Ah, Christmas. 'Tis the season to share with Reddit that your husband gets you terrible Christmas gifts and then realize that his awful behavior is symptomatic of much bigger, more sinister problems in your marriage... That's what I always say, anyway!
One very stressed and sad woman recently posted in Reddit's relationships subreddit because she was so confused that her husband of eight years doesn't ever get her something nice for Christmas. At first glance, this story could seem like an entitled woman being ungrateful for her husband's modest gifts, but once you read into it, you realize this is something else. Something bigger. Something sadder.
Christmas gifts can be a tough subject in some households! If you are in a partnership, you eventually get into a rhythm with gift giving. Either you get each other something small, you go all out, or maybe you decide to jointly spend money on a nice dinner out or a weekend trip. There are a lot of different traditions couples eventually fall into when it comes to holiday gifts.
For this couple, the tradition has been uneven gift giving. The OP explains she and her husband have been together for ten years and married for eight. He goes "all out" for his family and friends when it comes to Christmas gifts, but she's "always an afterthought." For example, he got his Mom and sisters matching earrings with their birth stones in a custom setting, and he got his dad new fishing gear. He gave his friend a framed photo of the two of them fishing together.
"The same year," she writes, "he got me a controller for 'our' game console that I never play, and it usually gets used to add a third person to games when we have friends over." She knows Christmas doesn't have to be about material things. But, "the thing is," she writes, "I've never even gotten a card. Or a special dinner. Nothing. But he gives a card to everybody in his whole family and lets me sign it."
Now, I know what you're thinking and yes, she gets him a gift. A really nice one. Every single year. At first, she thought maybe he was saving up for something big, but she's given up on that idea. She has tried to talk to him about it many times, but it "normally just comes across like I'm being ungrateful or a brat about not getting anything I want and so the conversation ends." Sounds like some straight-up gaslighting to me!
They both work and are pretty well off. She reveals in the comments that he's a cardiologist and she's an ER nurse, so it's not a money issue. She always makes gift lists with modest things they can both use that would be easy to buy online. "He usually takes my list and that's the last I ever see or hear of it," she writes. He's given her ugly sweaters in the wrong size, socks, and an air freshener.
Then he asks her if she likes it, and she has to say yes because otherwise, it becomes a whole argument. She says she would would be totally happy with socks if there was a nice reason behind them, but the way he does it makes her feel like it's a test or something. It seems totally controlling, like he's daring her to say something negative about a gift he knows is awful. What disgusting mind games!
She writes that this behavior is extra strange because the rest of the year, he's nice and takes care of her and listens to her. In a comment, she adds, "I know he thinks Christmas is special and likes it because he loves going to his family's place and watching everybody open stuff and he's normally really nice and great, he always spoils me on my birthday. It's just like he suddenly becomes really cold and horrible to me at Christmas."
When she brings up the disparity in their gifts (this year she got him an engraved leather wallet and a handmade card; he told her a sweater he bought her on a cruise earlier this year counted for Christmas), he says, "You know that some people get nothing, right? You're welcome for hot water and a roof." So yes, we finally have the answer. He's a controlling monster, his actions at Christmas are a totally manipulative power move, and she deserves way better.
Commenters agreed with this assessment. "Wow," one person wrote. "He clearly does not think of you as an equal partner." "This...is what narcissist parents say to their poor abused children," someone else wrote. "This guy sounds like he really doesn't care about you at all," another wrote.
OP kept responding to comments, answering questions that slowly made her realize how unhappy she is in her marriage. Someone asked her how often she has to "curate his image" — in other words, how often she feels compellted to say things like, "You don't know him like I do."
"All the time," she writes. "But I didn't realize I was doing it until it was pointed out to me."
Eventually, she writes that she's going to start looking for a lawyer. "I realize now reading everything that my marriage is s--t," she writes. Everything from the gift-giving to the way he acts in public to their sex life shows that he doesn't care about her at all. He's a manipulative control freak with a God complex and she deserves way better.
This woman truly comes across like a saint. She seems like she's the best nurse and partner ever and has just made so many awful allowances for her terrible husband. It took this Reddit post and a barrage of supportive comments for her to sort of come out of this stupor realize her situation is much worse than she realized. He was her first boyfriend, they're young (she's 28, he's 32), and she never realized, until now, that things can and should be so much better. This Christmas, I really hope she gives him one last giant gift: a divorce.