When my friend Barbara got flowers from her Ex this past Valentine's Day, she saw red--but not because of the roses he'd sent. She was made furious by what her ex probably thought was a lovely sweet gesture--a peace-offering.
Given that he had good intentions, why wouldn't she see it that way? Well, for one, their marriage imploded when his affair was accidentally uncovered and, guess what? She's still hurt and angry.
Barbara felt that her ex was vying for her forgiveness and it felt manipulative on his part to give her a gift. She wasn't having any of it and it would take a lot more than a bouquet of flowers to get him off the hook -- or to even open the door to that possibility.
Another woman told me her husband sent her a knife holder in the shape of a man, along with a note telling her he knew she'd enjoy thinking of him when she was using the knives. Humor like that may have been how they related in their marriage, but she was not amused. In fact, this jokey present enraged her.
In another case, an ex-wife sent her husband what she thought was a sweet card telling him of why she had to leave and explaining why it would all be for the best for everyone. It was not received well. In fact, he burned it within seconds of reading it and never responded.
The newly divorced woman who got earrings from her ex on her birthday promptly took the earrings to the store where he bought them, cashed them in and laughed all the way to the bank.
Of course, the intention of giving such gifts is to extend an olive branch, share a chuckle or soften the other person's pain. However, for those on the receiving end, the gifts come off as self-serving "please-forgive-me" gestures and they only serve to drive a deeper wedge between you and your ex.
Who Can Give Divorce Gifts
Divorce celebrations are an increasingly popular phenomenon as are divorce gifts and cards. Dozens of websites have popped up selling everything from wedding ring coffins, to ex husband voodoo dolls, phony alimony checks to her from him and to him from her, to ex toilet paper, to chocolate bars to t-shirts. You name it, it's out there. Or it will be soon.
But not everyone going through a divorce wants to "celebrate." For many, the end of their marriage is the saddest day of their life and the most devastating transition they will ever endure.
Call me Emily Post of marital dissolution, but these divorce gifts were not meant for people to give to their exes! In fact, one of the worst things you can do after you divorce, is give your ex-spouse a gift or a card. They hate it and they don't find it funny. Especially if you were the one who left!
The gifts and gags were designed for friends to give to you so you can hate your ex together. Getting a gift from "the enemy" will backfire every time.
My best advice is do not give gifts to your ex. Period. However, if you must give a gift, here are some things to think about:
If your ex is still upset about the divorce, nothing you do can make it better. A gift will not get you off the hook -- it will feel like salt in the wound.
Your ex will probably not feel the warm fuzzies you hoped he would so, even if you are on so-so terms, it's probably best to skip it (see #4).
Timing is everything -- but know that the timing may never be right.
Much like restraint of tongue and pen (wise words when you really want to say something nasty to an ex), restraint of gift and gag is the correct post-divorce etiquette when you're tempted to give your ex a present.
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