Home Life & Style Carolyn Hax: She didn’t like the watch he gave her. Now he’s...

Carolyn Hax: She didn’t like the watch he gave her. Now he’s ticked.


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Husband recently bought me a watch. It was not something I would wear, and when I passed it along to my daughter, he called me ungrateful.

Backstory: Husband has a habit of buying people gifts that are not what he thinks they would like, but things HE likes. Now, I do need a new watch. He was buying one for himself and he had a coupon to get a second watch free. The free watch is what is called a “fashion watch” — large face, wide band, raised decorative features around the face.

We’ve been married 40 years and in all that time I have never worn anything like that. I don’t wear jewelry, my go-to watch is a practical Timex.

So I acknowledged the “gift,” explained that it wasn’t something I would be comfortable wearing, and turned it over to my daughter. That resulted in my being called ungrateful. So am I?

— Ungrateful Wretch?

Ungrateful Wretch?: You know you’re not, right? You’re just seeking affirmation? And you also know he’s self-centered and/or stubborn?

If he were a thoughtful guy (and even a romantic!), he would have bought you exactly the watch you wanted even though he wished for once that you’d wear something fashion-y.

Assuming you don’t want any advice beyond this situation, then perhaps: “I’m grateful for many things about our lives together, but right now I just need a Timex.” And ride out the harrumphing.

If you do want more: This sounds like a relatively bearable frustration that’s had its insulation rubbed off by four decades of marriage. In that case, maybe you just need to own it: “I’m ungrateful, you’re stubborn, good thing we have each other. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

Dear Carolyn: How do you know if/when it’s time to throw in the towel with a friend who appears to have social anxiety disorder? I don’t remember the last time we made plans where she actually showed. This week, she canceled because her uncle died, and I almost felt the need to fact-check an obituary. I also haven’t been able to respond to her sad news, because I feel more frustrated than empathetic. Is there anything a friend can say to convey how frustrating this is? Or is it just how she is, and if I can’t handle it, I should just walk away?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: If you care about your friend still, and if there is something enjoyable you can plan that she will agree to do — something on her terms — then please make those plans.

People with social anxieties, phobias, depression, other chronic illnesses, etc., generally don’t want to be isolated and certainly don’t want to be hostages to their health conditions. If the people who love them can find a way to meet them where they are, then both parties can benefit.

One less emotionally charged way to look at it: Set people up for success, not failure. The details change from case to case and person to person, but the idea is the same.

And yes, if you just don’t like this friend anymore, then you can opt out.

Write to Carolyn Hax at [email protected] Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.


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