≡ Menu

Your Turn: “My Boyfriend Didn’t Get me Anything for my Birthday”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

“John” and I met almost six months ago, but only decided to be in an exclusive relationship after four months of dating, right before I left for two-week vacation. About two days after we had that “talk,” he took me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday, which would be the following week, when I’d be out of town. He didn’t give me a card or a gift, except an impersonal e-card on my actual birthday saying that I should have a great day and enjoy my trip. I was disappointed, because I definitely would have given him a card and at least a modest, thoughtful gift. It was nice that he took me out to dinner, but it wasn’t really special since we do that all the time, and I had taken him out to dinner a few days prior, so it was his turn to get the bill anyway. My cousin told me I shouldn’t be upset or think anything of it, since the relationship was so new (yes, two days old “officially,” but we had been dating for four months).

I let it go because I didn’t think it was worth getting upset over, but two months later, while I am feeling a bit under-appreciated in other aspects of the relationship, I’m a bit bothered by this. I have given him a few small, very simple gifts, and when I was on my trip, I saw something nice that I would have liked to bring back for him, but didn’t, as I thought it would be excessive since he has never given me anything, and I’m the one who had the birthday. I’m not asking if I should confront him dramatically about this, but I plan to talk to him calmly about other reasons I’ve been feeling under-appreciated, and I was wondering if you think this is fair to mention, or am I out of line for having expected at least a hand-written card, or a modest, but thoughtful gift, for my birthday? — Disappointed Birthday Girl

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

{ 164 comments… add one }

avatar cdobbs August 10, 2011, 3:05 pm

never expect a gift…from anyone and for anything…however, if he doesn’t show he appreciates you in other ways, doesn’t make you feel special, doesn’t take your feelings into consideration, things like that, then and only then should you confront him.

becboo84 BecBoo84 August 10, 2011, 3:08 pm

I get that this county has become too materialistic, etc., but at the end of the day, we expect our significant others to do something special for us on our birthdays. Whether that is through a gift or through some special activity, it doesn’t really matter, so long as the thought is there.

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 3:21 pm

But he did do something special– that’s the thing. He sent her an e-card on her birthday because they weren’t physically together and he took her out to dinner.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 3:33 pm

Seriously though, an e-card? I sent those to my friends when I was 13 and thought the kitten waving at the screen was cute.

avatar Katie August 10, 2011, 3:41 pm

i know! haha. If I got an ecard thats like a slap in the face lol

avatar Anna August 10, 2011, 3:54 pm

It seems to me that cards are more of a girl thing and guys don’t understand why we like them so much. I love cards! Maybe he didn’t realize that an e-card isn’t perceived as the same thing as a real card.

Budj Budjer August 10, 2011, 4:00 pm

To a guy paper card = e-card. Both don’t require much thought in my opinion. A hand-made card is a totally different story. I like those.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 4:11 pm

Or even if he just wrote in a little note on his own on the card. But the LW said it was impersonal, which makes me think he didn’t do anything else but press send.

avatar Mainer August 10, 2011, 4:19 pm

I think she is the one calling it impersonal, he did write something:

“impersonal e-card on my actual birthday saying that I should have a great day and enjoy my trip. “

Budj Budjer August 10, 2011, 4:58 pm

Yea..that’s what I thought too.

avatar anonymous August 10, 2011, 5:00 pm

Can you see a GUY making a card? Are you KIDDING me?

avatar Lydia August 11, 2011, 2:06 am

As a matter of fact, I have seen it.

avatar dtime August 16, 2011, 5:27 am

I’m a guy and I make birthday and anniversary cards for my girlfriend. It’s not just a relationship thing, I make birthday cards for my friends too. They cost less, and are a fun means of creative expression.

Did my anecdotal evidence just disprove the anonymous normative judgement?

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 3:47 pm

I know, I know, but if he wanted her to get it on her birthday and she wasn’t home, how would he get a real card there? I’m not defending the e-card qua e-card, just the thought behind it of “I want her to get a card on her birthday wherever she is.”

landygirl Landygirl August 10, 2011, 6:44 pm

E-card save our environment.

avatar Betty Boop August 10, 2011, 8:54 pm

Seriously! I work in retail and I can tell you most cards are not recyclable nor made from recycled paper. That bothers me a ton.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 9:13 pm

How else was she supposed to get it? Seriously?! Send it via carrier pigeon to her hotel?

avatar Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich August 10, 2011, 10:05 pm

You mean, castle, right?

avatar justpeachy August 10, 2011, 3:10 pm

There are two questions you’re asking: 1) Is it wrong to feel slighted by my newly exclusive boyfriend over a birthday present? 2) Should I bring it up in a bigger discussion later?

1) No, it’s not wrong. Some people will probably argue that it’s probably not the healthiest thing to hang onto, but everyone has these little things in relationships that stick in our sides. Part of the reason it bugs you so much is that you feel like it’s the beginning of a trend. It was an unofficial relationship test and he failed it. You didn’t tell him you expected a present, but he should have known.

2) No, don’t bring it up in the discussion. At least at first. I would probably say something along the line of “I feel I do lots of things to show you how I feel and you don’t reciprocate so I’m beginning to feel unappreciated.” He’ll probably ask for some examples and you probably have lots of stuff to bring up, but I’d start with more recent and concrete examples. If you bring up the birthday thing, it will sound like you have been fuming over it for months (which you have been), but it will seem petty.

If you guys can forge ahead and things are good until Christmas and he screws that one up to, then you have some serious reevaluating to do.

avatar SpaceySteph August 10, 2011, 3:30 pm

Kinda agree with your first part. What I take exception with is waiting til Christmas to gauge his gift giving capabilities. Christmas is still 5 months away. You are asking her to invest another 5 months with a guy and then use that as a test. Should she wait to fall in love with him (or at least to say she loves him) until he gets her an appropriate Christmas gift? Should she wait to introduce him to her parents, meet his family, etc? No this has to be handled now for the relationship to continue, if its going to.
If you are feeling undervalued, start there, and try to leave the birthday thing out of it.

avatar justpeachy August 10, 2011, 3:34 pm

Oh come on! It was a joke! If they can’t work through this, they won’t make it until Christmas, but the next real opportunity she’ll have to see he understands her needs of demonstrating his feelings will probably be Christmas (at least through presents).

avatar savannah August 10, 2011, 3:43 pm

If the celebrate Christmas. My family is notoriously bad at picking out gifts for birthdays because we haven’t had the training of most americans. Not saying that’s the case here at all, just lamenting the last gift i got from my parents…table runners. I dont even know what to do with those.

avatar oldie August 10, 2011, 3:15 pm

I think that you are silly to gauge the state of a relationship by whether or what gifts you get. It would be more meaningful if you had given some detail about why you are feeling ‘a bit underappreciated’ in other aspects of your relationship. Not everyone looks at gifts, especially early in relationships when they can be awkward, or cards the same way as you. What’s wrong with an e-card? Have you been watching too many Hallmark commercials. My wife has said that the only way her parents could say ‘I love you’ was via the words in a purchased card. If your bf tells you he loves you and treats you as he does and does not engage in any bad behaviors towards you, then I think that you are being a little superficial here — but that is my taste. It may be your bf’s as well, in which case you may be to different in outlook for your relationship to thrive. You need to discuss how each of you views this sort of thing and see if there is a middle ground on which each of you can comfortably stand. Most of us are not good at buying ‘thoughtful little gifts for others’, because our tastes differ.

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 3:16 pm

I second what cdobbs said, about his actions being more important for you to determine whether he appreciates you, rather than basing his affection on store-bought things. I’ve come to find that guys do not think like women do (duh!) especially when it comes to things like this. In your rational woman mind, you should get someone close to you a gift for their birthday no matter how recently you met/start dating/etc them, but a guy does not always think so logically/thoughtfully/concernedly and your boy probably assumed that the “birthday dinner” was just the right thing to do since he wouldn’t be spending the actual day of your birthday with you anyway (things MAY have been different had he actually seen you on your bday). We women tend to think in future tense and prepare things in advance, unlike guys who seem to prefer day-to-day. My personal example is trying to make weekend plans with my boyfriend of 3 years. His response is usually, “Let saturday come and then we’ll see.” Frustrating as hell, and both methods of “planning” have their pros and cons!

In a nutshell, I am going to advise you to forget about the “lack” of birthday gift and give your boy the benefit of the doubt. I would be more concerned if he doesn’t put any effort into your next birthday, and especially if there are other, non-material reasons for your feelings of under-appreciation.

avatar MissDre August 10, 2011, 4:03 pm

Holy crap you hit the nail on the head right here!

avatar Amber August 10, 2011, 3:16 pm

So are you more upset about the other things going on in your relationship or the lack of a gift on your birthday? It seems like you were getting upset about other things and while upset said to yourself not only are x,y, and z wrong AND he also didn’t get me a gift for my birthday. I know you said you felt like he owed you the dinner because you had paid the time before but maybe in his head that was your gift. He took you out to dinner to celebrate. I agree that an e-card is a little impersonal but some people don’t realize how impersonal it is, especially if they’re not used to getting or giving cards or gifts. How did he react when you gave him gifts?

It seems like the real issue here isn’t cards or gifts but rather whatever else is going on between you two. I wouldn’t bring up the birthday when you’re talking but make sure you deal with whatever else is going on between the two of you. Otherwise you’ll start a cycle of resenting him for little ways you feel he is slighting you when really the issue is much bigger than whether or not he got you a birthday gift.

avatar katiebird August 10, 2011, 3:17 pm

No, it is not fair to bring this up to him. First of all, gifts are never mandatory. Second, it’s been two months. The statue of limitation on minor dating infractions has long expired, and it would be petty to bring it up now, especially in the context of a “I don’t feel appreciated by you” conversation. I don’t mean to chastise you though, I understand why you’re upset, I know I would be kinda disappointed too if my S.O. didn’t get me anything for my birthday. But the reality is that he did get you something, he took you out to dinner and sent you an e-card, and while it may not have been the gift you were expecting, it is an acknowledgement and celebration of your birthday. It’s up to you to make sure you two are on the same page about birthdays and gift-giving, he can’t read your mind after all, but I definitely don’t think a conversation about feeling “under-appreciated” in the relationship is an appropriate time to do it.

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 3:26 pm

I agree with you, katiebird. I actually think that a guy sending an e-card is actually a pretty personal thing (for a guy!). I think you should pay more attention to his actions; my guy for example makes me breakfast in bed sometimes when he’s up before me. I will never let myself take something like this for granted because men are not naturally thoughtful creatures. You have to keep this in mind! However, if your guy is REALLY lacking in the affection/appreciation/attention categories then you may have some thinking to do about where you want this relationship to go. Because yes, you should cut guys some slack for not usually being as thoughtful as we women are, but you should also never settle for a thoughtless, uncaring guy. You just need to be able to gauge and discern those selfless actions that count.

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 3:32 pm

Purple thumbs, DO share.

Or did I offend some majorly thoughtful guys in here? ;)

avatar honeybeenicki August 10, 2011, 3:39 pm

Maybe it was the sentence that said guys are not naturally thoughtful? I dunno, but that’d be my guess

avatar Laurel August 10, 2011, 3:41 pm

“I will never let myself take something like this for granted because men are not naturally thoughtful creatures.”

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 3:52 pm

Thank you for clarifying! Now I’ll clarify that I mean this when it comes to thinking of “cute/sweet/romantic” things to do for a S/O. I do not think that men are natural at thinking of romantic things to do the way that women are. I had an absolute revelation when I finally asked my boyfriend what he considers a romantic gesture from me, and was surprised that my little love notes to him did not make the cut. Rather, he got a dreamy look in his eyes and talking about the couple of times that I’ve given him a (rather clumsy, self-conscious) strip-tease. For me, that’s raunchy; in his eyes, it’s one of the ultimate ways to romance him.
Sooo….what I meant by “not thoughtful”, which I definitely should have been clearer on, is that they do not (usually) fully consider elaborate ways of romancing us or completely fulfilling our expectations.

Budj Budjer August 10, 2011, 4:06 pm

Weird….I’ve had girls leave me notes before, I think it’s very cute. Especially stashed somewhere in a drawer that I stumble on weeks later.

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 4:11 pm

Well he definitely finds it “cute” or sweet, but it’s not his idea of “romantic”. I think the line is thicker between “romantic” and “straight-up sexual” for women than it is for men. For men, those ideas seem to mesh together a little more.

To be clear: this is solely based on my opinion and experience! ;)

avatar Painted_lady August 10, 2011, 5:54 pm

Nah, I agree with you for the most part – for women “romantic” qualifies more as “things that show me you think of me while you’re away” whereas men think more along the lines of “things you do for me and no one else” or “things you do for me that I need.” That’s grossly oversimplifying it, but kind of the gist of where I think the difference lies. My last boyfriend got me really nice silverware because what I had was cheap and kept breaking. He thought it was romantic, and while I appreciated the intent behind the gesture, I still got silverware – unwrapped, pulled out of a Whole Foods bag, no card – for friggin’ Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, it was REALLY nice, but…yeesh. Whereas when I showed up to his band rehearsal with his favorite beer and a pizza (not crashing his boys’ night, I just dropped by on my way elsewhere) he explained that he already had beer and they had plans to get Vietnamese after rehearsal so could I eat the pizza. At which point I had a recommendation for where he should put that pizza.

avatar SpaceySteph August 11, 2011, 2:22 pm

Hah thats a pretty accurate description in my experience. “Things that show you think of me when I’m away” is exactly what I think is romantic. Like a goodnight text when we’re not together or a little souvenir brought back from a trip.
“Things that I need” is exactly what my boyfriend thinks is romantic. I am still trying to get across that I want him to buy me flowers sometimes, but his response is ‘why would I get you something that’s gonna die in 3 days?’ He would never buy a gift that wasn’t functional. He thinks that recognizing and filling a need is a romantic gesture.
For our anniversary he bought me a roomba. Functional, and my house needed a good vacuuming, but not romantic by my definition (although it means he did listen when I mentioned that I was thinking of buying one, which is cool).

avatar katiebird August 10, 2011, 3:38 pm

I actually kind of disagree with you, I don’t think that men are naturally thoughtless. Unless they’re complete jerks, most guys want to make their girlfriends (and boyfriends) feel loved and happy. But just like any other human being, they are not mind readers. My guy is pretty forgetful and spacey, so I sometimes have to remind him when special days are coming up and what my expectations are (as in a special dinner out, or a phone call in the morning, etc). I like to think of it as setting him up to succeed. It’s a win-win scenario, we both end up feeling happy, satisfied, and loved.

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 3:57 pm

Fair enough :) But see, that’s what I mean about not being naturally thoughtful, at least not the way that WE are in our relationships. I used to take it personally if my boyfriend forgot a special event or did not celebrate it the way I expected/would have like him to. Now, just like you, I prod mine along with reminders when something is coming up as well as offer suggestions on what would make me happy.
I was by no means bashing guys in saying they are not thoughtful; I was simply telling the LW to not be too harsh on her man just yet, for not going all out on her first birthday with him.

avatar Swati August 10, 2011, 6:11 pm

Ok I know this sounds completely stupid, but Katie, is this you??

avatar katiebird August 10, 2011, 9:21 pm

Um, yes this is Katie but I have no clue who you are, or if I am the right Katie you’re looking for because there are probably thousands of other girls named Katie….

avatar Swati August 10, 2011, 9:32 pm

haha i know it’s strange. But I have a friend, Katie Bird, and we studied abroad together in France. So I was just wondering if it was you :P Sorry about the randomness.

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 3:20 pm

Yes, you are way out of line. You two barely know each other and had only been officially dating for two. days. He acknowledged your birthday with a card on the actual day itself with a personalized message. I don’t know if I would get someone a card a week before their birthday, even if that’s when I saw them. He was clearly thinking about you when you were gone on your birthday, and it sounds like his message was relatively appropriate for the amount of time you two have been dating (considering most of it was casual dating). What should he have said in the message? A sonnet? A profession of love? A proposal? Come on, you guys were barely an official couple.

And then there’s this: “I have given him a few small, very simple gifts, and when I was on my trip, I saw something nice that I would have liked to bring back for him, but didn’t, as I thought it would be excessive since he has never given me anything, and I’m the one who had the birthday.”

LW, let me give you a tip– this tit-for-tat attitude isn’t going to get you very far in a relationship. You give someone something because you want to, not because they gave you something or you expect something in return. And seriously, of course he hasn’t gotten you gifts– you have hardly been a couple long enough to figure out what you even like!

You seem to completely lack any sense of generosity, which is a huge part of having a successful relationship. And that goes for everything, not necessarily gifts. Are you going to say “well, I was going to do the dishes, but I did them yesterday so you do them?” or “he only texted me twice yesterday so I’m not going to text him a third time today.” I know this sounds really harsh, but seriously, the faster you get it through your head that sometimes you’re the giver and sometimes your the taker in a relationship, the better off you’ll be.

For the record, Quakerboy and I have been together nearly 6 years and he didn’t get me anything for my birthday this year other than a nice date at a restaurant in our neighborhood. Yes, he “picked up the tab” by putting it on his checkcard, but we’ve had combined finances for the last two years, so it looses a little something. But you know what, it was the best present I could have asked for. I got to get dressed up, have him tell me how nice I looked, and spend time with my favorite person in the world, which is harder and harder to do the longer you’re together and the more stressful your life gets. If this birthday issue is bothering you now, LW, I’d think long and hard about how your future with him is going to go, because it doesn’t get any less complicated or stressful from here.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 3:30 pm

Wow, harsh.

I completely understand where she’s coming from, and it doesn’t just apply to boyfriends. I have a few friends who are kind of similar to the boyfriend, in that they’re just kind of thoughtless. I love doing things for my friends. I love getting them little presents, I love treating them to dessert sometimes, and I just love sharing with them. I’m notorious for wanting to let people borrow outfits of mine that they like, or any little object they’re missing. I offer to drive when we go out. However, because of this, sometimes I’m taken advantage of. I don’t ever think of doing these things and want something in return, but it’s when they start expecting them and being ungrateful that it becomes an issue. Luckily I have a small group of solid friends, but lately I’ve had trouble with a girl who always is conveniently short on money when we go out (and then will buy something later that trip). Her boyfriend missed some charter bus and she called me up and said she’d give me gas money if I could drive him, and 150 miles and 4 hours later she only put $10 of gas money in my car. She doesn’t give me stuff back that I let her borrow, and she just overall really takes advantage of my generosity. I’ve just had to stop hanging out with her as much, because she’s kind of a leech.

So, long story short, I don’t think the LW is a tit-for-tat type person. She expresses how she appreciates her boyfriend, and he doesn’t seem to do much to show that he appreciates her. When you realize that you’re the only one doing nice things in the relationship, everything kind of builds up and you start resenting the other person. In fact, she says she needs to have a talk with him about things he’s doing that don’t make her feel appreciated. Sure, the LW may be completely lacking in generosity, but I didn’t get that vibe. To me it seemed that she just feels like she’s being taken advantage of and not being appreciated.

avatar MonMon August 10, 2011, 3:37 pm

Sure, but what type of “doing nice things” are we talking about? The LW made it seem that her way mainly consists of buying little gifts. So maybe her boyfriend’s methods are less material and more based on events (cooking/buying dinner, going out to a movie, etc). So it seems that both people express their affections differently: is this wrong? If the LW feels a lack of “balance” in the relationship and cannot find a compromise or just work with it, then she’ll be unhappy due to feeling like something is missing. In that case, they’re meant to be with other people who express affection/appreciation similarly to them.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 3:49 pm

If it’s just them expressing them in different ways, I don’t think that’s wrong and I think she needs to understand that he just shows it in different ways. If his idea of appreciating her is buying her food when it’s her turn and he doesn’t put any more thought or effort into it, I can understand why she’d feel under-appreciated and be upset.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 3:50 pm

Buying her food when it’s his turn*

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 3:42 pm

I totally get that feeling of doing all the work/putting forth all the effort in the relationship or friendship– I have a tendency to be the one who drives or lets people borrow stuff, too. But at the same time, I would never refuse to give a friend (or boyfriend) a ride if I could because they hadn’t offered me one the last time, or not let a friend borrow my outfit because they’d never offered me theirs. It’s that attitude of “even though I know he’d like this thing, I’m not going to get it for him because he didn’t get me a birthday present” that I see as emotionally stingy.

And while she says she feels underappreciated, which she may have totally valid reasons for, the fact that he hasn’t showered her with gifts in the last 2 months that they’ve been exclusively dating is just not one of those valid reasons. But honestly, if the other stuff is anything like the gift scenario, I’m inclined to say that her reasons might not be so valid. I mean, she doesn’t think he did enough for her birthday and that contributed to her feeling underappreciated, but look at what he actually did: he sent her a note so that she’d get it on her actual birthday and he took her to dinner when they actually could see each other. That seems to be a pretty reasonable thing to do for someone you’ve been seeing casually for 4 months and exclusively dating for two days. I’m just wondering what the other things are that are making her feel underappreciated, because if they’re anything like that situation, then either she’s making mountains out of molehills or they just have two completely different communication/affection styles and maybe this isn’t the relationship for either of them.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 3:48 pm

I don’t think it was a note, she said it was an impersonal e-card, which takes zero thought. We don’t know the dynamic and what he is doing, but I get the vibe he isn’t doing much to make her feel appreciated. And I didn’t see it as a, “He didn’t get me a b-day present so I’m not getting him this!” thing, but rather that she knew it would just be one more thing that might upset her if she got him that gift and he continued acting like he didn’t appreciate her. Because where you said that you would never not give a ride to someone who needed it, that’s where I’m actually drawing the line. I’ve had to tell my friend that no, I will not drop what I’m doing and take her to CVS. If she calls because her boyfriend missed the bus again, I’m not spending gas and time on her because they didn’t catch it on time. Sure, it may make me look like a selfish bitch, but it does wonders for how good I feel because I don’t feel like I’m getting used and taken advantage of. There’s a place where you have to draw a line.

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 3:56 pm

Of course if I had to drop everything I wouldn’t offer the ride or what have you, but if it was on my way, sure, I would. And she specifically said “and I’m the one that had the birthday.” I took that to mean “he should be getting me the gift. I get what you’re saying in general as her not wanting to stir up those emotions, but this trip was right after her birthday, so it isn’t as though the feelings of underappreciation had been brewing– she had that thought two months ago, right after he didn’t get her the birthday present.

Maybe she saw the e-card as impersonal, but she said he also did write a note in the card, and maybe his thought was that he wanted her to see it on her birthday. My tune would change somewhat if they had been physically together or had been dating longer, but at that point in their relationship/geographic proximity, I’d say that’s pretty acceptable.

And you may completely be right that he doesn’t do anything else to make her feel appreciated, which is fair, but this is absolutely not one of those situations. She can feel how she feels about it, but her expectations of this guy at that point in there relationship may have been a liiiittle too high without her giving any warning that she was expecting more than a dinner out and the best approximation of a card on her birthday that he could give.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 9:53 pm

Um, obviously there WAS a personal note, AnitaBath! How dense are you? Seriously… Do you really think there is an impersonal ecard that says all three of these things: Happy Birthday, enjoy the day, AND have a great trip? Surely you jest?

avatar AnitaBath August 11, 2011, 12:20 am

Such lovely compliments you give out, BGM.

katie katie August 10, 2011, 9:45 pm

i completely agree with you!!

CatsMeow CatsMeow August 11, 2011, 12:28 pm

I agree that her tit-for-tat attitude probably needs to change. When it comes to gifts, I guess there’s a spectrum of how important it is to certain people. My MOM, for instance, will freak the F out if she doesn’t get a gift on certain occasions, or if she gets a gift that doesn’t live up to her standards. If we get her something she doesn’t want/need, if she thinks we spent too much/too little, or god forbid if we FORGET an occasion, we will definitely get yelled at. Especially her poor husband, who seems to be lacking in the gift-giving-skills department. If she doesn’t like something, she doesn’t even say thank you for the gesture – she tells you want she thinks and then returns it. Sorry, that was a tangent. I bring this up because she had a birthday recently where the same thing happened – her husband took her out to dinner, got her a card which she thought was “last-minute” (she said she thought she saw him sneak into the bathroom right after he got home from work to sign it), and no other gift. Apparently dinner wasn’t enough for her. They have been married for 11 years. My mom is an extreme example – but apparently she was in the exact same situation with a man she’s been with for YEARS, who KNOWS her attitude about gifts.

A guy you’ve been with “officially” for 2 days, unofficially for 4 months, probably doesn’t know how important it is to you. I know that I personally feel awkward giving gifts to (or receiving gifts from) someone I don’t know that well. If you could go back in time, I would say to tell him after you got back to your trip that you would have appreciated more – either in thoughtfulness or in material stuff (I’m not sure which you’re after). My boyfriend has told me straight up that if I’m ever mad at him, I have to TELL HIM because he won’t figure it out otherwise.

At this point, though, I’d say leave the birthday thing out of your discussion of feeling under-appreciated. If it was ME, I would also really try to evaluate WHY I’m feeling under-appreciated — did it all start with the birthday? It could be that that one incident has triggered something so now you feel more sensitive about perceived slights than you would otherwise. I dunno.

Oh, AND — if you feel like giving him a gift, do it! If anything, it will show him that this is a way YOU like to express that you care. Maybe he’ll start returning the favor, maybe not – but if that is how you like to show affection, by all means, DO IT. And keep your eyes open for other ways he might be showing you that he cares.

avatar AKchic August 10, 2011, 3:21 pm

Huh. I guess I’m one of those “weird” females.

I don’t want gifts. Ever. We don’t celebrate my birthday. We don’t acknowledge the existence of Valentine’s Day (but jokingly suggest celebrating Lupercalia). Yule/Christmas? Eh – it depends on finances really. Kids come first. And honestly, there is nothing that we NEED.

We have gotten too hung up on wanting useless items as gifts just for the sake of being “showered” with gifts. I don’t want a thoughtless present (bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates, jewelry, etc) all because some commercial told you to do it because you’re too insecure and/or lazy and/or chauvanistic to show your affection for me all year round. Helping out around the house, cuddling, massages, saying how much you appreciate and love me, etc – those are REAL ways to show your affection. Not cheap candy once a year in a pink heart-shaped box with some cartoon character on it.

avatar anonymous August 10, 2011, 5:26 pm

I am SO with you. I get so tired of the “the world should stop because it’s MY BIRTHDAY” whine. Who in our society really NEEDS something? And why does it have to come on a birthday?

If I see something cool I know my husband would like, and it fits within the budget AND we have space AND it’s not just “stuff” that’ll be thrown away in 5 months, I get it.
His birthday? Sometimes a cake. If I’m organized.

My birthday? Nada. Except a “happy birthday and I love you.” It works for us — it clearly doesn’t for everyone, but I really would encourage the birthday gals to think long and hard about WHY the birthday thing is so important. I think much of it stems from a need to feel loved. If you have that every day (most importantly from yourself) you don’t need to have it on that “special” day.

avatar AKchic August 10, 2011, 6:10 pm

The kids get cakes, and they get to pick out what they want for dinner. Poor SO now, he shares his birthday with my 3rd son (both are January 1st). They usually decide on beer-battered halibut and cheesecake. Nothing says “love”, or “Happy Birthday” like me deep-frying 15lbs of beer-battered halibut and making home made mac and cheese (which involves shredding 3-4lbs of cheese).

Once in a while, we take the kids to the state fair for my birthday. We use my birthday as the excuse to go, but hell – it’s for the kids, because I’m certainly not the one eating the cotton candy, corn dogs and riding the rides (not all at the same time, mind you).

katie katie August 10, 2011, 11:38 pm

beer batered halibut and homemade mac and cheese sound absolutely amazing. now im hungry.

avatar sarita_f August 10, 2011, 5:57 pm

I AM SO WITH YOU ON THIS ONE AKchic!!!!!!

I’m sure some will think I’m a miserable person, but past the age of about 21 I think it’s pretty silly for grown adults to expect others to make a fuss over the basic human fact of being born. And I HATE ‘stuff.’ Hate clutter. Hate generic gifty-type items. I’d rather spend money on spending time with people I care about, because I guarantee you I’m more apt to remember events and QT over some crappy gift basket of lotions that I’m likely allergic to.

I will say that I really appreciate things like flowers or gift certificates for things I’d never splurge on when they come out of the blue. For instance, I got a very hard-fought-for promotion a couple of years back and my parents sent flowers to my office. That totally made my day, and I didn’t have to worry about finding a permanent place for anything.

avatar parrt August 10, 2011, 7:45 pm

i hate stuff and clutter too. germophobes like clean surfaces, i like empty surfaces. i don’t like pointless shit on my desk, countertops or any other surface. i basically want to live in a showroom house, don’t like shit lying around for “show”, or out of its proper place

avatar dobby August 11, 2011, 1:52 pm

Agreed. I stopped buying the required gifts for holidays, birthdays, etc. about 15 years ago.

I do still buy gifts, but only if I find something that I believe the person would truly like, or is an expression of who they are, or in some other way is unique and expressive. And I buy them whenever I find them throughout the year and I give gifts whenever – I don’t wait for holiday, birthday or occasion. And when I give a gift, I truly expect nothing in return. I give a gift because I want to give a little something special to another person, not because I’m keeping a score card of the loot I expect in return.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 3:23 pm

You’re definitely not out of line to feel this way, and it does seem kind of thoughtless of him, but it seems like the time to bring it up has mostly passed. However, I would urge you to bring up the other stuff that you say has made you feel underappreciated with him. If he acts like it’s not big deal and you’re over reacting, or if he asks for specific examples, then maybe consider bringing up the birthday thing. But bringing it up months later and making it the focus will just make it seem like you’ve held a long grudge.

avatar Katie August 10, 2011, 3:26 pm

everyone has different ways of showing their love. Maybe you are the type who feels love by giving/recieving… and perhaps he expresses his love in actions, words, or some other way.

avatar MJ August 10, 2011, 3:27 pm

People put different value on things like birthday gifts. To me, it’s very significant. To other people (some of my family members), it means almost nothing, and I’ve had to learn to manage my expectations.

You should let this go. Your boyfriend can’t read your mind. If you want a gift, or if you want to feel appreciated in a certain way, TELL HIM. I know that in an ideal world he would get this on his own, but really, it probably hasn’t even occurred to him. You can do this in a positive way: “Hey, I really feel appreciated/cared for when you do X.”

avatar ktfran August 10, 2011, 3:37 pm

I wish I could thumbs up this statement more than once.

Communication is key. It sounds like you need to communicate with your bf. I wouldn’t do so in a way that attacks him, but is more of how you feel. Also, I would let go of the lack of birthday gift. The time has passed to bring it up. The longer you hang on to that, the worse you’ll feel and you’ll take it out on him. He may not respond kindly.

avatar Bethany August 11, 2011, 9:47 am

I totally agree. Tomorrow is my fiance’s 30th birthday, and to him it’s just like any other day. He doesn’t want or expect a gift, and he thinks that celebrating a birthday is silly. Several years ago for my birthday (after we’d been dating like a year and a half) he got me a T-Shirt for my birthday. Yeah, that’s right- a t-shirt. I was pissed. But then I realized that for his entire life he thought of birthdays as no big deal, and for me to expect him to suddenly change because they were a big deal to me was asking a little much. Over the years we’ve kind of met half way and they’re a non-issue now.

avatar TMSC August 10, 2011, 3:27 pm

There was a letter to DW a few months ago that started a discussion about how people show affection. Some people show affection (and in turn, expect others to do the same) by giving small tokens or gifts. Some people don’t. Being so early in the relationship, maybe this is hard to discern, but it could be the reason you didn’t receive a gift. I agree that if there are other reasons you feel under-appreciated, you should have an honest discussion about that, as well as your expectations about using gifts to express appreciation or affection. However, two things stuck out to me when reading this letter.

One, the “he didn’t get me a gift, so I am not going to get him one, even though I saw something he would like”. You are already starting to play games, which is never a good sign. If you see something he would like, and you show your affection by giving small gifts, just do it. And two, you are already feeling under-appreciated in a six-month relationship, in which only two of those months have been exclusive. Take a closer look at this and have an honest discussion about it with him. It may be you don’t have the same expectations of this relationship and of each other.

avatar savannah August 10, 2011, 3:36 pm

We can all take Wendy’s line and say that gifts are never mandatory…and that’s mostly true for most situations but come on. She’s not way out of line at all. Most people who are gift people, which is one of the most common ways we as a culture express our love, appreciation or demonstrate simply that we care and are paying attention, would feel at least a little disappointed by his behavior. And they did know each other for a while (4 moths) before being exclusive so i’m not sure the only 2-days excuse flies. Now should you talk to him about it? Maybe, but only when he’s demonstrated this is his routine behavior at dates like this i.e. birthdays. You at least need to be on the same page about not being on the same page if that is the case so no one is feeling bad (you) or confused (him).

avatar GatorGirl August 10, 2011, 3:40 pm

I was in your same situation, but reversed. A few months into casually “dating” my boyfriend (we were exclusive but not using the BF/GF terms) his birthday rolled around. My solution was a fancy dinner out, and a cupcake and candle later at my apartment. No presents, no pressure. When my birthday rolled around 5 months later, he did the same, a nice dinner and some candles. We didn’t exchange gifts our first Christmas either. Three and a half years later, we’re still going strong. One doesn’t need a gift to celebrate a birthday with a loved one.

If the real issue is he doesn’t appreciate or show that he appreciates you, then move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

avatar Colleen August 10, 2011, 3:40 pm

Are you familiar with the idea of Love Languages? Check this out: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/learn-the-languages/the-five-love-languages/

It’s a really simple way to understand why gifts are meaningful for you to give and receive, but might not hold the same significance for him. There are a lot of online quizzes about finding your love language. Try one together as a way to open a conversation about why this issue bothers you and how you can both show your affection.

avatar elisabeth August 11, 2011, 8:51 am

I’ve been scanning replies to see if anyone mentioned this, and now I don’t have to. This, do this! Take the test, see what drives you. It may be, LW, that while you give gifts to your boyfriend and your boyfriend takes you out to dinner, you each are speaking to your own love languages. It is NOT a shameful thing to let him know that you feel built up as an individual when receiving gifts, because that to you communicates how he’s lovingly thinking of you when you’re not there.

Mine is words of affirmation. You can spend all the time with me you want, but if I’m not verbally *told* what I mean to you or what I’ve done that you admire or how cute I look in my top today, I’m not going to feel it. It doesn’t mean I’m incapable of feeling it, or that they’re incapable of showing it, just that there’s been a breakdown in communication and it is *okay* to say to them, “This is what I need from you.” That way, you’re not assuming they’ll just know (no matter how reasonable it seems to you!) and you won’t be in for a letdown.

avatar Third Wave Housewife August 10, 2011, 3:40 pm

Given the newness of the relationship, among other things, I have to say yeah, let it slide. My attitude towards gifts is that when it gets in anyone’s head that giving a gift is a piece of important protocol, gifts are meaningless. It should never be an obligation to give people gifts for any occasion. I really enjoy giving gifts, and I never, never expect them of anyone else. Despite enjoying it, I only give gifts when I think, “X person would really love Y as a gift!” not when I know that X’s birthday is coming up and I drag myself all over town trying to find something they would like. When you’ve only been casually dating for a couple of months, how well do you expect someone to know you?

Now, you say you continue to feel under-appreciated. That is something to address. Not receiving a gift on your birthday, given the newness of the relationship at that point among other factors, is not. Some people don’t like giving gifts, or just don’t think to do it, or whatever. It’s fine for this to bother you- if you tend to be a gift-giver and thoughtful, it can be frustrating to pair off with someone who shows affection and appreciation in other ways…especially if you don’t see those ways at all.

avatar kerrycontrary August 10, 2011, 3:43 pm

LW, I’ve been in a similar situation. My boyfriend and I dated (as in went on dates) for 3 months before we decided to be official. My birthday occured during that time and he didn’t get me anything. We decided to be official about a week before his birthday. I got him gifts because thats how I am. I love to give gifts! I probably would’ve gotten him the gifts even if we had not been “official”. Now on birthdays and holidays since then he has always gotten me gifts and been great at it. But I never held it against him that he didn’t get me anything for that first birthday when I knew him. I was just happy that he took off work for a day and got to see him. I was too busy celebrating my birthday with my close friends at a bar to be concerned about piling up presents. I think the bigger issue here is that you say you don’t feel appreciated. I wish you had given us more details on why you don’t feel appreciated besides the gift giving. All I can tell from your letter though is that you are unhappy and you are only a couple of months in. Maybe this relationship isn’t turning out to have long-term potential?

Budj Budjer August 10, 2011, 3:43 pm

Are you feeling under-appreciated because you have been passive-aggressive about the gift giving thing which resulted in him not wanting to appreciate you as much in the ways he was appreciating you before, but you failed to notice due to being too preoccupied that he didn’t give you a birthday gift?

My brother and his girl friend will spend $300 on a birthday present for the other one when they can barely pay me rent on time…what is with the focus on this stuff? I know that is an extreme, but you’re keeping tabs on who paid dinner last… Did he pay for the next dinner when you got back from vacation? Someone said above that relationships aren’t tat for tat…that is a really good perspective to have.

Kate Kate August 10, 2011, 3:57 pm

Budger, that’s a good point, but when you’re in a relationship with someone who’s stingy in one or more ways, unfortunately you do start to become a scorekeeper, whether you want to or not. BECAUSE you feel hurt, you end up thinking a lot about it and paying attention to their behavior, in terms of what they do for you and when they foot the bill. That’s what dating someone cheap does to you. Of course it’s not a healthy dynamic, but we don’t go into relationships necessarily thinking “tit for tat,” it comes about when things are really unbalanced.

Budj Budjer August 10, 2011, 4:03 pm

you’re right…that happens with my roommates in regards to house chores…”I’ve taken the trash out like 6 times or done dishes 12 times and so and so has only done them 1 time” sort of thing. I just think it’s weird she was keeping track during the dating phase….I mean…if he was stingy enough to warrant coutning while he was courting her what did she think was going to change?

avatar Painted_lady August 10, 2011, 6:04 pm

I think the keeping track thing in relationships may be more a measure of affection than anything. No one wants to be the person who loves their partner disproportionately more than their partner loves them. It looks like stinginess on her part, but it may be closer to what she might do to figure out if she should say “I love you” first or if they’re at the point where discussing exclusivity isn’t completely whackadoodle-level too soon.

Kate Kate August 10, 2011, 3:55 pm

I’d be better able to assess if I knew the other ways in which the LW feels under-appreciated, but I do think a conversation is probably needed. I’m maybe sort of willing to buy what other posters have suggested – that the e-card and dinner were enough of a gesture, IF he’s showing his love in other ways and you feel happy and appreciated, but if it’s part of a pattern, then you need to talk to him about it. Use recent examples first, but somewhere in the conversation you may be able to ask how he feels about gift-giving on birthdays and holidays. Maybe he just isn’t into it and never will be, or maybe he would be willing to change if he knows it’s important to you. But first I think you need to let him know that you are committed to this relationship and want it to work, but have been feeling he may not appreciate you as much as you’d like him to, and give some examples and talk about it. If you don’t, I think what will happen is you’ll eventually blow up from bottling it in, and the result would be unfortunate – I speak from experience!

So talk to him and see if he’s receptive and seems to really care about making you happy. Then watch his actions. If he doesn’t seem to get it, or care, and nothing changes, then it’s time to move on.

avatar joy August 10, 2011, 3:58 pm

First of all you did not say how old you were. Also, has your boyfriend been in relationships before? This may be a case of being inexperienced or maybe in your boyfriend’s family gifts are not exchanged. It’s hard to say. Plus he may feel that even though you’ve known each other for several months that he is still getting to know you. There is no way of knowing what he was thinking, and you shouldn’t assume anything. I say take the lead. If you feel like getting him gifts, then get it for him because you want to. You can also let him know things you like in a subtle way. Perhaps he doesn’t know what you wanted or felt like he didn’t want to get you something just because he had to. In any case, show by doing. Also be observant of the things he does for you. Does he remember how you like your coffee without asking you? Does he know you like to read the Sunday paper first and leaves it for you? It’s the little things that are worth more than a gift picked up just because.

avatar LTC039 August 10, 2011, 4:02 pm

I know most people are saying gifts aren’t mandatory & while that’s very true, I’m pretty sure everyone would be slightly bothered if their S/O did not get them a gift for their birthday. I understand your feeling but it’s also true that it is tacky to bring it to that person’s attention. Maybe you guys do go out to dinner often, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be a “special birthday dinner.” Look, as hard as it was for me to realize, our partners cannot read our minds. Everyone has their own way of expressing love & I think you should give it more time before you even touch on that topic.
Like someone else said, if there are other aspects of the relationship where you feel slighted, then focus on those & decide whether or not you want to continue with this guy. Other than that, let the gift incident go.

avatar Mainer August 10, 2011, 4:06 pm

I think you should approach him with this, if nothing more than to let him know what your priorities are. As a guy, I’d want that. Right now he is operating under the assumption that, given the newness of the relationship, dinner and a e-card was fine. I would be too. I mean you would figure SOME thought would go into a gift, right? Like maybe more than two days? Three days prior you two were just “seeing” each other, so he probably felt like your birthday wouldn’t be spent the same way official couples spend it. Then you decide to become official and, “oh shit, I have two days to figure out something for her birthday.” DInner is an obvious choice, nothing wrong with dinner. The e-card, as corny as they are, was just a way of showing you he was thinking of you on your actual birthday. That’s all. Get over the perceived lack of sentimentality that comes with an e-card and just accept it for what it was, and acknowledgement. That’s all the handwritten ones are anyway, and we usually fill them out at a stoplight.

But back to you approaching this issue with him. He needs to know how important this shit is to you. It may seem petty, but maybe you happen to be a kind of petty person. You are, after all, keeping tabs on who does what. You even forwent getting him something you thought he’d like (the whole PURPOSE behind a gift) because the score wasn’t even. My girlfriend, god love her, LOVES getting presents. She told me. I’m fine with it. I told her I was a really shitty gift giver because I never know what to get people and she said that was fine, she’d help. I have ZERO problem with this because she recognizes my anxiety with getting gifts and accepts it. I know how important it is to her so I try my best. She appreciates me trying. But it taught me to pay close attention to stuff she likes, or does, or is in to just so I have ideas for future presents. You need to let your dude know you like getting presents. He’ll appreciate the heads up, trust me!

Budj Budjer August 10, 2011, 4:09 pm

Right on, mang. She should probably never tell her bf she held out on a present because the score wasn’t even either.

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 4:19 pm

This. Exactly.

Slash I cannot tell you how many times Quakerboy has filled out his part of a card at a red light/on the subway/while waiting to get buzzed into the birthday person’s building.

Kate Kate August 10, 2011, 4:26 pm

This response totally makes sense if this was just about the perceived lack of a birthday gift, but it seems to be beyond that.

avatar Mainer August 10, 2011, 4:32 pm

That’s true, but I’m guessing the other issues exist for the same reason this one exists – a lack of communication. The gift giving was likely the catalyst that sent this feeling of under-appreciation into motion. She needs to bring this to his attention, and she might as well put everything that is bothering her on the table while she is bringing it up.

avatar LTC039 August 10, 2011, 5:01 pm

This is perfect. It is so true! Sometimes, you need to give your S/O a little “push”. Like I said before, I had to realize that my boyfriend cannot read my mind. He knows I love gifts too & he always makes a big effort to get me exactly what I want. I do too, but I also love to get him little things here & there I know he’d like. I don’t expect anything in return because I know that’s not his style. He likes to do things for me more, like surprise me with a beach date w/ champagne or candles, wine, & a movie when he knows I’m feeling down. But a lot of the time, I tell him things straight out, because he needs to know & vice versa. It’s all about communication, hun!

avatar dobby August 11, 2011, 2:02 pm

Ha ha… yeah, I’ve filled out my share of cards at stoplights and while sitting in my car in the restaurant parking lot before going into the dinner/party/reception….

avatar frankiegreen August 10, 2011, 4:25 pm

I wouldn’t recommend bringing this up in the context of “You suck, you didn’t get me a birthday present”, but rather what your expectations for gift giving are in general.

My BF is a very practical guy. He’s not a fan of “stuff”, so he has a hard time with buying frivolous things for people just because. Our first Christmas together (we’d been dating about 6 months), he bought me travel mugs (which I loved) and a little doggie poo bag dispenser. Needless to say, I was pretty upset and we had a little chat about appropriate gift giving. I told him that while I know it was the thought behind the doggie poo bags that counts, I didn’t really want to think of him every time I cleaned up after my mutt. He took what I said to heart and did much better when my birthday rolled around a month later. :)

So, just talk to him. Don’t be a jerk about it, don’t make him feel guilty, just tell him what you want him to do WRT gifts he gives you. He’s not psychic.

avatar anonymous August 10, 2011, 5:35 pm

Love the doggie poo bag idea! LOL

avatar AKchic August 11, 2011, 6:51 pm

Gee – and one year I actually asked for an ice pick for Christmas because a neighbor broke mine 5 days before X-mas after he borrowed (without asking) it off my back porch.

avatar Skybird August 10, 2011, 4:28 pm

My opinion: Consider the dinner your birthday gift. Be happy he thought enough of you to send you an e-card. Now wait. See what happens at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and your next birthday (do NOT make any marriage decisions until at LEAST a year). See if he is considerate in other ways, and if you can accept those other ways as gifts. If you tell him you’re sick, does he call you and ask if you need anything (and if so, does he bring it)? Will he bring you aspirin if you have such a bad headache that you can’t even open the blinds in your place. If you cook dinner at your place, does he offer to clean up, or better yet, take the dishes from the dinner table and say, “Where do you want these?”

I set the standard of no expectations 19 years ago and am paying the price. I get nothing for my birthday from my husband, nothing for mother’s day, nothing for Christmas that I don’t buy myself, and am now finding myself contemplating divorce because he does NOTHING around the house. SET SOME EXPECTATIONS at some point.

avatar SGMcG August 10, 2011, 4:42 pm

Last year, for our third anniversary, my husband and I didn’t exchange gifts. We were both in the midst of career transitions at the time, so gifts were a luxury. However, even though we were both broke, I still tried to at least acknolwedge the day and I wrote him a love letter with cute illustrations – something to reflect the sentiment of the day and how special . My husband got me nothing – yet he told me that he would make it up to me when his funds were better. I was still upset about it – not because that he didn’t give me a gift, yet he failed to place any effort, creativity or thoughtfulness in acknowledging the day. It was, to me, indicative of some issues we had in our marriage.

This birthday present thing may be bothering you more than you let on because it may potentially demonstrate the level of investment he has in your relationship as opposed to you. Yet you guys JUST became exclusive two days before your birthday – that’s too early to start doing a checks and balances evaluation of who does what. I think you’d be better off talking to him about your relationship together, specifically individual expectations of what exclusivity entails. If you feel under-appreciated now, maybe he just needs to be informed what appreciation means to you. He’s not a mind reader – you have to tell him at some point.

avatar SemanticAntics August 10, 2011, 4:58 pm

Yes! I completely agree with your description of the meaning behind gifts. I would have loved to get a letter like that from my boyfriend in lieu of a more expensive gift.

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 10, 2011, 4:45 pm

Just a thought, but…sometimes those “modest, but thoughtful” gifts are a B*TCH to find.

Seriously. Some of us just aren’t gift-giving people. I second all the “read the 5 Languages of Love” comments, because this really sounds like it boils down to you two not communicating well. I think you’re a gift-giver, and he’s not. And that is totally okay- you just need to learn the ways in which your bf IS showing you he cares (assuming he’s not a complete troll who doesn’t care or doesn’t show it at all), and you need to help him learn how to recognize the things you do for him.

Example: I suck at buying gifts for people I don’t know extremely well, especially when I’m on a budget (which is all the time). For Christmas, I got my ex-bf a gift card to Gamestop, which he liked, but he kind of looked at me like, “really?” However, take into account that I did all our dishes and cleaned up his entire kitchen, usually after making him 1-2 nice dinners, every time I spent the weekend with him. That, to me, is far more meaningful than any particular object. He, on the other hand, would tell me how much he loved me, often, and then be done with it. Nice, don’t get me wrong, and much appreciated…but definitely NOT the same way of expressing love that I prefer.

avatar SemanticAntics August 10, 2011, 4:53 pm

I have been having a similar in my relationship as the LW, except that my boyfriend of well over a year has yet to buy me a single card or present. I stewed about it silently for months. Long story short, before my last birthday I sent him an email telling him why it’s important to me that he get me a gift, even if it’s hand made or just a thoughtfully written card. I also included a list of the types of things/categories I like and some links to online stores, making it super-easy for him to pick something out. he later told me he appreciated the list, because it took the pressure off him to find something “perfect”.

My opinion on gifts in relationships is that if they one of your Love Languages, as someone mentioned above, you should communicate that need to your partner in an honest, non-confrontational way. I don’t think that us gift-needing people are materialistic, it’s just that for us gifts are a symbol that our partner is willing to put the thought, effort and time into something that will make us happy. It means they are willing to go above and beyond the ordinary routine to make us feel special and appreciated.

I think the biggest thing here is communication, because if you are feeling unappreciated or not special in your relationship, what have you got to lose by talking to him about it? Maybe a little honesty will make him respond to your needs better. Or if you communicate your needs to him and he shows no sign of trying harder to meet them, then you two could be mismatched and it’s better to know sooner rather than later.

avatar VioletLover August 11, 2011, 3:41 am

He went over a YEAR without getting you ANYTHING? Christ on a cracker, I hope he has some seriously redeeming qualities, because that would have been a deal breaker for me. You shouldn’t have to point out exactly what you want to get -anything at all-.

avatar Maracuya August 11, 2011, 9:48 am

I’m confused a little. You sent him an email telling him why gift-giving is important to you (before your last birthday, so I’m assuming a while ago) and he still has yet to buy you a single card or present?

avatar SemanticAntics August 11, 2011, 3:09 pm

My last birthday was only a week ago, and we are LDR so I just haven’t received it yet.

And yes, in other ways he is really great. I’ve realized he’s not a big gift giver and he hates shopping, but he does other nice things for me. If he didn’t, I agree that it would be a deal-breaker and I would’ve been long gone by now.

avatar Turtledove August 10, 2011, 5:09 pm

If I were in the LW’s shoes, I would initiate a series of conversations designed to suss out how he shows affection and how he feels about gift giving. The LW doesn’t say the other ways that she feels unappreciated, so we can’t give her any advice on that, but we know that the birthday thing is bothering her. That’s fair, it bothers some people and doesn’t bother others.

There are some wonderful, low-pressure ways to initiate a conversation about these things. For instance, “My sister’s birthday is coming up next month. I’ve been looking and looking for a good gift for her. I was thinking about XYZ, but that might be a little expensive for a birthday. My family LOVES birthdays, everyone gets everyone a gift even though we’re all grown up now. It’s fun for me because I like picking out gifts. How does your family feel about gift giving?” See, I’ve just started a conversation and he’ll tell me all about how he feels about gifts without feeling like I’m accusing him.

Another conversation I might have. “I just got off the phone with my friend Alicia. She’s upset because her boyfriend does XYZ even though she’s been doing ABC and she feels a little taken advantage of. It’s hard when there’s an imbalance in a relationship or when people express their affection in different ways. Now me, I like to express affection by getting small thoughtful gifts and doing… BF would hopefully answer with how he feels about these things and what he feels is a good way of showing affection. That should open up a dialogue into how he feels that affection should be expressed and how much affection should be expressed. The key for me has always been to start conversations in non-judgmental ways and then decide if it’s worth airing my grievances. If I start out just with the grievances, DH tends to get defensive and then we don’t get anywhere.

Perhaps he’s just not an outwardly affectionate guy, perhaps he doesn’t appreciate the LW, perhaps he appreciates the LW in different ways than the LW expects. We have no way of knowing, but I encounter things in life or on DW or around the web that make perfect openings to have these kinds of conversations. If the LW can figure out how he feels about the things that make her feel slighted, she’s armed with more information. She can ask him if he would do some of the things that make her feel appreciated and she could do some of the things that he likes and they could both acknowledge the things their partner does that are different. Or, they might realize that they are too different in this regard and aren’t a good fit. Either way, the LW would know what was going on and be able to make decisions and expectations accordingly.

avatar Susan August 10, 2011, 5:39 pm

When you start keeping track, it is time to move on, especially at 6 months. Real relationships are not about keeping track of when, where and how much.

Nothing is ever equal in a relationship, one party at any given time will give more, do more than the other.

I am a gift giver, my SO is not, big deal. You know how I knew he loved me. I was really really sick on massive doses of codeine, he stopped by 3 times a day from his job to check in on me. No gift will ever top that.

fast eddie fast eddie August 10, 2011, 5:59 pm

Petty, petty, petty. “One of these days Alice, one these days, pow! right to the moon.” How bout them apples?

That’s enough ranting, but dam it girl, your not 10 years old any more. There’s lots of reasons he didn’t get you anything. Money’s tight and rent’s due, afraid of being locked in to a sugar daddy role, the little gifts you bought for him were nice but frankly they were cheap, just didn’t think it was appropriate at this stage of the relationship, or maybe he’s supporting his widowed mother/ex-wife/3 other girl friends, lost his job and ashamed to tell you. The list is endless and your harboring anger without knowing why he didn’t. I didn’t get you anything either so there.

OK back to ranting in 4-3-2-1- RANT-RANT-RANT

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 8:35 pm

Women SEEM to want equality, but guys sure do have to buy the bulk of the gifts. I should list some of the lame-o gifts my straight buddies have had tossed their way over the years…

avatar beans629 August 10, 2011, 11:04 pm

See now I want to know what kind of lame-o gifts they’ve received because frankly I want to know if I’ve ever given a ‘lame-o’ gift. ;-)

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 11:22 pm

Ties. Neckties is a recurring theme that is such a cliche’ I just about die every time a bud complains about it. Other bad gifts? Low rent sporting event tickets (to a guy who really doesn’t like sports…) Thoughtless DVD purchases. (Bad action films, or worse painfully cheesy chick flicks such as Under The Tuscan Sun “Because I KNOW you like Italy, hon.”) Bad cologne. (To a guy who is allergic to just about everything.) Computer games — for a PC when the guy owns a Mac. I could go on and on and on here…

avatar Maracuya August 11, 2011, 8:45 am

Hmm. I don’t know why there are thumbs down. They DO sound like bad gifts. I tend not to give my boyfriend ties because he’s very particular about the patterns he likes and he doesn’t need so many.

avatar AKchic August 11, 2011, 6:59 pm

*laugh* OMG – I know what you mean. Moms get cliche items too. Marigolds in clay pots at Mother’s Day. Macaroni necklaces from the school. Handprints in plaster every year from kindergarten to 3rd grade for Christmas. Heart jewelry from the cheap jewelry section at Wal-Mart.

I’ve steered my kids away from the cliche stuff for their dad. Yes, they did get him a tie once. But, it was a silk NY Giants tie that he’d been eying for a while. It went with a NY Giants pajama set (with matching slippers). It’s tradition since he’s a Giants fan. Always one piece of Giants stuff. This year – a king sized fleece blanket for his bed (since I wouldn’t let him have one while we were married).
For Father’s Day – the kids made picture frames, even painted them. He needed more picture frames. We made sure that they could hang on a wall, stand up or be used as magnets on a fridge. We get him the dvd collections he wants. Got him a great pocket watch one year. Gift cards tucked into gag gifts (I bought him “How To Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way” as a gag gift a few years ago).

I think that guys who don’t know how to pick out gifts weren’t taught how to as kids.

fast eddie fast eddie August 11, 2011, 10:20 am

It isn’t about the gift itself rather an indicator of what you mean to each other. We men are oblivious to what women want and visa-versa. I remember wanting to get something for her and having no clue as to what. The result was something horrid but fortunately she accepted the thought and let the butt ugly flower vase accumulate dust in the closet. After 25 years together we still struggle with this even with outright asking what she’d like. My bailout gift is jewelry for her, it’s never failed yet.

avatar melanie August 11, 2011, 10:52 am

I think it may have more to do with the fact that she doesn’t feel special from the dinner. Guys can take anyone to dinner – even people they’re not dating. So, even though it’s a nice gesture, it doesn’t feel special.

One of my favorite gifts came from a guy that hand drew me a card. Knowing the chances of him doing that for someone else were slim. It showed that he spent time thinking about me while I wasn’t around. Then he took me on a picnic.

It doesn’t have to cost gobs of money. Just something to show that he thinks about you in a different light than a coworker or his friend, Joe.

avatar GertietheDino August 10, 2011, 6:17 pm

OMG – Get over it! If he were treating you badly or rubbing it in your face that he didn’t give you a gift (like giving gifts to others) – which he did, a nice dinner is a gift – then maybe, maybe you have cause to take umbridge with his actions. Obviously you have other issues with him or you wouldn’t be planning to calmly talk things over with him. Maybe it’s time to move on?

avatar MissDre August 10, 2011, 6:29 pm

I just have to say, communication goes a long way. You can’t expect him to read your mind. I nearly broke up with my current boyfriend in our 2nd month together, because I felt like I wasn’t a priority to him and I told myself I wasn’t gonna put up with that shit. But I talk to a male friend about it first, and he suggested that I calmly tell my boyfriend how I felt and what I wanted from him.

You know what my boyfriend said? “I’m sorry babe, I didn’t realize that I made you feel that way. I’ll do better!” And from then on, he did. And we’re still together over a year later, and if I ever feel like he’s slipping, I tell him kindly, and he does the same to me. So, give your man another chance. It could be that he’s showing his appreciation for you in his own way, and he doesn’t realize that you’d like something different. Tell him nicely.

Another thing is, make an effort to recognize the way he DOES show his appreciation for you. My boyfriend is not very verbal at all, he rarely expresses himself with words (sometimes I wish he would). But I know he appreciated dinner when he clears the table and runs the sink. Little things like that. Pay attention to how he shows his love in his own ways. Unless your guy is a complete dick who deserves an immediate dumping (it doesn’t sound like it though), it’ll go a long way.

sobriquet sobriquet August 10, 2011, 6:29 pm

Tell. Him. How. You. Feel. As long as you communicate your feelings without attacking him, the two of you should be able to work through this. Because… I have a feeling if you don’t let it out now, you’re going to bring it up at some inopportune time (like during a heated argument… “AND you didn’t even CARE enough to buy me a BIRTHDAY PRESENT!!!”) which will make you look clinically insane.

Talk it out. Let him know what you want and expect out of your relationship. Hopefully he’ll let you know if he is able to meet your needs. If all goes well, bring up the birthday gift and even tell him that you feel silly that it still bothers you. I bet it’s just a misunderstanding about the timeline of your relationship (2 days versus 4 months).

Communicate and you should know exactly how much he appreciates you.

avatar Painted_lady August 10, 2011, 6:43 pm

Here’s the thing that I TOTALLY get about this: it wasn’t about the “stuff” or the expense. Obviously if he bought dinner, he can afford a small gift. How would you have felt if he’d brought something stupid like a princess crown or one of those cheesy silk roses you buy at the gas station? I love crap like that because you know you were thought of, and the price doesn’t matter, as long as it makes you feel like he’s thinking of you…plus cheap laughs are underrated. But you’re feeling insecure because you’re not sure if you even matter in his life.

Talk to him. Calmly, reasonably, like you said, and tell him that while he isn’t a mind reader as many commenters have insisted – which is true and fair – that you aren’t either. You need to know you matter to him, and just because he’s graced you with his presence doesn’t mean that’s a given. Ask him what you do to make him feel like he’s important in your life: the way he perceives that will be a huge clue. Ask him to tell you what he does for you so that you know you’re important. Then tell him your perceptions. Then figure out together what you could each do better.

That being said, I would caution you to observe this carefully, albeit objectively, because if you’re only a few months in and already feeling unappreciated, however that’s manifesting, because that’s a little early to be taken for granted. There’s a massive difference between a man who isn’t all that naturally considerate (women are that way too) and one who doesn’t factor in your presence in his life at all, other than how it pertains to him. My college boyfriend was really preoccupied with work one year and forgot my birthday for a day and forgot a couple of other important dates, so out of the blue he got me a necklace to apologize for it. It wasn’t about the stuff, it was about his acknowledgement that I’d put up with some stuff because I loved him. Then there was my last boyfriend who (mentioned this on another post today) planned a vacation with his parents and sister ON our anniversary, told me about it after the fact, and was confused as to why I was angry. First one I can handle, the second one I can’t. So take care; don’t write him off but be somewhat vigilant as to what sort of treatment you will accept.

katie katie August 10, 2011, 9:59 pm

the only thing that i disagree with is that if he had given her one of those silk roses or something like that the letter would simply be, my boyfriend got me this terribly fake and cheesey silk rose for my BIRTHDAY. my birthday, where i should be showered with gifts of importance, not gifts from a gas station!

i just feel like it is about the stuff. she is keeping score about how many dinners they have each paid for, so she couldnt even appreciate that part of his gift, and then he did think of her- he sent her a card on her actual birthday while she was on vacation. i cant even remember when i have gotten a card on my actual birthday. i really think it is about the stuff. she is too preoccupied with the lack of stuff, she cant see the thought that was put into what she did get.

everything else is totally true though- if she is feeling bad about other areas of the relationship, they do need to have a talk

avatar Painted_lady August 10, 2011, 10:13 pm

I absolutely see your point, and you’re probably right. I wonder if maybe the letter was just poorly written. It might have been “I’m feeling really insecure in my relationship because of this, that, and the other thing, and now looking back on the beginning of the relationship in the light of his recent lack of appreciation, I’m starting to question everything.” That was how I took it, although I totally could be projecting my own experiences onto this letter. It seems like if the relationship had proceeded in a way that made her feel valued – although since she didn’t specify what’s making her insecure, so all of that could be equally shallow – she wouldn’t have had a second thought about it and therefore we wouldn’t be seeing this letter.

katie katie August 10, 2011, 11:46 pm

i totally think that could be the case -a poorly written lettter- BUT, i think that if it was all these “other things” (that she doesnt even mention), the letter would be more like what you said – “i feel unappreciated because of X, Y and Z reasons”, with the no birthday gift being maybe one of them, or maybe a “and he didn’t even get me a present for my birthday on top of everything!” kind of thing. i just feel like the lack of present is the entire main focus of the letter, and so that is where i draw my conclusions from.

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 10:15 pm

Agreed. She totally didn’t see that she was thought of and he was trying to make her see that he was thinking of her. All she sees is the lack of stuff. Also, if she’s concerned that she doesn’t matter in his life in part because he didn’t get her a birthday gift and only sent her a card and took her to dinner when they’d only been casually seeing each other for four months, I wonder how she’s going to feel down the road when they’re both having rough times at work and need to buckle down, or they get married and have a child who needs more attention from him than she gets.

If it really wasn’t about that and there are fifty million other reasonable things that make her feel unappreciated, then that’s a problem. But this incident, not so much.

avatar VioletLover August 11, 2011, 3:46 am

He sent her a E-CARD. That’s pretty lazy. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to give her an early birthday card before she left. “I know we won’t be together in person on your birthday, so let me give you this now.” It would have been sweet and thoughtful and shown he was thinking about her and would be missing her.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 11, 2011, 5:44 am

Whatever. She’d have bitched about that. “A card? All he gave me is a card! Wahhhh! I’m vapid! Wah! I’m shallow! My love is for sale! Buy me! Buy me with expensive gifts!!!”

avatar plasticepoxy August 11, 2011, 11:18 am

I don’t think e-cards are lazy. You do the same thing you do in the aisle of a store:
1. scan through various card options
2. decide how much you want to pay
3. select the card that you think is best from the options available
4. add your personal message
5. send it.
Is it lazy just because he didn’t have to go to a store and pay for the card at a register? I see a lot of people claiming that e-cards don’t “count” and I’d love to know why.

avatar dobby August 11, 2011, 2:08 pm

I like getting an e-card. Why? Because it shows he thought of me and that’s really all that counts. E-cards aren’t lazy. They require thought and action just like a real card does. Just because they are sent to your email inbox instead of your postal inbox doesn’t make a whit of difference to me.

avatar Britannia August 14, 2011, 10:18 pm

Maybe he wasn’t being lazy, he was being eco-conscious. Or wallet-conscious. Or both!

avatar parrt August 10, 2011, 6:43 pm

how is a $2 card going to make you feel special on your birthday? don’t you feel special by spending it with a person you like ?

i hope you dump this guy and release him from your unreasonable expectations.

avatar IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! August 11, 2011, 1:33 pm

I’m with you except i hope he dumps her for being petty and materialistic.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 10, 2011, 6:48 pm

For the future you need to learn how to ask how things will work and to say how you would like them to work. It’s easy enough to say, “Hey, my birthday’s coming up and I’m wondering how you’d like to celebrate birthdays now that we’re exclusive?” Work it out between the two of you. He can’t read your mind to know what you want or expect and vice versa. He may be showing you he cares about you in a way that you don’t notice while you give gifts and he may not. We like to go out for birthdays and if he came from a family like mine he might have felt that dinner out was the perfect way to show he cared while you were looking for a present. We each come from a different background, with different expectations. Learning to ask what the expectations are for the relationship is a great skill that you will use over and over.

avatar robottapocalypse August 10, 2011, 7:40 pm

She should just date someone who gives her lots of things that she thinks she should get when she thinks she should get them. She should also find a man who knows exactly what to tell her and when to say it in card form or otherwise.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 8:32 pm

It’s seriously amazing that more and more men simply just don’t turn gay. Hey, I’m beginning to think I would as there is just no pleasing some women. He took her out for a nice dinner AND sent he a card via email — probably because this is the ONLY way he could get the card to arrive on her actual birthday as she went out of town.

Meanwhile cards — paper cards — are a huge waste of resources. Seriously think of all the cards you’ve tossed in the trash over the years… And all just so you can feel “special” for a moment. Grow up already! Is everybody on here 12?

avatar MissDre August 10, 2011, 8:42 pm

I love cards… and I keep them. Cards from my mom, my best friend and my boyfriend, and any from my siblings that are particularly funny or remind me of us growing up. I have a shoebox where I keep the cards that mean too much to throw away. Usually the most recent ones are taped to my mirror in my front hallway.

I just really love cards, though. Everyone is different. A lot of people just don’t give a shit. And that’s ok too. To each their own :) And no, my house is not cluttered :)

avatar Quakergirl August 10, 2011, 9:33 pm

I keep them, too, in a box behind all the reference textbooks in my bookcase. I actually stumbled across one from my grandfather a few months ago and I was really glad I saved it– he passed away many years ago and it was nice just to see his writing again. Also I really love stationary, design-wise, so I keep some of them for that reason. Some women love shoes, some love purses…I love stationary.

That being said, I wouldn’t judge someone for sending an e-card. They still picked it out and wrote the note just like they would have otherwise. It’s the same thought, really, and in this case, the thought seems to have been “I want her to know I’m thinking about her on her birthday even though she’s not here,” which is, actually, a really sweet thought.

avatar Maracuya August 11, 2011, 8:21 am

I keep all the cards I get in a shoebox. :) My grandmother used to file hers by date and person. I actually don’t think the e-card was that bad. Sometimes you have to pay for those, too, and he wrote a message. I think it’s cute.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 11, 2011, 10:14 am

I think it’s a woman thing. Lots of women keep cards and letters. I know I keep all of our cards and now have over 25 years worth of cards. I’ve found old letters from my grandmother who died about 15 years ago and I love to read her words again and see her name signed at the bottom.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 8:51 pm

“Hey, I’m beginning to think I would as there is just no pleasing some women.”

I find it kind of ironic this is coming from the mouth of one of the most bitter individuals I’ve ever come across. Especially considering you find fault in everything. But women are the ones who are hard to please?

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 9:09 pm

Actually, in my life I am VERY easy to please. (Too easy, I often think.) But here on these boards it is exhausting to hear women whine about such trivial matters as being given an ecard versus a physical card. In fact, the only thing worse is when vapid posters then take the side of the LW. Sure, I find A LOT wrong with the letters on here, that’s because so many of them are so trivial, so insignificant, and so stupid it simply astounds me. This entire silly gift debacle happened months ago. MONTHS AGO… You know what? I’m going to amend my original post. Heck, I’ll even throw in some actual advice. Constructive advice even… If she is STILL so upset about this, then she should stick to her guns, fight for her feelings, and MOA. Why? Simply because, frankly, the poor guy CLEARLY deserves better.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 9:16 pm

You REALLY hate women, I’ve noticed. That, or you just like to generalize A LOT.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 9:44 pm

Actually, I don’t hate all women. Just some. The silly, stupid, whiny ones who go out of their way to ruin it for the rest of you. Here’s some more advice — skip my posts. Jump over them! Ignore ‘em! Clearly they sail way, way over your head. Meanwhile, your tired accusation that I am bitter is beyond pointless as my screen name here is BITTERgaymark. If I wanted to be love and sunshine on here it would be something vapid like Agreeswitheverystupidletterwritermark

avatar Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich August 10, 2011, 10:34 pm

For every time you threaten to capitulate, I will kick a puppy.

avatar AnitaBath August 11, 2011, 12:14 am

You advise me to skip your comments because I disagree with them and they make me mad. By that same logic, shouldn’t you skip….every single letter on here?

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 11, 2011, 12:28 am

No, because I am actually TRYING to make the rest of the people on here think a bit about how they view the world. And maybe, just maybe knock some sense into the LWs through a reality check of tough love…

Meanwhile, all you ever have to say about my posts is tired personal attacks that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the letters. Or even my comments really. It’s all just snide, oh, I am so deep and ironic and you are so bitter, Mark. You hate women. Blah, Blah, blah.

All the same, I have never accused you of being bitter. Or of hating men. For that matter I haven’t even accused you of hating me. Something, which frankly, I would have a much better case of.

avatar AnitaBath August 10, 2011, 9:18 pm

Although, good job on actually giving some advice this time around. It’s refreshing from your usual hate-filled rants.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 10, 2011, 8:51 pm

I agree. I warn my kids to be wary of people who are too caught up in things. I tell them to value people by the way they behave and not by the stuff they have. This seems somewhat materialistic to me by measuring his feelings for her by the gifts he gives or doesn’t give as if it is the only way to show appreciation.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 10, 2011, 9:11 pm

Your multiple thumbsdowns prove beyond all doubt that women are getting more and more shallow all the time. Sad. Very sad. But apparently…very true.

avatar Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich August 10, 2011, 10:16 pm

AAAAAgreed. But not EVERYBODY. Arguably, my man is a good gift giver. But in terms of affection, in terms of making me feel appreciated, it isn’t through gifts. It isn’t through words. He’s a doer. If I try to buy him a present (a good one,as in, something he has asked for) he’ll often joke that I’m trying to buy his love if I tell him I’m buying it ahead of time. There’s a very clear line drawn between material gifts and the meeting of emotional needs in the relationship.

I bet there are lots of ways that through his actions this guy show the LW that he cares. Lots of ways that are appropriate to “technically” two month of exclusivity. Lots of ways that don’t have a price-tag.

Besides, if she’s keeping track of who buys dinner enough to know it’s his “turn”, I’m not super impressed by her drive to do things for him.

avatar robottapocalypse August 11, 2011, 3:52 am

I find that I agree with an ally of the grilled cheese sandwich and a bitter gay man over a placating, dirty favour.

People worth money and time rarely ask for money and often give time.
People who can be bought generally pander. People who want to be bought always pander. People who want to be impressed rarely impress anyone and people who demand to be impressed are lazy and unimaginative.

avatar Britannia August 14, 2011, 10:28 pm

I guess I am in the minority of “unsentimental” women on here because I genuinely do not like getting cards. I do not keep them, I recycle them whenever possible (which they usually aren’t). Why the hell would I want to keep a box (or multiple boxes, as time goes on) full of sparkly, stiff paper that will never mean anything to anyone other than me? The only reason to hoard/keep something, in my opinion, is to pass it along to future generations because it has some sort of worth. Love letters are one thing – they are usually well-thought-out, important things. Cards? No.

They’re a drain on our resources, from creation to disposal, and incredibly over priced. I don’t give cards to anyone, but I show my affection in other ways just like LW’s boyfriend… like giving a good meal. My family has always said that the best gift is a a delicious and filling meal in your belly.

I can’t believe how “normal” materialism is, though I admit that my opinion of what constitutes materialism is much more stringent than what most people think constitutes being over-the-line. Experiences should be what matters… a card or gift can be thrown away, but a memory is something special that will last forever. If this LW has very different expectations and values than her boyfriend, they should break up because of differing values, not because, as someone else mentioned, they don’t match each other’s material generosity tit-for-tat.

avatar IdaTarbell August 10, 2011, 8:36 pm

Yes, he should have given you something, but no, you shouldn’t bring it up.

On an entirely different note, no one should ever expect a gift, but everyone should be expected to give a gift. For example, if you’re having a birthday party at your house, you shouldn’t expect your guests to bring you anything. However, as a guest to the party, one should expect to bring something, whether it’s a birthday present or a $3 bottle of wine or a homemade cake or at least a card. The same goes for weddings, baby showers, dinner parties and housewarmings. The host should never expect anything, but good guests always expect to give something.

avatar Lindsay August 10, 2011, 10:25 pm

The only thing about the letter that I think would be valid would be the feeling unappreciated — depending on why. Yes, the birthday thing can be chalked up to a new relationship. Even if it was technically his turn to buy dinner, I doubt a guy would think that hard about whose turn was whose to determine whether the dinner was a suitable gift. And as for the LW picking up simple gifts for him and him apparently not doing the same, a gift shouldn’t be given with the expectation of one in return. Not saying that she gave him a gift in order to get one, but the fact that she gave him one doesn’t necessitate one from him.

Anyway, if the LW feels unappreciated in other ways, such as her boyfriend not making time for her, dismissing her thoughts and opinions, etc., then by all means, talk to him about it. Otherwise, accept that you guys have different views of gift giving.

katie katie August 10, 2011, 9:52 pm

i got a huge bitchy, materialistic, its what you do for me that will determine what i do for you attitude from this letter…

if she found something on her vacation that she thought he would like, she should have gotten it for him, if she had the extra money, as a cute little gift just because. to say that she didn’t get it for him JUST BECAUSE he didn’t get her a birthday present? it sounds like junior high, frankly. also, she says the dinner wasn’t special because it was already his turn to pay? again, junior high. “well, he did buy it, but it totally doesnt count because i already paid for 12 of our dinner dates. he has paid for 11. here, i have it all mapped out so i can keep track”. i mean seriously???? she is most definitely keeping score here- and while i’m all for giving and taking equally in relationships, its insane to slight someone you have been dating for 2 months for no birthday gift. and going along with that, what was she expecting after two months? it doesnt matter if they had been casually dating for 4 months, when you become official its not just an automatic switch where you all of a sudden huge expensive gifts are bought. again, very very junior high. “ok, your my boyfriend now. this is how you have to act. you have to walk me to class, walk me home after class, and my birthday is next week and you better make sure you get me something special, and flowers”. seriously??

i truly hope that this isn’t the way that this girl acts normally, because i would not ever want to date, or be friends with, someone so selfish… always knowing that anything nice she did for me better be returned, or else? that is no way to have healthly, normal, functioning relationships.

i think the major thing is that she needs to realize is that people give gifts in different ways. i would ALWAYS pick the dinner over the present. always. thats the kind of gift i would rather be given. other people would pick the presents.

also, she needs to read the book the 5 languages of love.

if she says she is unfulfilled/under appreciated in other areas of their relationship, then that needs to be addressed. but to bitch about not getting a birthday present? ugh.

you should do things/buy gifts for the people you love because you love them, not because its your “turn”, or because they have done 527 nice things for you, and you are currently at 526, or because its a holiday/birthday. those things are all called obligations, and that is not what love should be about. you should just love these people, all the time, and not worry so much about gifts and think more of the thoughts behind them.

avatar Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich August 10, 2011, 10:18 pm

Thank you, this.

avatar ele4phant August 10, 2011, 11:02 pm

Not everybody is into stuff. Some families don’t really make a big to do, presents wise, on birthdays. Maybe that’s how he grew up. Or maybe, despite dating for several months, he was scared he didn’t know your taste and he’d screw it up, so he decided to play it safe and just take you to dinner.

He *did* recognize it was your birthday though, right? He took you to dinner in honor of the occassion, didn’t he? So the issue is really that you feel underappreciated. And why is that? You don’t really say, is it because you get him gifts sometimes while he never gets you anything. Or is it how he treats you in general?

I am not trying to trivalize your feelings, but concentrate on what he DOES give you, everyday, not what he DIDN’T on one day. In the long haul, that’s more important.

avatar Kare August 11, 2011, 3:00 am

I’m just going to assume the LW is not materialistic and vapid and that the issue here isn’t the lack of a gift or card or whatever. I think maybe the LW is concerned that her and her boyfriend are in different places. She might be worried he’s not as serious about the relationship as she is. And yeah maybe she shouldn’t judge it by gifts, but everyone expresses love differently. The LW just needs to move on about this issue, because there’s many reasons he didn’t get her a card or actual gift. Maybe he’s not in a good place financially, maybe he doesn’t think gifts are important, or maybe he really thought he was being thoughtful without coming on too strong. Who knows? But they just started dating so he’s obviously unaware of her expectations. Maybe the next time a gift giving occasion rolls around she can mention a few things she might like and see what his gift giving views are.

avatar MissDre August 11, 2011, 9:02 am

I agree with you. Let’s not attack the LW here because I think her feelings about the gift are stemming from other insecurities in the relationship.

LW, I don’t think you are shallow and materialistic, I think you just really need to learn the different ways people show their love. And if there is something else going on (for example, once my boyfriend and I became exclusive, I felt like he was no longer making me a priority, when really he was just getting comfortable) you just need to talk to him and tell him honestly what you want from him.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 11, 2011, 1:34 pm

What? The ENTIRE letter is ALL about the “lack” of gifts… And now, since that makes the LW sound shallow and bitchy we are all too simply assume that something much deeper is at work here? What does this mean? That the LW is simply too dumb to write us about what her REAL problem is? Sorry. No. I don’t think so.

avatar IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! August 11, 2011, 1:38 pm

BGM, you’re making too much sense.
Turn it down and stop hurting feewings.

katie katie August 11, 2011, 7:47 pm

thats exactly what I thought of the letter- i want to give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s really not that terrible of a person (i really do!), but the entire letter is about the lack of gift, the “thoughtless” gifts she did get, how she keeps score of who buys what, and how she didn’t buy him a gift because he hadn’t gotten her a “good enough” birthday present…

i just think that if there were deeper issues here, she would have at least mentioned them.. at least!!

avatar LTC039 August 12, 2011, 8:07 am

BGM, can you make your own advice column?? I’d so read that…

fast eddie fast eddie August 11, 2011, 10:31 am

Let’s look at this logistically, your going to be out of town for your birthday but want him to drop everything and surprise you with large tokens from afar. How in the hell is he supposed to do that without a Star Trek transporter. I think the e-card and dinner before you left was plenty.

avatar Britannia August 14, 2011, 10:32 pm

If he truly loved her, he would have learned quantum physics, created trans-warp technology, and built a transporter! THAT would have been an adequate display of affection.

avatar Ruby August 11, 2011, 11:34 am

Some people (especially guys) are not great with sentimentality and gift-giving…especially at the start of a relationship. I wouldn’t judge him too harshly on that.

What I think is more of an issue, is the fact that you feel unappreciated! To me, this is a bigger issue! Being appreciated has nothing to do with the kind of gifts you get, but how he looks out for you, supports you emotionally, and spends time with you.
If you feel like you’re not being appreciated then you need to deal with that…and leave the gift-giving thing out of it.

avatar Stella August 11, 2011, 11:59 am

I know exactly where the LW is coming from because I went through practically the same thing with my boyfriend. We had just started going out, maybe a month and my birthday rolled around. We had known eachother for 2 years prior as friends. He brought me out to dinner that night but hadn’t made reservations, it was just like any other date night. No present, no card, no cake… I was pretty disappointed, not because I wanted jewlery or a big fancy card, but because I wanted my person to make me feel special and appreciated on the day I was born…

What I did, was tell him at the end of the night… Very gently, that I was a little disappointed he didn’t put any thought into our night. I also told him I love surprises and thoughtful cards… I felt a little weird talking about it but I knew this was important to me in a relationship and I wanted him to know that it hurt he didn’t think of me on my bday. He explained he never did those sort of things and had other things on his mind that week and he promised to make it up to me. A year later, we joke about it and this year, he wrote me a beautiful card that brought me to tears.

I say, if you don’t tell a person what your expectations are, how will they know they’ve screwed up? You have to talk about it with him and about all the other little things that bother you so he can make you happy if he wants to make the effort for you…

avatar IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! August 11, 2011, 1:35 pm

LW, if you wanted a card or a gift that bad why didn’t you just buy one for yourself?
Pick your battles wisely, child… this ain’t one to fight.

avatar Michelle August 11, 2011, 2:30 pm

if you want something for your birthday, or whatever, you need to tell him. everyone is different. for me, i’m not a gift person exactly, so taking me out to dinner on my birthday is great! it’s still pretty early in your relationship, somewhere along the line, you need to learn how he celebrates things, and he needs to learn about you. that’s the only way he’s going to know, is if you tell him. dont expect, dont hint, just talk to him.

avatar oldie August 11, 2011, 3:31 pm

There seem to be separate subcultures at work here. Those who agree with LW say things like ‘I love to get thoughtful little gifts for friends and bfs’, or ‘I save every card I get in a shoebox’, or ‘I love knowing that he thought of me, when we were apart’.

Some people, most of whom are women, really enjoy shopping. Some people, again tilted toward women, like collecting kitsch and saving little mementos. A whole lot of guys — not so much. Doesn’t mean we don’t think of you when we’re apart. Most certainly doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate and really love you. We don’t like shopping. We’re not good at it. We don’t see little things and think ‘that’s just right for so-and-so and s/he’ll be so happy if I buy it for them.’ Conversely, a lot of the very appropriate little gifts we are given don’t seem especially appropriate to our lives. Yes, we’re happy you thought of us, but no, you didn’t show that you’ve got our taste and interest down to a tee. That’s one reason we don’t like shopping for ‘the perfect little gift’. It’s hard to find one that the recipient can be reliably expected to view as the near perfect gift, suited to her personality, interests, and current mood. Although you treat us well when we miss the mark, we do know that we missed the mark.

On the other hand, we do know that you enjoy going out to dinner with us, talking to us, snuggling with us, sharing a whole host of experiences together. If not, you wouldn’t be our gf. Are little gifts necessary to prove we care about you?

I don’t understand why so many responders see getting a card as ‘not lazy’. Go to a store, pick the one you think is closest to being at least semi-appropriate. Canned sentiment to enrich Hallmark. These cards were the original lazy way out. People used to pen notes, with their own actual, personal, feelings. A lot of Hallmark ads have convinced a lot of Americans that their cards convey a genuineness of emotion, which they pretty much don’t.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 12, 2011, 8:35 am

I so agree with you. How does anyone know that their perfect, thoughtful gift really is perfect and thoughtful or is it just one more thing sitting around in the way. I’d personally much rather spend time with my husband than receive little things and he’d much rather not get little things because he enjoys big ticket electronics much, much more. And I also agree about the canned sentiment in a card, since when is a card so perfect about saying everything and nothing else measures up. It doesn’t take much effort to buy a card and sign it compared to the effort of writing a personal letter.

avatar Fairhaired Child August 12, 2011, 7:32 am

This -kinda- recently happened to a friend of mine. Two of my friends recently started dating, they had been “flirtatious” in the last few months since they had met-met each other (I’ve known them both for 2 years). They started casually dating and going on “doubles” with me and my boyfriend. Fast forward to the girl’s birthday, he took her out and payed for a lovely dinner etc. But they had not touched on the “exclusivity” topic yet. Later that night my female friend complained to me online and said that she just had no idea of where things were going. Anyway long story short, he had thought they were exclusive for a while where as she thought they were casually dating because he never said anything specific about gf/bf.

Anyway – it just shows you that people may not realize that the other person isn’t on the same page unless there is COMMUNICATION. I totally can understand you feeling a little disappointed esp. if you guys have been taking turns on dinners etc. However, i think the line on “I saw something nice that I would have liked to bring back for him, but didn’t, as I thought it would be excessive since he has never given me anything, and I’m the one who had the birthday” is placing a little too much on the material aspects of your relationship.

I was in your position a few years ago on my birthday/holidays. I love to get gifts for other people and I always seek out really special and meaningful gifts for my friends. However I was extremely disappointed in my one friend when I had spent so much time and money on her for her birthday and then shortly before my birthday she asked what I wanted I said “oh a mixed CD would be fine I dont really need anything” and then she never got me anything (and told me happy birthday late). I was SO upset, because it’s not like I asked for anything difficult but I had spent so effort on her. Anyway, I was upset for like a week, then I got over it because, like someone else said, after your over 21 not everyone is going to shower you with gifts every birthday. Gifts aren’t supposed to be expected (even on your birthday it’s not like you did any work – your MOM DID – give her a gift on YOUR birthday) they are gifts because it comes from the heart and is generally a surprise.

Would you rather a meaningful and deep relationship based on communication, trust etc, or would you rather have a ton of stuffed teddy bears and other random things that you don’t even really like/want and a really weak relationship based on “who’s turn is it?”.

I think you are valid to feel hurt. It sucks. But LET IT GO. A gift isn’t that important, meaningful relationships are. If he’s not showing he’s appreciating you in other ways (not materially) then yeah maybe sit down and talk with him. And if you just can’t can’t can’t let it go, then maybe sit down and start a conversation on what each other expect in relationships. Maybe then you can ask about “little gifts” such as “I know I love to buy random trinkets all the time, but I don’t know how you feel about gifts, does your family do a lot of random gift giving or do you guys not really place much value on gifts?” Then you can follow up with “I personally like getting gifts, and while I may not expect them constantly, it would be nice to get a gift every so often if you see something you know I’ll like, or those “traditional gift giving” times.” Then if the convo is going well say that you were a little disappointed on your birthday, (make sure you say a lot of “i” not “you” so its not accusing but just discussing your feelings- “I felt disappointed because I expected more. But I can understand since our relationship is sorta new that it seemed like it was enough but to me it was a little bit of a let down- so I thought about it more than I should have, which is why I’m sharing this thought with you now instead of harboring inside”).

kaluu Kate August 13, 2011, 2:09 pm

What he did for your birthday was already quite sufficient. Complaining about it would be tacky on your part. Oh wait, it was ‘his turn’ to pay? Ok I get why ur upset but it’s still too early in the relationship to comPlain.
My dating style is not paying for half of the dinners. So I can see why it would build resentment for you to pay for half of everything. Not very romantic, right? I guess when guys don’t treat you all the time you have the right to ask for a little something extra so that they are showing chivalry and that they care. It’s a lot easier to just let them pay for like 3/4 meals. The Rules book advises not to pay for any dates ; maybe this style would suit you since you are acting kind of entitled. ( not an insult, just an observation)

avatar AMJohn October 9, 2013, 1:56 pm

I have been with my BF for over two years and for my last two birthdays, christmas and valentines, there has not even been a card. He tries to spend as little time as possible with me on these days and if anybody else is around or his phone is charged he is with them or on his phone. So when everybody tells you to wait and see, it dont mean nothing cuz they will never change. They continue to do the same thing and they dont really care about you. They constantly ask you to do stuff for them and you do it. But then they say that they will do something for you and its nothing more than an empty promise.

Leave a Comment


five + = 14