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Christmas presents from estranged relatives - keep, return, bin?

(66 Posts)
wasabipeas Mon 04-Jan-16 15:35:12

DH and I were away with his family over New Year, and while we were away, my DB and SIL spent a couple of nights in our house while visiting friends in the area.
They had left before we got home, and left us a bottle of wine, chocolates and some food in the fridge to say thanks for letting them stay, along with 2 wrapped presents, with each of our names on the paper. No card or gift tag.

We opened them (nothing special, traditional 'Christmasy' things), and I sent a text to my DB to say thanks for the pressies, and let's catch up soon.

I've just spoken to him and he said the presents were from my father, who I haven't spoken to for nearly a year. I asked why he has bought us presents, and DB said it might be an 'olive branch'.

The last contact I had with him was by email, in which I said that until him and his wife were prepared to apologise for something they had said and done, DH and I would not be seeing them.

We still haven't had an apology, they still refuse to accept they did anything wrong, and I'm not inclined to accept a cheap present in lieu of clearing the air and getting an apology.

My first reaction is that I should return them, but I've spoken to DH and he thinks that is both passive aggressive and closes the door permanently. He thinks we should keep them and not acknowledge receiving them.


LurkingHusband Mon 04-Jan-16 15:44:54

Local charity so some good can come of them ?

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jan-16 15:46:25

Unfortunately your brother was simply used by your dad as the flying monkey here; such people are often used and manipulated by the toxic relative to do their bidding for them. He did as he was told to do. Your brother should have been honest with you and told you that these presents (not ever sent without obligation attached) were from your father.
I would tell your brother that his actions were not appreciated and that you do not want him to act like this towards you ever again.

These gifts are loaded with obligation and are certainly no olive branch from your father. Your DB is well off beam there if he thinks that. Its instead an attempt by your dad to get you back into their dysfunctional family of origin fold.

Do not return these presents to your dad; no contact is precisely that and the contact is the reward for such people. This is what the purpose of such gifts are; they want you to respond because they know they have you then. These were never sent out of any real concern for you and your wellbeing. He is likely pissed that you are now beyond his control and influence. Radio silence therefore needs to be maintained by you.

Another option for you is to take these items to the charity shop.

You will never get an apology from your dad for his behaviours; such people never apologise let alone accept any responsibility for their actions.
I would suggest you read Toxic Parents written by Susan Forward to further understand the dynamics.

Offred Mon 04-Jan-16 15:48:24

I agree with DH but not because it is passive aggressive, because sending them back is getting you to contact them (albeit by returning the gifts in the post). Don't return them, negative attention is still attention.

He will know that you received them, found out who they were from and sent them back.

If you don't send them back he will not even know whether you got them, he can find out that you know and received them. He won't have any response to gauge your feeling.

I would give them to charity if you don't want them or give them away in some other way.

EBearhug Mon 04-Jan-16 15:48:39

I'd go for the charity shop.

Offred Mon 04-Jan-16 15:50:31

I wouldn't contact your brother though. If he has been used in this way it means he doesn't understand or agree with your position.

I would simply say nothing to anyone, give away the present and note that my brother was not entirely trustworthy when it comes to my parents.

May09Bump Mon 04-Jan-16 15:51:28

Just charity shop and think nothing more of it - it's the best way if your no contact.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jan-16 15:52:53

What Offred wrote.

People like your dad just want to keep you around to feed on emotionally, and when you decide to go no contact, they don’t plan on letting you get away that easily.

His behaviour is known as "hoovering"

Hoovering is manipulation to gain control over your choice to distance yourself, and typically takes the following forms:

•Ignoring your requests to break off the relationship and attempting to continue on as if nothing has changed.
•Asking you when you’re going to “get over it” and return to your past actions.
•Sending you a fake apology to give you hope that things have changed.
•Trying to trick you into contact by saying someone needs you, is sick, or in trouble.
•Triangulating with others, communicating things to you through them.
•Saying they’re worried about you, concerned about whether you’re okay, need to know where you are, etc.
•_Sending unwanted cards, messages and gifts_, sometimes gifts for your children, as they know you are likely to feel guilty about keeping a gift from your kids. Don’t allow this – exposing your children to manipulation is far worse!

•Returning old items you left behind.
•Baiting you with drama games.
•Contacting you about “important” things they “forgot” and suddenly have to tell you.

FlatOnTheHill Mon 04-Jan-16 15:57:06

AttilaTheMeerkat confused
So assuming, so judgemental, so deep, too much analysing, too much over thinking all based on a few paragraphs to have come to this conclusion. Very dangerous indeed.
OP give the gift to charity if you wish and leave it at that.

pocketsaviour Mon 04-Jan-16 16:00:22

Actually Flat Attila is a very regular poster in the dysfunctional famlies thread and you'd be surprised how very uniform toxic people are.

IME she is usually spot on - even if we don't always want to accept how deeply unhealthy our relationships with families of origin are.

wasabipeas Mon 04-Jan-16 16:03:03

Thanks Attila, I have read Toxic Parents before, prior to this situation as my mother was/is incredibly toxic (and textbook NPD) and walked out on my brother and I when we were teenagers, after my father stood up to her for the one and only time in his life. She went NC with us when we were in our teens and we haven't heard from her since, bar her occasional appearance at a family funeral.

Unfortunately, my father hasn't learned much and has remarried someone who is a carbon copy of my mother, and is as completely nasty and controlling. The situation which caused us to fall out was of her making, but he is standing by her and her actions. I think his only motivation is for an easy life and because he is scared of standing up to her.

I think his motivation for sending the presents is total denial - if he gives us presents, then he can kid himself (and my aunts/uncles/grandparents) that he hasn't fucked up as a parent and lost contact with a child. I suspect it is also to give him an insurance policy against me pointing out what a terrible parent he is ("But I gave you christmas presents, which is more than you did").

Re my brother's role in this... He is still very scarred by what happened with our mother, and I think takes the approach that to lose one parent is unfortunate, but two is careless. He overlooks a lot of shitty things that my dad does, but I don't know if that is because of low expectations, or because he is in denial about what the proper role of a parent should be.

I've been tempted a few times to make a 'it's me or him' ultimatum, but ultimately know it would cause my brother too much distress to have to chose, and he is a fragile character.

I know ignoring is the way forward, but I hate how a crappy scarf has ignited my people pleasing trait to the extent that I'm now minimising what he did.

wasabipeas Mon 04-Jan-16 16:09:26

Attila, re the hoovering, he has actually done very little of that, which almost hurts more!
He is very much the serial enabler, and these token gifts are his shitty halfway house between pleasing her by keeping me out of her life, but feeling too guilty to give in entirely to her wish to cut me out.
Although I am well aware that I'm justifying and minimising here, which is in itself a small win for him and his shitty presents.

I don't know if it is relevant, but his sister, a GP, thinks he is on the spectrum, although he flat-out refuses to acknowledge this in any way. It does mean that his idea of right and wrong in relationships has always been quite skewed, which means trying to persuade him he needs to apologise for going against a social norm is near-on impossible

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jan-16 16:15:18

Hi wasabipeas,

Your father is what is known as a bystander; these are usually weak individuals that act out of self preservation and want of a quiet life. Such men also more often than not need someone to idolise; its of no surprise to me at all that he went on to choose someone else exactly like his ex wife. Narcissistic women as well cannot do relationships at all and the men in their lives are often narcissistic as well or gone from their lives once she has no further use for him (as what happened to your dad when he stood up for himself on this one occasion).

Regardless of his motivations for doing this (and I think you are right in those reasons) he did this to also try and get a response from you; these people do not always let go easily particularly when the person has themselves decided to go no contact.

Ignoring is indeed the way forward and your no contact stance needs to be maintained.

Would you consider seeing a therapist or a counsellor regarding your people pleasing tendencies?.

wasabipeas Mon 04-Jan-16 16:23:05

I did actually see a counsellor a while ago, but ironically, ended up 'people pleasing' her and telling her what she wanted to hear - I am particularly bad with anyone remotely medical, and even do it with my physio!
I've had some business coaching to stop me doing it in my professional life (which has worked very well), but it is hard to stop in my personal life.

Luckily, DH is very good at recognising this and pulling me back from it, but you are right that I should probably go and get this addressed.

In your opinion, is there any point in giving any sort of ultimatum to my sibling and SIL?
I've told SIL before that it is very difficult for me to be friends with someone who is happy being around my stepmother, when she has witnessed first-hand how nasty she is to me, but stopped at giving any sort of 'me or her' ultimatum. I do feel like she (and therefore my father) are being enabled by everyone turning a blind eye to her nastiness and odd behaviour, but I don't know if that is my battle to fight

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jan-16 16:24:29

Equally your dad may not be on the spectrum at all, that possibility should also be considered. GPs generally are not qualified to diagnose ASD anyway; that is usually done by a developmental paediatrician and other professionals like a clinical psychiatrist and not in a single session either.

Re your brother do not justify, argue, defend or explain. He is going to have to come to his own conclusions about his family of origin.

What if anything wasabi do you know about your dad's own childhood, that often provides clues.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jan-16 16:29:13

Hi wasabi,

re your comment:-
"In your opinion, is there any point in giving any sort of ultimatum to my sibling and SIL?"

No unless you are fully prepared in what to say to them and in also fully following it through once said. An ultimatum can only be issued once, they lose all their power otherwise if repeated.

I would simply and over time further reduce contact with people like your brother and sister in law. How often do you see them anyway?.

I would also suggest you post on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages.

wasabipeas Mon 04-Jan-16 16:33:03

I know his mother was very matriarchal, and is still a total battleaxe
His father died young-ish and he was required to become the man of the house and give up things to run the family business (a farm).
His sisters were the favoured children who were taken on trips etc while he was expected to work, although his mother supported him wanting to go to university etc, so he wasn't hard done by

The family story is that my mother was very pretty and a total social climber, so she went after my dad in the hope of becoming a farmers wife and having an easy life.
They lost the farm shortly after they were married, and she begun to have affairs as soon as she realised there wasn't the money she thought there would be. They continued throughout their marriage, including one very public one, which he stood up to her over causing them to split and her to move abroad, cutting all ties and leaving him with the children.

Jellybabey Mon 04-Jan-16 17:05:08

Oh dear family dysfunction sucks doesnt it!? Some great refreshing advice here though, i identify with what Atilla wrote about hoovering.

I had a similar 'gift dilemma' just before christmas, my narc mother and (mean) flying monkey brother posted gifts and cards to me and my DC. I was in two minds whether to ignore or return them but after discussing it with my husband we decided to return them. I totally agree with the rationale of ignoring them and giving the gifts to charity as no contact means NO contact, but in my particular situation i wanted to make a statement that we dont want or need gift cards. To me it would have been like accepting money from them. The final card, we didnt even open, just "return to sender" and put it in the postbox.

This is my first xmas with no contact with them (its been almost a year like you OP) it has been horrible. My family's hatred is directed at DH and it has caused murders between DH and I, we've had several arguments due to their latest stunt (another one aimed at splitting us up) just before christmas, so mother is still ruling the roost remotely. I fear DH has just about had enough of it all 😢 and my anxiety is through the roof

Its a bag of crap !

You sound like you might consider reconciling if u got an apology, is that the case? I'm way past that point now myself.

ThePerfect1IThinkNot Mon 04-Jan-16 17:41:14

There are two sides to every story...

My DH has a DD (my step daughter) that will not communicate with him and is vitriolic to anyone that tries to mend the situation. He would dearly love to build bridges with her but she has been filled with venom about him by her mother.

In any marriage break up it is not right for either parent to speak badly about their ex to young impressionable children. The fact they are having to go through the divorce is bad enough for the children but having additional ill feeling added by one of your loving parents will just make it worse.

Neither myself nor my new (we will have been married for 11 years this Year) DH were responsible for the break up of our previous marriages. We each have two children and all four children have been affected in some way. My DH's children bear more scars from the way his ex behaved during the break up and ever since.

Clearly his DD is the most affected mentally. It is now about five years since she has spoken to him. Outwardly she is successful, having got a good degree and a rewarding career, but she must be eaten up by the negativity she feels towards him.

My DH has a deep sadness about this situation and would love it to be resolved.

I send my love to anyone faced with this type of situation. Please try and see the other person's point of view. Life is too short to bear grudges.

Woodhill Mon 04-Jan-16 18:04:55

I don't know ur back story but could you try and see it as an olive branch and say thanks by email?

I agree with previous poster but apologise if you've had an awful time with ur dad in the past but could u try and forgive?

pocketsaviour Mon 04-Jan-16 18:04:56

ThePerfect I am sorry for your DH's situation, but "try to see the other person's point of view" only works when that person is a reasonable human being. It doesn't work with abusers.

ThePerfect1IThinkNot Mon 04-Jan-16 18:33:05

Pocket, I totally agree but not all estranged family members are or have been abusers.

lazymoz Mon 04-Jan-16 18:38:55

My initial thought was life is too short, however I have no knowledge of the situation you are in. I hope everything sorts itself out in time

Imbroglio Mon 04-Jan-16 19:18:46

I've just had this myself. Its painful.

My advice is to say nothing to anyone in the family, give the gifts away, and forget about it.

Quornmakesmefart Tue 05-Jan-16 10:41:43

We have similar issues every Christmas. My 'in-laws' also send cards and presents on the DC's birthdays and on DH's. Last year's birthday card to DD was a peach - a blank card with a painting of a little girl in a party dress staring out of a window at an empty street, looking miserable grin.

I agree absolutely that you don't 'reward' them with contact. Ignore and bin cards; we don't even bother to read them anymore. And any gifts go to the charity shop.

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