Giving Christmas gifts as a couple


So, my husband and I were discussing who we were going to give gifts to this year. This is our first Christmas as a married couple so we feel that whatever gifts we give are from us as a couple. We've decided this year to limit our gift giving to our parents and siblings (including their spouses). So basically one gift per couple: either to our parents, our siblings and their spouse, or individually our unmarried siblings.

Well, my brother is engaged and cohabitating with his fiance'. They've been very tempermental. Both individuals are very difficult not to offend. They have no date for their wedding set, and have refused to accept money for their wedding from my parents' because it came with the stipulation that they marry within the Catholic Church.

My husband feels that we should only give a Christmas gift addressed exclusively to my brother. He refuses to sign anything that would indicate that our gift is to the both of him. He dislikes both of them but is willing to put his feelings aside for his brother in law. However, he says he feels no obligation to include her in our gift giving as she is not yet family.

I know I still have a tendency to fear offending people, but feels that I frequently make myself open to be used by people in my attempts to please everyone. He feels that my brother's fiance' has already multiple times used this tendency of mine against me. Eventually I did recognize how she was manipulating me and I've decided to keep my boundaries with her very thick. The thing is, I still don't want to deal with the two of them gripping about us and going off on how they're not accepted. As is, I have no idea what to get my brother for Christmas that he would appreciate. He's never expressed appreciation for any gift I've given him, but has rather complained that its not exactly what he wants. I've decided this year to just send him a card with a little cash so that he can get what he wants. The problem is that the check and the card will specifically say just him and I feel will make it stick out even further that she's not included. Should I just not worry about it? I don't feel it'd be appropriate to add her name after my husband has signed the card as that would be deceiving him. He tells me he refuses to sign the card if I include her name on it. I do think its sort of petty and that putting her name on it would just be a form of keeping the peace, but he just doesn't want to go that route and keeps telling me that I need to stop worrying about what they think of me.



Here's what we do to manage gift giving (and the budget).

  1. We set a per-person per-holiday budget. For example, my sister-in-law gets a $50 gift for her birthday, a $50 gift for Christmas, and a $50 gift for her wedding (since she is getting married this year).

  2. Sometimes, if we have a great "couple gift idea," we give couple gifts. In that event, the couple receives a gift worth approximately $100.

  3. For non family members we usually only give a gift if we celebrate the holiday with them. My sister-in-law's boyfriend gets a "full" gift this year. I seem to recall giving him a "token" gift last year since we didn't see him over the holidays.

I wouldn't withhold gifts from someone because they were not living a life in accordance with my moral compass. If you give a gift (even an inexpensive token gift with a nice card!) you will, in a small way, make this woman feel welcomed into your family---which might start to make her feel welcomed into the family of the Catholic Church. If you withhold a gift, you risk sending the message that Catholics are manipulative unwelcoming people whose love is conditional. Just my $0.02! :o


[quote="twoangels, post:1, topic:222244"]
...and going off on how they're not accepted....


I can see where your husband is coming from - in the same way that not giving a gift may make it seem like you don't accept them (though if they take it that way and bring it up, you can correct them to say it is their behavior that you are not accepting), if you do give them a joint gift it would make it seem as though you do accept what they're doing.

My family was in a similar situation not too long ago - I had a brother living with a fiancee - except without the unpleasantness you describe. I am not sure if my family was "strict enough" or not, but we gave them gifts separately (small gifts to the fiancee, along the lines of what we might give to standard girlfriend of a brother/son that we liked). They did stay at our parents house a few days near Christmas when all the brothers converged there, and my parents very specifically gave them separate rooms (on separate floors if I remember correctly).

My brother and his fiancee were fairly easy to deal with, and it sounds like your situation may be somewhat more difficult. It might be worth remembering that whatever complaints they have about you not accepting their behavior are hollow - as they are refusing to consider that your objections might be legitimate, and their behavior is on somewhat more shaky ground (standard "acceptance"/"tolerance" over reason thing that's going around these days). It may not make it much easier, but I think you would be doing them a disservice if you acted as though their behavior was acceptable just to keep the peace.

Edit: I think a gift to your brother and a token card or something to his fiancee might be a good middle ground that doesn't compromise principles or come across as rejecting people. It would be an exception to your plan, but I think it would be an understandable one.


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