The thing that has been bothering me is that I spent a good bit of money on his gifts and got him lots of things that he had mentioned wanting/needing. He, however, spent considerably less on me (probably less than a third of what I spent). I am sure that I sound ungrateful and materialistic, but that is not the case. I am just not sure how to bring it up. It has been bothering me a bit that he spent so little time and effort on these items (my birthday gift was purchased the morning of my birthday). I know I probably should have asked ahead of time what our limit was to spend on each other, but he has been working WAY more than normal (so much that he was often cancelling plans with me) and I just assumed that we would be giving in the same price range as we did last year.
I’d love some input on whether I’m just being a crazy b*tch or if it’s sort of reasonable to be upset that so little time/effort/money was put in to my gifts?
On a related note, I am always the one who pays for things. If we go somewhere far with lots of tolls, I always drive and pay them and he never gives any money. If I offer to pay for anything (because I always feel that a girl should at least offer when she’s out on a date to contribute something), he ALWAYS takes me up on it. I almost feel like the ‘man’ in the relationship. Do you have any advice for how to bring something like that up? We’re still in graduate school and have no plans to get married soon so I feel like his finances aren’t really any of my business, so I’m not sure how to bring up the subject. — Presents of Mind
Before you talk to your boyfriend — and you should definitely talk to him before you blow up — you need to organize your thoughts and decide what it is you want to talk to him about. You have multiple frustrations and disappointments that you’re lumping together. Being cheap isn’t the same thing as being thoughtless. Giving thoughtless gifts isn’t the same thing as canceling plans or being unavailable. If you’re angry about all those things, that’s fine, but be sure you don’t confuse one with the other. Better yet, prioritize what is most important to you or what you feel is the biggest offense and lead with that.
One common theme all of these offenses share is value. You’re focusing on the value of a gift, but what you’re really upset about is that YOU don’t feel valued. And that may be because buying gifts and spending money on someone is your way of showing appreciation. That’s your love language. But it may not be your boyfriend’s. This isn’t about a vegetable-making set or paying all the tolls on a long drive; you’re pissed that your boyfriend doesn’t seem to value or appreciate you. In your mind, if he did, he’d make note of things you like or talk about and buy them as gifts. He’d offer to drive sometimes. He’d treat you like the “woman” in the relationship, whatever that means.
If this were about just gifts, I’d advise you to drop bigger hints in the future — perhaps even send links to online shops you like. I’d tell you to agree on an a monetary amount to spend on each other. But this isn’t about gifts and this isn’t even really about money. You just want to feel valued. So, ask yourself first if your boyfriend shows appreciation for you in other ways. If you aren’t finding that appreciation where you’re looking, look somewhere else. Does your boyfriend do things for you? Is he a good listener? Does he show interest in your passions? Is he kind to your friends and family? If you still can’t find where your boyfriend shows he values you, tell him how you feel. Tell him it seems like he’s taking you for granted and you’re sick of it. Tell him what your needs are and then give him a chance to meet those needs.
In the end, maybe this is a relationship that’s run its course. Maybe it just needs to be revived. Or maybe you need to learn to speak each other’s love language. But you won’t move on from the point where you are if you don’t communicate. And while you’re at it, tell your boyfriend you want help with gas or tolls on a long drive. Sometimes people are a little dense and need things spelled out for them. It doesn’t always have to mean something.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.