Relationship Woes: When You’re Into Gift Giving, But He Isn’t Into Reciprocating!
My boyfriend told me (in advance) of my birthday that he wasn’t going to get me anything. He said he was busy and didn’t have time. This was the first birthday I had celebrated since we started dating just under a year ago. His birthday was just a few months after we started dating, and I pulled out all the stops to make a special day for him, complete with a surprise party, gifts, and a special card. I couldn’t help but show how upset I was about his announcement. He showed up on my birthday (late at night) with a card and an impersonal little tschotske he picked up at the party store. I guess I should be grateful that he came through with anything at all, but I put so much thought and effort into his birthday, and he put so little into mine. We are both older people and even though we’ve discussed taking our relationship to the next step, I’m wondering whether his attitude about my birthday is a warning bell. Alison and Tony, your thoughts, please?
Dear Leather and Lace Advice: My Fiancee almost never buys me flowers or gives me small token gifts. I’ve shared with him it that hurts my feelings especially since I give him little things all the time to let him know I’m thinking of him. I want little love tokens, too! What should I do?
Tony’s Take: Our birthdays are the one day a year when we are to be celebrated, and on which we should do those things which make us happy. For our significant others it is the one day a year when they should celebrate us, and do those things which would make us happy as well.
I feel for this reader, but even though it is her birthday, reality must also be served. If her S.O. is very busy, loving him, she must understand and judge his actions on the basis f what he is capable of and not an absolute standard. This is not to say he gets carte blanche to ignore her birthday every year if he is “busy,” but rather it means he owes you a special day when his schedule permits. The idea is that he needs to honor you, but to say that he is a terrible person because one day does not work out is not correct. He did try if not hard enough to give our reader a gift and card, although personally, he was foolish for not showing up with something more romantic, such as flowers, too. He owes our reader a nice time out and a nice personal present which must be delivered in a reasonable length of time or else she will feel permanently deprived, which is not good for the relationship.
The real questions are: Is he generous? Is he caring? Is he good to you? If so, then our reader must cut her boyfriend some slack. However, if he has not gotten her something by his birthday I would think seriously about what she might want to get him for his birthday, next time around. Since our reader states that she is a mature woman, she cannot afford to waste more than two years of her life on him. So if he doesn’t show her the honor and respect she deserves within that time period, she must look elsewhere.
One other point is he OWES her absolutely nothing . You do things for someone else because you love him and care for him. Your judgement must be made on whether he loves and cares for you (and loves you enough to spend money on you — see our comments in other Q&A about this — cheap is not cure able). Special holidays are supposed to be lovingly shared not some sort of competition for who does what and how much they get in return for the effort.
Alison’s Take: After Tony completed his take above, I discovered another, similar question that we received at leatherandlaceadvice.com from yet another reader. Gift giving and holidays are some of the highest stressors in relationships. Tony and I even went on television on the Dr. Joy Show to discuss issues of gift giving (watch the show on VIMEO).
In reading the first letter several times, I realized that the real problem wasn’t that this reader’s boyfriend failed to bring a nice gift to her on her birthday, but worse, he had the nerve to tell her (in advance) that he wasn’t going to bring her anything at all.A man who tells a woman he is dating that he is going to be “too busy” to honor her birthday is sending a message that is more significant than “don’t expect a gift from me.”
Birthdays, anniversaries, and significant holidays don’t creep up on someone by surprise. You know the dates well in advance and those dates don’t change. When our reader’s boyfriend tells her he won’t have time to buy her anything, what he is really saying is : “I don’t want to bother with this, it just isn’t important enough to me and you aren’t important enough to me to make the effort.” That is the part that should really hurt the most.
Perhaps this reader’s boyfriend really is super-busy, but if that is the case, he should and could have planned ahead. Online shopping makes it literally hassle free to deliver flowers, champagne, or something more personal to her doorstep. He could have ordered something for her well in advance when he had a few minutes. If online shopping wasn’t something he was familiar or comfortable with, he still had literally months to figure out a gift, buy it, and put it away for her special day so he could wow her with something wonderful. No one wants to hear: “I don’t have time for you on your birthday.” There’s just no excuse!
Tony’s statement that the reader should not expect “payback” for her good deeds on her boyfriend’s birthday, is spot-on. You should do things only because you want to, and not with any expectation that you will get the same in return. If you expect to get what you give, it isn’t a gift, it’s barter. That rarely works well in an intimate relationship.
Which brings me to the second letter on this feature. This reader feels that if she gives her fiance little reminders of her love, he should automatically know that she wants the same in return. But men are not mind readers. I’m wondering if this reader ever said to her fiance: “ I give you little love tokens all the time because I want you to be reminded that I am thinking of you. And you know what? I’d really like you to occasionally do the same for me, because it would make me feel so loved and special. “
While our reader’s fiance might or might not enjoy the little love tokens he gets from her, he probably doesn’t realize that she gives him these things because she wants them in return. This leaves her hurt because she feels her man should “just know” what she wants. Men are task oriented. If a woman they love tells them to do something, normally, a man will jump at the chance to do it (if it’s not too difficult) because he knows it will make her happy, and it is a directed goal. But if you don’t communicate the need, won’t know it exists! So my advice to our second reader is to ask for what she wants. directly.Her fiance is not obligated to reciprocate with love token of his own, but if he doesn’t provide some, she might want to take a closer look at the relationship.