Relationship Advice

Personal Shopper

older man

When I married my husband, he always put thought into gifts. They were wrapped with care, then lovingly presented. It was part of his upbringing. Now, when I receive gifts, it's all for show.

How I dread Christmas. If we put up a tree, he wants things under the tree. But he never takes time to think what I'd like. He takes me shopping just before the big day. Despite the fact I do all the other shopping for the family, suddenly it's my responsibility to be available to go out and pick out a gift for "me" at the last minute.

The only reason he goes shopping at all is so, when his friends come over for holiday cheer, they see how thoughtful he was. I do all the preparations, baking and decorating, and all he needs to do is show up. No matter what I do he's always there to take credit for all "we've" done.

He has no idea how much thought I put into gifts for him. I take note of things he mentions and surprise him with the appropriate gift. But usually he returns it, rather than exchanging it for something else. I feel so hurt.

The emotional pain I feel from my birthday in October to New Years is unimaginable. Forty years ago we almost split up due to this behavior. Anyone would agree I am not a materialistic person. To me it's the thought, not the gift, that counts. I have few wants or needs, I only desire genuine feelings of the heart!

That is only the start of our issues. He shares no intimacy. I feel as though I am married to my son. We both recently retired, and I feel the only reason we're together is so he's fed, has a roof over his head and all the bills are taken care of.

I'm crying on the inside and feel like I'm going insane.


Patricia, perhaps it happened so slowly you couldn't see it. Perhaps you didn't want to see it. Perhaps only in retirement has it become too painful to ignore. But the depth of the rut you made has trapped you.

Your husband doesn't think he has a problem. He likes things the way they are. You are the one with the problem. It's as if you've lived in a house 40 years and always wanted the couch to be a different color. Why didn't you switch things up years ago?

A common problem in letters we receive is a writer pointing the finger at someone else, instead of pointing the finger at themselves and asking "What do I need to do?" Change doesn't come from hoping someone else will take the hint. Change requires direct action.

Your husband retired from his job a short time ago, but he retired from your marriage years before. When you went along with the charade of the presents, he made you a coconspirator in a fraud against his peers and against your own best interest. Why don't you do what you want, and let him cope with it?

Staying in this spot is something you have to own. Then decide what, if anything, you are going to do about it. We are not trying to be hard on you. We are pointing out a simple fact. You can only control yourself and your own actions.

Change is hard. But if we don't change, we wind up with the life we are willing to put up with.

Wayne & Tamara