Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have never been one to buy a lot of presents for the holiday season. I like to spend time with my friends and family, but I don't believe in going broke in order to give somebody something they may not even want or like. When I mention that I don't so much believe in gift-giving, though, sometimes I get pushback. It's almost as if you are expected to give a person a gift if you are friends. I get it if the person is a child, but is it so important to give gifts to your friends at work and at church? I don't want to do it. I give cards sometimes, but usually I just like to spend time with them. How can I get across the notion that I believe time together is more valuable than a thing? -- Wanting to Connect, Chicago

DEAR WANTING TO CONNECT: I love your idea of giving the gift of time. One way that you may be able to get your idea across to your friends so that they welcome it is by writing each of them a card saying that you are offering them the gift of a special experience with you. Invite someone to tea or another for a walk. Invite one to dinner, to the movies or even for a quiet visit at home. Get creative in your invitations so that your friends see that you truly value this experience you are recommending. You may be able to turn their attention to what you value most -- the engagement with them.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband never buys me anything for Christmas even though I have told him for years that it is important to me to receive a holiday gift -- even if it is of small monetary value. I grew up with a Christmas tree and all the trimmings. We go home to my family every year for Christmas, and almost invariably I am the only one with no gift from a spouse. He seems to be oblivious. But this is after I have told him at least 10 times. I even remind him sometimes a few weeks before Christmas. What can I do to get him to care about me in the way that makes me happy? -- Snubbed, Baltimore

DEAR SNUBBED: It could be that your husband truly is disconnected from the gift-giving tradition of Christmas, so he just doesn't care. It could also be something deeper. Does your husband feel like you pay attention to what he values? It is possible that the two of you have gotten into a rut without realizing it.

Apart from holiday gifts, is there any other place in your relationship where you feel unheard or unappreciated? More, can you identify ways that you may be denying him something that he values? If you can look under the skin of your marriage and notice where you two can both improve in how you engage each other, you may be able to find ways to make each other happy. You do something he likes, and he does something you like.

Meanwhile, buy yourself a present and put it under the tree this year!