I have been married for 10 years. With the gift giving season upon us, my annual anxiety over our financial inequality has kicked in. Every year, my husband showers me with holiday presents that are thoughtful and extremely generous. I find myself trying to reciprocate, but I am stretched very thin. I have a large family with a long gift list that requires me to be creative and frugal with my budget, whereas he only gets presents for me. Even though I know it is not a contest for the largest gift pile, I still feel guilty. He is gracious and says that he just likes to see me happy, but I always feel embarrassed. I find myself stretching even more to give back, going into debt, worrying and still not even coming close to his openhandedness. How should I have gotten over being the poor sap and embraced the holiday spirit and the thought that counts?
– Overindulged and over it
The good news is that your husband wants to spoil you and we should all be so lucky. The bad news is that he may rely on material justifications to express himself. Earning (and spending) power is deeply personal and is usually bred from our parents’ financial roles. Understand that his tendency to shower you with stuff is probably by example, feeling that gifts and money equal love. You must have another conversation about how the unbalanced gifting makes you feel. Keeping mum only breeds resentment or blame. You say that he wants to see you happy, but explain to him that you would love to do the same for him and you are just financially restricted. Although his gifts are generous and thoughtful, this time of year harbors stress and frustration as you struggle to compete. Try setting a monetary limit for the holiday gift exchange and insist he stick to it, or perhaps plan a vacation or event as your gift to each other. Making memories with a weekend getaway in Napa or a fancy date night in the city will last much longer than a coat or bottle of perfume.
My married friend Jill has always been a little flirty, okay, a lot flirty. I have caught her in several compromising positions over the years and when confronted by me, she seems to be regretful. However, after several discussions about how sexy that cheating makes her feel and how unfulfilled she is in her marriage, I find myself siding with her more than I do my conscious. I know that cheating is wrong, but I love Jill. To further muck up the situation, her husband and my boyfriend are old friends. The lines of loyalty are constantly blurred and uncomfortable, forcing me to lie to many people, if even by omission. Do I continue to be her ally or do I expose her infidelity?
– Aiding and Abetting
It sounds as if Jill is manipulating you in addition to her husband and the fooled suitors. Attention from other men feed her ego while offering an escape from her flawed marriage. Although it is certainly loyal and kind of you to empathize with Jill’s choices and protect her, it is quite often the tough job of the constant friend to deliver the truth. Explain that while you will continue to love her, you cannot support or enable her choices when it comes to her weekend philandering. Her lifestyle is now affecting you, your friendship, and your relationship with your boyfriend. Genuine friends would never expect you to be dishonest or compromise your beliefs. Perhaps Jill may not end her affairs, but by standing up for yourself, you will no longer be the confidant holding the burden. As for the big reveal, divulging serious indiscretions rarely benefits the bearer of bad news, so let her do the dirty work with her hubby.
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