Life Advice



Wife Questions Fairness In Gift-Giving Disparity

Harriette Cole on

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband is upset with me for not buying him the shoes he wanted. Last Mother's Day, he got me a $20 salad bowl. Normally, I'd appreciate any gift, but then I saw what he bought for his mom, sister and cousin: The items ranged from $450 to $500 and were thoughtfully chosen. I'm usually generous and love making my loved ones happy, but this time, I was hurt that my gift was not only the cheapest, but also an impersonal household item. When I asked him about it, he said I should be grateful because it's something useful for the house. On Father's Day, I got him a nice $25 towel. When he complained and said he wanted the dress shoes he'd been eyeing, I told him, "That towel was nice and only cost $25. You should be grateful." Am I being overly petty or was it a fair response? -- Petty Housewife

DEAR PETTY HOUSEWIFE: Your "pettiness" may be the leverage you need to have a serious conversation with your husband. The gifts exchanged between you two and between him and his family are emblematic of something bigger. Why would your husband spend lavishly on his family and pinch pennies on you? Is he mad about something? What has happened in your relationship that has shut him down emotionally? That's what you need to talk about. Press him to explain what he was thinking and why he chose to be so cold to you. Tell him that you want to know what's going on, whatever it is. Add that you gave him the towel because your feelings were hurt. You wanted him to know how his gift made you feel.

Pivot to asking for what you want. If you desire more closeness in your marriage, say as much, and suggest what that might look like.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I come from a well-off family. When I turned 18, my mother gave me a two-story house designed like an apartment building, with separate entries on each floor. I'm 21 now. About a year ago, my boyfriend moved in with me. I haven't asked him to pay rent or utilities, only to chip in for groceries. Last night, my downstairs tenant asked for a new shower as theirs had broken. I went down, assured them I'd arrange for a replacement, then shared this with my boyfriend. He was surprised that the tenant had approached me about the shower, and I explained that I own the building. I hadn't mentioned it earlier because he hadn't asked, and I didn't think it mattered. Now he's upset, feeling he's contributing unnecessarily given my financial situation, and he's asking for reimbursement once the tenant pays. I am legitimately confused about how to respond. -- Building Owner

DEAR BUILDING OWNER: Your boyfriend is pretty presumptuous. He should have offered to pay rent when he moved in. Regardless of who owns the building, he lives there and should be contributing to the cost of the space. That he is upset because he has contributed to groceries (and nothing more) is a huge red flag. It doesn't matter how much money you have; he should be prepared to carry his own weight. While you two are young, you should not allow him to be a freeloader. He is not the type of partner you deserve. Don't settle for him unless he decides to step up.



(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Copyright 2024, Harriette Cole

COPYRIGHT 2024 Andrews McMeel Syndication. This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication.



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