Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mother-In-Law's Generosity Makes Couple Uncomfortable In More Ways Than One

Dear Tazi:

My mother-in-law is driving me nuts. I know that is the complaint of many, but things have reached a point where I am going to lose it on her if I don't get some help.

"Maisie" is a sweet, thoughtful woman on a very limited budget. She loves to give gifts, in spite of the fact that she cannot afford to give them and always gives them above my wife's and my protests to save her money for the things she needs. Whenever Maisie overhears my wife or I mention something we need or would simply like to have, she runs out to buy it for us. The problem is, she buys a much cheaper brand/value than we would purchase to fill our needs. We tried to solve the problem by returning the merchandise for credit, but that deeply hurt Maisie's feelings. Now, we simply try not to speak about our needs/wants within Maisie's earshot, which can be quite difficult. I am a contractor; my schedule varies and I am often home during the day. My wife is a homemaker and Maisie lives close by, which means she usually stops in to visit on a daily basis.

While doing laundry, my wife mentioned to me that we should look into buying some new bed-sheets, since January is when many stores have their home-linens on sale. What she did not realize was that her mother had just entered the house and heard my wife comment on the need for new bed-sheets. The next week, Maisie showed up with not one, but TWO sets on king-sized bed-sheets that she "got for a steal online". Maisie was glowing over her gift to us, going on and on about how the sheets were "1200 thread count Egyptian cotton!" and how she got both sets for less than $50 total. Upon hearing this, we knew there was going to be a problem.

King-sized bed sheets are famously expensive, and a set of Egyptian cotton 1200 thread count sheets retail for a couple hundred dollars or more. Sure enough, the sheets Maisie bought for us are a cheap microfiber by the brand name "Egyptian Comfort". My wife suffers from sensitive skin (for which she sees a dermatologist) and cannot sleep on these sheets. We tried - for the sake of her mother - and my wife woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible, itchy rash.

My wife politely approached Maisie with the sheets, and asked her to return them since we cannot use them. Maisie insists that the sheets are not the cause of my wife's rash and that we are "ungrateful snobs". Now, she is not speaking to either of us. I realize that most men would find this a dream come true; but my wife's heart is breaking over the fact that her mother will not speak to her. Any advice on what we should do next, Tazi? My wife and I aren't snobs, nor are we ungrateful. We just prefer to buy quality products that will last - and not give my wife hives.

A Guy Who Loves His Wife

P.S. Just for the record, I am not a girly-man. I had no idea what "home-linens" were until my wife explained it to me. Ditto with the cost of 1200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.

Dear A Guy Who Loves His Wife:

I am a guy, and I love the silky softness of high thread count sheets! My Mommie, however, does not love when I sit on her silky soft sheets, claiming I shed vigorously all over them. Like your wife, my Mommie also has sensitive skin issues and cannot sleep on microfiber sheets (or, apparently, sheets covered in cat hair). Please tell Maisie that your wife is not making excuses to turn down her thoughtful gift; that others have similar problems as your wife when it comes to synthetic fabrics.

The larger issue seems to be Maisie's desire to give. In returning her gift, she took it as a return of her love for you and her daughter. To explain to her that you "prefer to buy quality products that will last" would be a huge mistake, and it will add insult to injury. Rather, explain to Maisie that you and your wife are rather set in your ways when it comes to purchasing home goods (that's stuff for the house, manly man!) and that you have developed a sense of loyalty for a few, specific brands that have met your expectations in the past. Brand loyalty is rare nowadays, in a world where everyone wants the lowest price; but back when Maisie was younger almost everyone practiced it.

To indulge Maisie's desire to give, why not give suggestions of ways that she can give of herself? Start small, by asking if she could "start a pot of coffee" while you and your wife are doing other things. If you show appreciation for her efforts, in time Maisie might find herself comfortable doing other little things to assist you that do not involve spending money (or a lot of it, anyway). She might decide to surprise you by bringing over sandwiches for lunch or a pound of your favorite ground coffee. If you have children, you could ask Maisie to watch them for an hour or two while you and/or your wife go grocery shopping or run errands.

With a little thought and creativity, you will discover that there are many ways for Maisie to indulge her generous spirit that will also accommodate and balance your needs, as well. However, the first step in this whole process is to get Maisie talking to you again. If she refuses to listen to you, try writing things down in a handwritten letter. There is something about the written word that women find soothing.


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