Q: My mother-in-law buys me gifts that I don’t like. No matter what the item, it rarely fits my tastes. I don’t want to hurt her so I pretend to like the gifts. But I don’t want to be dishonest either. How should I handle this?
A: We appreciate your question since this is a place most of us have been. Yes, honesty is an essential virtue. But it doesn’t mean disclosing every thought or feeling floating around in our heads. (If you disagree, you may reconsider when your truthful toddler tells the big-boned lady in the check-out line that she’s fat.) Before deciding to let your mother-in-law know your feelings about a particular gift, we’d strongly encourage you to carefully examine your motives and your relationship with her.
The fact that you want to avoid hurting her unnecessarily suggests your heart is right – and that you value her more than things. So consider that, while you may not be crazy about the gift, you can use the occasion to focus on and express your appreciation for the giver.
Whether you privately discuss your dissatisfaction with her gift largely depends on the strength and safety of your relationship. How long have you known her? Have you exchanged candid emotions before, and what was the response? Is she insecure or prideful in her gift giving to where criticism might be especially painful?
If you’re not “there” yet, you might spend time shopping together, both to build your relationship and to become better acquainted with each other’s preferences.
Building strong relationships with in-laws takes intentional thought and grace, but it’s worth the effort. If we can help, don’t hesitate to call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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