And taking isn't so easy, either.
I've already posted about this once (bananas and video games) but before we get to how NOT to deal with your family during the holidays, we have to talk about accepting presents.
And then we'll do Things you'd like to put in your Xmas cards.
Here's the dilemna. You KNOW that so and so is going to spend a lot more on you than you want to spend on her. You're stretched to the max, broke or nearly broke. And she's the last person you would dish out this much money on.
The stress is compounded by "the reciprocity law." That's the one that goes something like this:
If Ellen buys you a $500 sweater, you have to spend $500 on her, too.
And if you don't, you feel guilty. And if you do, you feel depressed. What do you do?
This time of year I'm prone to say,
Who needs the guilt? Who needs the depression? Isn’t there a way to run off to Jamaica for the holidays?
No? Okay, so we modify your thinking on the reciprocity law. It's not a law, see? Not really. Just take the sweater. Here's why.
1) Ellen's going to spend $500 on your gift, but she really WANTS to spend it. You're doing her a favor by taking it graciously.
If you try to make a stupid rule, like, let's only spend a hundred, max, each, then you're running the risk of depressing her. You're bursting her bubble. You have to have a little heart, okay? It's the holiday season.
2) She truly doesn't care what you give her in return. If she's spending money like water she can buy herself whatever she wants.
3) Most of the Ellens of the world do not see gift giving as an even exchange. They're not looking at it like, if I give you X, you have to give me something comparable to X. Their reason for giving isn't to get something back. They're not children.
Children are always thinking reciprocity, but adults are a lot more complicated. A lot of adults actually give from the heart.
Not that kids don't give from the heart, but you're more likely to hear this conversation in a school yard than a comparable one at the office.
Kid 1: I'll give you my tuna fish sandwich AND my pickle if you'll give me your brownie.
Kid 2: Throw in the chips and we have a deal.
At the office it's more like,
Grown person 1: Can I borrow your stapler?
Grown person 2: Sure, just remember to return it, okay? I lose so many (expletive) staplers this way.
Grown person 1: I know. I'll return it, honest.
Grown person 2: It's okay. No pressure.
Attitude's more generous.
4) If the Ellens of the world are the ones with the resources to give, and they truly enjoy the gift of giving, then they're not sitting around wondering why you're not giving as much in return.
They're not really thinking you're the low life you think you are. They'd be insulted at the very idea that you think that they think you're a low-life cheapskate. They KNOW why you give a little less dollar-wise and they love you anyway.
5) For many people, Xmas is the TIME TO GIVE BACK. People with means are tickled pink to give back. Your boss, for example, might give you a bonus because you’ve WORKED for it. He/she is grateful and showing it. You don’t feel guilty when you get your bonus, right?
So why feel guilty when other people show appreciation by lavishing big, expensive gifts on you? NOT TO GET TOO SOPPY, BUT it's entirely possible that the intangibles you give them are priceless, especially if you're a co-dependent (see previous posts). Maybe you’re there when others need favors. Maybe you’re a good friend. Maybe you listen. Maybe you call and check up on others.
Not you? Never mind.
So rather than get soft and shmaltzy which is informative but boring, we get to what you can write in the Xmas card attached to your less-than gift..
Dear (Friend or Family Member),
I know this is a small token, but I want you to have the happiest Xmas ever and know that I am thinking of you this holiday season. I am hoping, if not quite sure, that one day in the future I’m going to probably come into A LOT of money, maybe the lottery, maybe the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes, I don’t know, but I guarantee that when I do, you’ll get better presents from me on the holidays. And if I don’t? Can we still be friends?
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