Relationship Q&A: Pricey "Guilt" Gifts

Expert answers to your relationship questions.
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Q. My husband doesn't see his kids from his first marriage often, so he makes up for it by giving them expensive holiday gifts. I don't think it's right, but he won't listen. What can I do?

Sallie M. Foley, M.S.W., a therapist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, answers:

A. Most likely, your husband is grieving for the times he's missing in his children's lives and guilt-ridden that he may be causing them pain. His lavish gifts are his way of conveying his love.

Try to assure him that his children need his presence in their lives more than they need presents. Could he negotiate for more frequent visitation? Could he call or e-mail more often? As for actual gifts, recommend something personal, like a scrapbook of mementos. It will mean more than a store-bought toy. If he still feels the need for big spending, suggest he establish college funds. Most importantly, let him know you understand his concerns and will support him in any way you can.

Do you have a marital problem that you just can't seem to resolve -- over money, sex, kids, work, the in-laws? Send your questions to Although we can't answer questions personally, we'll choose selected letters each month for our guest therapist to answer.


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