Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Gave Me a Spa Gift Certificate For Christmas And I Blew Up at Him”

My boyfriend had no idea what to get me for Christmas. I tried dropping hints that he didn’t pick up on. Now, I should say we have been in a rough place lately where I have been needing validation on where I stand with him and needing to feel loved. He bought me a massage spa package and it hurt me because we have had the conversation that I don’t do messages because they made me feel uncomfortable. He says he doesn’t remember that. I got upset because I feel like he didn’t listen to me and should know me better.

I get that I probably lumped other hurts and let this blow up and that I could have handled it better, but it hurt my feelings and, before thinking, I let him know all that. I’m very grateful that he wanted to buy me anything at all, and it could have been $1 for all I cared if it had meaning. I just let the thought of his not caring enough to listen to me and the thought of knowing the gift would go to waste get the better of me. Am I wrong for feeling this way? I’ll own that I am wrong in how I could have handled it, but am I wrong to feel he could meet me halfway and see how it could hurt me too? — I Hate Massages

You’re entitled to your feelings, so you aren’t “wrong” for feeling hurt about a gift that you think reflects poorly on how your boyfriend regards you. The problem is that you see this gift as a metaphor for your relationship – or, as you call it, “validation” for your boyfriend’s feelings for you. You’ve been in a “rough place” with him lately, likely feeling unloved and uncared for, and in that case, it sounds like this gift that you find thoughtless DOES validate some feelings, doesn’t it? It validates and confirms YOUR feelings of not feeling important to your boyfriend (not important enough for him to listen to you and make note of your personal preferences). Whether it confirms your boyfriend’s feelings is almost beside the point. What matters the most is that you aren’t feeling heard in this relationship and the gift you received is a perfect metaphor for that.

Here’s the thing though: Even if your boyfriend had given you the “perfect” gift full of meaning, would that have erased all the other stuff in your relationship that is giving you pause? No, it wouldn’t. Those issues would still be there regardless what kind of Christmas gift you might have received from your boyfriend. Frankly, it’s lazy to rely on a gift to do the work that needs to be done in a fractured or broken relationship. Gifts aren’t glue.

I think it’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself – and with your boyfriend – about the state of this relationship and assess whether it’s worth trying to save and what you can do to save it if you decide you both want to. That means expressing your needs to each other and doing your best to either meet them or be honest about your limitations or lack of desire to do so. If your needs are not met in a timely fashion or if you don’t at least see some improvement in the coming weeks, it’s time to move on. In the meantime, if you’re in the NYC area and want to unload that spa certificate, I’ll take it off your hands!

I’m in my mid-40s with two kids. I have a girlfriend from grade school whom I reconnected with on social media a couple years ago. We weren’t close in grade school, but since reconnecting we have been writing to each other on messenger pretty much daily. She is now separated, is in a relationship, and has a child, too, living a few hours from me. In her messages, she tells me all the intimate details of her life, relationships, and sex life, and I tell her mine. I tell her about my marriage, my kids, my family, my business and my finances. She tells me about her relationship, her exes, and her child. We give each other advice and support and write long rambling messages — sometimes she writes me pages and pages several times a day and really analyzes what I’m going through or shares what she is dealing with. Again, this is ALL on messenger. No phone. No text. No real life meet-ups.

We got together just once about a year ago when I drove up to see her. We never talk on the phone at all. Whenever I’ve called her, she hasn’t picked up. I’ve come up with my family to her town for two holiday breaks, and each time I suggested we get together she’s always has some excuse. If I didn’t know her through our childhood history or the one meeting we had, I’d swear I’m in some sort of catfish situation since she never wants to talk by phone or meet in real life. I am now feeling like I’m being used as some sort of online diary. I don’t feel like we have a real friendship where I can count on her, even though she knows some of my deepest feelings and intimate secrets.

After this last time where she cancelled on our plans to meet, I blocked her on social media. My question to you is – did I cut her off too soon? I know I will miss writing with her, but I also don’t like feeling like I’m someone’s online journal when what I want is a real friendship. Was I right to break up with her? — Not and Online Diary

 
If you aren’t getting what you want from the friendship, it makes sense to quit investing in it. I’m not sure, though, how smart it is to block her on social media — sort of a digital “fuck you” — when this person knows intimate details of your marriage, your kids, your family, your business, and your finances — all written in your own words that she could potentially share with others if she were the type of person to say “fuck you” back and try to hurt you. Why not just quit replying to her, or put her on whatever mode of “silent” or “hide” is available on the various social platforms you have used to stay connected with her, without blocking her?

There are lots of ways you can disengage from someone without being aggressive or offensive about it. You could even pull up your big girl panties and shoot her a message that says, “I was hurt after your most recent canceling of our plans. Because we’ve shared so much with each other these last couple years and I’ve really enjoyed our digital friendship, I was hoping we could transition it to an offline friendship, but it seems that isn’t going to happen. At this point in my life, I want to invest more in offline relationships, so I wish you all the best, and should you ever make it to my area and want to meet up in person, you know how to get ahold of me! Take care for now and I wish you all the best.”

I understand that your feelings are hurt, but this just doesn’t seem like a case of burning a bridge when it’s easy enough to be kind while still respecting your own boundaries.

***************
Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Randee December 27, 2019, 10:12 am

    Good advice on both counts.

    One additional note for LW1: Maybe the spa the certificate is good for offers things that aren’t massages — mani-pedis, waxing, etc. Giving to Wendy is the best idea if you’re not going to use it, but you could investigate how it might be useful otherwise.

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  • avatar

    Moe December 27, 2019, 10:46 am

    LW2: This woman has done nothing wrong. It seems she likes your relationship to be as it is, online with you BOTH using each other as an online diary. You also write to HER about YOUR life, so it seems to be equal amounts of give and take. It also seems maybe, for a variety of reasons, so doesn’t want to connect in other ways, and if you have not talked to her about it with her, she might not know you are dissatisfied. If you are unhappy, rather than, as Wendy says, block her, which tells her you feels he did something wrong, just write to her and say that the relationship as it is just doesn’t feel right to you and you prefer to end things. THEN go silent.

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  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue December 27, 2019, 10:59 am

    “Gifts aren’t glue” LOVE THIS Wendy!

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  • avatar

    anonymousse December 27, 2019, 11:31 am

    LW1: I bet the massage place will refund the value if he explains the situation. I hope you consider actual communication over hinting in the future.

    I think it’s truly odd that LW2 would strike up a digital friendship with someone she was never friends with. It’s kind of bizarre.

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    • avatar

      FYI December 27, 2019, 5:27 pm

      I read LW2 as a guy.

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      • avatar

        anonymousse December 27, 2019, 9:37 pm

        I don’t think a guy would ever write in about something like this.

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        Fyodor December 28, 2019, 4:57 am

        I don’t think a guy would refer to a friend from grade school as a “girlfriend from grade school”

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  • avatar

    Allornone December 27, 2019, 11:40 am

    LW2- I think there might be two things going on that you might consider. One, it’s possible she was just setting some boundaries. Given your online closeness, it wouldn’t be unheard of for either your wife or her partner to get suspicious of your relationship. Now, you really seem like this is a friendship to you and not an emotional affair, but maybe she just wants to protect that status? Maybe she thinks meeting in person might either be the beginning of something untoward or give the illusion of that. That brings me to the second possibility-As it stands, she’s an online friend, someone you can communicate with freely. In fact, you might be able to communicate more freely BECAUSE she’s an online friend. Even though you know her well online, you don’t really know her in person and there’s still a level of anonymity there that might make her feel freer to open up to you. There are no real-world expectations, allowing you to be close on a non-self-conscious level. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I really don’t get a user-vibe off this.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 27, 2019, 4:24 pm

      I think you misunderstood their past relationship. They’re both women and when they were in grade school they were friends – not “girlfriends” in the romantic sense, just platonic.

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      • avatar

        Allornone December 28, 2019, 5:28 pm

        Oops. My bad. Thanks, Wendy. Ignore me, LW, I’m presently in my own crisis anyway….

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      • avatar

        Kate December 28, 2019, 6:28 pm

        Is it still a crisis?

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      • avatar

        Allornone December 29, 2019, 2:18 pm

        No, not really. Things have smoothed over for now. Hopefully, this was just a weird little hiccup. Time will tell.

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  • avatar

    ron December 27, 2019, 4:00 pm

    I think you pushed the boundaries of your on-line friendship. You say she is in a relationship. That is a reason for her to set boundaries, with regard to meeting in person, especially bringing her family to meet you. Likely she strongly doesn’t want her SO finding out about you. Either the intimacy of your on-line talk regarding her relationship with her SO makes your physical presence or her SO actually meeting you seem like a big threat to her relationship, or she is sensing that you want far more than a friendship relationship — especially a friendship at a distance. It is you, not she, who broke the deal of your on-line chat relationship. For some reason, and I think the reason fairly obvious, that chat relationship was so insufficient for you that you pushed very hard for more. I think you had hints that she didn’t want more. Your blocking her simply proves that in her mind. You’ve burnt a bridge.

    For yourself, I think it important that you figure out exactly what hole in your life you are trying to fill with her.

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    • avatar

      ron December 27, 2019, 4:11 pm

      Also, you say you’re not a diary, but that sort of is what you were to each other. Diary is the wrong word, since one doesn’t get feedback by writing in a diary, although expressing your thoughts in writing can be helpful. You and she were sounding boards to each other.

      The strangest thing about your post to me is your determination that she must meet your family. Why? Why is that so important to you? Answer that question honestly and you are at least half-way to unraveling your feelings.

      You know that blocking her was a petty action taken out of anger and frustration. Again, why? Apparently your on-line conversations in chunk-sized back and forth pieces were useful to you as well as to her. Why does the inability to turn this long-distance, sounding-board relationship into an in-person relationship bother you so greatly? I’m not Catholic, but I think there is a reason for the partition between the confessor and the person making confession. It just wouldn’t work as a discussion, sitting across from each other, over cups of coffee.

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  • avatar

    FYI December 27, 2019, 5:36 pm

    I dunno. Needing someone to validate me, or needing someone to make me feel loved — that’s an unhealthy dynamic right out of the gate. That is NOT the boyfriend’s job. Or anyone else’s responsibility.
    Feel good about your own self!
    Cultivate some self-worth!
    Don’t hand your entire well-being over to someone else!

    I get it when people say “talk about what you need in a relationship,” but that’s stuff like how much sex, how to do finances together, whether to have kids, etc. It’s not supposed to be: VALIDATE me as a person.

    That level of neediness is never going to work in a healthy relationship.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy December 27, 2019, 5:57 pm

    From LW2:

    “Thanks for your advice! looks like in the comments people are assuming we are in some kind of romantic relationship. It’s totally platonic! we’re both straight women!
    I was in her town over the holidays – she lives about 3 hrs away… so it’s not easy to get to her town.I had mentioned I’d be in town and we could get together either 1 on 1 or with our families. Normally if a friend is in from out of town you’d think a real friend would make an effort to meet up. She had also mentioned several times she’d meet me the day after xmas and would text me with the plans. On the day before and morning of I texted her and asked what was happening. She said she was relaxing with her boyfriend and sleeping in and too tired to go out. This is someone I text with almost daily. We had some plans and she was completely blowing me off the day of. It really made me feel disrespected. I was really looking forward to seeing her and just having a drink. i also invited her and her family or boyfriend to come to our hotel in their town and use the spa and pool, come to the bar etc. I had even offered to come meet at her home if that was more convenient. She just made no effort and also didn’t even cancel until I pushed the issue. It was very hurtful because I had shared so much with her… just wanted to have a real friendship with her. I just can’t keep up this fake texting relationship. She isn’t a true friend I can rely on in real life and the messenger only relationship fees weird and fake to me. I wanted to send her a strong message that her behaviour was not ok. So that’s why I blocked her.”

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    • avatar

      anonymousse December 27, 2019, 9:36 pm

      I think you should just reconsider what kind of friend she can be. A messaging friend, only. So if that isn’t what you want, well you’ve already blocked her. I’m actually surprised the intimate details of your life and sex life you shared with someone you don’t seem to know very well. Was she filling a need that your husband isn’t meeting?

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  • avatar

    Sea Witch December 27, 2019, 7:35 pm

    LW1: stop “dropping hints” and just come out and say what you want. Why on earth do you think he’s going to read your mind and pick up on subtle “hints”?

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  • avatar

    Miss MJ December 27, 2019, 9:53 pm

    LW1: I agree you have two issues: (1) disappointment at a gift and (2) disappointment in your relationship. The two aren’t the same thing.

    My husband and I own a business together. He got me a new laptop for Christmas. I’d basically told him I wanted gift cards/cash to spend on myself. The laptop is veerrryy nice, useful, needed and something he’d love to have gotten himself. It’s a great gift. But, it’s also the 2019 equivalent of a vacuum cleaner in our circumstances, you know? I was pretty (quietly, to myself and non-rudely) bummed out about it until the next morning after I slept on it, tbh.

    But I don’t think my husband doesn’t love me because he bought me a nice gift that wasn’t what I wanted. Far from it. We share a business, share our money and he genuinely doesn’t get why I’d want gift cards or cash when he doesn’t pay attention to or care what I spend money on for myself anyway. For him, the laptop is a fantastic, fun, useful and super cool gift he could help me set up and use and I can it shows or clothes or whatever whenever I want. And I do get that.

    Point being, your BF wasn’t dissing you by getting you a spa package. He genuinely thought there’d be something there you’d like. If not a massage, then a pedi or mani or facial or literally anything else his mom/sister/co-worker/friend/whoever told him you would love if he got you that gift card.

    One thing I’m trying to work on in the new year is to give grace and benefit of the doubt when I can. Life is easier when you don’t assume most people have an ulterior motive. And if you really do think your BF have you a spa gift card out of spite, I mean, cash out the card and MOA. But some champagne or whatever with the proceeds.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark December 28, 2019, 1:02 am

    Both of these letters represent nothing but tedious unnecessary drama. Grow the fuck up. Childish nonsense all around.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 28, 2019, 9:17 pm

    LW2 This seems like a situation where she probably hasn’t mentioned you to the boyfriend. He doesn’t know that she has a friend she doesn’t know in real life that she is pouring out her heart to online. If you all met up she’d have to explain you and for some reason she doesn’t want to do that. She seems to want and value a relationship that gives her the freedom to talk in depth to someone who doesn’t know them. She doesn’t have to worry about telling you all about her relationship and then have you meeting up with the two of them over the weekend and judging him or wondering why the two of you are together.

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    • avatar

      allathian January 2, 2020, 4:25 am

      LW2 says above that they’re friends from grade school, so I assume they’ve known each other IRL at some point in their lives. Of course, it’s possible that she hasn’t mentioned to her BF that they’ve reconnected online. I think that they just had vastly different expectations of friendship and LW2 wants more than her online friend is willing to give.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 28, 2019, 9:21 pm

    LW1 Why are you hinting? Why not just speak up and give him a list of things that you would like. If you are doing the same thing in other areas of your relationship it is no wonder that the two of you aren’t doing very well. Take the hinting out of the relationship and it will improve drastically. Every time your partner has to read your mind you will be disappointed. That’s every time because partners don’t read minds. Learn to speak for yourself, not hints and watch your relationship improve.

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