By Joyce Oglesby
Q: “My husband and I always fight at Christmas. We differ on the very fundamentals of the season. But when it comes to the benevolence, he likes getting gifts from me but doesn’t want me to give to others. He believes it should be an exclusive exchange between the two of us. Even when our kids were younger, it was a battle to buy for them. Now that they’re older, he thinks we’ve done enough for them and gifts are not necessary for them nor our grandchildren. I want to enjoy this holiday season without feeling guilty about giving to others. Any suggestions would be welcome. PS: I am a working woman.”
I highly suspect Christmas is not the only gloomy season in your marriage. This kind of character trait doesn’t reserve itself for only one time of the year. It is likely woven in and out of your history together. I contend it’s never too late to turn a tale around for a happier ending. Hopefully, these tips will get your feet on the right path.
- Don’t worry about what he thinks. Now, I do not mean a blanket disregard — of course we must be concerned for the feelings and thoughts of our loved ones. But what we are dealing with here not only concerns selfishness, it also borders on control. I learned many years ago that no one can control us without our permission.
- Refuse to argue. There’s no need for angry, hurting, damaging words. However, if he wants to throw them around, don’t catch them. Likewise, don’t pitch any back to him. Whereas I’m a huge proponent of resolving issues through civility, I believe the “silence is golden” strategy diffuses arguments you’re never going to win.
- Agree to disagree. People are not always going to share mutual opinions. Given that truth, at a time when you and your husband are not at odds, address the issue of the holiday season. Share with him the idea that you two might possibly always differ on your ideas of the true meaning behind Christmas, but that difference should in no way affect your love for one another. You intend on celebrating the holiday your style, and you’ll not object to him not giving gifts.
- Settle on mutual respect. Without this element in any relationship, but especially in marriage, it will dampen the spirit at any season. Acknowledge that you intend to respect the differences he has regarding the Christmas season and you’re happy to give him gifts that will please and satisfy, but you would like him to respect your heart for giving. Explain to him this is very much a part of who you are and the woman he fell in love with.
- Spend your own money. I encourage couples to think in terms of “ours” and not “yours” and/or “mine.” Perhaps this bit of advice is no different from your past experience, but be sure you make your purchases from your earnings. Be forthcoming about your intentions. If it is going to crunch your budget, then be creative about how you earn the extra money for gift-giving — i.e., find a part-time job during the holiday season to offset the expenses or do some holiday budgeting throughout the whole year.
It gives me pause to use the term in today’s culture, but you are as “entitled” to your way of celebrating the holiday as he is to not celebrating it. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” The penchant for giving speaks volumes about one’s capacity to love. So, give on!
Struggling with a relationship issue? Write Joyce Oglesby, Family Life FIX-IT Pro at and find a solution for life.