Dear Gayle,

I have a relative who can’t seem to accept gifts unless she is giving them. If anyone gives her something, she has to give them something back right away. One time I was there when one of her neighbors was baking pies and brought her one. After the woman went home my relative started grumbling about how now she had to bake cookies so she could give them to the neighbor to keep things even. I’m there a lot so I see this kind of thing from her a lot so I’ve told her she needs to learn to just accept gifts, but she doesn’t think so. How do I handle this?

— Her Relative

Dear Her,

You must be a close relative to be spending so much time there. Has this woman ever spoken of an event affecting her life that could have been the start of her feeling that she could never be in any debt to anyone, not even through a gift? Something had to have caused this reaction. Perhaps not even she any longer remembers what it was, but it was something. That said, do not ask her what it might have been if you believe that the question might make her uncomfortable. You may want simply to assume that keeping the score tied is the only way this person can view her life as being in balance. I would be careful to save any gift giving you plan to do for occasions when everyone is exchanging gifts. Beyond that, I would recommend saying nothing about it to her.

Dear Gayle,

My husband eats snacks in bed. He usually has chips or pretzels, and he gets crumbs everywhere. He knows I hate this, but he says snacking helps him fall asleep. That sounds like he made that up. What do you think?

— Sleeping with Crumbs

Dear Sleeping,

I think he may really be getting a sleep benefit from eating so late. Scientists tell us that, when we eat, blood moves to our stomachs to help with digesting. This would mean less blood hanging out in the brain. Less blood flow in the brain brings on a sense of relaxation.

A lot of people achieve their necessary sleepiness mode through such over-the-counter minerals as melatonin which creates no crumbs and adds no pounds. You may want to ask your husband to consider trying this alternate method for achieving bedtime calm. If he insists on sticking with his snacking habit, ask him to make a plan for how he will snack that will leave no wandering crumbs. The man could have been choosing right along to have his snack just prior to climbing into bed rather than just after he gets in it. He could at least be making a genuine effort to corral his crumbs — with a well-placed towel, for instance. For him to be making no effort at all to keep his crumbs from being such an irritant shows a lack of respect for you, and maybe even passive-aggressive behavior toward you.

Consider keeping a whisk broom — a new one — by the bed on your side. After your husband has dined, whisk back across the center line of the mattress any of his stray crumbs; you should not have to sleep with that disrespectful annoyance. Let him know ahead of time that you intend to start doing this. I hope you have a very large bed.

[Write to Gayle at: LV MY TAKE ON IT, 435 Broad Street, New Bethlehem, PA 16242, or send email to where your anonymity will be maintained in keeping with all current HIPAA standards. Gayle Wright is a mental health counselor doing social work.]

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