Birthdays and holidays aren't happy for everyone - especially for those with passive-aggressive in-laws.
For the mother and father-in-laws too civilized for fistfights, rude remarks in the form of petty present exchanges provide an equally satisfying means of attacking new family members.
The in-laws in these stories don't need to say anything for their message to come across loud and clear.
All posts have been edited for clarity.
They Really Weren’t Kidding
“My partner and I have made it very clear that we’re not having children. Never. Just no.
And every Christmas and birthday, my partner’s mom wraps up baby outfits and gives them to us. There’s always some fake laughter (from her and others, not us) about how maybe the right outfit will change our minds and that we’re such good sports.
And then she sighs and pouts for the rest of the day about how she’s being cheated out of grandchildren.
So that’s fun.”
A First-Degree Offense
“My mother-in-law gave me this huge 16 x 20 framed picture of a document made to look all fancy with curlicues and calligraphy on certain words and such. The document was an honorary ‘P.H.T.’, which stood for ‘Putting Husband Through.’ It was a document essentially thanking me for putting my husband through his PhD program.
I found it very belittling (the in-laws did this every chance they got), and I had just been accepted into college myself, so I didn’t need their fake degrees.”
“It’s The Thought That Counts, Right?”
“For Christmas a few years ago. My fiancée’s parents got me a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.
I’m a very polite and grateful gift receiver, it’s the thought that counts, right? A $10 gift card doesn’t seem so bad, after all. I hugged them and thanked them as profusely as I would have if they had handed me $100, which, incidentally, is what they did with my fiancée’s sibling’s significant others. Along with a $50 gift card to the same bookstore. So they gave her brother’s girlfriend and sister’s fiancé $100 cash and a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble.
Here’s the kicker: while sitting around with the family, I happen to check my email. Barnes and Noble is running a special for Christmas. Buy $100 worth of gift cards and get an additional $10 gift card for free. For some reason, I found it extremely funny.
I look at it this way: it saves me money come Christmas time because I don’t have to get them anything super special. Instead I can spend a little more on my family, namely my grandma and grandpa because they’re just about two of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. Her parents will never accept me as part of the family, and that’s okay. However, if they choose to extend this same gift giving courtesy to our children (who don’t currently exist, but will one day) I will not tolerate it. I will not watch my kids open garbage from their grandparents while their cousins (who will exist in April) open amazing gifts from the same people. They can try to make me feel less-than, but not our children.
Thankfully, though, I have a very supportive and awesome family. We don’t see these people very much, even though we live closer to them than my family. It’s a drain going over to their house most of the time so we just stay away when we have the option. Ain’t nobody got time for that. It has a lot to do with them being in denial about mine and their daughter’s relationship. They’re very religious and I just so happen to also be a female. They have some awesome denial skills.”
She Was Not Tickled Pink By This Ensemble
“On my 21st birthday, I received from my soon-to-be mother-in-law a twinset – a deep, hot pink twinset in an angora wool. It was July. It consisted of a sleeveless v-neck tank and a high-necked cardigan. It was edged in pink velvet with orange and gold beadwork.
I was a tomboy who lived in baggy jeans and tight tanks. My favorite colors to wear were navy, gray, black, and white. I wore a hoodie, not a cardigan, if I got cold. It was as if she went into the shop and bought the thing she knew was the absolute, complete opposite of something I would wear. And it was expensive too.
I knew with absolute surety at that point that she really did hate me. That smirk.
Divorcing her spineless son three years later was the best thing I ever did.”
“I was visiting my wife’s family in Japan this summer past. Naturally, we had to visit the brother-in-law and his wife’s family.
Now, in Japan, gift giving is an art! We usually take suitcases full of gifts and return with more than we took. For my niece, we took a Disney princess dress and a couple of cute American outfits.
So the wife’s brother’s in-laws brought gifts too. They gave my boys t-shirts. And me? A four-pack of toilet paper.
No, we didn’t take it back to the States.”
He Probably Didn’t Feel Like A Million Bucks
“My mom gives my husband the absolute worst gifts possible. She only gets him gifts for Christmas, and, honestly, I would rather her not get him anything, but she thinks she is obligated.
One year, she gave him this awful printed hoodie. The print was dollar bills – just an ugly green hoodie with dollar bill prints. Oh, and it was also way too big for him. My husband in no way dresses like that, ever. So I have no idea why she thought that would be a good gift.
Last year, she gave him 3 t-shirts, which would be great, actually, if it weren’t for the fact that it was literally a pack of t-shirts. You know, they were the ones they sell at Walmart in the underwear section for no more than $10.
Yeah, clearly she adores my husband.”
A Welcome Gift That Really Socks
“The first time I ever met my future mother-in-law was at Christmas.
She went into my travel bag and took out a pair of my own socks, put a bow on them, then presented it to me as a Christmas gift. I assumed it was a gag gift-type scenario and laughed.
She was deeply offended that I didn’t appreciate her efforts to show me that I was welcome in the family.
I came to find out that she does it every year. It’s so freaking odd and I’ve never gotten used to it. When we had kids, my wife had to put her foot down and say that finally this re-gifting thing was no longer going to work.
I very honestly thought it was some sort of joke, and everyone just gasped and got visibly worried that I laughed. All she cares about, in everything that she does, is that she is glorified and her actions are acknowledged as being almost savior like in their generosity. She could have given me solid gold bricks or my own socks…what mattered her is that I celebrated her actions.”
Good Thing He Had A Backup In Tow
“My brother-in-law is a mechanic and I know very little about cars.
We needed an inexpensive used car quickly, as ours had been totaled in a wreck. He offered to sell us a car they had, and, being a mechanic, we thought it’d be a decent car for the price. He said there was some gunk in the fuel tank that, as he said, ‘needed to be run through.’
Well, it turns out that any mechanic should know that you don’t run gunk through the engine, or you destroy the engine. So, we paid about $2,000 for a car that took a crap within a week.
Now the gift: for Christmas, he gave us a tow rope.”
They “Literally Had Mountains Of Gifts”
“Years ago, after my mother-in-law remarried, we were forced to combine both families for Christmas.
The four grandkids (ages 3-6) on the other side literally had mountains of gifts – about 30 each, so that is over 120 gifts just for those four kids. My two boys, also ages 3 and 6, each got one gift – only one. The 3-year-old got a big remote control truck – nice gift, but they wouldn’t let him play with it because it had to be charged. The 6-year-old got a winter coat. He snuck away and was crying a bit, and my mother-in-law was such a witch about it. Does she have no clue what it’s like to be a 6-year-old and see a mountain of gifts and none of them are for you?
That’s how she raised my husband, too. He would get a winter coat 6 sizes too big, and the brother would get some awesome toy.
I still shake my head at the lack of logic.”
I Don’t Want To Know What She Meant By That
“The very first year I was with my husband, my mother-in-law gave me a panty and bra set from Victoria’s Secret (yes, very creepy, because it wasn’t everyday wear).
She gave it to me in her size, to make this more odd. We are built very differently – you can see that I have C or above cups, and, very clearly, she barely wears a B. And she made me open it in front of everyone and said, with a smug grin, something about my husband being pleased.
Oh, and it came with a frying pan.
I didn’t know about the Jocasta complex then, but the stories my husband has told me are nuts looking back. She used to strip naked in the hotel room in front of all of her boys, used to sun topless on the beach with them right there, she would just strip to show people her tattoo. I can keep going, but the times I saw my mother-in-law’s chest compared to my real mother, that I lived with for 22 years is really disproportional.
My husband told his mom never to buy me Victoria Secret stuff again. She didn’t, she just bought me clothes from Sears 4 sizes to big or 2 sizes to small ever after.”
He Was Bowled Over With Laughter
“My mother would always give bad, tacky, or just useless crap as gifts when I was a kid.
After I got married, she decided to gift me and my husband something for don’t-remember-what-occasion-if-any. It was a pair of bowls – nice big bowls, great for cereal, which was fine and nice. But, it was what was ON the bowls that sent me off into a near frothing rage.
All over it were the most racist stereotypes of Mexicans you would’ve ever seen: fat, wearing sombreros, sleeping at the base of a cactus, Mexican flags. Do you know what was even worse? My husband is Hispanic, not Mexican, and neither is his family. He is just brown and has lived his whole life in the States.
I wanted to beat her with the bowls while screaming, ‘what were you thinking?!’ but he just laughed at it and found it amusing, mostly because he saw it as her being so painfully oblivious to appropriateness that it crossed some line into the laughably absurd.
I kept the bowls because he laughed so hard at them, and he stills eats out of them to this day. Because of his amusement at it, I’ve chilled out over them, but still.”
A Gift Tradition That Needs To Be Gagged
“My significant other’s brother is an idiot who seems to think that getting someone just a gag gift without an actual gift is okay.
So far, his list of stupid presents he has given for birthdays and/or Christmas include:
-A 4 pack box of Spongebob mac and cheese for his 4-year-old niece for Christmas,
-A Justin Bieber CD for my birthday wrapped in a Victoria’s Secret bag,
-And a poop emoji necklace in a high-end jeweler’s box for his sister’s (my significant other’s) birthday.
Mind you, all of these gifts were stand-alone. He got nothing else to go with any of these. Suffice to say, we are kind of ticked off at him.”
This Christmas Dampened His Spirits
“All of the in-laws got me hip flasks and/or moonshine one Christmas.
What does one do with 5 hip flasks? Wear them like a belt?
I took it in stride and I don’t think it was coordinated. One was kind of funny, reading, ‘anti-zombie serum.’ But this was after I told the wife that I didn’t want drinks like she got me last year. And we were kind of going through a rough patch from a couple of things.
So, yeah, the in-laws kind of sort of tried to nudge me towards a drinking problem or something. Maybe that’s how they get past their problems? It sounds less insulting that way, but it seems worse overall.”
The Gift Of Unwanted Advice
“My mother-in-law has signed me up for a subscription to Weight Watcher’s magazine and was kind enough to send me photocopies of her own Weight Watcher’s guidebook with potential ‘problem foods’ like fajitas and bean burritos highlighted for my benefit.
I’m Hispanic, she’s white, and her son is way more enthusiastic about fajitas than I have ever been.”
His Gifts Were Priceless
“My father-in-law is the epitome of crazy old guy. If you looked in the dictionary for ‘crazy old guy,’ his picture would be there. This guy doesn’t care what anyone says about him and he says whatever he wants.
So, my boyfriend’s ex was high maintenance and not very nice. No one liked her. She was a spoiled, rich daddy’s girl. She used to leave my boyfriend lists of jewelry to buy her for holidays and birthdays. She also used to demand his parents do the same, and that they spend a certain dollar amount on her.
My boyfriend’s dad bought all of the clearance stuff from the drugstore and wrapped it up for her. She got expired hair dye, lice kits, laxatives, an enema, and power bars.
They broke up shortly after.”
This Present Could Have Started Another Civil War
“My father-in-law is a real idiot, though sometimes he means well.
I’ve got a thing for belt buckles. My best friend is a Civil War reenactor and has one that says CS (Confederate Solider), and I wanted the other one that was US (union solider). My husband’s father’s family are major Civil War buffs living in Fredericksburg, VA, and everything.
So, my father-in-law got me a US belt buckle (custom made, no less), which was really thoughtful, until he put it on a leather belt that had a 58 inch waist so I could wear it while I was pregnant with all of ‘my son’s babes.’
That’s literally what he said in front of the whole family. I’m not a large girl, but I’m not a little slip of a thing either. But still, I guess he was afraid I’d get really fat.”
“My ex mother-in-law hated me. She was always insulting me every chance she got. She and my ex father-in-law would also always brag about their rich friends.
Well, they would get super snobby and upset if you didn’t get them a well-thought-out gift, even though my ex husband and I were broke as church mice. So, I would start worrying about the next Christmas almost as soon as one had passed and try to find them the best gift I could with our meager earnings.
Christmas day comes around and we hand them our gift. It was something we would have only dreamed of for ourselves: a gorgeous hand-blown vase and serving platter that was amber, chocolate, and gold, all swirled together artistically.
My ex mother-in-law pretended to gush about it for a few moments, and then said outright, ‘Oh, I seem to have lost your gift when I went to go wrap it this morning, so here, this is for you.’ Upon opening the box, I discover it full of identical blue plastic Christmas tree bulbs – bulbs identical to the ones on the tree behind me. I thanked her politely while my ex father-in-law watched with a smug look on his face.
When they left the room, I flipped the clear plastic box full of bulbs over, and she hadn’t even bothered to remove the price tag. Emblazoned on the bottom was a dollar store price tag that said $1.25.
Needless to say, the best Christmas gift for them and for myself followed; I got a divorce and now we never have to see each other ever again.”
The Joys Of Getting Older
“My brother-in-law has a habit for being rather cheap.
The year I turned 50, he gave me a nose-hair trimmer. His daughter (my niece) confided in me that it was some giveaway he got from AARP. Mind you, a nose-hair trimmer is not a horrible gift (I did use it, after all), it’s just that in a room with relatives who are getting nice jewelry, box tickets to a basketball game, and other more expensive and thoughtful presents, I get a freebie nose-hair trimmer.
Welcome to old age!”
“I Don’t Know What To Do With It”
“My fiance’s mother’s boyfriend, when we first met him, implied that my fiancé got off on the glares we got for being an interracial couple.
He’d said a few other things, half of them I don’t even remember, but they were awful. He likes to pull the, ‘Well, I’m from the North, and you know up here we are all so accepting and tolerant!’ shtick, while saying some pretty hateful stuff.
So last Christmas, he gives me an African cat statue – you know, because I like cats. It’s not a bad statue, but considering who it came from and the fact that it had this big ol’ ‘Africa’ tag on it, I wasn’t sure what to say. I thought it was one of those unspoken rules that you don’t give black people things that are Africa-themed, even if it is an interest, or if they are from somewhere in Africa.
In my anger, I told my brother and my close friend. I pretty much said, ‘Oh, I got an African cat statue for Christmas!’ and their replies were nearly identical: ‘What racist a-hole gave you that?’
That statue is in the back of my closet. I don’t know what to do with it.”
“I got a crummy pair of earrings from my ex in-laws when I turned 29.
What made it insulting is that they thought I was turning 30 and even got a special ‘You’re 30’ card. When I awkwardly told them I was only 29, ex mom-in-law says, ‘Well, don’t expect as nice of a gift next year.’
I happily divorced a few months later. They knew me for over 7 years and had no idea how old I was.
At Least Her Gifts Were…Practical?
“My ex mother-in-law was nuts – like, seriously mentally ill.
One Christmas, there was an unusual amount of gifts under the tree and she kept harping on about how many presents she was buying everyone, insinuating that she, too, should be receiving tons of gifts by sheer virtue.
Christmas rolled around and we went to open our gifts. Turns out, she gift-wrapped everything from the pantry – instant potatoes, mac n cheese, canned pears etc. She was genuinely offended when we took everything and put it back in the cupboards.
Also, no one bought her extra gifts anyway, so that too, riled her up.”
“It Drowned Me”
“My husband is my mother-in-law’s favorite of two boys, so no one will ever be good enough for him. Needless to say, she basically hates me.
However, she loves every girl that dates my brother-in-law. Last Christmas, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend got a small gift card, a sweatshirt, a necklace, and a box of chocolates.
I opened my present to find a very large-looking bathrobe. She then told me she was worried it was too small and that I should try it on. I glanced at the tag and saw it was an extra-large size. I normally wear a size small, so I told her I was sure it would be fine and thanked her.
She ended up practically forcing me to try it on and humiliate myself in front of the family. It drowned me.”
He Thought He Was Useless
“The first time I met my father-in-law was during Christmas.
He gave me a tiny tornado: essentially it is a plastic tube full of soapy water you shake until it makes a little whirlpool in the tube. He also gave me a collection of microwavable plastic dishes for microwaving foods like pasta and rice. They had a line on the side saying ‘fill rice to here,’ ‘fill water to here.’
Honestly, I think it insulted me a bit more that he just assumed I was some worthless deadbeat dating his daughter who didn’t know how to cook for himself. Although, my wife (girlfriend at the time) was way more offended at the gifts than I was.”
When Hand-Me-Downs Are Downright Rude
“My mother-in-law gave me jewelry as a wedding day present.
It wouldn’t have been bad, except the jewelry was a gift to her by her husband and they were in the middle of their divorce.
I could have been fine with it, had she not went off a week prior about the jewelry being tacky and it having bad vibes from their marriage.”
The Gift That Keeps On Being Given
“My ex’s family always put a lot of thought into gift giving. Her parents always got everyone something, and then the family would draw names to find out who you were supposed to get a gift.
The first year, I didn’t get anything from anyone.
The next two years, I got a $25 gift card to Walmart from her brother. Her parents never got me anything.
The thing that would tick me off would be that they would explicitly ask for what everyone wanted. I would get the person that I had whatever they asked. The last year, I got this guy a free round of golf at the golf course. Then I opened mine, and it’s a $25 gift card to Walmart.”
Their Presence Apparently Was Not A Present
“We got nothing.
My husband’s extended family invited us over for Christmas breakfast (we aren’t religious, but they are). As we sat around chatting after the meal, they started handing out gifts to every family member but us. They flat out said we weren’t being included because we don’t go to church.
My husband was speechless; we left immediately. I now refuse to have anything to do with them.”
We Wish You A Merry Cringemas
“My mother received awful presents every year from her mother-in-law. Two of them stick out in my mind.
It was the first year we went to her mother-in-law’s house. We all sat in the ‘Drawing Room,’ fire blazing, all on these luxurious rugs. The mother-in-law hands my mother a box. Inside is the kinkiest, sauciest lingerie. Think split crotch, lace, bows, and black and red silky patches.
I have never ever seen my mother embarrassed. She doesn’t embarrass easily, but she was red as a beetroot. She was so humiliated.
The next year, she had begged my step father to tell his mother not to get her anything like that.
So, her mother-in-law handed her a package, a smirk on her face. We’re in the drawing room again, fire going, everyone is merry. My mother smiles, thinking that it was all fine.
Her mother-in-law had instead purchased the biggest high-waisted, tummy-warming, granny panties imaginable. My mother and I got in them together for laughs (I was 10 at the time). We cried laughing at the ludicrousness of the size of the knickers. The elastic waist was an inch wide. They were, at the very least, 5 sizes too big. My mother was tiny. There was no guess work involved.
I know it’s petty, but the nonsense of that woman was unreal.”