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by Abigail Van Buren

Birthday Gift-Giving Threatens to Splinter Group of Friends

DEAR ABBY: This may seem like a trivial problem, but it has our little group of friends on the verge of breaking up. We meet monthly. There are seven of us.

Two of them don't want to exchange birthday presents when one or two of us have a birthday because they say they can't afford it. By the way, their lifestyle is quite lavish. The rest of us enjoy giving small gifts (and they are small -- less than $10), or a gift card for the restaurant we are meeting at that night. We have told them a card is fine.

They are now threatening to stop coming unless we stop giving gifts because it makes them feel bad. It seems like they don't want to make the effort, and we feel like we are being held hostage. What's the solution? We love these ladies and don't want them to stop coming. Christmas is approaching, and five of us want to exchange presents, but they don't. Thanks for your opinion. It will matter to all of us. -- TRADITIONALIST IN FLORIDA

DEAR TRADITIONALIST: Because these ladies are uncomfortable with the idea of exchanging gifts on special occasions, they should be told their presence is not expected when those exchanges happen -- specifically Christmas, birthdays, etc. There will still be plenty of other times to get together -- and that way no one will be uncomfortable. Under no circumstances should you allow them to dictate what the rest of you do!

Read more in: Friends & Neighbors | Holidays & Celebrations