Life Advice



How to Reject a Holiday Gift

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: We have a relative coming from out of town to visit for a week. I'd love to say I'm excited to see her, but I'm not. Last time she stayed, I was ready to push her out the door! She's bossy and tries to tell me what to do and how to do it. I don't appreciate people questioning me, especially in my own home. She's fanatically religious. I'm the opposite. She pushes religion and her God on me to the point that I get so angry. And she gets worse when she's drinking. She's not even here and I'm ready for her to be gone. How do I handle this? -- Unwelcome

Dear Unwelcome: If you were ready to push her out the door after her last visit, then I don't recommend opening your home to her again. Sounds like it's too late to rescind the invite, but in the future, when she comes to town, tell her you'd love to see her but your week is a bit too hectic to host this time. Offer to meet up for a meal or an activity instead.

There are still some ways to make this upcoming visit more manageable. For starters, don't serve any alcohol. When the topic of religion comes up, tell her that you appreciate her concern but that you are an adult who has made her own decisions about religion, and those decisions are not changing. Also tell her that the constant religious pressure is driving a wedge in your relationship with her and, frankly, driving you away from religion altogether. That way, assuming her goal is for you to see the light, it's in her best interest to pipe down.

Dear Annie: When I was a young adult out living on my own, I used to get subscriptions to Christian magazines from my very religious aunt every Christmas. I happen to be an atheist and did not appreciate the magazine, nor did I appreciate all the mailing lists that having a subscription to that magazine put me on.

It was very difficult for me to find a way to get out of receiving those subscriptions every year. I immediately would contact the magazine and ask them to take me off their mailing list. I told them, "Do not send me any magazines, and do not share my address with any other businesses." Nevertheless, I would continue to get some things that I did not want to get. And this would repeat each year, as she always gave the same gift.

Finally, though this was not the best way to deal with it, I persuaded my mother to talk to my aunt and ask her not to do it anymore. Afterward, I received a non-religious magazine subscription, which I also did not want, but at least it was not religious. I always thanked her for "thinking of me" at Christmas, no matter the situation. I was a coward.


It would be good to know how to approach things like that, when you receive something you don't want or are fundamentally opposed to. -- Unwanted Gift

Dear Unwanted Gift: It sounds like your aunt is more receptive to your atheism than you give her credit for. Instead of calling the magazine every year, you could have saved yourself a whole lot of time by going directly to the source and telling your aunt that you appreciate her thoughtfulness but you are actually not a religious person and don't get much out of the subscription. A good lesson learned moving forward!

Regarding the new subscription: Receiving gifts that we don't particularly want is simply a part of the holiday season for most of us. So long as the gift is not offensive to our beliefs -- such as the religious magazine -- it's best to simply smile and send them a thank-you note. This is not cowardly but gracious.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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