Dear Annie: When generosity turns into resentment
Dear Annie: I like doing kind things for people. It makes me feel good. I believe my kind acts should be appreciated but not be expected. Is that wrong? Most of the time, what starts off as a kind act ends up with expectations of more. Sometimes these expectations can be difficult to manage and are so far from what I intended. In the end, the recipient is angry when I pull back, or I feel used if I don’t. It’s too much stress. How do you not go from kindness to resentment? What am I doing wrong? -- Trying to Be Kind
Dear Trying to Be Kind: Anyone who acts entitled to your generosity doesn’t deserve it, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for putting some space between such a person and yourself. Boundaries are the foundation of a healthy social life. Lay some down, and resolve not to pay any mind to another’s unfair expectations of you.
I also think you could benefit from examining your own role in this pattern. Why do you do these kind things, and why do you do them for people who don’t treat you well? If your self-worth is tied up in the idea that you’re a generous person, you should disentangle it. You are worthy and enough; you do not need to go out of your way to prove this through gestures. To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be generous. But true generosity can exist only for its own sake, not for the ego’s. Frank A. Clark said, “Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.”
Dear Annie: My wife and I have been together for 17 years, and we have two wonderful daughters.
Being busy with work and kids’ activities, we share our weekly schedule and commitments in an online calendar so that we know what is going on during the week.
Last week, she entered in the shared calendar a meeting with a “grieving support group” that she will attend soon. To my knowledge, nothing bad happened recently in our family, and I really have no idea what she is grieving about.
When I asked her whether she could tell me the reason for her grieving, her answer was a sharp and angry “No!” without any explanation.
I feel sad and bothered by all this. It is not the mystery that bothers me. (I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little privacy in a couple.) What bothers me is she feels that I couldn’t be of any help with her grief and that I am not entitled to even know about it. If I were grieving, she would be the first person I would talk to for emotional support. Am I being unreasonable? -- Lost in Grief
Dear Lost in Grief: You can’t pry a bud open before it’s time to bloom, and you can’t force a loved one to open up before she’s ready. I commend you for being patient so far and encourage you to keep that up for a little longer. I don’t think your wife’s entering this on the calendar was an accident; I think that deep down, she does want you to know. But she will have to tell you in her own time. In the meantime, let her know that you love her, that you are here for her and that she can tell you anything.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.