Editor’s Note: The majority of questions we receive about gifts, and gifting, are about what to do if you give a gift to someone and they don’t reciprocate, or expectations surrounding gifting. But this one is a little different. Should our reader in this letter return an expensive gift because there are expectations she can’t meet that go along with it? Read on, and weigh in with your comment. “Alison & Tony”
Hi Alison and Tony: My ex-lover sent me an expensive scarf as a gift. It was unexpected. It wasn’t my birthday or anything like that, he just sent it out of the blue. I was surprised, but also concerned because I know this man is deeply in debt. This gift to me must have set him back even more. I am not sure what to do because my ex baby-sits my kids when I have to work late. My kids really love him. He’s in our lives even though I don’t want to rekindle the romantic part of our relationship. But I feel guilty accepting an expensive gift from anyone let alone someone I no longer am intimate with. I thanked him for the gift but I haven’t decided whether I should return it to him or not. Returning it will hurt his feelings, but keeping it might give him false expectations for getting back together. What do the two of you think I should do?
Susan, you’ve got a real problem here. You’re still really still dependent on this guy for critical babysitting your children love him. If he gets upset and stops babysitting the children will be disappointed. maybe even heartbroken.
Obviously, you have to give the gift back. He can’t afford it and it sets the wrong tone for the relationship.
But, while doing so you must lavishly praise and thank him for the thought, and just demure because of the expense as being inappropriate .
You should make it clear that the scarf, although it is wonderful, it is far too expensive for gifts between friends, especially one that already does so much for you already by babysitting.
To use a football term, your ex-lover has thrown a “hail Mary” pass to try and get you back. He probably knows it isn’t going to work, but he’ll try anything, even destory his budget, to win back your affection.
Did he do this out of love and affection? I don’t think so.
As I see it, what he has done is manipulate you and put you in a very difficult position. In fact, he has to know that he’s done this.
Someone who gives you a “breakup gift” knows that you know it comes with strings. Now you have to give it back without ruining the relationship, and your babysitting stand-by, or keep it and offer up aspects of the relationship you no longer want.
I agree with Tony that you must give it back, and you should let him know you think the scarf is beautiful. I agree with Tony that by telling him you’re giving it back because it is just too much of an extravagant gift to offer to a friend, shows you are not going to be his lover again.
As to the babysitting arrangement, I’d suggest you try and find a substitute and slowly rely on this man a little less. Your children may miss him but children are resilient. In time, there will be a new person in your life, and they hopefully will enjoy his company, too.