Q. My name is Cindy and I am dating a really awesome guy. He has the habit of buying me gifts and sometimes these gifts are quite expensive. As flattered as I am, I feel uncomfortable accepting them, but in the end I accept them because I don’t want to hurt him. Recently he gifted me an expensive piece of jewelry. When I told him politely that I couldn’t take it, he insisted that I accept it.
Our relationship is great and things can’t be better. I find it hard to believe that I have only known him for 5 months, but the gifts he has given me are things a man usually gives to his fiancee or wife. Time and again he has asked me not to worry about money because he is a high earner.
In my previous relationship, my ex boyfriend used to buy me gifts and spend money on me, even though I never asked him for anything. Later when we broke up, he accused me of spending all his money which deeply hurt me. Needless to say, his accusations still disturb me and every time the man I am currently dating gifts me, I am reminded of my ex’s words and the fear that he too may end up saying something similar, even though I know it’s unfair to compare him with my ex.
Should I continue accepting his gifts as a token of love and forget about what may happen in the future or should I tell him not to give me any more gifts knowing that it may upset him?
A. Dear Cindy,
It sounds as if you are quite uncomfortable receiving gifts from your boyfriend. Especially gifts that you feel are extravagant and what you consider to be more appropriate for fiancés and wives.
I have a few questions that I would like for you to consider:
1. What is it about the gifts that actually make you feel uncomfortable? Is it solely triggering your past experience or is there more?
2. Where did you get your definition of what an appropriate gift for a girlfriend, fiancé and wife is? Do you know this to be the truth?
3. What do you feel your boyfriend is trying to convey to you when he is giving you these gifts? What is uncomfortable about that feeling?
Keep this in mind. People show their love in many different ways.
Some partners are more affectionate, some are full of praise, and some are doing all kinds of things for us. But there are also those who are gift givers. There is a great possibility that this is your boyfriend’s “love language.” Dr. Gary Chapman has written a wonderful book titled, “The Five Love Languages,” in which he explains the differences between each love language he has observed in individuals.
The five love languages he has identified are: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Words of Affirmation.
We generally communicate love to others in our own love language. So, if I am someone who does things for others as a way to communicate my love, I also want that in return. Not on conscious level, of course, but it is the language in which I give and feel love in return. If my partner praises me (the love language being Words of Affirmation), I am less likely to feel loved because it is not in my own language. I don’t understand it. However, if they begin doing things for me, which is the love language I speak, I will now understand and receive the love they are trying to show me.
We have conflict in relationships because, according to Dr. Chapman, we are communicating our love to our partners in our own language and not attempting to communicate in our partner’s language.
If your boyfriend is a gift giver that is how he communicates his love to you. For example, if your love language is acts of service, you may be cooking dinner for him, straightening up his apartment, doing things for him, etc. and waiting for that in return. Not that you don’t feel fulfilled, because it sounds like you are very fulfilled, but when he is buying you things as opposed to communicating his love in a way you understand, you feel uncomfortable.
The fix to this is as easy as understanding that love is communicated in various ways, often times, in ways that are different than our own.
I would also encourage you to explore why it is that the gift giving is truly bothering you to begin with. Is this the hurt from the past relationship, an integrity issue, a financial issue, a worthiness issue, a combination, or something completely different? If the discomfort is coming from you, then it is something you need to work through on your own.
It is possible that your boyfriend’s gift-giving behavior is a result of something negative.
For example, maybe this isn’t just his love language, but the only way he knows how to show love. In families, there are parents who buy their children’s love with gifts and those children grow up to be partners and parents who do the same. This can result in shallow feelings and misunderstandings within a relationship. Your intuition may be telling you that something is up.
If that is the case, I would have a talk with your boyfriend about how you are feeling and why it is you are feeling that way.
If he is truly someone you want in your future, having an important talk like this is a first step in having healthy communication in your relationship. Not addressing this issue now can lead to problems further down the road. Possibly his spending habits will become excessive and cause finances disagreements or your feelings of discomfort will continue to grow and become a wedge between the happiness you felt in the beginning of the relationship. Never-the-less, communication with your boyfriend is a very important step in this process.