One year he asked for a scarf for Christmas, and then he decided against it but gave me several other ideas for gifts that he did appreciate. I learned this year that he didn’t want a scarf because he really only wanted it if it was a cashmere scarf from a particular designer, not some generic cashmere from Nordstrom, or Macy’s, or even Niemann Marcus. Not good enough.
He gives me gifts in boxes from MaxMara, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton, but the items inside are not from those stores and have no tags. Having received a purse in a La Perla bag (which I thought more to be a lingerie brand), I was inspired to search the RN number, and I l`earned that both my birthday and Christmas gifts were discount mall items. So, great — he only wants TOP QUALITY cashmere but an acrylic and Lycra scarf is OK to give to me? A $14.99 blouse in a MaxMara bag? Is he trying to test me? Impress me?
I don’t know how to respond. Do I say thanks, but that his gift gives me hives and so I gave it away? Do I give it back and say thanks but it’s not my style? Do I say thanks for the scarf, but where is the La Perla thing I was expecting? Do I wear all his cheap things when we see his friends, hoping to embarrass him? Do I say don’t buy it for me if your ex wouldn’t want it? I don’t want him to continue to waste his money on things I hate, and I also feel cheated.
I buy him expensive things appropriate to his taste that he does wear, and that I see him in photos wearing, so I know he is not just wearing them to please me. I also take him to an equal number of dinners as he take me and at equally expensive restaurants, though I think he is better able to afford it.
I want to express my confusion, but, as I said, I grew up in a dysfunctional home, with violence, sarcasm, and passive-aggressive responses to every expression of unhappiness, anger, and confusion, and, as a result, I don’t know how to effectively express myself. With my bizarre childhood, I have no idea what is both polite yet expressive of dissatisfaction, or, perhaps, will encourage him to give me fewer but nicer things.
— Still Time To Train Him for Next Christmas
I don’t buy that you care about being polite. Even with a dysfunctional childhood, any grown adult with an emotional IQ higher than a rock surely knows it isn’t polite to lie to someone’s face about getting hives from a gift he gave you (unless, maybe, it isn’t actually a lie? In which case, there’s still a more polite way to let him know you might be allergic to certain fabrics he should avoid purchasing for you in the future). And it isn’t polite to wear all the gifts from your boyfriend that you think aren’t good enough for you for the sole purpose of embarrassing him in front of his friends. And it sure as shit isn’t polite to tell your boyfriend not to buy you anything he knows his ex wouldn’t want.
But you don’t care about being polite. And that’s fine. In some situations, being polite is over-rated. But, you know what isn’t over-rated? Being honest with yourself. What is it that you really want from your boyfriend? Expensive gifts and fancy dinners? Or do you want to feel as valued as you think he valued his ex-wife? Is it more important to you to look and feel the part of a “high-society woman” — the kind of woman you believe your boyfriend’s ex to be, or is it more important to have authenticity and honesty and mutual respect and appreciation in your relationship? You need to get real clear about these things before you proceed.
If what you want is to feel and look like a high-society woman and you were hoping this boyfriend would give you that, then it’s quite possible he’s picked up on your intention and has no interest in playing that game. Maybe he wants to be liked for who he is and not what you think he can give you. If, on the other hand, you see his material gifts as representative of his feelings, and a cheap discount mall purse disguised in a La Perla shopping bag makes you feel like he doesn’t value you, you need to evaluate the entire relationship and ask yourself if there are other ways your boyfriend shows how he values you. If this is simply a matter of your feeling “cheated” (your word) because you’re dating someone rich and you think you deserve all the pricey items he buys himself and supposedly bought his ex, then that’s… well, totally shallow.
Relationships aren’t about what someone can buy you. Not the meaningful, soul-connecting ones, anyway. They’re about support and love and companionship and sharing dreams and goals and values. They’re about making memories together to strengthen your bond and give you a shared history to hold you up and together through life’s more challenging events and occasions. You talk about scarves and handbags and society dinners and what you think you’re owed (“Where’s my La Perla thing?”) like your relationship is a transaction. You don’t mention the word “love” one time in your whole letter.
Is there love between you? Is this a relationship, aside from the issue with gifts, worth continuing? Do you feel connected to this man and hope to share your life with him? Or do you simply aspire to be a “society couple” with a connection that runs as deep as the pretty things you both will wear?
If it’s love you want, tell him that. Tell him the ways YOU need to feel valued and loved by him and ask him how he prefers feeling loved by you. (Say nothing about the specific gifts he’s already given you, but tell him that material purchases are, for you, a representation of one’s feelings and, based on the gifts he’s presented to you thus far, you’re confused about what you mean to him).
If what you want is to feel and look the part of a society couple, tell your boyfriend exactly that. Suggest that, rather than spend money on gifts for each other, you spend money on yourselves, buying only the best and to exactly your specific tastes, so that when you go out together, you both feel most comfortable in the costumes you’ve chosen for the roles you’re playing (which sounds terribly sad and empty to me, but I could give a fuck-all about society dinners and fancy cashmere and designer handbags worth thousands).
Finally, if you’re an adult who doesn’t have a clue how to express herself because her childhood was messy, please get yourself to therapy. There’s really zero excuse for not going, especially if you can buy expensive shit for your elitist boyfriend. Stop blaming your parents for why you aren’t happy in your relationship and go get all that sorted out so that you can move on and be healthy and, at the very least, know the difference between being polite and being cold-stone bitchy.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.