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  • Writer's pictureMairead Molloy

How to gently tell a relative you don’t like a certain theme for gifts anymore..

Updated: Nov 4, 2023


We all have that one relative that latches onto something we said we liked a long, long time ago and always buys a present to do with it.

Whether it’s pugs, Star Wars, the colour purple or daisies, there’s usually at least one gift based around this particular theme. And with Christmas Day almost here, there’s no doubt many of us will be getting these gifts in our stockings once again. Undeniably, the initial thoughtfulness was incredibly sweet – a nice gesture from a loved one, showing that they remember something personal about you. But when so much time has gone by – even decades – it’s likely you have no interest in that particular thing any more…

or you have more than enough stuff related to it to be dealing with.

Navigating this can be tricky. You don’t want to hurt your relative’s feelings, but you also don’t want them to keep wasting their money on things you don’t actually want.

‘This relationship held big advantages for them, such as being the parent, or being in control, or being thought of as the special person who was totally in tune with you. ‘By continuing to buy you gifts on this theme they are acknowledging something that did once exist, but they are finding it harder to acknowledge that times have changed – and that maybe your relationship with them has changed too.

‘So on some level this feels almost threatening, as if to lose this connection they once had with you, they might lose you in some way.’In other words, there’s actually a sweet reason behind this particular habit. This makes it harder to break the news that you’re no longer a fan of the thing they think you so desperately love. So how do you approach this with family members? This is what the experts have to say…

Try to bite the bullet.

The first step is to recognise that the relative will probably want to know the truth, rather than waste time and money on meaningless gifts. ‘Living authentically includes showing up in relationships in a way that is meaningful. ‘So if you choose not to let someone know that their gifts are more appropriate to the person you once were, you are missing out on an opportunity to deepen your relationship as the person you are now.’

Be honest – but gentle You likely know this already, but there’s no need to say you hate a gift in front of everyone, or react with horror when you unwrap yet another item covered with owl motifs. ‘A gentle conversation about how you no longer like a particular thing, followed up by descriptions of the things you do now love, will make for a better connection overall with the people in your life.'

Be compassionate

When breaking a difficult truth it’s always good to be compassionate – after all, they clearly care a lot about you.

‘Try to have compassion for the relative who might really like the tradition of purchasing you something relating to your former interests,’ advises relationship consultant Mairead Molloy. ‘Also, remember you don’t have to hold onto old interests and traditions just because your family or friends think you should – you can embrace new interests and ideas together.’ If you truly think it will really hurt someone’s feelings, then be considerate of whether it’s actually worth it. You know better than anyone else.

Reinforce other interests

A good way of fixing this issue is to reinforce other, new interests you might have. Mairead adds: ‘Be honest with your feelings. Kindly, gently, clearly and concisely tell the family member that you used to like the childhood theme, e.g. ponies, but you have definitely moved on. ‘Tell them about your new interests.'

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