His Take: “My Boyfriend Gives Other Women Gifts”

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My boyfriend and I have been dating for about seven months now. He has always bought women he works with little gifts (a little slinky for a lady who likes slinkies, a bear at a basketball game for a girl that got us free tickets, candy for his boss). The women are all older and he’s not interested in them. Why would a man give a gift to a woman that isn’t his girlfriend? Should I be concerned about these gifts? — Gift Horse’s Girlfriend

MATT: Did he buy the slinkie-lover something made of slinky fabric? Is he hiding the candy in his crotch and asking his boss to hunt for it? Did you catch him with a bear? These, dear reader, would be legitimate sources for concern. Otherwise, it sounds like you have a sweet dude on your hands — a dude who understands that women (and men) enjoy tokens of appreciation and thoughtfulness. Now, if he isn’t buying shit for you, well, that could be an issue. Or maybe you don’t care about that kind of thing, hmmm? If this is the case, well I can’t help you—but I don’t think his kindness should be wasted on someone who doesn’t appreciate it. Sooooo…I need the following: a silver iPod shuffle, a cordless power drill, and some new underwear (Adidas athletic brief, 32 waist, or medium, with the comfort waist band). Oh…and have him pick up some Junior Mints also…I just love those.

ERIK: I wouldn’t be worried. I mean, you said yourself that he’s not interested in them. I understand why this might seem odd; not a lot of men are the random gift-giving type, but this guy seems to enjoy that feeling of accomplishment that accompanies getting someone a really thoughtful little somethin’-somethin’. If he were giving lots of personalized gifts to one woman, it may be something to talk about, but given your letter he just sounds like a really swell guy.

ALEX: He gave a gift in thanks for a gift? Candy for the woman who keeps him employed? Sounds like his mother taught him well, and little gestures like this can be good politics in the workplace. He is upfront with you regarding this gift-giving, and hopefully you aren’t the only woman missing out on his generosity. After all, the slinky was just a toy and not the description for a nightgown.

* If you’d like to ask the guys a question, simply email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with “His Take” in the subject line and I’ll pass your question along to them.


  1. ArtsyGirl says:

    Umm I wish my husband was this considerate. I am always the one who has to send thank you cards and token gifts to friends and family members who have done things for us. Basically everything you mentioned are small gifts – not $200 worth of roses – and given with a purpose (thank yous and thinking of yous) – also unless one of the recipients has approached you stating discomfort or you know that you BF can’t afford the gifts then there is ABSOLUTELY nothing to worry about.

    P.S. Matt I heart your response!

  2. At first read, I had a weird feeling about this guy, but now I think the guys are probably right on this one, your bf is just a nice guy who had a good mom and knows how to keep others happy. It might not be the norm for men to get gifts for women they aren’t interested in, but if I were one of them, I’d definitely be inclined to return the favor (by getting him another set of tickets, for example) so your bf is probably just networking.

    The only thing that struck me is that you claim “he’s not interested in any of them.” It sounds like you’re trying to reassure yourself. It’s awesome that you trust him, but he could still have a little “mentor” crush on his boss.

    But, as long as he’s also getting YOU presents, which are equally as thougtful if not more so, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

  3. AnitaBath says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with this. It might be different if he were shelling out a lot of money, but it sounds like all of the gifts have been under $10. Sounds like the LW might be a little insecure and is just looking for problems. Or maybe she just really wanted to write into Wendy.

  4. It seems like these are all small, little token gifts – he sounds like he’s just being sweet, and like the guys said, it’s not as if he’s buying lots of gifts for one person. However, if he started spending a lot of money on these gifts (and money was tight for him), I could see being a bit concerned about it, but it doesn’t sound like it’s the case.

    I was going to write my “wish list” out in my comment, but Matt stole my idea! 🙁

  5. ReginaRey says:

    I agree with the guys and the above commenters, but I’m also wondering if there might be a bit more to your uneasiness than what appears in your letter. Like Ricki said above, I also got the impression that you might be trying to convince yourself that he isn’t interested. Has he cheated on you before, or do you know that he’s cheated on other women? Is he more attentive to other women than he is to you? If any of that were the case, I might agree that you have reason to be a bit worried. But as it is, I think you should rein in the insecurity and be confident in your relationship and be glad that your guy seems to be a thoughtful, caring person.

  6. RoyalEagle0408 says:

    As long as the LW’s boyfriend still shows his appreciation for nice things she does (whether it’s by buying her trinkets or a back massage), she really has nothing to worry about, in my opinion.

  7. TaraMonster says:

    My ex used to do this! Of all the things that bugged me about him, that wasn’t one of them. In fact, I thought it was sweet. In retrospect, those gestures were little red flags that he was a smarmy kiss ass in all areas of life. But they were baby red flags. Like little Fourth of July flags on cupcakes. I had no way of knowing that he wasn’t being completely genuine until I got to know him better and realized he did things like that to distract me (and others) from the bigger dick things he did. BUT, this is anecdotal and specific to my ex; I totally don’t think this is applies to a wide range of people! I’m just kvetching.

    But of course, from my experience, I would tell you to ask yourself if it’s really the gifts that bug you, or are the gifts a symptom of some other behavior of his that bugs you? Or even a symptom of your own issues with trust or past experiences? Because really, the gifts your bf gives sound like extra thoughtful thank you notes. Whichever it is, you’re the only one with the answer. Good luck!

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Totally agree about the smarmy kiss ass. My ex was as well… at first I thought it was cute when he would flirt with people on customer service hotlines, cashiers, etc. but these too were tiny red flags… basically that he thought throwing a cute smile and some flattery would get him whatever he wanted. Then I noticed he was using the same tricks to manipulate me and…ugh.
      Of the above, the one that stands out to me is the candy for the boss. When someone gives you free tickets to a sporting event, you absolutely should return with a thank you note at least and a souvenier is a great idea! But with his boss… What is he trying to do? Cover up poor work performance, lateness, an illicit meeting on top of the copy machine by bribing his boss?
      It could be that hes just sweet and thoughtful, but it could also be a brown nosing manipulative jerk. Like TaraMonster up there, I too am colored by my own experiences and they may not apply to your possibly delightful bf… but why do you come to the Dear Wendy forums if not to hear us whine about horror story exes, right?!

  8. DaisyJorts says:

    As long as the gifts aren’t romantic in any way, expensive (as others have stated), and he is not being sneaky about his gift giving (like trying to hide it from you, lying about it) I think it’s ok.

  9. I have noticed something interesting….

    When a woman writes in about something concerning her in her relationship, a lot readers jump to conclusions about the guy being a jerk or unfaithful and that she should MOA. And when the woman updates and says he’s actually a great guy and she’s positive that he’s faithful, she gets ripped apart for not mentioning that in the first place.

    BUT on the other hand, a woman writes in and clarifies right off the bat that her boyfriend isn’t interested in other women, people wonder if she’s ‘in denial’ or ‘trying to reassure herself’.

    I don’t really understand. Why are we all so cynical? Relationships aren’t perfect. And as women, we love to talk and speculate about all the details of our relationships. Just because a gal is seeking clarification on something that bugs her, it doesn’t mean she isn’t happy or that she’s insecure or that her guy must be a douchebag.

    Readers, have a little faith! Wendy, I have to say that I almost always love your advice because you look at things objectively, you give LWs the benefit of the doubt, and you offer positive suggestions. And that’s what make your advice so awesome!

    1. ReginaRey says:

      Good point. I think the reason we tend to be skeptical (at least the majority of the time) is because we don’t really believe that someone takes the time to write a letter to Wendy because they want quick clarification on something…it tends to be bigger than they admit a lot of the time. Even if they THINK they just need clarification, it usually turns out to be that they’ve missed some big red flags, or are hoping to be reassured about something that they deep down know is a problem. I get the impression sometimes that they’re looking to be told what they want to hear in hopes that they were wrong about their observations…when in fact we all agree about the red flags. But you’re right, that doesn’t mean that EVERY LW is in denial and that every dude is a douche.

      1. I wrote in to Wendy a while back because I was conflicted about whether or not I should tell my boyfriend I love him before he said it first. I’d talked to a few girlfriends about it and got conflicting advice. The reason I wrote to Wendy is because I love her column, she’s positive and she’s impartial (plus she’s older than me, and has a little bit more relationship wisdom). It wasn’t a big deal brewing, and I think it’s the same for a lot of LWs.

        Although you’re right, I guess a few LWs ARE looking for reassurance about deeper problems….

    2. I think I tend to be cynical because (based on my past and personal observation) a lot of women spend a lot of time being in denial about their jerky boyfriends. After six or seven years in the dating world, the proverbial “good guy” seems to be more of a mythical unicorn than a frequent reality. Having said that, I am dating an actual good guy right now, and several of my friends are currently married to wonderful men, so there is hope… So you definitely have a point; perhaps we should be less judgmental of the LWs and their respective SOs. Wendy does a really beautiful job of providing realistic, sometimes hard-to-swallow advice without being unnecessarily negative or cynical.

      1. SpaceySteph says:

        Hah I’m cynical too, because I was in denial about my own jerky boyfriend (now ex) not too long ago and ignored all the red flags. Even when my best friend of 17 years (we met in first grade!) told me he was no good, I ignored her because she and his sister had some tiff years before and I was sure she was just grumpy over it. I wonder if an internet full of strangers had told me that it and so much other behavior were red flags if I might have believed them, since they were impartial and on the outside looking in. Probably not, because it was my first love and I thought I knew what nobody else did. I’d like to think I would if it happened again, now that I’m jaded and experienced.

    3. Natasha Kingston says:

      It’s funny because reading these responses I was surprised at the LACK of cynicism. Most of the commenters seem agreed that there is probably nothing to worry about.

    4. Clever Name says:

      I agree with you. A letter of mine to Wendy was posted on this site a while back and a lot of people jumped on one small statement of mine. I mentioned that I know my boyfriend isn’t cheating on me, and a large number of people just assumed that I was in denial or trying to convince myself. I wasn’t expecting such a reaction, as I was (and still am) 100% confident when I said that he isn’t. When I posted a reply stating that I was not in denial and that he was not cheating, people replied saying that the fact that I said it again probably meant that I was just trying to convince myself! It was frustrating to have the sincerity of my statements ignored and it derailed the otherwise very helpful comment thread. I don’t understand why people found it easier to believe that I was in denial than that my boyfriend just might not be a cheater!

  10. I know I am gonna recieve some flack for this…..but really? This really is not a big deal. OK, so he openly gives coworkers gifts, more then likely to show his gratitude, for w/e they are helping him with. OPENLY doing this and TELLING his girlfriend WHY he is doing it….. so i dont understand the issue. He is NOT a going behind her back, he is NOT being sneaky about it, and she is fully aware of WHY he is doing so….i dont see the problem…… maybe its just me but if it bothers her (for whatevr reason) JUST TELL HIM SO! and maybe he needs to clarify a lil bit more as to WHY. this is something to not stress yourself over. It’s a harmless way of saying thank you. And as a girl who works with all guys and have to hear their problems everyday, maybe he only works with females and it is a small way of showing them that not every guy is an a**hole like they maybe be dipicting the problems with guys in their lives. I know when I am upset my drivers bring me small tokens of gratitude ( a cookie from my fav bakery, a key chain with my name on it, etc.,) and my boyfriend knows it is just to cheer me up and is nothing to worry about.

    OK so to get to the REAL POINT:
    There are bigger things to stress about, pick your battles and worries wisely so when a real problem happens, you have all your energy to deal with it.

  11. fast eddie says:

    I’ve no clue about the slinky, most likely it was a nice little thank you for helping him at work. Candy for the boss is a good business plan to stay employed and the bear for $200 tickets, DUH!

    If any of these things bother this Girlfriend he should get a different girlfriend that has the enough sense to see his thoughtfulness for what it is and appreciate him for it. Sadly she’s too needy to bow out and he’s too kind to give her walking papers.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      I’ll take this boyfriend! Wendy should have told her to break up with him so I could swoop in.

    2. TaraMonster says:

      Calling her needy is way harsh. She *asked* if she should be concerned. This shows she’s being reflective about her feelings in regards to his behavior rather than being reactive by, say, accusing him of cheating or freaking out about it. I think it’s healthy and mature to examine how and why certain things make you feel. Knowing where her own head and heart are at will only make her a better partner, and totally deserving of a thoughtful, caring man.

      1. Amen!

      2. Clever Name says:

        Agreed! People are too quick to judge other people’s feelings. We don’t generally get to control the feelings that we have, but we do get to control our reactions to them. Sometimes people get irrationally jealous, but it isn’t fair to judge them negatively unless they ignore the irrationality of their feelings and lash out in response to them. The fact that she is examining her feelings to see where they’re coming from and how she should react in response says she’s plenty mature and intelligent enough for a relationship with a nice fella.

  12. I guess my clarifying question is: does he work with any men? When these male coworkers or superiors help him out in some way, how does he repay the favor? Does he buy them a few beers or something else ‘manly’ (I’ll mow your lawn, dude), or do they also
    get teddy bears, toys, candy? Or do they not get any token of thanks?
    There’s nothing at all weird about a super thoughtful guy who acknowledges those around him and the consideration they show him. There’s something possibly weird about a guy who only does this for the women around him, or carefully genders his thank-you tokens at the workplace. Is he patronizing these women? Or taking advantage of some little flirtatious wiggle room to be a kiss ass? Would he get away with giving a male boss candy?

    1. Guys _tend_ to not get other guys gifts as a thank you. The “gifts” are more interactive. Thanks for the tickets man, lets grab drinks on me after work; or, thanks for the tickets, I have tickets next month if you want to go? He can’t do that with girls because that would be construed as a “date” and _then_ he’d be in trouble with his girl. So if I had to guess, I would say he is likely not giving his male coworkers gifts. But that doesn’t really tell us much since he is probably thanking them in some other way. Probably not by mowing their lawn. That’s kind of weird.

  13. If he is the only male working at the company, it could make sense as an unconventional way to win their trust or acceptance, or to foreground his Only Man status and make it less potentially awkward by making it kind of a joke (here I am gallantly presenting my tokens of favor—a teddy bear for thee, a candy sampler for thee, etc) ?

  14. It would never occur to me to be worried by this. The bear especially- I mean after getting the tickets some kind of thank you is in order! And the tickets were for both the boyfriend AND the LW. The slinky and candy sound like such little things. I’ve bought people gifts before just because I saw some little trinket that reminded me of them. I think a gift for your boss sounds at the very worst like ass kissing, but certainly not an indication that he might stray. It sounds like he works with a lot of women and the fact that he has nice relationships with them (even if they are older and he is not interested in them) just makes him sound like a good guy.

  15. SpyGlassez says:

    Maybe it’s just that this man is used to a woman in his life (Mom? Sister? Grandma?) having Gifts as their “Love Language” and he is used to giving small tokens of thanks. Also, was the candy for the boss, or for a candy bowl that sat on the boss’s desk from which others could nosh? Was the slinky for someone who had kitchy slinkies at her desk at work (presuming it was a work situation)? I’m just saying that maybe he is used to this because he learned it was appreciated. FWIW, my dad’s a gift-giver and always has been. Think of it this way: your boyfriend is generous, and he is attentive to others. How are those not qualities to desire?

  16. Sounds like your guy is considerate and has good manners. He may very well be a keeper if this is all you can complain about!

  17. sarolabelle says:

    Thanks everyone. This was my letter. I’m constantly looking at things from him to see if it is a red flag. I don’t know what I should be concerned about and what I shouldn’t be. I didn’t know if this was a big deal or not, but now I have my answer that it really isn’t a big deal.

    My guy really is just as good as you all think – probably better. I sometimes wonder what I have to do or say to make him continue to be in my life. I need to get over the insecurity and cherish each moment I have, that’s for sure.

    1. RoyalEagle0408 says:

      I know how you feel. Except it’s my best friend and not my boyfriend. It’s sad to me that I’ve become so jaded, but I guess really good guys do exist! 🙂

  18. It depends on the gift if it’s appropriate or not. A simple nice gift could open the doors to something unexpected. You don’t know what another person is going through. If you give a gift to a co-worker, it should be from you and your spouse…and never be behind your spouse’s back… My boyfriend has a bad habit of buying really nice gifts for certain women. I HATE it! I love this about him, but it upsets me so he should not do it. We talked about it and we came to a compromise that I don’t want to change this about him, but he needs to understand the danger he’s placing our relationship in buy doing this. Now he buys goofy stuff so at least it’s giving and meaningful but not intimate.

    1. Catharine Magel says:

      I agree with you B2995.
      It hurts and in the future it all could lead to an affair. or trust brake down which leads to resentment and self esteem problems. Even money problems….
      If you know the woman and its a friend then it might be different if it is from you both….. I am considering leaving my boy friend over his many women friends he hides me from by giving gifts. ITs too much on the line.
      Does he need ego boost ?
      Needs to be a hero?
      Ask him to do things for you and then treat him like a hero that might help

  19. Catharine Magel says:

    well fellas I disagree it is not good to give gifts to other women when you have a live in girl friend. Nice or not it creates or could create emotional connection that takes you away from being connected to your real girl friend and every time he does it and hides it, it damages trust. Think this through . ITs wrong.

  20. The guy I was seeing bought his friend and friend with benefits of 5 years a little Volkswagen car while I was with him
    Not knowing til later when I asked him
    He lied then told the truth.
    I got myself Into a complicated situation. He won’t let me go. And since has less contact with her but I lost trust ughhhh

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