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to be really pissed off DP won't write thankyou letters to aged relatives?

(57 Posts)
Anna1976 Tue 23-Aug-11 09:24:44

or indeed any letters at all...

I come from a tradition where if you got a present you wrote a nice handwritten thankyou that showed you appreciated the thought and consideration of the other person. I've always tried to stick to that because I think that particularly with aged relatives, most gifts are about thought and consideration - and surely a little piece of nice warm fuzziness from the other person to you, deserves a nice warm fuzzy back, in whatever form will make the other person feel properly pleased. With rellies over 70 that is generally a thankyou letter. While it was often a struggle with my grandparents, I always tried to treat older generations as people I could and should relate to as normal humans.

DP comes from a tradition where that is seen as ridiculous hyper-social manneredness from the stunted 1950s when women were stuck in the home scrubbing and washing children. His parents have the convenient arrangement that because his father earns squillions and is rich anyway, his mother gets to not have a full-time job, lead her own life, pay for babysitters for the kids a lot (in the past), be "feminist" about doing only stuff that suits her (some of it is very sensible, eg having a fulfilling career even if it isn't a very good earner or full time; however some of it is really silly).

DP's parents have brought up their kids to not ever have conversations with adult guests, to tell grandma what they're doing at school and not wait for an answer before disappearing, to have no interest in interacting with older generations (to the extent that they don't know they still sound like schoolkids in their 30s), and most importantly to this thread, to never acknowledge presents from people (or say thankyou for having us over to dinner, or whatever) because apparently that just gets into a cycle of "thankyou for the thankyou" type letters.

This all seems to be a reaction to DP's mother's rather 1950s upbringing, most which she firmly dismissed as soon as she was the first one in her family to go to university and discover life beyond the kitchen. So you can see why she's still reacting even 40 years later, but I find the cumulative effect on her kids pretty sad.

I write those kinds of thankyou for the thankyou letters to my aunts and great-aunts all the time - because I write to them fairly frequently anyway, because (1) it's fun to correspond with nice people (2) they're interesting and (3) I feel a bit sad that noone else in my family pays them much attention.

I am increasingly feeling despondent that DP won't write thankyous to my family or his own, or interact as a human (rather than a disinterested schoolkid) with anyone of an older generation. My aunt has just knitted him 3 awesome jumpers - which are lovely - and his reception of them was that he wouldn't wear them outside the house and yes he might write her a letter but he's too busy right now (which is a translation of "no I won't", every single time). They'd be fine for him to wear to work, given what other people at his work wear.

My parents have stopped giving him presents, and my sister has started giving him Oxfam goats and nothing else, because of this total lack of acknowledgement, but he hasn't taken the hint.

I'd be sad if people said "he's a tool, leave him, bastard"... but I really don't know what to do about it. I think it's utterly mannerless in a bad way, he thinks it's throwing off the shackles of the 1950s because his Mum says so.


afishcalledmummy Tue 23-Aug-11 09:31:12

Why not write on his behalf? I tend to write DH's thank you letters as he isn't minded to write them himself, that way people get thanked, I am happy and he doesn't have to do something he doesn't want to. Win/win, surely!

Shanghaidiva Tue 23-Aug-11 09:33:45

You are not his mother and he is not 5 years old.- if he doesn't want to write a letter, you cannot make him!
However, I do agree it is incredibly rude not to thank someone for a gift - letter, text, phone call, whatever.
My kids must send a letter or draw a picture or phone to thanks the gift giver. However, when they are adults it is us up to them what they do and live with the consequences (if there are any) accordingly.

Shanghaidiva Tue 23-Aug-11 09:35:23

Disagree completely with Fish - do not write them for him - lazy tosser.

ChippingIn Tue 23-Aug-11 09:37:25

It's not about the letters though is it.

It's about his inability to relate to another generation because of his upbringing.

Maybe this is one thing you will just have to 'model' and hope he sees that you all benefit out of it and eventually when he grows the fuck up he will see that his Mum is not right about everything and that he can actually make his own mind up about things.

With your older relatives I think you should write thank-you's on his behalf and with your Mum & SIS let them work it out between them.

I think you are both a bit 'extreme' in your views as well, so maybe you need to think about that too and not assume your way is the only way that is 'right'.

summertimeblews Tue 23-Aug-11 09:38:15

so you have complete contempt for his parents and your upbringing is far far superior?

cant see this one lasting smile

lurkerspeaks Tue 23-Aug-11 09:38:28

I wouldn't write for him. If he wants to be rude and not thank people then that is up to him. IMO all you can do is make sure that your kids don't grow up similarly socially hindered.

porcamiseria Tue 23-Aug-11 09:38:30

hmmm, yanbu for being annoyed. if it really bothers you that much send then a usual letter and then mention "DP says a massive thnaks for XXX", I mean really for the old biddies who would have hurt feelings otherwise

but you really sound like you despise MIL, and thats not going to help

live and let be

but you may have some issues when you have kids with such different views

Anna1976 Tue 23-Aug-11 09:38:43

It saddens me that there are no consequences other than sadness and misunderstanding from this. Actually my sadness here is irrelevant but I don't think that of my aunt/other people is. They think it's because he doesn't like them, and doesn't like what they've spent ages choosing for him.

I do write on his behalf, but they see through that... replies from 101 year old great aunt are usually along the lines of "I'm sorry he's being such a tool, it must make you sad he has no manners but I believe many families these days are like that" grin

Anna1976 Tue 23-Aug-11 09:43:36

I don't despise his parents at all, but i strongly disgree with that aspect of his upbringing. His Mum irritates me by calling selfishness feminism, but that's how she has her worldview, so good for her (even if not good for her meaningful friendships with feminists). I also don't think my upbringing was superior to his (if anything it was distinctly sillier - went far too far in the other direction with the 1950s stuff and left out all the empathy or real reasons for being polite).

Gay40 Tue 23-Aug-11 09:45:35

I'd be offended if you wrote a thank you letter on my behalf. Some people write them, some don't. Is present buying now all about the gratitude?
Letters are seen by many people as a bit outdated, and almost a ritual to be done, whether you like the gift or not. I'd rather not get a gift than be expected to jump through hoops afterwards.
I don't make DD do thank you letters - she sometimes does of her own accord though.

InfinityButNotBeyond Tue 23-Aug-11 09:46:38

I think your response to him is "I know you think it's silly but if you could just write Aunt Gertrude a quick note saying thanks she would really appreciate it". And possibly phone calls to say thanks to your parents and sister?

I don't think getting into the whys or wheres of upbringing or politeness are actually relevant. What does matter is by doing a very small thing he will make someone happier. I presume he doesn't get so many presents that this is a huge deal for him?

What he does with his own family (who presumably are not remotely bothered about the lack of letters etc) would seem to be pretty immaterial.

exoticfruits Tue 23-Aug-11 09:46:45

I think the sadness is that he is self centred and won't see anything from another's point of view or put himself out. I don't know what you do about it, other then set a different example yourself and encourage your DCs to follow it.It might rub off.

Mandyville Tue 23-Aug-11 09:47:10

Your families seem (sorry) to be at the extreme ends of 'thank you' etiquette. His family will always offend yours. Nowt you can do, so you might as well stop worrying! Just do what you do and leave him to it - if he doesn't care about the natural consequences (goats) then he may be genuinely happier to do this his way.

Gay40 Tue 23-Aug-11 09:49:36

I was going to add that I was forced into writing rounds of thank you letters after birthdays and Christmases, I hated it and vowed I would stop as soon as I could and NEVER force my own kids into that nonsense.

wigglesrock Tue 23-Aug-11 09:53:58

Your family has stopped giving him presents because he isn't grateful enough shock They sound so well mannered and to be honest why is your aunt knitting your partner jumpers. Its different if he's said "would you knit me one of those lovely jumpers" but is a distant relative of yours dressing your partner?. That would irritate the life out of me.

I write thank you notes for special stuff ie baby/christening presents, and I ring, send a quick text after childrens birthday parties, but I don't ask my husband to do it, his family just don't do it - different upbringing

Anna1976 Tue 23-Aug-11 09:54:05

Mandyville and exoticfruits, I think you've summed it up.

Infinity - that's exactly what I do do. I thought it was the right way to get a good outcome for all concerned, but it seems to breed quiet resentment between us every time and never have the outcome that would make the others happy. Chipping - yes you're right it's not about the letters.

Gay40 - thanks for this perspective - I genuinely don't get why otherwise intelligent and empathetic people can't apply empathy to people a generation older, particularly when it is such a little thing to do that will give the old biddies so much pleasure. Do you think you can unpack your viewpoint, because that would probably help me be less extreme...

Scaevola Tue 23-Aug-11 09:54:44

The exchange of gifts and thanks is normal in building what I think is termed "social capital". If someone opts out of their part of this exchange (as DH is doing, by not thanking), then the community/family is weakened.

DH has, presumably, always been the product of his personality/upbringing, and you chose to marry him. I think this is one where you just have to accept the consequences if your choices.

You can keep your social capital intact - always write your own thank yous (whether to relatives, friends or in-laws), and when writing to your own relatives and friends you can include his thanks. But I don't think you can do much about your in-laws intrafamilial relationships, and would suggest it is unwise to try.

iscream Tue 23-Aug-11 09:56:39

That is the way he is, and doesn't sound like he plans on changing. A bit embarrassing for you, but they can see him for what he is, and soon everyone will not bother sending him gifts.
I often decide I will not send certain relative anything, as she doesn't even let me know it arrived unless I ask if it arrived.

Inertia Tue 23-Aug-11 09:57:07

I agree that older relatives generally do appreciate letters and written thank you notes. I think the important point is that it means that they can keep in touch with loved ones in a way that is easy and familiar for them. And it's lovely that you can look at things from their perspective.

Your DH is clearly never going to have the same kind of relationship, especially with your relatives, and I don't think it's an issue you can force. I think I'd probably pass on thanks in normal letters. Your relatives can always stop getting gifts for your DH .

iscream Tue 23-Aug-11 09:58:11

I often decide, but never follow through...I haven't been able to bring myself to not send anything, maybe this will be the year I don't.

Anna1976 Tue 23-Aug-11 10:02:45

wigglesrock (yes, they do rock grin) - to put this in perspective, my family have written him thankyou notes every single time he's put his name on a card from both of us. Ok that's a bit extreme, but with all of them doing it, you'd think after 8 years he might have learnt that that is what they like. I've been through it with him often enough, - Mum and dad interpret his feeling of harassedness when they ask him about a book they've given him as (1) he doesn't like it and (2) he doesn't like them. I tell them we argue about thankyou letters, and I tell him they misinterpret his reaction/lack of reaction, and say that it is really easy to sort it out..... but he won't even write on the bottom of a letter I'm sending.

There have been numerous occasions where I've been away for months and they have contacted me saying "we sent him a birthday present but are worried it hasn't got there, as he isn't answering our emails and hasn't acknowledged anything" - again - after this long you might think he would just write a thankyou email and be done with it!

re the jumpers, he asked for them, chose the patterns, I paid for the patterns and wool.... my aunt does pretty much nothing but knit for the extended family these days - it's her way of showing the love. The jumpers are bloody nice (and not just to knitting fiends - I'm not one)

squeakytoy Tue 23-Aug-11 10:04:16

Thankyou can be conveyed in a phonecall too. Does he ring the person up and say thanks to them?

InfinityButNotBeyond Tue 23-Aug-11 10:05:06

You see my family is like your DH's in some ways - my mother will take a gift from me without saying anything, put it on the side, open it 2 hours later and say something unenthusiastic like "oh it's a jumper", and then put it to one side again. My DH thinks she is incredibly rude as his family send out cards for everything.

However, we have come to the agreement that DH will remind me if there is something I "ought" to send a card to his mum for (and in fact now I "understand" what is expected), and on the flip side that I won't send a card for "everything" that his mother might have done. And that DH will accept that my mum's rudeness is just who she is.

Seems like neither of you are really prepared to accept each other's differences and both are trying to stand on the moral high ground of being "right".

Anna1976 Tue 23-Aug-11 10:05:46

ok - thanks for the perspective all people. will check in later

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