Alice, My Mother-In-Law Won't Stop Giving Me Gifts (That I Don't Have Room For)

Alice, My Mother-In-Law Won't Stop Giving Me Gifts (That I Don't Have Room For)

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Ask Alice
Sep 24, 2015
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)
Dear Alice,
I got married about a year ago and my husband's mother works at a specialty cooking utensils store on the weekends. In the past few years, she has gotten really into their products. She spends time at the store convincing people they need to have this gadget or that. It's become a little excessive for the others in the family. When I was first dating my husband, kitchen tools was an easy topic for his mother and I to bond with. I love to cook so I would get excited when she would show me new things.

When we got married we were overwhelmed by so many gifts. Thoughtful, but not always practical. We have a 600 square foot apartment and so we ended up taking a lot of things back. We wanted to make sure we were only hanging onto thing that sparked joy or would definitely be useful enough to keep around 365 days of the year.

But my mother-in-law keeps giving us kitchen gadget gifts. She uses her employee discount and brings us new kitchen items on a monthly basis. There are so many items at this point, it could fill up a cabinet of its own. My husband tried to tell his mom that we weren't interested in all of these things and it went poorly. Her feelings were very hurt and she was quite cold to him for awhile. My husband explained to me that giving gifts is her love language and it's her way to bond with us and show her love. While I so appreciate the sentiment and where her heart is with these gifts, I know she is spending hundreds of dollars on items that we physically can't store. I've tried to be more blunt by stopping her when she mentions something by saying, "Oh that sounds like a really neat item, but we're just packed full in this place that I think we'll have to pass."

I'm doing my best but I just don't think it's cutting it! I don't want to hurt her feelings, especially as a new member of the family. Do you have any advice for me of how to handle this delicate situation?

Thank you!
Over Gifted


Dear OG,

What really stood out to me in your letter was when you said that you and your mother-in-law initially bonded over a shared love of cooking and cooking tools. I don't think it's a coincidence that she is holding tight to that connection with you. I imagine that it's incredibly difficult for a mother when her son gets married — you have replaced her as the woman in her son's life. So I understand her urge to keep you and her son very close, even if she's going about it the wrong way.

Since you have both tried tactful ways of tell her that these gifts are not only not necessary, but actually unwelcome, without success, we can assume that she isn't going to take the hint. Maybe it's time to try a whole new tactic:

Your mother-in-law is super enamored with cooking gadgets, that's obvious. But also, I think she probably sees this hobby as her best connection to you (in fact, she might not even realize this consciously). Maybe you two (or three if your husband wants to join in) could find a new hobby together. One that doesn't include physical items. Maybe you could become foodies and start trying all the best restaurants in your area (she can pay if she wants to!). Maybe you could check out some museums and art galleries and start appreciating art a little more. Maybe you could get really into hiking and explore some day trips.

The point is: she wants a way to connect with you and if you give that to her in another way, she may suddenly feel less of a need to buy your attention with gifts.

I hope that helps! Good luck.

Love,
Alice

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