The holiday season is a time for giving. But sometimes divorce can leave you feeling like a Scrooge with plenty of “ba-hum-bug” to go around. If glad tidings of peace, love and joy move you to be generous towards your ex, there’s no reason not to include him or her on your gift list. Just keep in mind these gifting do’s and don’ts from The Good Men Project blogger Sinta Ebersohn:
Don’t Get Too Personal: Now is not the time to acknowledge your ex’s love of lacy underwear! “Ensure that the gift is appropriate and not too personal, for it might give the wrong impression,” Ebersohn says. “Lingerie, flannel pajamas, perfume, jewelry and intimate items are not a good idea.”
Do Keep it Practical: Books, kitchen gadgets, gift cards, plants, tools, fruit or candy are all “neutral” and useful gifts. Don’t give “something that might trigger unpleasant memories for either of you or evoke a brand-new argument about an old disagreement best left in the past,” Ebersohn cautions. Likewise, don’t go overboard — even if you can afford it. “There is no need to offer more than a modest symbol of love and respect.”
Don’t Play Dirty Santa: Resist the urge to give a mean-spirited, spiteful or ironic present to your ex. No matter how contentious your relationship, try to take the high road during the holiday season.
Do Consider New Partners: If you and your ex are amicable and have moved on to other relationships, be sure and give a gift that your ex and their new partner can both enjoy. (See: Keep it Practical) No matter how well you all get along, giving your ex a gift that evokes an inside joke only the two of you would know is probably not the best way to demonstrate the holiday spirit. “Beware not to outshine the new partner with such an extravagant gift they’ll never be able to match or compete with,” says Ebersohn.
Don’t Make Gifting Competitive: Establish boundaries for holiday giving to ex-in-laws or mutual friends. If your ex insists on make gift-giving during Christmas or Hanukkah a competitive sport, try taking the high road by giving gifts of self instead. For example, you might make your ex-in-laws favorite Christmas cookies or visit an aging ex-aunt in the nursing home.
Do Establish a Budget: If you have young children who want to give a gift to your ex, if possible, talk to your ex and set a budget so there is equity in your giving. Involve the kids in selecting and wrapping the presents. “If the gifts are meant to be from the children, ensure that they are age appropriately selected,” Ebersohn says. “A five-year-old presenting a parent with a bottle of whiskey might be frowned upon in some circles.” Take a cue from Santa and allow them the pride of presenting the gift “from them” to your ex.
Remember, gifts should come in ribbons and bows but should never, ever have strings attached. Check your motives — and be honest! If you have any expectations (even of getting a “Thank you!”) for how your gift should be received or reciprocated, set aside your intentions and rethink gifting this year. It’s better to forgo gift-giving altogether than to hand over a present that will yield resentments and bitterness in the New Year.