Friendship breaks up over unsatisfactory gifts

I have been friends with “Laura” since my husband and I moved here 22 years ago. She is financially better off than I am (and flaunts it), but it never bothered me until she decided we should exchange Christmas gifts a few years back.

Dear Annie: I have been friends with “Laura” since my husband and I moved here 22 years ago.

She is financially better off than I am (and flaunts it), but it never bothered me until she decided we should exchange Christmas gifts a few years back.

Laura can be very judgmental, and finding the right present for her was difficult. Costume jewelry would be rejected, and the real stuff was out of reach. Meanwhile, whenever Laura was selling Tupperware or purses, I always bought something in order to be supportive.

Last year, she started a baking business, so I bought her a cupcake holder for Christmas. However, she had a Christmas party a few days before the actual holiday, so instead of giving her the holder, I gave her a hostess gift of a cookbook, intending to give her the cupcake holder at our personal gift exchange.

The day after her party, she called and told me off. She said my presents were “cheap.” I tried to explain about the hostess gift, but she would hear none of it. I was angry, and so was she. On her birthday two weeks later, I texted, “Happy birthday,” but she didn’t respond.

In fact, Laura has not spoken a word to me for more than a year.

Last summer, I tried to mend things. I sent a letter saying I was sorry I’d hurt her feelings, but a Christmas gift seemed like a silly reason to end a 20-year friendship.

I heard nothing back. I’m still upset about it. My husband says I am better off without her if she measures a friendship by the quality of the gifts.

The problem is, when Laura was selling real estate, she helped my son purchase his first home. He is getting married in July. Should I send her an invitation? — California

Dear California: You are not obligated to invite Laura to the wedding. But if you do and she chooses to attend, it creates the opportunity to renew the friendship (if that’s what you want).

Unless you cannot afford to have her as a guest, there is no downside to sending an invitation.

Dear Annie: Whenever my husband makes a mistake, does something incorrectly or doesn’t know the answer, he uses a very whiny voice and says, “I guess I’m just stupid.”

Our children and I have reminded him on numerous occasions that he is not stupid.

We have asked why he thinks a simple mistake is so terrible. We have tried ignoring the comment, asking him whether he is looking to garner sympathy or attention, and requesting point-blank that he stop saying that. Nothing seems to work.

Lately, he is using this comment more and more often. Is this type of self-deprecating behaviour normal? — Mary from Missouri

Dear Mary: This sounds like a pattern from childhood combined with a need to be constantly reassured. If everything else about your husband seems normal, we’d ignore this, perhaps patting him on the shoulder and saying, “It’s OK, dear.” But if you notice other unusual behaviours, or if this particular annoyance gets out of hand, please suggest he see his doctor. Sometimes, when behaviour becomes repetitive and obsessive, it requires medical attention.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Life Isn’t Easy,” whose wife ran off with another man but refuses to sign divorce papers. He says he can’t afford a lawyer. He should check his state law.

I am a judge in Michigan, and in this state, he only needs to file a complaint, and if his wife fails to respond or appear, he can obtain a divorce. If she does show up or file papers, he can still proceed on his own but may need some limited legal advice. — Michigan Judge

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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