then started a bridge group at our home, and now have a great circle of friends. We’ve also invited many of these folks to our vacation home, and they are all very grateful and enjoy our times together.
My problem is that in these five years we have received almost no invitations from any of these folks.
I’ve been told discreetly it’s because most of our new friends live in more modest homes and feel they cannot entertain the same way we can.
How can I communicate (without fishing for an invite) that those things don’t matter to me, and that I’d appreciate a call to meet for a meal somewhere or even a cup of coffee?
I just feel like our social life is a one-way street that only leads to our house.
Road Goes Both Ways
Dear Road Goes: You could attempt to open this up by asking (at your bridge group, for instance), “Is anyone else here able or willing to host one of our game nights?”
However, you should also understand that, no matter how well liked you are or what values you attempt to convey, a sizable percentage of people simply never host anything.
They can be very grateful for your hosting, but don’t issue invitations to coffee, don’t invite people to their homes, and won’t call you up to join them on a walk through the park.
Sometimes this is because of a real or perceived difference in your socioeconomic status, and sometimes this is because … they just don’t extend themselves in this way.
If you feel burned out, you should take a breather from hosting, which might inspire others to step up.
Dear Amy: Hoo boy, your answer to the mother of the Bridezilla (“Angry in Philadelphia”) was one for the ages! Thank you for calling out this pair, who excluded “Uncle Dave” from a wedding for political reasons, and then were upset that he hadn’t sent the bride a big fat check.
Dear Fan: This Q&A has garnered a huge response.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.
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