Myth: A horse is a horse, of course.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

I didn’t understand this proverb until about six months ago when it came up in a discussion during my language class.  I found out that it means:

one should never be ungrateful or critical of a gift  

For me, one of the earliest triggers that something wasn’t right with my relationships was the act of gift giving.  Maybe because I was uncomfortable with lying about how thankful I was or the fact that the gift was a tangible reminder of the true nature of our relationship.  I don’t know, exchanging gifts has never been a positive experience growing up nor is it, today, with DH’s FOO (my in-laws).

horseIt felt like a good time to revisit it since the year of the Horse begins in China on the 31st of January and especially since some new stuff regarding this subject came up over the past six months with DH’s FOO, including this past holiday break.

1. Horse sense (common sense, practical thinking)

This past Christmas, DH received a really nice iPhone camera accessory from his brother (BiL).  This is a very cool gift…if you have an iPhone.  BiL makes fun of DH constantly because he doesn’t have one.  Needless to say, DH returned the gift.

This past summer during our visit home, BiL was showing us his new belt (don’t ask me why).  As we stood in awe of this invention to keep trousers in place, BiL says to DH: “you should get one”.  DH says: ‘No need, I have the same one already’ and points to his waist.  It was kind of a ‘funny’ moment (funny is code for totally ridiculous) to see the brothers wearing the same belt coincidentially.

A few weeks later, it is DH’s birthday and a package arrives for him.  And you guessed it, BiL sent him the same belt.  Not only was it the very same belt but there were two of them in the gift.  But wait, that is not even the best part.  BiL ordered the same size for DH as for himself.  Although, the two brothers are similar in height and used to wear the same size, DH’s size has changed drastically.  DH lost a tremendous amount of weight.  One could say BiL was playing it safe but wait, it gets really good.  DH lost this weight eight years ago and has maintained it since and has routinely communicated not to get him clothing (because it is always the wrong size – the old size).  The two belts (which cannot be adjusted for a smaller size) are waiting to be donated.

What about you?  Any gifts that made you say: huh?

2.  Beating (flogging) a dead horse (to insist on talking about something that has already been thoroughly discussed)

Following-up on a gift is quite common in DH’s FOO.  DH and I often have found ourselves saying ‘Thank You’ too many times that it ends up sounding like a broken record.

During the past holiday break FiL said we could use his car instead of renting one.  It was a generous offer until every day (12 days) when we saw him he would ask: “How is the car running?” and then repeatedly say “Bet your grateful that it has seat warmers in this cold”.  This is no joke – every day without fail.  And without fail, responding to the sound of FiL’s tone DH would say “Yeah, thank you for letting us use it.”

A couple days before Christmas FiL wanted to go to the supermarket to buy a ham for his old neighbour and then to drop it off at her house.  The situation transpired as such (DH was not with us):

FiL gives the ham and the Neighbour and her daughter thank him.  They share with us their holiday festivities and then:

Neighbour: What are you all up to? (I believe she was asking what we were doing for the holidays since she had told us what they were doing.)

FiL: Well, we went and got the ham, that’s what we have been up to.

Neighbour: Yeah, thank you so much for doing that.  How is DH?

(I answer her question.)

FiL:  I got you a good size ham because your family has grown (referring to the new grandchildren)

Neighbour: Yeah, we certainly have.  

Neighbour’s daughter: We especially love fighting over the bone every year (referring to the fact that FiL brings the ham over every year).

FiL:  Yeah, well this time, I got you the one without the bone so you can make soups out of it later, ya know (points to the ham resting on the table).

Neighbour’s daughter: (goes to the ham and picks it up) Oh yeah, thanks, good idea.  We will have to put it in a cool place…

The Neighbour and her daughter fuss over where to put the ham, in the garage, in the front closet where it is cold but won’t freeze, wrap in a towel, etc.  As they are doing this, FiL says his goodbye and we leave this awful, 100% uncomfortable situation for me, behind.

3.  Straight from the horse’s mouth (a source of insider information)

It is common in DH’s FOO to use clichés and reinforce them – like, it’s the thought that counts.  Referring to the fact that when someone gives you a gift, regardless of whether or not thought about the gift receiver was considered, the important thing to remember is the gift giver’s intentions.  This may well be the case in healthy relationships, bad gifts can be given with good intentions.  Except growing up narc, good intentions don’t mean much when it is frequently and consistently followed by hurtful behaviours or ulterior motives.  But do gift givers always have good intentions?  I got a little insight into how DH’s FOO view gift giving.

Background: BiL and SiL went on holiday and bought gifts for their friends.  Here is the conversation that transpired after (word for word):

BiL: …across from Town X and across that other bridge is another little town basically but it’s where XYZ vineyard, so the winery is there, so we picked up a bottle for a co-worker.

DH: That’s one who…? (asking who the co-worker was to see if he knew him)

BiL: Who will love you forever

(SiL answers DH’s question about who the co-worker is since DH does know him)

chocoPerhaps, he meant it as a joke.  And as the conversation continues SiL and BiL inform us they went to our supermarket to do their chocolate shopping (to bring back chocolates for friends back home) and began to laugh when telling the story.  They said that the chocolates were a lot cheaper at the supermarket than the boutique chocolatier stores.  The supermarket does sell speciality chocolates (as stated on the box).  To end the conversation SiL says (about their friends) with a laugh (word for word):

SiL: “And they don’t know really” (laughs)

Even If I cut them some slack because no body is a perfect gift giver, my intuition tells me the manner in which they told the story and how much they chuckled and laughed made me feel uneasy.

During this past holiday break, FiL (DH’s father) gave a box of food to some of his neighbours.  When he told us that he had done so, he added:

FiL: “I figured that will bring in dividends throughout the year, ya know.”

He is referring to the fact that he will get free meals from his neighbours throughout year.  What percentage return is FiL figuring?

“A gift is a gift, of course?”

The definition is:

“A gift or a present is an item given to someone without the expectation of payment. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free.”  (Source: Wikipedia)

When does a ‘gift’ stop being a gift?  When I think of BiL’s phrase “who will love you forever” I think about the times I tried so hard to give the best gift ever to my mother and how much I wanted her love in return and how that expectation never came through. A gift, for me, was a way to buy love and get recognition – I wanted something in return.  It was the hope that this one item would transform a relationship that was never based on anything of value – respect, unconditional love, trust – I used to believe that a gift was magic.

When I think of DH’s FOO and the gift giving expectations, I am conflicted with my disgust for them and for myself.  Mostly, because I know I carried this expectation of gift giving with many of my friends into adulthood.  My friends and I don’t exchange gifts anymore – not to punish myself or them – but to really understand its meaning for me.

This last holiday season I read an advertisement in the metro and it said:

“it isn’t the thought that counts, it’s thought that counts.”

That felt appropriate to how I am feeling about it after this past holiday season – I need to give this some thought.  Gifts are not about obligation or images or anything.  A gift is a gift – nothing more, nothing less.  If this can’t be so with DH’s FOO then I’ve got my work cut out for me during the Year of the Horse, fittingly enough.

Hugs, TR

Related posts:

@ IBC: Gift Giving by NarcissistsGiving Gifts to Narcissists

The Narcissistic Continuum: Super Santa

P.S. The photo of the horses is of a traditional event (“ring riding”) in a small village where the rider uses the pointed stick to catch the ring that is hung in the air while riding the horse down a short track.  As the competition goes on the diameter of the ring gets smaller.


51 thoughts on “Myth: A horse is a horse, of course.

  1. Hi TR,
    I haven’t read an ACON blog in months, so this was a real treat–your thoughts about gifting with Ns ring SO true for me! Gifts are either passive aggressive (like your BiL w/the iPhone camera and belt–my god, he isn’t even trying to be subtle, how horrible), or have strings attached. My dear SO has never been the greatest gift giver, but not for lack of trying. Intent makes all the difference in the world.

    Thanks for the ping (although I am still wondering how that post fits with this one??), but mostly thanks for the reminder of all the great reading I’ve been missing out on! I really enjoyed this, TR. And your site looks great! Other than all the FOO contact over the holidays, hope all is well with you.




    • Hi Kitty,
      Gift giving is such a weird experience in his family.

      I apologise for the ping back. I had started this draft with an example of BiL and SiL’s use of the expression ‘pay it forward’. They use it a lot and it still feels like obligation to me. I had put your link in a while ago and did not update this part when I took out that example. I will take it out. I am very sorry.

      I hope all is well and thanks for the comment.


      • No need to be sorry! I just didn’t understand the connection. I love your “Horse” and Year of the Horse analogy, and how you define the old adages and go on to show how they’re used by your FOO. Really fitting, and a pleasure to read.

        I’m also curious how your BiL and SiL use “pay it forward.” Something about that expression has always bugged me, not sure why. Maybe because it’s been hijacked by narcissists congratulating themselves on how “selfless” and “generous” they can be. (It’s important for many narcissists, like my sister, to see themselves this way, even when nothing could be further from the truth.) Of course this is not the same as genuinely giving because you want to and because you know it’s the right thing to do, the original meaning of the phrase. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.



      • Hi Kitty,
        Thank you very much.

        The ‘pay it forward’ came through on FB. SiL posted twice about paying it forward for her neighbors by raking the leaves for them and taking ice/snow in her neighbor’s driveway. The posts got her a bunch of recognition. And her caption was ‘we’re paying it forward’. And I had remembered your take on it. That phrase is often misused because in fact pay it forward means the ‘debt’ is not given to the lender. I liked your take from politician stand point because it really shows how it can be misused. And like you said about your sister, my BiL and SiL were using it to show their generosity to their friends on FB. Plus, I saw this phrase used to instill obligation into people who get great opportunities, ‘now, it is your responsibility to pay it forward’. It is making someone to feel obligated that because something ‘good’ happens who then have to feel indebted because ‘good’ by itself is not allowed. I really enjoyed that article because I began to understand its meaning and how it is misused in our culture, especially by my N family/friends.

        xx TR


  2. You bring up a good point about gifts. I’ve been musing on this–growing up, I got the most inappropriate gifts (porcelain collector dolls, when I had zero interest in dolls, other gifts that were just so very inappropriate). Here’s my theory; by giving the completely wrong gift, the Narc gets to score by pulling out the “ingrate” card. Example: I’m an American, and I put myself through college, without a single cent of support from my family. This was not cheap–about $10,000/year back in the 1980s, when minimum wage was $2.85/hour. With all my money going toward tuition and apartment (I shared a 2-bedroom flat with 5 other girls), I went around in rags and ate crumbs. My last year of school, when my money situation was at its most dire, for Christmas my NFOO gave me a single gift: a videocassette recorder. I didn’t own a television. My roommates didn’t own a television. This lack of a television was not a secret; it was a source of much NFOO merriment that I had no idea what television programs were popular, *because I didn’t have a television*. The vcr was utterly useless ot me. The $200 or so that they spent on the thing was more than I spent on food in 10 weeks–and I would have broken down in grateful tears for food. However, the NFOO got a lot of mileage complaining about how “ungrateful” I was after receiving their extravagant gift.


    • Wow, that is awful; the gift becomes a tangible item to hold you accountable for. “See, I got you something and you can’t be grateful for it.” Maybe why NFOO destroy the true meaning of gifts. It becomes about the ‘one’ thought – getting the gift rather looking at the whole of it – thinking it through. Because clearly getting someone a VCR without a television is so pointless and hurtful when someone is trying to keep it going financially.

      Thank you for sharing your story. xxTR


  3. Funny about the belt story because my NM gave me an extra small belt when I was 9 months pregnant. It was a totally bizarre gifting kind of rude, like she was implying I needed to lose weight quickly. My parents were also weird about not wanting us to rent a car when we visited them, but making faces like we were inconveniencing them when we wanted to actually use it (ok, it was mostly my mother pulling faces) and being mad if the seats and mirrors were moved. I think it was a way for them to have more control over our activities.

    I feel very uncomfortable with receiving gifts too. Although I do rather like giving the, if I happen to find something that I think would be special for someone.

    Great post.


    • OMG, that is so pointless when someone is pregnant. Wouldn’t someone who is pregnant need other gifts?

      I hadn’t thought about the car as a form of control; I think there might be something to that.

      I like that, if you see something special that makes you think of someone. That is really nice.

      Thank you. xxTR


  4. I love that last quote about “It isn’t THE thought that counts, it’s thought that counts.” The second half entails it isn’t a moment in time but an overall way of being. Love the picture. 🙂


    • When I first saw the billboard I didn’t get it. And then I, funnily enough, had to give it more thought ;). I wish I had taken a picture of it. Thanks! xxTR


  5. TR, what a great post. The business with your FiL, well, that guy is truly pathological. He gives one gift (the freaking ham) and the rest of the discussion HAS to be about that ham? This guy is really creepy (I remember when you were out on the boat with him, and also him trying to force you to eat the snack). Your BiL’s gifts to your husband went beyond passive aggression and entered the zone of “insult gifts.” I can only say about him, what an asshole. He’s jealous of your DH for losing weight.

    My NM usually gave me very random bizarro gifts that were often silly and rarely my style. Occasionally she’d give me something, like a neck pillow, while enthusing about how “it will change how you sleep, which will change your life.” Every gift was a life-changer. And then, of course, after three years of estrangement, that dumb sandwich baggie of biscotti. No comment.
    🙂 We all know how “gifts” can be acts of provocation or aggression. I like your policy of not giving gifts until you can feel completely free and clear about what they mean. xo CS


    • Hi CS,
      FiL is so interesting to observe. His N behaviors have really come out with MiL’s passing. Or maybe I am so aware of it more?

      Your comment and Kitty’s about the passive aggressiveness is really helpful. I hadn’t look at it like that. I started to write more (drafts and such) about DH’s FOO because there are so many undercurrents. And I get a sense that BiL is conflicted by his idolization of DH and his contempt for him because of the idolization. I don’t know. It is so subtle sometimes and then when he gets a gift like that, it really shows the under currents.

      Gifts and Ns, such a common theme among a lot of us. After going through this last time, I am getting to the point of enough. I think I’m ready to send a note, starting with SiL, not to exchange gifts. I have some time as all our birthdays are the later half of the year.

      Thanks for your comment, like the biscotti and others there is something more behind it. xxTR


  6. This is a wonderfully put together post. Your posts are always so well written and organized.

    These gifts are so right up the ally of the narcs. Really, they must have to actually THINK hard about how to give gifts this thoughtless. It never ceases to amaze me. The belts were classic! It’d be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    What you mentioned at the end about your in-laws and their nasty comments about people not knowing the actual value of the gift or how they recipient would now be obligated to them, well that just takes the cake. My NM gets a kick out of that kind of stuff. She loves to give gifts to my kids that she knows will piss me off (she and my step dad keep threatening to give my kids baby chickens. CHICKENS! What am I going to do with a chicken?)

    I wrote a post at the beginning of my blogging about the gifts I would get. My NM uses gifts as leverage. A way to extract some future payment. She also uses them to chastise me if I’m not appropriately grateful. She used to buy tons and tons of stuff for my newborns, stuff I didn’t want, need, or like. Then she’d go through their closets to make sure I hadn’t given it away and to make sure I was using it. It wasn’t enough to just take the gift, I had to LOVE it too. And if I didn’t I was ungrateful. She uses gifts to make herself feel good and she creates a huge production about asking us for ideas, debating those ideas, and asking me questions, all in an effort to suck more attention for herself. Every gift comes with so much drama that I dread these occasions. My sister likes to buy really expensive gifts (when she remembers to buy gifts) and then make you feel badly because she’s broke. And my MIL, well, she’s the best. Often her gifts are gifts of time with her. A trip…with her. A bottle of wine…to share with her. And as I wrote in my last post, often I end up paying for half of the gift. She’ll buy some of it and then expect us to cough up the rest of the money to complete the gift (speakers to go with a stereo, plane tickets to take the cruise she tried to force on us.) Sometimes, she’s bought me gifts to force her traditions and values on me (a bible, a “good wife” manual, porcelain houses to decorate with for Christmas that were just like her’s.) My favorite are the gifts though that are so cheap as to be tacky: HALF of a 2 wine glass set she got for free, a scarf and hat set that she separated out and gave half to my BIL to give me. And these are just a few examples!

    I would gladly take no gifts as I hate that I am then “indebted” in their minds. But when I tried to beg off of giving gifts, well, then I was ungrateful. No gift from a narc comes without strings or a back handed slap.


    • Thank you, Jessie.

      The chickens, ugh. Their misuse of gift giving is so widespread. It has become so abused.

      The follow up is uncanny, they want to make sure their ‘recognition’ is held up. Their image as being so ‘whatever’ is continued long after the gift process is done.

      Your comment “Every gift comes with so much drama that I dread these occasions.” Yes! That is exactly it. I am so fed up now that I think I’m going to say something this year – I’m working on the courage to do so. The presentation of the gifts to me and DH is so funny. I almost thought of recording it on video and posting it. BiL, FiL, SiL make a presentation of the gift. It is so comical.

      I remember reading that about MiL. Her gifts are all about her and not about you, the recipient. I’ll check out your early post on this.

      Thanks for your sharing your story.

      Hugs, TR


  7. I enjoyed reading your creative post, TR! I love the picture of those hefty horses…Clydesdales are they?

    A passive-aggressive gift is a real crazy-maker. It’s an insult that requires the receiver to appreciate/thank the giver. Well, one year my sister gave me a bottle of spray-hair-dye to cover my gray-colored roots. “Gee, thanks. I guess.” Lucky for me on the prior year, I got a Granny Scarf to put around my shoulders. I asked my younger sister, “Did you buy me a cane, too?” gggrrrr…..she admitted that it looked like something our Grandma would wear but it hadn’t occurred to her when she bought it. Uh-huh. Maybe this year, I’ll give her some denture cream. (You know I won’t. I don’t play those kind of games but it’s always fun to fantasize!) xo CZ


    • Hi CZ,
      Thank you! I’m not sure what kind of horses they are. They look like Clydesdales, though. That is it, something I hadn’t thought of until the comments here – a disguises for the other person’t feelings.

      Those kind of gifts are very insulting. We can fantasize 😉 – same here, oh, the insulting gifts I could give to my sister-in-law – hahaha, but we won’t. xxTR


  8. Oh, TR, this made me remember and also cry. Those inappropriate gifts! With my NM, they were always insults. “Where is MY gift, after all I have done for you?” There was nothing she did in that visit except make me sleep in my fiancee’ truck because (at 37 and divorced…she wouldn’t allow us to sleep in a normal bed in her huge house). Every gift I made or bought her was NEVER enough…even the milk coat I bought from a girlfriend and sent to her. She stuffed it back in a box…not even folded…and sent it back saying that ‘why whoul


    • Big Hugs to you. I feel the same way. It is a very cruel thing. It is so unbelievable painful to think of the time and effort to get them/do something nice and to turn around and discard it. The pain of their dismissiveness hurt so much, and we wanted their love in return – never receiving it – gift or no gift. Your NM following up after 15 years, doing that, is unbelievable – a way to regain control.

      That is a really good point, because as we change internally and it isn’t always felt externally. Yes! And praise, we believe we don’t deserve it – man, it really feels uncomfortable.

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your story. Hugs, TR


  9. would she want a fur coat in the South? She went beyond rude. I spent a full year embroidering a hand made quilt and she never used it…until recently at Xmas and she made sure that I knew after 15 years she put it that night on the bed. Geez. We give gifts because …if we are children of Narcissists, we hope that they will be the one thing that makes them love us: it never works, and queers our entire attitudes of gift giving. It is the same thing with praise…we don’t think we deserve it and we act embarrassed.. Your blog posting


  10. Brought up so many memories…and all of them tied to the narcissists in our lives. I also think that when we heal, we give gifts from the real love and generousity of our hearts, and people don’t understand this. They think we are still looking for acceptance and approval. It’s a hard thing to convince others that we are just grateful for life and health. A really good blog posting, TR….you covered it so well. you made such connections with so many of us.


  11. Hi TR,
    I love how you used sayings to lay out the issues. I think the “don’t look at a gifted horse in the mouth” made sense at the time period, because then, a horse, even if it wasn’t a great horse, could still be used for something. What’s annoying is that people have lost sight of the original point of the phrase and they just repeat it without giving any thought (no pun intended) to whether it applies to the situation or not. Like, what use could you possibly have for an iphone camera accessory if you don’t have an iphone? Or, like Anniemouse related, what use is there for a VCR recorder if you don’t have a tv? It’s as if the saying has become sort of “standard policy” to say that, even when it doesn’t apply 😛

    I can totally relate to how you feel about gift-giving. I’m struggling very much with the same issues. Another thought that I got when I read this is that it seems to me that Ns want a lot of appreciation for their gifts and get angry if you don’t like them -even when they’re blatantly buying you stuff that you don’t like/need but if you happen to buy them something they always dismiss it. They have a sort of double standard, I think, when it comes to gifts. Was that the same in your FOO?

    Kara xxoo


    • Kara, I think your onto something with this —>”Ns want a lot of appreciation for their gifts and get angry if you don’t like them -even when they’re blatantly buying you stuff that you don’t like/need” I said something similar to DH the other day about his mother: she treats me AWFUL, but I’m still expected to “like” her and be “family” (including loving each other and enjoying time together). That is a hard pill to swallow, being forced to enjoy/like/appreciate blatant disregard for us and insults. I think these gifts are a very tangible representation of the mindset of narcs and why it is so very painful. They want to hurt us and they want us to appreciate them for it.


      • Yes! It seems that DH’s FOO want us to say ‘Thank You’ repeatedly. That is a good point because there were more examples – FiL went around and followed up on the pears, he couldn’t wait for them to come around and say Thanks. They had their families to deal with and events, etc. He couldn’t wait until the festivities died down after the New Year. It was so uncomfortable for me when he would meet someone in the hallway and say ‘hey did you get the pears, how were they, you got them on time, not frozen?’ I don’t understand this behavior exactly, but with FiL I think he wants to reinforce his image of generosity?

        As for my FOO, ugh, that was the double standard. And I had to have appreciation for everything – water, food, whatever they did for me. I had to show my appreciation in the way they wanted – do what they say, allow them to control me. If I deviated, I wasn’t grateful for the food they provided, the shelter they provided. What is funny is that in some way they punished me with manipulation of food, shelter and clothing by withholding and I still had to show gratitude when I didn’t get something to eat when I was hungry!

        I think it is a form of silent oppression. Controlling their image, our behaviors (response to it) but societal we can not say we are ungrateful, we don’t like it. It is very cruel.

        I can remember your stories about the gifts from your NM. You handled it very well and I’m hoping this year I can deal with DH’s FOO on this. One step at a time.

        Thank you for your comment and the info on the proverb. Hugs, TR


    • Thanks, it wasn’t easy to muster up the courage to say to my mother: “do not send me any more packages”. It really is one step at a time. I’m finding that saying no is becoming easier but it still takes work. I think what helped me in dealing with my mother was the support I got from you guys and also, what Jessie said “They want to hurt us and they want us to appreciate them for it.”, keeping that in mind gives you the strength to reject their gifts, since they’re not really “gifts”. You have to be able to let yourself feel angry about the emotional blackmail they subject us to. But it has to be done when you’re ready for it and not before. DH used to on my case all the time about telling my mother not to send the gifts but I was only able to do it when I felt strong enough to face her.

      Kara xxoo


      • I can imagine it wasn’t easy, it has been on my mind and especially so after these events. That is right, I have to feel right about it. I am starting to feel like I can do it because your stories and others, I’ll let you know – the next round of gifts (birthdays) isn’t until the later half of the year. I wanted to write this and with your comments help remind me of why I don’t want to exchange gifts when the time comes. xx TR


  12. I remember when I was first married….my mother bought a pewter coffee set…and liked it so much she gave it to herself…and bought me a dented and pieced together silver plated one. LOL! Typical of a Narcissist. When she buys presents, she is sure to buy for herself first, and we get the dregs. Or I did. Lots of lessons learned in this behavior. the entrance of a Narcissist socially. Never changes.

    Lady Nyo


    • OMG, that is typical. That has happened with MiL, ugh. That is an excellent point, this one behavior can really illustrate and show to us the very nature of the relationship – the ugliness behind a well packaged gift. I think that is why many of us have written about it and can relate to it. Hugs, TR


  13. Pingback: Gift giving by Narcissists | In Bad Company

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  15. A lot comes to mind for me on this one…way too much. My birthday is right after Christmas so pretty much every year from friends and family the gifts were combined. I also received monies from relatives and was always told to save it to buy clothes. I was never allowed to do fully what I wanted to do with it…sometimes but more times than not I was told to save it. I’ll go into that later… Every year my mom would get me clothes that were inappropriate for my age. They were not the style I liked plus they were always larger than what I wore. I always ended up returning them. She finally got the hint after 30 years to quit buying me clothes. Now with my Narc GC sis, I finally quit giving her gifts to her about 7 years ago. These gifts I had put a lot of thought into something that could help her with her home or patio etc. One year, I asked where the fire pit was that we gave to them for Christmas and her husband said it was given away and he said he was not happy about it. I also gave her a really cute decorative wheel barrel to hold her plants in because she said she loved the one I got my mom. One day I went to her home and it was tossed in the front yard as if hoping someone would steal it. After that and the fire pit, I told my DH I was never giving them a gift again other than a bottle of wine. Now, with my NM, it has always been hard. I too was seeking approval or some kind of affirming love from her but it always seemed like she was disappointed and still does. One Christmas, I had already moved out and living on my own for a good year or so and my GC had just moved back home after leaving her husband after one year of marriage(no surprise there!) He, too, was a narc. Anyway, I come over to my parents house to spend the day and open gifts etc. We’re sitting in the living room and are waiting for NM to join us to open gifts. She’s storming around the house like she’s pissed off and is ignoring me, my dad & my GC. I look at my dad and ask “what’s wrong?” He looks at both of us like he has no idea and just says, “let’s open gifts without her.” So we did. It was awkward to say the least and uncomfortable. Later in the day, more company was coming over and she acted like nothing happened that morning. Like we were the perfect family but what she forgot to tell our guests is she was in selfish bitter mood and pretty much ignored us all Christmas morning. Nothing was ever discussed about it nor do I know why she was so mean and upset. That is one story my GC have always agreed on was how awful that day was. I can’t help but keep posting to what you write….it’s like I’ve found a new friends that finally gets me.


    • The control over the gift they give is so telling. This is a common trait – they see the gift they give you as theirs.

      It is so sad and disappointing when our mothers dismissed our gifts. (Hugs) It is an incredibly painful thing to see and deal with. It is such a tangible, noticeable way in which they dismiss us and disapprove. That Xmas morning really seems awful and then to turn around and pretend like everything was okay. It was like she was punishing everyone and no body had a clue for what – leaving everyone else in a state of confusion and sadness because according to your NM something was wrong. So everyone’s Xmas had to be ruined because she was in a bad state. Ugh. My heart goes out to you, I feel the pain and confusion and awkwardness of that day.

      I’m glad you have commented. Sharing your stories helps me not feel alone and helps me see behaviors of my FOO in a new perspective. I appreciate that. 🙂


      • “The control over the gift they give is so telling. This is a common trait – they see the gift they give you as theirs.”

        That IS true… and it never matters how long you’ve had the gift; it is still theirs.

        About 22 years ago, an acquaintance gave my NM a beautiful glass reindeer for Christmas. She kept it for about a year, and then gave it to me for a Christmas decoration for my first apartment. I really liked it, and used it as a decoration for years; it can be seen in my Christmas photos from 1993 on. I always wrapped it up very carefully each year after the season was over. I eventually got it safely to my first house (which I share with her for financial reasons), and used it there for several years.

        A couple of years ago, before I had put it away for the year, either I bumped the cabinet it was on or something I was carrying caught on an antler. Whatever the case was, it fell on the floor and was smashed to pieces. As I was standing there wrestling with the urge to cry over this beautiful ornament I’d had for almost twenty years, do you know what Her Lordship said?



  16. It’s getting to the point I dread the last part of the year….NM’s b-day is in October,, Thanksgiving/November & Christmas. Every year drama seems to roll hard and big and I think to myself I should be able to enjoy this time of year with DH and every year I just stress about it. It’s never about what i want EVER!


    • Me2! I so dread the last part of the year – the last half of the year is also everyone’s birthdays. That is it exactly. We are allowed enjoyment for all these holidays but somehow our FOO have managed to suck that enjoyment and that right to it away. I find I have a lot of anxiety and stress about it too and I am slowly trying to piece together what I need. It is a lot to handle and so I’m trying to focus on the small steps, next birthday/holiday rounds I’m going to tell BiL/SiL that I don’t want to exchange gifts. Small steps. 🙂


  17. Oh, just to continue this thread a little bit. This week I was asked by two men in India to be a peer-reviewer of their Poetry Journal. I was at first confused, but in the doing, I realize this is very much of the present theme! It is an unpaid position, and it is a LOT of work. It is a GIFT of my time and abilities to critique their articles


  18. When I (after reading and critiquing 2 of the very long SIX articles they sent me last night) (till 3:30am) I told them that I would pass on any one that I felt I couldn’t critique. I got this email back this morning that ‘they were very disappointed in me”. Hah! They are just downloading work that they don’t want to do


  19. And of course it is loaded with two male Narcissists attitude towards women…in this case, me. I am the Gift Horse, and they have a NERVE questioning what I will do here. I have my own workload, career, writing, etc…publishing, yet they are looking for a compliant workhorse…which ain’t me. LOL!


      • Oh, it’s very much an attitude of many, many upper class Indian men. Women are just there to serve…even a stray foreign woman, me. LOL! I just wrote a two page article about this mentality in India, and female infantcide and rape, and will post it next week… I am very pissed off. Morons.
        Lady Nyo


      • Hi Lady N and Cassandra,

        My parents (being from India) have a mentality very much like the two men.

        First, ‘Thank You’ is not needed to be said to someone but you have to show gratitude by doing what they say. So a simple ‘thank you’ and then shut up is not something I have seen in my parents or my extended Indian family and friends.

        Second, the criticism you received – disappointment – is a tactic my Indian family uses all the time. It is negative reinforcement – so you will ultimately do it because of the negative attack. I have just finished a book on manipulation and this is one of the tactics that is used. The author explains this and the whole time I am thinking that this is how my family operates.

        That is so great you said NO to them – go you! Yes, a woman’s worth is very low in India and I have a hard time understanding the culture because many don’t see the rape, corruption, injustice that occurs every day – example, dowry deaths.

        When I was in grad school and I thanked an Indian man for cooking at an event – he looked at me and said ‘Don’t be so American and say thank you’. It is not sufficient to say the words – one will ultimately have to pay it back in 10 fold. And in this case, I almost did.
        Hugs, TR


      • Wow, thanks to both of you for the insights. It’s interesting to see how similar behavior plays out in different cultural contexts.

        TR, may I ask what book it was that you were reading? It sounds useful.


  20. Pingback: Aggression and Passive-Aggression | In Bad Company

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