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Boyfriend Doesn't Give Gifts

Question:

I am in a relationship with a guy I love. He is good to me and sometimes I think ‘yes, this is the one for me’ but other times I am not so sure. For example we have been going out for 5 years (we are both 26) and he has never got me anything for Valentines day. We have had rows over this. It’s not that I particularly want a card or chocolates but it’s the fact that he would care enough to give me these things as a token of his affection. When I see my girlfriends receiving flowers from their guys I feel that there is obviously something wrong with me – that maybe I don’t deserve to receive these things because I am not pretty/feminine enough etc. Then I tell myself not to be silly, that I do deserve these things but that this guy just doesn’t believe in it. He thinks these type of things are silly and pointless. His attitude is ‘you know I love you, why would you need a stupid card?’ This is just one aspect of our relationship – generally we are best friends, love and respect each other but when this kind of thing happens I wonder if I am settling for someone who obviously won’t/can’t give me what I need? What kind of respect does he have for my feelings if he can’t do a simple thing like this? Bear in mind that he finds it very difficult to talk about his feelings. please help. thanks.

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Answer:

There is nothing wrong with you. You certainly deserve gifts. Your boyfriend’s failure to get you cards and flowers is probably all about his own relationship with his emotions; it has very little if anything to do with how he feels about you. The male mind is a funny thing. Men are born with all the tender and vulnerable emotions that women have. However, where women are expected and allowed to have these emotions, men get punished for expressing them. Somewhere in adolescence or before, many men ‘decide’ that they will not allow themselves to be ‘weak’ any longer. They then devote the rest of their lives more or less towards the goal of being ‘strong’ even though it means that they become less than they are capable of being, emotion-wise. It is a societal sickness that this is so, but it is so. Your boyfriend is probably a casualty of this societal sickness. I suspect that your boyfriend loves you very much; as much or more as any of your girlfriend’s boyfriends love them. However, his love lives within him in an encapsulated form. He has difficulty expressing it because he is deeply ambivalent about it. He needs love, and yet his need makes him feel weak; he has to keep some distance from them. One way of keeping distance from love is for him to rebel against gift giving. He is being selfish here by thinking of his own needs over yours, but not in a mean way, just in an immature macho sort of way. Rather than fight with him about this, what you need to do is to get his attention and then assertively explain to him just how you feel when you don’t receive gifts; your fears about whether you are attractive enough, etc. Ask him to listen and to not comment until you’ve finished speaking. Stop him if he starts commenting before you are done. I suspect that he is not really in tune with you, not because he is a bad guy, but because he is too busy keeping himself feeling safe. Tell him you know that the gift is not the issue (the expression of love is the issue), that you really do doubt yourself when he doesn’t express his love for you, that he really does need to do this for you so that you can be nourished. I suspect that with some prompting that he’ll be able to loosen up and give you more of what you need. But he will likely be awkward at first when he does come around and may need some special attention to reassure him. Good Luck, – Anne

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