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How Big a Gift is Appropriate?

My boyfriend (of 3 years) and I are committed to spending our lives together. Prior to our commitment he dated several woman, many of whom he maintained contact with on a friendly basis after we got together. I don't mind this, but last Christmas when asked if he needed cards to send out to them he stated, "No…there's no reason to"; yet 6 months later I found that he sent them gifts.

We discussed it and I stated that while I didn't mind it; I was upset that he said he wasn't and stood by it until I approached him with the credit card bill. This year I asked if he needed to send cards and he said "yes… but only to 2"; his long-time friend/ex-girlfriend of 20 years and his last girlfriend/friend that he remains in contact with.

He claimed that he only talked to this last girl a few times over the last few months, but I pay the bills in the house which state otherwise. He wanted to spend about $50 on a gift for her. I said, ok, but that it needed to be an "impersonal gift" since they no longer have a strong friendship/relationship and that an art book would be appropriate. He was very defensive about this and just shut down, saying, "Oh, I just won't give her anything then!"

My point is this: if she is just a regular friend and less then his long-time buddy an occasional 15 minute phone call 2 times a month would be appropriate. As well, I don't have a problem with an impersonal gift, but anything more is like a slap in the face to me! Needless to say my feelings were hurt when he got so defensive.

I will admit there was a twinge of jealousy and hurt that he would push for a big gift for someone that he states is a little more than an acquaintance now after 3 years. So what's the deal?


I don't read minds in order to tell you "...what's the deal..." with him. Instead, let's talk about you.

What's the deal?

What exactly are you accusing your boyfriend of: cheating with an ex-girlfriend, or being a lavish gift-giver? Do you think that by spending more money than YOU think he should that he's somehow betraying your relationship?

It seems to me that he's committed to you and is doing what he needs to be doing in that vein. It's also obvious that he feels he can't tell you the truth. Why do you think that is? Is it just because he's a dishonest lout, or do you think that you have anything to do with him not being able to tell you the truth? (Answer: it's the latter)

I see this all the time, (more often by women than men although men are sometimes guilty of it too). They set their partners up to fail, over react to things that really have no bearing when everything else is otherwise solid in the relationship, and then question when their partners go underground with their actions.

Frankly, this is just a recipe for more underground activity! What starts as a few "white lies" sometimes becomes much more where the person is not only telling lies, but actually out looking for something (or someone) else simply because they believe that they don't have an honest and open relationship. This is the ultimate "vicious cycle". I'm not saying that's what is happening in your case, but it's common enough to make the point here.

What do you really want in your relationship? Do you want someone that will do whatever they feel like behind the scenes and lie to you about it or do you want someone that is open and honest about what they do, say and think? If you want the honesty, you're at least 1/2 responsible for creating the environment where it can thrive.

Here's another way to handle this situation: tell him that you don't agree with his choice, but recognize that the choice is his. Tell him also that you'd appreciate it if he'd tell you about these and even bring you in on the decision since these gifts are from both of you - not just him. These girls aren't just his friends - they effectively are friends of your relationship itself since the relationship is affected by them.

If you give him free reigns to do whatever he wants and just stay out of it, you're probably not going to be happy with the end result. On the other hand, if you get involved with all of this as his partner, you'll have much more authority in what happens and be a better contributor to the relationship itself.

Best regards...

Have a love, dating, relationship, sex or man/woman question? I answer all email. You can write to me at dwneder@beingaman.com for answers. For more information about my books, "Being a Man in a Woman's World" (volumes I & II), and other products visit: www.beingaman.com. Check out the discussion group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beingaman.

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