As I wrote in my post last week about celebrating my birthday, my boyfriend, R, had purchased a new pair of tweezers to replace my old ones. They had somehow gotten lost in the move, and I was pretty peeved about it. I had just purchased them maybe two months ago, and at $14 a pop, they’re not exactly cheap. I kept saying that the second I got new tweezers, we would find the old ones. That’s exactly what happened!
I went into the bathroom on Saturday and did a double take. There were two tweezers sitting on the sink – not one, two. Where did the other one come from?? We had honestly looked everywhere, so I really thought this was a fluke. Excited, I texted R and then called him, but he was at work so he couldn’t answer right away. I kept wondering where the heck he managed to find them, and was already planning on returning the ones he had gotten me. It’s not worth it to have 2 in the apartment, and R could get $14 back. Win win. Well, he didn’t think so…
What else am I supposed to get you?!
Instead of being as happy as I was that he had found my old tweezers (in a place I had looked in three times, no less), his response was, “That was the only thing I got you for your birthday, though. If we return them, then I got you nothing, which makes me a jerk.” I assured him that it didn’t make him a jerk, but there was no sense in having 2 and he might as well get his money back. He agreed with that on a logical level, but not an emotional one.
Have you ever tried to find the perfect present for someone (and succeeded)? It’s hard! I am not an easy person to shop for, and since I’m trying to become more of a minimalist, I couldn’t think of anything for anyone to get me that would actually be worthwhile. Thus, I received cash and jewelry from family. I had wanted a nice, simple necklace that I thought R could buy, but I ended up getting something that fit the bill from an aunt. I am still trying to look for something that I absolutely want, and have been failing.
There are other alternatives
R paid for a dinner out last week, the day after my birthday, which I thought could count for something, but it’s still a sore spot that he can’t leave alone. This happens for anniversaries and Christmas as well. Our first Christmas together we actually just purchased candy and wrapped it for each other, which I thought was cute (and yummy)! I didn’t see anything wrong with this, even if it was an inexpensive option. We both ate our candy so it was money well spent. Likewise, I love to bake for people. Who doesn’t appreciate a batch of cookies, cupcakes or brownies?
His birthday happens to correspond closely with our anniversary, so last year we took a trip to a bed and breakfast that his old cross country coach owned, and it was pretty nice (and slightly expensive). However, we did split the cost since half the celebration was for his birthday and half for our anniversary. All in all I don’t ever “compare” gifts and think, “Well, I spent more on you than you did for me!” It’s a futile exercise. I mean, who originally said we had to give gifts on holidays and special occasions? Tradition, which can always be broken. I’d rather just spend a memorable day together that we can look back on.
The last alternative I gave him was to paint me a picture. R went to college for art, and I really wanted him to make something for me that I could hang on the wall. I’ve actually been wanting something like this from him since we started dating! It took him forever to get around to it, but finally this past Valentine’s Day he gave me this painting:
For some reason the past year and a half has found me slightly obsessed with cute, adorable owls, so I told him to paint us as owls. It’s a little cheesey, but I love how it came out, and it is now in our bedroom. I told him he should make a little series as I got him 2 little canvases he could paint on. Unfortunately, it took him long enough to produce this painting, so it would probably take him another six months for both :). In any case, I would much rather receive a thoughtful/crafted present like this that I could treasure as opposed to jewelry, clothes or something else I don’t need.
I think it’s extremely important to reach a compromise so that one person does not feel disappointed about giving or not giving a present to the other. Most of the time, for us, that compromise is going out to eat, since it is something mutually enjoyed and we both benefit from it. In some cases, R doesn’t feel like it is enough, but he does so much for me on a daily basis that I think it’s silly he feels this need to give me a tangible present.
Communication is key in any relationship, and in any situation like this. Both people should clearly state what their preferences are as far as gift-giving goes early on, or at least before a gift-giving holiday comes along. When you’re first with someone, there can be that awkward moment when you’re wondering how much the other spent on you, and if your gifts will compare. Get rid of that possibility by talking about it! Set a limit, or agree upon presents beforehand. It may ruin the surprise, but I don’t think every present always needs to be a surprise.
Lastly, think of other ways to tell a person you really appreciate them and care about them. Not everything has to be in the form of a tangible item – it could be a poem/really nice card (I have been guilty of crying from reading a touching message in a card), something you create yourself, or someone’s favorite meal! If you’re feeling a little fancy, buy them an experience they won’t forget, like a cruise, sports game or trip away to a place they’ve been wanting to visit.
What gifts do you prefer to receive, if any at all? What gifts do you give others? Have you found yourself in a similar situation as me before?