Direct Answers – Column for the week of December 8, 2003
In my husband’s family, family members send Christmas cards to other family members (parents to children, brothers and sisters to one another, etc.) even though the family always spends time together at Christmas for a meal and gift exchange.
My husband and I do not know of any other family that does this. We both always understood Christmas cards were for family members one would not be seeing because they live too far away, or that Christmas cards were sent from one family to another.
We do not send Christmas cards to members of my immediate family we will be seeing. Which way is correct from an etiquette point of view? Or are they both equally correct? Are we breaching his family’s tradition by not “cooperating” because we will be seeing them at Christmas?
Anita, which is correct–opening presents on Christmas Eve or opening presents on Christmas Day? From an etiquette point of view, they are equally correct. The same applies to your card question.
Your husband’s family tradition is the less common, but we know people who send cards to family members close at hand. Somerset Maugham said, “Tradition is a guide not a jailer.” The same might be said of etiquette, and common sense supersedes them both.
Tamara is not sentimental about cards, but she will give cards to those who especially enjoy receiving them. Because your husband’s family enjoys this tradition, consider following it with them and following your own tradition with everyone else. That solves the awkwardness of receiving a card without giving one.
For over 10 years I diligently cared for my wife, until she died from the complications of multiple sclerosis. During that period we had the help of a nurse who became very much a friend to both of us. I paid for her automobile club membership each year so she could get to our home in her various junk cars.
After my wife died, I stayed in contact with the nurse on a platonic basis, talking on the phone monthly and sharing dinner a few times a year. I also continued to pay the motor club membership in gratitude for all she gave my wife. I felt it was a good and generous thing to do. She gave her all to us.
After a long period of grief, I began to search for a new partner and started a new relationship about six months ago. I mentioned my yearly gift to my girlfriend last week when the bill came, and she became very upset with me for doing this. She described this as unethical and an infraction serious enough to end our relationship.
She knows I have no romantic or sexual contact with this woman and trusts me in that regard, but is astounded I do not see the moral error in what I have been doing. I consider myself someone of high morals. I just don’t get it. What principle am I violating? I am not getting answers I can comprehend from my girlfriend. She insists I discuss this with others, who will enlighten me.
Clay, you are a thoughtful, caring man. You and this nurse share a bond, and in honoring her you also honor the memory of your wife. There is nothing wrong in what you are doing, any more than there is something wrong with giving money to a cause in memory of someone who has passed on.
Your girlfriend cannot tell you exactly what she doesn’t like about your gift without revealing her true motives. Your girlfriend wants to break you away from the memory of your wife and the reality of any other woman. Often circumstances arise as a warning sign about other people. If you give in to your girlfriend, you might as well hand over your wallet, your pants, and your life.