Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Better Give Me Good Christmas Gifts, Or Else!”

Merry Christmas Eve! This Dear Wendy column originally ran on Dec. 23, 2009.

Last Christmas, my boyfriend and I had been together just over a year. He promised me a cruise for a Christmas present last year (we decided on it AFTER Christmas), but he never bought the tickets. He said he was waiting because he thought we might break up — which we did, at the end of January. We got back together a few weeks later but he still never bought our cruise. I tried to drop it because it just made me mad every time I thought about all of the nice gifts I’d gotten him. So this year I’m wondering what will happen. How do I make sure that I don’t get screwed again? I got him two nice gifts but I saved the receipts. If he doesn’t get me anything should I take them back? Should I try to do something to ensure that he’ll come through on a gift? Am I being completely shallow and stupid? I’m so torn because I love him but I think that crap he pulled last Christmas was really crummy and I don’t want it to happen again but at the same time, I know I should not focus on getting a gift because that’s shallow and materialistic. Should I say something to him about it?? What do you think? I need some serious advice on this one. — Shallow Sally

A true gift is given with no expectation of receiving anything back, so the mere fact that you’ve saved the receipts on the gifts you’ve bought for your boyfriend so that you may return them if he “screws up” again shows not only a lack of Christmas spirit on your part but a lack of character as well. Now, I’m not saying your boyfriend is without fault here. It is indeed crummy to promise someone a gift and never pony up. It’s even worse to say you held off on getting said gift because you “thought you might break up.” You don’t say who did the breaking up, though, and I wonder if it was he who dumped you because he was so disgusted by your materialism, gift-giving snobbery around Christmas, and the pressure you put on him to spend a lot of money. You also don’t mention whether he got you any gifts at all — only that he didn’t give you the promised cruise, so perhaps it’s possible he actually did give you something and it just wasn’t to your liking. Either way, you both need to grow up.

People show their love in many different ways. Perhaps for you it’s through the giving of material possessions. Maybe your boyfriend expresses his feelings through actions or gifts that don’t have price tags attached. If you’re unsure of his feelings for you and looking for extravagant presents to validate your relationship, you’re in trouble. And if you already know how he feels, the amount of money he spends on material gifts shouldn’t matter. Look to the amount of quality time he spends with you, the thought he puts into the plans he makes with you, and the way he listens to you as his expressions of love. If you’re still concerned that your material gifts are unequal in price and you’re getting “screwed,” quit spending so much on him. And if you’re really dying to go on that cruise, tell him that in lieu of gifts this year, you’d like to go in together on a cruise you can both enjoy. Then return those gifts you bought him — before even giving them to him, get your money back, and invest in memories instead.

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