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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

427

Affection, Gift Returns, and Professors on Facebook

I'm 30 and live with my boyfriend of four years. We have sex a couple times a week and occasionally he will tolerate a few minutes of cuddling, but otherwise we touch minimally. This seems like a trivial thing to whine about, but I really miss making out. I think physical contact is an important way to feel bonded with somebody. I might be fine with the companionship dynamic if we were perhaps in our 60s, but at this point it mostly serves to make me feel lonely and subtly rejected (I try to kiss him on occasion, but he generally grimaces and turns away). We've discussed this multiple times and my boyfriend grasps that it's an issue for me, he just "isn't a touchy guy." He is also not verbally affectionate, so he mainly shows his love through tasks such as taking out the garbage, picking me up if I'm caught on my bike in the rain, etc.

Am I a fool for thinking of this as a semi-dealbreaker? Should I just be grateful for the otherwise cozy domestic setup that I have? I admire the fact that he isn't hokey or sappy, but I still want to feel loved. Do a majority of long-term relationships end up being physically cold? Is it silly to dream of sustained physical affection with one person?

Contemplating breaking up with somebody is terrifying, lest you be wrong and regret it. Thanks for any insight you can offer!

Physical affection tends to fade with the age of both the participants and of the relationship. It's not universal, but it is common, so I was getting ready to say something about negotiating mutually appropriate amounts of physicality, until I read the sentence about contemplating breaking up with someone being terrifying.

If your lover grimaces when you try to kiss him, that isn't subtle rejection, and it isn't about his being "not touchy," and if the thing that is keeping you from taking on the problem is terror, then you have a different problem from the one you described. So instead, let me take a little detour. 

No matter how liberal-minded we get, we still tend to be conservative about sex and housing. And when there's one person with whom you share both exclusive sex and long-term housing, well, a relationship like that takes on deep practical significance, independent of its solidity as a relationship.

Which means that the normal course of romantic relationships, which mostly don't last, gets caught up in the practical aversion to dislocation. And in that situation, it's easy to start mistaking domesticity for commitment.

I report all this with some rue. My (short, disastrous) first marriage commenced because we were living together and too afraid to admit we were drifting apart. It is also no accident that I met my current wife 15 years ago, during a period when I was dating a few different women, while sleeping with none of them (because if I'd started sleeping with even one of them, even casually, well, that's where my focus would have gone).

So, by the power vested in me to tell you how to run your life after reading a three-paragraph description of one facet, I'm going to guess that your different approaches to romantic contact are more symptom than cause of your distress. You need to have one of those talks with your man (and from your description it sounds like he'll react like a deer in headlights), but you also need to be ready for that talk to start around physical contact but quickly become an About Us talk.

Because maybe he doesn't kiss you because he doesn't know how much it means to you. But from your letter, it sounds like a manifestation of something deeper and more broken.

Which sounds awful, I know. But if you're dealing with a "semi-dealbreaker" (semi?) and one of the big obstacles to dealing with it is your terror around one possible outcome, then the alternative is to continue to live as you currently are. Which is presumably not what you want, or you wouldn't have written.

2. I have always admired and trusted your advice in the past so I thought I'd write to you about this delicate quandary. My boyfriend of two and a half years gave me a very generous and lovely Christmas gift, but I just really hate it. It's an article of clothing, and one that is not only not my style, but just so impractical that I could never see myself wearing it even if I were to compromise my sartorial taste. My instinct is to just suck it up and keep the gift, and wear it whenever I can to show my appreciation. The caveat is that the gift was clearly very expensive. I make a very small salary (much less than my boyfriend), and I just started a new job with a very fancy dress code. Were I to exchange this one article, I'm sure I could get multiple items of clothing that would be very helpful for me to wear in my new formal office environment. So, to keep this one pricey thing that I don't need and don't like seems silly.

BUT I already told him I loved it. I know, I know, I should have been honest at first and saved myself the agonizing, but on Christmas morning, sitting with him, I wasn't thinking about how pretty or ugly the clothing was, I was just thinking about how much I loved him and how happy I was to be spending Christmas with him, and how lucky I was to have such a sweet, thoughtful boyfriend. It's also just in my nature to put on a good face and be polite in all situations.

I don't know what to do! I really don't want to hurt his feelings, but I really hate this gift. Most people I've asked have said I should just find a nice way to be honest with him, and that he'll understand. But I'm kind of wondering whether it's worth it to hurt his feelings over something material (read: not that important in the long run).

Can I return the gift? If so, how? (I already tried it on in front of him so he knows it fits.)

As for admiring and trusting our advice, you know there's more than one of us, right? And that we don't all agree? So, as a Hairpin PSA, remember the Married Dude Brand Promise: "Imperfect Advice from Strangers." And look, here's some now!

A lot of advice-givers assume honesty is the best policy. Not me! I understand the need to say "Oh, thank you, it's lovely!" to a loved one who has produced a less-than-perfect gift. I mean, everybody wants speaking your mind to be a universally great idea, but it's not. We all need some cushions, especially at home.

Gifts that are both expensive and returnable function a little bit like tokens of love and a little bit like money, and we generally like to keep those things separate, so, like a lot of these things, context matters. Did he get you a see-through blouse that cost $1200, or an ugly jacket that cost $225?

If it's the former, where the garment sends a message about you don't want to send, then you have to talk about it, because his choice in clothes says something about his vision of you, and the cash outlay is out of balance with the realities of your (partly) shared finances. It can be one of those "You know honey, I was thinking..." talks, as a way of signalling "I've changed my mind about something that matters to both of us."

But if he got you a little houndstooth-check number in tangerine and puce because he thought you'd like it, for an amount reasonable for his salary but not yours, then I don't think the conversion to cash is worth the hurt feelings.

If this is you, then you have two very different problems. First, how do you dress at a workplace that expects Lord & Taylor but pays American Apparel? (Which: the fuck? But the horror of American employment is a whole nother conversation.) You had this problem before you got his gift, and I don't think the gift changes it — it confuses the cash and emotional value of a gift too thoroughly, at too high a price.

And your second problem is How do you not hurt either your taste or his feelings? To which the answer is: Tragic accident. Wear it a time or two if you can stand it, and then find a face-saving way to dispose of it. I can think of any number of ways to do this, from arranging to rip it or spill something on it, or losing it someplace. (Nota bene: This will vary depending on the garment. "Oh sweetie, I left my jacket on the train!" is different than "Oh sweetie, I left my skirt on the train!")

The other thing you don't say is "How common is this behavior?" Because if this is one sweet but uncharacteristic gesture, a white lie could work fine, but if this is just the most recent example of him overspending and mis-choosing, then it's back to Option A, talking about it.

But even if you end up with Option A, remember that it's a gift, not a gift-card; the cash value of the garment matters less than what it says about you and him that he gave it to you.

3. Here's the situation. I have a former professor that has drunkenly Facebook chatted me late at night twice in the past week. Fine. Except he's married and has kids. These Facebook chats haven't been inappropriate. (Except for maybe a couple of jokes about porn? which weren't sexual in nature despite the subject matter.) Regardless of the fact that these conversations have been brief and PG-rated, I don't think this dude's wife would be thrilled if she found out he was Facebook chatting 21-year-olds while under the influence past the midnight hour. This is a guy who no longer teaches at my school who I also worked with in a professional setting in the real world, so the ethics of that whole student slash teacher who grades said student boundary thing isn't really the issue.

The first time he drunk FB chatted me it was amusing. The second time it made me think 'this is going to become a habit,' and I'm not really comfortable with that. This is a man who I respect, admire, and consider a mentor. Right now I feel like he's teetering on the edge of losing my respect if these drunken messages escalate to anything more than light-hearted chit-chat. I really really do not want to lose my respect for him. As a married dude what do you think of this guys behavior and what should I do about it? Is it my responsibility to say "Yo Teach! Check yourself" before he says something he'll regret? Do I ignore him the next time he contacts me late at night? Do I post a link to this column as my status and hope he reads it? Or am I making too big a deal of this and it's really nothing to worry about?

Help me out! I want to stay as far away from home wrecking land as possible!

He's flirting, and flirting is the art of signaling sexual interest while maintaining plausible deniability. The more aggressive the flirting, the harder the flirter is signaling interest, and drunk FB chatting after midnight is straying into proto-crypto-booty call territory.

And you are not making too big a deal out of it. You've already answered the only question that matters — has it crossed a point where you don't like it? If you feel like he's hitting on you (and, pro tip, men who joke about porn to women are fishing) and you don't like it, that is the only threshold that needs to be crossed for you to take it seriously.

It's not your responsibility to spare the missus any upset; your only job is to get him to stop the behavior you don't like. I'd just stop answering his late night chat requests, while (if he was a mentor and remains useful to you) continuing to talk to him sober and during the business day. And if that doesn't work, then cut him off.

 

Previously: Selective Empathy and "An Outlet for Maternal Feelings."

A Married Dude is one of several rotating married dudes. Do you have a question for A Married Dude?

Photo via Flickr/boynton



427 Comments / Post A Comment

packedsuitcase

LW3: What AMD said!

Jill_Tata

cool stuff you are really coool@k

Megoon

Can't you make yourself invisible to certain people on Facebook chat? As an Old, I never use it, but if you can that solves it.

But I disagree with the gift-giver advice. You tell your boyfriend, "I love it, but I've realized I'm not going to have a lot of opportunities to wear it. Do you mind if I exchange it for some work clothes instead?" Done. Spilling something on it on purpose is just dumb.

Eva@twitter

@Megoon Yes, you can indeed. I have mine only visible to people that I would be okay with getting chat messages from at all hours. (Which is not necessarily even my closest friends, because some of them are WAY too talkative sometimes...)

So person number 3 - turn off chat visibility for the professor. Done.

OhMarie

@Megoon Yes, yes a million times to this gift-giver advice.

Emby

@Megoon I agree that the losing-it or spilling-something-on-it techniques are not good advice, but I really do think she should keep it. Otherwise, the message is that it's not the thought that counts, it's the gift. And that way lies a lifetime of gift cards from one's romantic partner. "This way you can get what you like! Love, ____"

Quinn A@twitter

@Megoon Yeah, that seems like a much better solution to the gift problem.

Megoon

@Emby Yeah, but if she keeps up this ruse that it's a great gift, that way lies a lifetime of shitty gifts and wasted money. Many of us need steerage with gifting (I personally would prefer a gift card to something that just takes up space, but I am also horrible at giving gifts). Maybe he'd do better with books or an experience.

Quinn A@twitter

@Emby Okay, but I would argue that a gift that is completely not to the person's taste and that disregards the practical realities of the person's life is maybe not actually so thoughtful a gift? Yes, even if it's lovely and expensive. I used to specifically tell a boyfriend not to give me jewelry because I did not wear it. He persisted in buying me jewelry because "that's what girls like". Clearly, no real thought went into those gifts at all.

I'm not saying the LW's boyfriend wasn't being thoughtful, though, because many men are completely clueless when it comes to women's clothing (to the point where they genuinely do not know the difference between a skirt and a dress). He might have honestly thought that he'd bought her something she'd love. I'm just saying, sometimes a gift card is more thoughtful than something more tangible, because the gift card is saying "I recognize that you have a need and that you probably know more about how to fill it than I do".

Emby

@Megoon Understood, but I think there's a much better way to do that than by returning the gift. Maybe it's the gap between practicality and romantic gesture, but that seems like it could sour him to the entire idea of buying, I don't know how to say this, special gifts. Thoughtful gifts. From the sounds of it, he really tried but whiffed. It happens. I think the way to handle it is that the next time a gift-giving occasion arises, she should strike first and say, "Hey, remember that thingamajig you got me for Christmas? It's really lovely and it was very thoughtful, but it's really just not my style. It's hard to buy clothing for me."

Then he knows to avoid clothing. If it's a fundamental misunderstanding of her tastes and wants, that's a bigger issue, but if it's just that he can't pick out good clothing, I feel like a softer approach is better. Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but I feel like returning a thoughtfully selected gift, no matter how much you dislike it, is hurtful.

@Quinn I think therein lies a judgement call. From the LW's letter, I got the opinion that he did put a lot of thought into—but still screwed up. I could be wrong and maybe he very well just did say, "Eh, that looks like it'll fit. Wrap that fucker up and put a bow on it." But it doesn't sound like it to me.

By all means, explain to him eventually that it wasn't to your liking, but the idea of returning it for other items of clothes just irks me in a way that maybe is not entirely rational. Maybe it's me.

gobblegirl

@Megoon This is exactly my advice. Don't say you don't like it, just say - "As much as I love it, I just can't think of where I would wear it - I hardly ever get to snorkel/go to balls/strip. Seeing it hanging in my closet unused would make me so sad. Would you mind if I exchanged it for some snappy work clothes that will help me earn a promotion so we can both afford a future snorkeling/cotillion/Vegas trip?"
But the rest of the Dude's advice on this question is pretty good, I think. This is just a solution to the "it's not inappropriate, it's just ugly" scenario.

Hellcat

@Quinn A@twitter He was probably being thoughtful and she should be thoughtful back, as in do not lose or destroy something he took the time to pick out (however misguidedly) and spend a decent handful of dough on; even if he makes crazy amounts of money, he probably works hard to do so. I think she already has the perfect grownup excuse to use: she needs higher-end stuff for her job and doesn't need the gift (which I am so, so, sooooo curious about! What is it? Come on!), which, from what she described, sounds like something he must know is not everyday wear. I think most people would understand the tradeoff here--especially a nice boy who elicits the happy fuzzy Christmas Day feelings she has.

blueblazes

@Quinn A@twitter "I used to specifically tell a boyfriend not to give me jewelry because I did not wear it. He persisted in buying me jewelry because "that's what girls like". Clearly, no real thought went into those gifts at all."

Stupid Christmas-Birthday-DeBeers industrial complex. I have this same problem, but with family!

karion

@Emby: I am having the same, perhaps irrational (but I don't think so) reaction.

I think it is incredibly distasteful to ask someone who gave you a gift if they mind if you exchange it for something else that you actually wanted. Egad, I realize I sound old fashioned (or just old), but there it is. You aren't entitled to the gift you want or need. Hell, you aren't entitled to the gift, period. It just seems...icky to ask/tell someone who gave you a gift that you didn't like/want/need it, and are therefore going to exchange it for something you do like/want/need.

I have come to appreciate manners in all aspect of life, and especially in a relationship. It is easy to get super comfortable and intimate with someone, and think that gives you license to be ill-mannered or inconsiderate - such that you think it is okay to tell your SO that you didn't like his present, and are going to exchange it for something you do like.

I just think that is an incredibly rude reaction to a gift. I guess that puts me in the "suck it up and wear it when you can to show appreciation, even if it offends your sartorial style" camp. It is possible that the gift-giver loves seeing you in it, by the way, and while that isn't the most magnanimous motive for a gift, it is still an act of kindness and generosity.

itiresias

@karion See, my family is playing really hard into my opinion of this, because everyone gives gifts with reciepts in the box and my miserable grandma is at a point of only giving me hideous things that were easy to buy and saying "You're gonna hate this but just return it and get what you want" the minute she gives me the wrapped present. And it's annoying as fuck, and I wish they put some thought into it. At the same time, it's just that they all want one another to recieve a present they'll use. My mom called me yesterday to yell at me for not returning an ugly sweater from an obscure store my uncle gave me. I sent her a picture of the bag I bought with the return money from my grandma's present (not kidding: an expensive down-alternative blanket throw with Christmas-patterned scotty dogs all over it..?) so she could show my grandma, who would be excited about it. My parents aim for a 50% no-return rate with one another.

Long story short, I just wouldn't want to spend money giving my boyfriend something and then find out he hated it and never uses it but pretended so I'd be happy.

Hellcat

@karion I do agree with a lot of what you say here; tact and manners and thinking of other people's feelings go a long, long way (and people should learn this simple truth, man! I blame reality TV and any other people who confuse "keeping it real" with "being a rude asshole when no one even asked you"). But I'd probably apply this to coworkers or older relatives who really don't know what you need (though I guess they don't necessarily have to be older, really), or scenarios more formal than a serious and comfortable romantic relationship. I'd hate to ever hurt my BF's feelings but if I thought he spent too much on something that didn't work for me, I'd also feel bad about getting no use out of it--but it's definitely a case-by-case thing; I don't like, say, a t-shirt? Keep it but don't wear it; he'll probably never know. Don't like a pricy... vacuum or appliance of some kind? Be nice about it but take it back and get whatever works best for his hard-earned dough. Don't like something he made? You keep it!

I guess I do think the money matters a little, in a "why waste it?" way, but that might be coming from a place of knowing my BF would appreciate it because he doesn't have a lot to spend, and he's pretty low-key. Still, I would feel somewhat bad even if he isn't insulted or hurt by it at all.

karion

@itiresias @Hellcat - I agree with both of you, and should have made clear that I was reacting to the specifics of this question. The LW and the BF have been together for a couple of years, so this is an intimate gift-giver.

It is probably, as most things, a case by case analysis, but I think a great rule to follow is if the gift giver mentions a gift receipt or the possibility of exchange? Fair game.

englishmajor

@itiresias and @hellcat Yes, when I gave up the ghost (or the gift), I was operating on the principal that that is what I would want. If I gave him something he hated, especially if it was expensive, I would really prefer he tell me. I would be embarrassed if I found out, a long time later, that he pretended to like it. And I would be angry if I found out he purposely lost or destroyed it. I guess everybody's different. But, in my relationship, I think comfort and openness IS really romantic, more romantic than pretending to like a gift for decorum's sake.
I guess I'm pretty much with @hellcat on this. He proffered a gift receipt expecting (I guess) that I wouldn't need one. And for the record, if my boyfriend made me something, not only would I keep it, I would wear it every day/hang it over my bed so I could see it every day/never throw it out.

NeverOddOrEven

@blueblazes
And taste in jewelry is so individual. Even more so than clothes, I'd argue.
A nice, well made cardigan? Everyone can make that work.
A Jane Seymour Open Heart Necklace? Fuck off.

RK Fire

@NeverOddOrEven Fun story about that necklace: whenever that commercial comes on, my husband always jokes that it's essentially T&A. Now I can't stop seeing that either when a commercial comes on.

If it wasn't too expensive for a joke gift, I'd be expecting to get one for my birthday or Valentine's Day.

NeverOddOrEven

@RK Fire
Ah, it is!
I always think of My Name Is Earl and the one episode where Joy is obsessed with getting one because they're the height of class. I miss that show. Snakes and rape is still high comedy in my household.

Blushingflwr

@Megoon Yes, that is the simplest way to do it!
Though it is entirely possible that it is something that the boyfriend really likes seeing her in, in which case, save it for date nights.

antilamentation

@Megoon A problem I can see with the "accidentally" spilling something on it idea is what if the boyfriend then saves up all year so he can buy her the same thing again next time around? "Look, honey! I saved up to replace it, because you were so brokenhearted when you lost it! Now you don't have to be sad anymore!"

Springtime for Voldemort

@Quinn A@twitter Yeah, I'm with you. I've gotten a lot of gifts where, if it's the thought that counts, the thought was "I don't actually know you that well" or "I don't listen to what you tell me." I'm not really hurt if someone wants to return a gift for something else, because the point is that their life is enhanced, not that I get appreciation. (And, as a slight sidetrack, the rule that you should always be grateful no matter what and never return anything lends itself rather easily to someone with enough cash using gifts to be emotionally manipulative.) But I'd be really hurt and angry if someone lied to me about how much they liked something, and if I put all this effort into getting the funds to give them a gift that then went to waste.

Quinn A@twitter

@Springtime for Voldemort "because the point is that their life is enhanced, not that I get appreciation"

Yes, exactly!

Hellcat

@Springtime for Voldemort "I don't listen to what you tell me." OOOOH, THAT! My mom used to always buy me tons of clothes for Christmas and birthdays from a store she liked and I did not. Eventually, I came out and said that I didn't like the clothes and still... STILL she did it, even when she was shopping with my sister, who clarified that not only were there no clothes there that looked like anything I'd wear, but that I'd already told her not to waste her time and money. And she wouldn't even keep the receipts after that! One time, I had to make an exchange and I came out with 100 or so dollars' worth of subpar black tights (no stretch at all to them, too thin and shiny, and made of something that felt like it was scraping my knuckles bare when I pulled them up)!

Yes, I feel like a douche bag for having been mad at her. But I also feel somewhat justified in my anger; I just can't help it!

ixchel

@RK Fire That is so funny! We are maybe tacky around here, but when that ad comes on, we call it the Open Butts Collection!

A. Louise

@NeverOddOrEven my boyfriend and I have a long standing joke where I get upset that I didn't get one for (insert gift-giving holiday) and then he threatens to really buy me one.

Some girl on the Bachelor (I KNOW... Lord help me, it goes so well with wine though) has it tattooed on her ring finger. TATTOOED. She would have been sent home immediately if it was up to me.

RK Fire

@A. Louise, ixchel, NeverOddorEven I love you guys.

clipse

@itiresias I tend to agree with you, but if I were on the other end of it, and I had bought a gift for someone and then found out much later that they didn't like it but had kept it to save my feelings, I would feel flattered that they cared about me enough to sacrifice getting what they really wanted.

PatatasBravas

I try to kiss him on occasion, but he generally grimaces and turns away made me so sad to read. You should be with someone who wants to kiss you, LW!

glitterary

@PatatasBravas Amen. Even if I had no other concerns about my relationship with someone, that would be a dealbreaker for me.

Bittersweet

@PatatasBravas Someone who wants to kiss you, and someone who enjoys touching and cuddling with you! Science has shown that babies who aren't touch fail to thrive, and I have to imagine that something withers in adults who aren't touched enough either.

hallucinas

@PatatasBravas I was in a relationship for a year and half with someone who hated affection and there was most definitely some internal withering that took some time and therapy to fix.

Princess Slaya

LW1 - I'm sorry, but I think that you two are not romantically compatible. "Grimacing" at someone you love when they are doing something as simple as showing affection is NOT OK. NOT AT ALL. Can you imagine spending your life with someone you can't kiss on the mouth every day? There is another guy out there, who will pick you up when are riding your bicycle on the rain, and kiss you hello in that very same moment.

LW3 - "I really really do not want to lose my respect for him." If he is behaving appropriately, you won't. And if he is inappropriate, then he doesn't deserve your respect anyway. People change, and sometimes respect can be won back/bad decisions forgiven. I totally agree with what AMD said.

Hellcat

@Princess Slaya I can't even imagine. I love to kiss my BF but if I, for some reason, don't within the minute he walks in (which he will be doing every day now, you guys--he's movin' in this week), he stands there with his arms out to the sides and a "HEY...?" expression on his face.

RNL
RNL

@Princess Slaya Re: LW3. You are correct. But I completely know what the LW is talking about. You KNOW that this married person is on the verge of making a mistake that will cost your respect, and you hope that you can head them off at the pass and not have to deal with it.

I have a couple of situations in my young, foolish, flirtatious past where I assumed that the married person would set the boundaries, and have had to way back pedal when my naive dumb-dumb assumption turned out false. Loss of respect, awkward situations, etc. If I JUST HADN'T ENGAGED, I wouldn't have had to live with the fall-out of their poor decisions.

Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails

@Hellcat Congratulations -- I hope y'all have ridiculous amounts of fun living together.

Hellcat

@Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails Thank you! As soon as we get all of his stuff out of our (awww, I got to say "our"!) living room, fun will commence!

Scandyhoovian

@Hellcat Haha, my husband does the same thing. If the hello kiss isn't one of the first things I do in the door, I eventually get an "ahem?"

SuperGogo

LW2: My mom gave me an expensive dress for my high school graduation gift. I know she spent more than she ever had on a dress for me (perhaps even for herself). And it was hiddy....truly hiddy. But to this day, I regret that I didn't swallow my pride and my opinions and tell her that I loved it to death. I wish I could take back that hurt I caused in marring her beautiful gesture. I think your first impulse, to focus on the beauty of the act rather than the ugliness of what was given, is something to hold on to. They're just things.

par_parenthese

@SuperGogo I have never regretted gratitude, even if I hated the gift. I have often regretted ingratitude, even if it was justified. So that's a thing.

iceberg

I need this on a t-shirt: "flirting is the art of signaling sexual interest while maintaining plausible deniability"

LW1 - "grimaces and turns away" noooooooooooo. was he always this unaffectionate and you can't take it any more, or has he changed? if he's changed, if you can find out why, it might be fixable. If not, sounds like you're just incompatible, and you have to figure out whether you can hack it or not. But for the love of god don't stay just because you're scared to leave. You CAN be happier.

Danzig!

@iceberg I'm no artisan, that's for damned sure

questingbeast

I can't help imagining LW2's mystery garment as the Urban Sombrero.

wee_ramekin

@questingbeast Or one of those horrible "spirit animal" hoods.

*shudders*

englishmajor

@questingbeast LW2 here: you're not far off

TheJacqueline

@questingbeast please share!

jule_b_sorry

@englishmajor Hi LW2!

I felt your letter so, so much. Two years ago, I went around hinting that for xmas I'd really like some new leather boots. Now, what I wanted were some nice, practical, low-heeled leather riding boots that I could wear in the winter to my business-casual office. I sent pictures, left open Amazon wishlists temptingly on my desk, etc.

On xmas, the BF was so excited to give me his gift. I opened...a pair of black, patent leather, 6-inch stiletto-heeled, over-the-knee Louboutin boots with a 1-inch toe platform. I'm sure they cost a fortune, and they were gorgeous to be sure. And were COMPLETELY inappropriate for the wardrobe hole I hoped to fill. They were super sexy, too formal, dangerously high-heeled to walk in, and not to mention that as designer boots, they were too narrow for my wide calves. And 100% not my taste (I'm a pretty pragmatic dresser and don't own a lot of designer fashions).

I eventually got them stretched to fit my calves better (they still don't zip all the way), and I've worn them to a few special occasions, like our anniversary dinner and his bday. I can tell he's disappointed I don't wear them more often (and I don't really want to wear them when I wear them - they're really hard to walk in - so I'm more humoring him).

BUT, I was raised to never, ever return a gift, and that it's rude to treat a gift as a fungible ticket to buy stuff I actually want. He really wanted to see me in the boots, and wanted to buy me something "nice". So, because the sentiment was there (even if the thought wasn't) I stuck with them, and I'm more of less pretty happy I did. So, YMMV, but honestly I'd just wear it a few times, keep it for a few years, and if it's still worth anything after that, surreptitiously sell it on ebay b/c he'll have forgotten by then.

Melusina

@questingbeast My first guess was opera cape, but I'm changing it to Andie MacDowell's giant hat in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

englishmajor

@Melusina These are all really, really good guesses. Unfortunately I can't share the actual item and risk exposure, plus there are no pictures of it anywhere. Ultimately, I told the truth (the issue came up before I read this column). Everything was fine with the boy, but I have residual guilt, particularly after reading so many comments from people who think I should have kept my mouth shut. In the future, I'll probably just practice "it's the thought that coutns."

Emby

@englishmajor Hello, LW2!! In case I'm one of the people you're referring to, I'd like to clarify that I very much advocate for letting him gently know that what he picked wasn't very much to your liking. I am in the anti-returning camp (unless he suggests it!), but definitely think you can and should let him know that it wasn't as amazing a gift as he thought it was, because that's beneficial to both of you. He wants to get you a super-awesome gift, so letting him know what isn't awesome is useful advice.

nonvolleyball

@englishmajor I think you absolutely did the right thing. maybe this boils down to a "how you were raised" thing (& my family definitely is definitely in the voice dislike/return camp), but I think honesty should be your highest priority in a long-term relationship. maybe not if the gift is small & insignificant, but for something big? it's better for him to know.

...& I also say this as someone who's gotten my husband countless gifts over the years that haven't worked out (even though I know him well & he's not "hard to shop for")--games he didn't really want that much, clothes that didn't fit properly or work with the rest of his wardrobe, etc. as long as you appreciate the thought, the actual material item is almost irrelevant--& by being honest, you know that "I love it" is ACTUALLY TRUE.

piekin

@jule_b_sorry You're a tolerant woman. If my guy dropped thousands of dollars on a Christmas gift for me that disregarded what I wanted/needed yet still managed to fulfill his own sexual fantasies, I would kick his ass (with the practical riding boots I exchanged the Louboutins for).

Melusina

@englishmajor Not to worry. Don't feel guilty, communication is not a bad thing, and having had this conversation now could help your relationship in the future.

E
E

@englishmajor I was in your shoes last birthday. I wanted one of those raw gemstone drop pendants and my boyfriend was very thoughtful and got me a raw gemstone pendant from a store we'd visited and it was clear he'd spend decent money and thought on it, and I really didn't like the style. I felt rotten to the core. When we'd visited the store he said something like, "isn't this nice stuff?" and since the owner was standing right there I didn't say, "ugh, no, I hate it" I said some non-committal "mhm" thing.

But, he knew I didn't like it because I have the inverse of a poker face (a go fish face?). So he made us go back. AND to make me sound like more of a monster, I ended up designing my own necklace and earrings. I had them change the chain on a setting I liked, and then I ended up with matching earings where I made him cut off a piece and re vermeil it...and I'm a MONSTER. I am. But I tell you what, I love what I have now, and I wear it all the time, and he is sort of rueful about it- like..."oh that necklace that I messed up?" but whenever he says that I say, "That's not what I remember. I remember that you were incredibly gracious and insistent on making sure I had what I liked and I love you for that most of all, and when I get compliments on this necklace I smugly say, "thank you my boyfriend got it for me. He's a darling."

Sucking it up is a noble approach. I firmly suck it up on presents that come from people outside my immediate family, then dispose of rapidly and write a gushing thank you letter. But my parents, my siblings and my significant other fall in the brutal honesty circle. I'd expect them to do the same with me if I spent a lot of money on them, because I know that I would most want them to LIKE what I got them, and if it didn't hit the mark, I'd be willing to go to an effort to make sure they got the thing they wanted. Family is different than friends, because they're inside the innermost circle.

If however the gift was not expensive or if I didn't have to wear it on my body, I would probably suck it up. And if a child gives you something, you have to make a HUGE fucking fuss no matter what it is. It could be a paper hat made entirely of tampons and glitter. You wear it.

piekin

@englishmajor Seriously, do not feel guilty, LW2! Ladies are told to "suck it up" and "be thankful" in the name of "politeness" all. the. time. and I call shenanigans. Gifts should primarily be for the enjoyment of the recipient, not the ego-boosting of the giver. Tactfully explaining to your intimate, long-term partner why a different gift would be better for you is definitely way more productive and mature than lying about how wonderful it is and then proceeding to deliberately ruin/lose it.

planforamiracle

@E Oh my goodness, we totally have to make "Go Fish Face" a thing. I have it too; I can't help showing my true feelings about everything, all the time. It's a blessing and a curse..

It's so interesting reading this discussion because there's so much emotion and angst and baggage tied up in gifts. I try to err on the side of sucking it up, or deciding I don't need to be so particular about everything. This Christmas my boyfriend gave me a beautiful piece of enameled cast-iron cookware, something that I wanted and needed. It wasn't the same colour as the other piece of enameled cast-iron cookware that I already have. Before using it I contemplated exchanging it for the same colour so they'd match; he had even given me a gift receipt. But in the end I decided that it didn't matter at all, the colour he chose is lovely (and I like that he associated that colour with me) and there's room for more than one colour of enameled cast iron in my kitchen.

Typing this all out I am realizing how ridiculous this sounds. Extremely ridiculous! Maybe a good future exercise to decide if it's worth making a stink, big or small, about a gift.

Caitlin Podiak

@englishmajor I'm so glad you told him the truth, because I have been reading all these "nice girls suck it up" comments with horror and dismay. I don't think you should feel remotely guilty!

Personally, I am crippled by a constantly-guilty-for-no-legitimate-reason conscience and being dishonest with someone I love would cause me more guilt than anything else. If I spent a lot of money on a gift for my boyfriend and he didn't like it, I would absolutely hate for him to pretend for my sake. And I can't even begin to imagine committing to an ongoing charade, even over something so minor, in order to spare him a moment of disappointment.

It strikes me as the exact same sort of intimacy-sabotage as faking an orgasm. Like, every so often somebody doesn't get to have an orgasm, which is a bummer, but oh well, you know? Faking it just makes everything way worse.

amitygardens@twitter

@englishmajorI think you did the right thing. Honesty is so incredibly important and at least he knows not to buy you anything of the sort again.

Maybe you could suggest going shopping together to pick out something to replace the gift. This way he's involved and also sees what kind of things you like for future gifts.

RebeccaKW

@questingbeast A friend of mine gets really crappy gifts from her husband. He buys nice things, it's not like he bought whatever was in the checkout line at CVS. But, still, bad gifts. One year, she got a beautiful sweater that she did like...except he bought a size small and she wears a plus size. Anyway, she decided one year to leave notes about what she wanted. A shoe catalog with the sticky note marking the page, with her size written on it, that type of thing. She got a pair of sandals-men's sandals. He couldn't understand why she couldn't wear them. "you said you needed a size 10."

ciphressinchief

@RebeccaKW That's hilarious! Thank god my boyfriend has sisters with exquisite taste. There should be an "ask a hairpinner about this potential present" column for men who are not sister-endowed.

Sincerely, Jane

DISABLE FACEBOOK CHAT

PatatasBravas

@Sincerely, Jane Yeah, it does seem like the tidiest response: just be invisible to him on facebook chat. I really don't think he'll follow up or ask you anything about it, but "Oh I went to sleep" or "I just haven't had time for facebook chats recently" are all perfectly fine nonanswers.

And once the habit of chatting is broken, then great! Wall posts and suchlike are public enough that he'll probably behave better and you won't feel weird about it.

That said, if he does escalate, that would be the time for an in-person conversation.

Lucienne

@PatatasBravas "Oh, I guess I forgot I had that tab open."

RK Fire

@Sincerely, Jane Seriously. I mean, what good comes from facebook chat? Nothing. NOTHING.

iceberg

@PatatasBravas YUP. I think the prof's fishing calls for a plausible-deniability-off. If she makes anything bigger of it than just blocking him on chat, he'll just be like whaaaaaaat i was just being friendly!

fondue with cheddar

@RK Fire Facebook chat is great! That's how friend of mine found about her husband's affair with a fellow high school teacher AND his attempts to sleep with one of his students!

PatatasBravas

@fondue with cheddar Your stories today are just making my eyes get all big and fearful.

RK Fire

@fondue with cheddar

fondue with cheddar

@PatatasBravas I have been witness to / involved in a lot of fearsome things! It was great having a friend to bond with over our respective terrible ex husbands.

@RK Fire I can't stop watching that GIF.

districter

Perhaps they were just poor examples, but I would put "taking out the trash" and "picking me up in the rain" under decent human being behaviors and not ones that indicate love. If I biked to worked and got caught in a downpour, I am sure a number of my coworkers would gladly drive over to pick me up.

So I say, get outta there!

iknowright

@districter Yeah, they live together -- taking out the trash is being a decent roommate, it's not a way one shows love! It is not him doing her a favor! Argh gender politics/domestic labor issues angry angry

Lily Rowan

@iknowright There's this Love Languages book that talks about different ways people show love, and one is touch and one is acts of service. I haven't read the book or anything, but the gist rings true to me. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

wee_ramekin

@Lily Rowan So, I am a huge fan of Acts of Service (well, and Touch, and Gifts), but the acts of service described in the letter seem like something that anyone would reasonably expect from a co-habitating partner. I mean, my roommate who I am NOT sleeping with takes out the trash, you'd better believe that if I lived with a partner, they would be doing that too. Ditto on the "picking me up in the rain when I'm riding my bike". It's one thing if your boyfriend shows up at your workplace unprompted to pick you up because he saw that it was raining, but if it's raining and you call him for a ride and he picks you up...well, isn't that par for the course in a romantic relationship? Isn't that like...why people date?

I think Acts of Service become a language of love if there is a little something extra that signals that the acts are done because of thoughtfulness and a unique feeling for the loved one, not if you're acting as any responsible, amiable adult would do.

iknowright

@Lily Rowan Oh yeah, I took that quiz once with an ex. Mine actually said that I value acts of service, so I totally know what you're saying (though I do maintain that test is problematic if you have feminist tendencies) but at the same time.... no matter what your personality is, taking out the trash is a basic chore that should just be done and does not cancel out the negative act of pulling away from someone you love.

Lily Rowan

@wee_ramekin Oh yeah, of course you guys are right that those examples aren't exceptional things for another person to do for someone they presumably like, and the turn-and-grimace is Terrible. I'm just saying, the idea that one person takes touching more seriously than the other is not a crazy notion. And ALSO, if the person who cares about cuddling or whatever has told the other person that they care about it, it's incumbent on the other person to at least make an effort to show affection in a way that's meaningful to their partner! Sheesh.

gobblegirl

@Lily Rowan But that doesn't account for GRIMACING.
There are accommodations you make, and ones you don't. My last boyfriend wasn't a Words guy - I think I got three non-naked compliments in our entire relationship, but that's just the way he was. I would have preferred to be showered with praise at all times, but he was reliable, funny, affectionate, and always wanted to spend time with me. It balanced out. When someone grimaces when you kiss them, balance is impossible.

packedsuitcase

@Lily Rowan Agreed. I am suuuuuuper touchy and often have to remind myself that not everybody wants to be kissed and snuggled at all times. My ex was Acts of Service, and it was less roommate-ish responsiibilities and more things like making sure my favourite brand of mac and cheese was in the house when I got sick and putting my food closer to the front of the fridge/pantry so I didn't have to look for it. Luckily the guys I date are pretty good with me being so touchy, and I'm usually content as long as I can, say, put my feet on their lap when I'm reading a book or watching a movie. It can definitely be a pain, though, and I think what's called for here is exactly what AMD suggested: major communication.

jule_b_sorry

@packedsuitcase The last guy I dated was a huge snuggler - in bed, on the couch, you name it. Lots of hugs and touching. I married the hell out of him b/c LOVE CUDDLING. :D

smidge

@Lily Rowan THIS THIS THIS. I think "effort" is a key word here--even if it's not your thing, you make the effort to show your partner that you love them in a way that is meaningful to them, not just easy for you.

packedsuitcase

@jule_b_sorry I'm so happy my current BF is more on the oversnuggling side of the continuum. Honestly, it really would be a dealbreaker for me (just as I assume my supersnuggliness would be a dealbreaker for some guys). We're long distance and the hardest thing about it is not having him to cuddle.

queenofbithynia

Oh jesus love languages. Every time I ever see people citing that book in romancey advice columns it is to explain that some people show love by being considerate and affectionate, whereas other people show love by ignoring you and being an asshole and sometimes buying you stuff, and you just have to understand that they're speaking their own love language, man. The fact that it's generally men who are described as speaking the "love language" of neglect and torpor is just an extra bonus.

like it is getting to the point where people who talk about their own love languages strike me as on a level with people who talk about how their brains are "wired."

I mean what about work languages, huh? So some of my co-workers show that they value their jobs by "working hard" and "showing up on time" whereas I express my devotion to the job by reading the Internet all day. IT'S JUST MY LANGUAGE THAT'S ALL and only the harshest people would put some kind of value judgment on it.

Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails

@districter I totally buy the Languages of Love thing (touch and words wooooo!) and it has helped me appreciate that sometimes people are showing me (or asking me for) love in a different way than I naturally understand. As you say, the effort is key -- for instance, I have an acts-of-service friend who who won't give me a hug if I'm upset, she'll make me a cup of tea instead. I know that's how she shows love, so I appreciate that.

HOWEVER. Not only does this guy appear to NOT be making an effort to give her love in the ways she "hears", I also think it's okay to say, "This is something I need. If boyfriend can't/won't provide it, even if he is not withholding it maliciously, it is okay for that to be a dealbreaker for me."

If I had a boyfriend who didn't kiss or cuddle me, I would never feel really loved, and I don't want to live that way. It's not a character flaw to not want to kiss/cuddle, but it's not a match for me.

Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails

@queenofbithynia I don't think that's quite fair. (I mean, yes, that is often how people use it. And yes, it was written by a conservative Christian and includes a chapter about how a straight-up abused woman saved her marriage and reformed her husband by loving him more in his language aka forcing herself to initiate sex she didn't want and AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH.Some parts are a horrible nightmare and worthy of ALL THE CRITICISM.)

But I do think that different people show love in different ways, and that we should recognize that -- but with the motive of learning how to show them love in the ways they need and learning how to clearly communicate our needs, not to justify neglect and jerkitude.

jule_b_sorry

@queenofbithynia I'm so GLAD someone FINALLY understands my work language! Now, please spread this gospel with the world :D

Marquise de Morville

@Lily Rowan There is definitely a problem if one person in the relationship lacks physical closeness and touch, but there may be other reasons than the guy in question simply being a dick. There are many reasons why someone may not want to be touched outside of having sex and focusing on that. Anxiety, depression or sensory issues come to mind. It will be tough to figure out what it is - especially if he does not want to discuss it - and it might as well be that there are other underlying issues.

packedsuitcase

@Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails Agreed. I think it can be a useful shorthand, but it has to be in the context of an otherwise healthy relationship. It doesn't excuse assholery.

OhMarie

@queenofbithynia Maybe some people explain it like this, but I think this is a disservice to the book. My husband and I are very much in sync but it's really helped me with, say, my Grandma (I am not a gifts person but she is really hurt if you don't get her shit for Christmas or whatever, even though she has too much stuff). But she should still break up with him.

queenofbithynia

@Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails I hear you but I am never fair to self-help books as they don't deserve it.

and in all seriousness I find the use of the Love Languages book to be heartbreaking -- nine times out of ten it is some woman trying to flog herself into believing that some apathetic dude really loves her, really he does, she just has to somehow discover and properly interpret his love language. Because it can never be admitted or suggested that maybe the reason he doesn't act like he loves her is because, you know, he doesn't love her. No, it is always some special pleading for why men are incapable of using their larynxes to express "speech sounds" because testosterone and must communicate their powerful manly love through a complex series of pantomimes and credit card purchases.

deciphering the "love language" of someone who is not aware that they are supposed to be speaking one, it is like, you go to all these efforts, you spend your life studying Linear B and by goddamn you are going to find out what amazing treasures are hidden in this wondrous code, and then they translate it and it is just bunch of fucking storage records. you are all like DOES KING MINOS LOVE ME, YES OR NO and all you get back is how many bushels of grain to the barrel of sheep, or whatever. anticlimatic.

Lily Rowan

@queenofbithynia ....ouch. I have a lot of trouble with casual verbal expressions of love with everyone, not just Romantic Interests, because I do genuinely believe that spending time together shows my affection. Because I'm a thoughtful person, and have been thinking about this kind of thing and working on myself for many many years, I am better than I used to be. But it doesn't mean it comes naturally and it doesn't mean I don't care.

I guess what I mean to say is, using speech sounds is not the only or most important to everyone way of acting like you love someone.

Spice&Snails&PuppyDogTails

@queenofbithynia That makes sense. I find it to be a useful shorthand in relationships that are already healthy, but it can be used so so badly. I haven't seen this done, but I can easily imagine women saying to themselves, "Well, he never does or says anything nice, but we have sex, so maybe that's his love language and he loves me..." I've seen that unhealthy/excusing interpretation happen in nonromantic relationships, too -- like when my grandmother calls with a list of chores and demands and my mom grits her teeth and says, "Well, she only understands love through Acts of Service!" It's infuriating -- good point.

iceberg

@queenofbithynia I don't necessarily agree with you on this, but I do love you and the way you said it. I think there is some legitimacy to the love language thing (ex. my dad who is very very reticent with the words and physical affection but will occasionally dredge it up with great effort, mainly expresses love through advice about insulation) but I DO also think it can definitely be twisted into what you are talking about.

queenofbithynia

@Lily Rowan But I think spending time with people speaks for itself too, in a lot of cases. It's just that in those cases, it doesn't require a lot of parsing and interpretation and special allowances made for different communication styles. Like if someone wants to spend a lot of time with me, voluntarily and everything, that is pretty much a giveaway that they like me a lot. But there is no special kind of person that uniquely enjoys spending time with loved ones -- that's everybody. It's not even much of an introvert-extravert distinction.

And I mean, when I'm dating someone and I get sick and he uses a vacation day so he can come over and bring me ice cream and cook me soup and watch tv with me all day/leave me alone while I wallow in my own crapulence, he doesn't have to go through a verbal rundown of what emotions he's expressing, right? I know it means he cares. Everybody knows that! That's what i find so irritating -- it's not a secret language or something that only certain kinds of people do or understand. I don't understand what would drive people to treat that impulse of care and affection as some kind of discrete "love language" or 'act of service' when all it is is being super considerate and kind to someone you care about.

honey cowl

@queenofbithynia I see what you are saying, but the concept of different love languages has been really helpful in mine & my friends' relationships. Just adding my voice here to say that even though my partner & I are crazysnugglersallthetime, we don't see eye-to-eye on the importance of, say, love letters, or cooking dinner as an act of love, but thinking about it in this way has really helped me.

And I'm not going to overshare details of a close friend's personal life on the internet, but w/o the love languages concept I'm not sure her relationship would still be around.

Soooo you are correct in that it is in many ways gross, but it can also be helpful! (what a useful statement) (not)

Lily Rowan

@queenofbithynia Sure, but maybe I don't want my boyfriend to come over and bring stuff when I feel sick. Maybe I just want him to call on the phone and tell me he feels bad for me. Maybe I want him to stop cooking me soup, get out of the kitchen and start patting my head. These are all different things, and different people react to them differently.

Anyway, I'm just glad one of my best friends started laughing at me openly when she would end a phone call with "Love you!" and I would not say it back. She clearly could have felt that I don't love her.

alannaofdoom

@Lily Rowan - My sister and her new husband attended some sort of Love Languages workshop before their wedding, and now every time she hugs or kisses him she announces: "Touch!" and every time he brings her a cup of tea he announces "Act of service!" and it is too cute.

Blondsak

@queenofbithynia

"I don't understand what would drive people to treat that impulse of care and affection as some kind of discrete "love language" or 'act of service' when all it is is being super considerate and kind to someone you care about."

But being "super considerate" and "kind" are very different things depending on the person, their partner, and the relationship. I get that self-help books and love languages don't work for you personally, but that doesn't mean they aren't worthwhile for other people and shouldn't be observed as possible tools for relationships that are having communication issues. Do they always work? Of course not! Can they work? I see multiple observances just in this thread that tell me they can.

Faintly Macabre

@Lily Rowan Yeah, I don't really like touching people or being touched, and I'm pretty bad at saying how much I like someone (though that might be partly insecurity) or complimenting people unless I really, really mean it. But I am great and obsessive about buying gifts, and have to restrain myself from constantly buying my friends and immediate family little things I think they might like. (A vintage shirt! Hard-to-find beer they mentioned that one time! Weird fancy chocolate!) If a friend is sick, I might not remember to check in constantly or nurse them, but I'll go out of my way to bring them soup and tissues.

One of my best friends is kind of neglectful, sometimes mean, and will make fun of me if I mention that he's forgotten my birthday for two years running. But he's one of the only friends who I can call and ask, "Can you/I come over?" on a moment's notice and get an almost guaranteed yes.

People--they're different! And sometimes it takes some explanation and reflection to understand that.

WaityKatie

@iknowright Yeah, I can't wait til they have kids and he "helps out with the baby!" by changing a diaper once a month. Blergh.

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@queenofbithynia This comment is perfection! ALL the (larynx and pantomime-based) love

iknowright

@WaityKatie Precisely! My mother still cites this NYT article she read like 5 years ago where they profiled the husband of some famous woman and he was given all of this praise for "babysitting the kids when she has to work late." THEY'RE HIS KIDS!!! THIS IS NOT AN ACT OF GREAT SACRIFICE, IT'S HIS FUCKING JOB AS A HUSBAND AND FATHER!

She's forgotten every detail of that piece that was the actual point of the article, but that perspective was such utter bullshit that it's mentioned at least a couple times a year.

Springtime for Voldemort

@queenofbithynia As someone who wasn't raised in a household where showing people you loved them (in any language) was not a thing we did, the Love Languages was helpful to me in learning ways that I could express my love for someone else appropriately and how to consciously realize that other people are expressing their love for me. Yes, it's important to be able to be fluent in all of them, but everyone has a mother tongue. It's been really helpful with my sister and I being able to actively express love instead of just being rather codependent and resentful, and even more helpful at realizing that, actually, no, my parents did not express love, and oh, that new thing they're doing is a bit of an improvement and here are some steps I can take to show them I appreciate it. I think you might be assuming that what feels like instinct to you is instinct to everyone. That's not to say there aren't some problematic things in the book, but it can be a helpful tool for people.

amitygardens@twitter

@packedsuitcase OMG. That was the worst part of my LDR. I JUST WANTED A CUDDLE, DAMMIT! Luckily we're married now, and I get as much affection as possible.

Dirty Hands

@Springtime for Voldemort Ah, I should do this! Similar household.

babs

@queenofbithynia So, what you're saying is, we're adults and we should use our words to communicate what we need - whether that be snuggles, help around the house, or fancy presents - to our partners?

Me, I need ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Briony Fields

@queenofbithynia Eek, really? I got as far as the introduction, wherein he dedicates the book to his wife and claims "if half the women in the world were as good as her, fewer men would be looking over the fence" or some bullshit like that. I dropped that book like a hot potato and never looked back.

Emby

LW2: All I can say is, if I were your beau, I'd be pretty hurt if you returned it. THAT SAID, there should be some kind of PSA for guys out there that says, unless you know 1000% that your girlfriend will like a specific article of clothing in a specific size, don't buy clothing as a gift! There are exceptions, of course, but I find the amount of things that can go wrong far outweigh the amount of things that can go right.

But even still, LW2, don't return it. Just don't wear it. If we asks about it months from now, mention that while you think it's lovely, it's just really not your style, though it was very sweet. And maybe next time, if he's thinking about clothing as a gift, to ask your opinion first. Then he gets the hint and also enough time has passed that it won't faze him. But right now, the ink's still wet on the receipt.

Oh, and to echo SuperGogo's advice above, the article of clothing is just a thing. The stuff you'd get by returning it? Things. That he tried hard to pick out something you'd like—even incorrectly—isn't a thing. If this was a pattern of behavior whereby he consistently refused to consider your tastes or didn't care whether you liked it or not, that would be another issue, but that doesn't sound like the case.

Elsajeni

@Emby Honestly, I follow this same advice for clothes above "humorous T-shirt" level for anybody:
-- Have I seen them stop in front of this garment in the store and make exclamations like "This is the cutest shirt in the whole world!" or "I would wear this EVERY DAY!"?
-- Do I have reason to believe they really would wear it, based on their typical style and/or their workplace's expectations?
-- Am I 90% sure which size to get?
-- If the answer to any of these questions is "no," DO NOT PROCEED.

parallel-lines

@Emby It would bother you more to see your money sitting in the closet unused? My mother used to tell me that not wasting money on something I wouldn't use meant way more than temporarily hurt feelings? I dunno...it's a bad precedent to set, if someone gets you gifts that you don't like and you're not honest, what about the next time they do it thinking they've hit a home run?

Emby

@parallel-lines I think there are two issues here: One is returning it, and one is telling him that you don't like it (gently). I disagree with the former and agree with the latter.

There's a caveat: If you say that you don't exactly love it, even though you appreciate the thought, and then he suggests returning it, you can do so with a completely clean conscience.

But there's something that really bothers me about returning a gift that someone probably put a lot of thought into. But as I mentioned above, it's entirely possible that's my own issue and isn't generalizable.

iceberg

@Emby "If you say that you don't exactly love it, even though you appreciate the thought, and then he suggests returning it, you can do so with a completely clean conscience." yes, this is good advice.

HeyLookAChicken

@Emby This is such a tough one to answer without knowing the gentleman-friend in question. I feel like I, for one, would much, much rather have my sweetie say to me: "oh, that is a really lovely sweater, thank you for thinking of me and how chilly I get at the office [or how I'm always saying I wish I had more occasions to get dressed up, whatever it is that recognizes the thought put into the gift], but I'm afraid I just won't be able to get enough use out of this to make it worth it. Would you mind horribly if I returned it to get some things for my new job? [Optional offer of coming with, promise to always think of him when you go into meetings knowing you look good and all grown-up.]"

Especially if boyfriend is the practical type, maybe he would be sad to see his gift hanging around unused. Also while, while I agree honesty isn't *always* the best policy, I, for one, would like to feel like my sweetie was ok telling me the truth on something like that; especially if they (a) acknowledged the thought put into the gift (but isn't it always better to have the thought *and* the nice gift?) and (b) candy-coated it for me just a little, out of consideration for said thought and nice impulses.

gobblegirl

@Emby Hmm. I would be more offended if I found out something I gave someone was just wasting space in their closet, but I'm more practical than sentimental. I'd get more happiness from seeing them in the new thing that I helped them get (assuming the situation was handled in a non-dick way).
But I guess I'm the exception!

Emby

@gobblegirl I don't know, I think if anything you're in the majority here, reading a lot of the other comments. Or it's at least close to 50/50.

Thing is, I wish I could be in your admittedly more rational camp. I know mentally that it's the better option, and much more practical than hanging on to something unwanted purely for sentimental value. And yet here I am, imagining myself in LW2's bf's shoes, and feeling a little sulky. So maybe that's something I need to work on...!

jule_b_sorry

@Emby I think you're giving really good advice. My sister is a SHAMELESS returner of gifts. She literally returns almost every gift anyone in the family, or her husband, has given her. She then tells us how she re-bought it somewhere for less than we paid/bought a better version that's so much smarter and better than the dumb one we got her/returned it b/c she didn't need it and bought something she liked better.

You'd think it would be cute by now, and we'd be used to it, but it hurts our feelings every. Single. Time. I think my mother almost cried this year when my sister returned the VERY EXPENSIVE sewing machine my mother bought her for xmas to buy some walmart brand (crowing about how mom had "wasted" money on the sewing machine, and my sister was so much smarter by returning it so she could buy a cheap sewing machine, a cheap embroidery machine and a cheap serger with the money). My mom had bought the expensive one with the intent that my sister could keep, love and use it forever. So, she returned it, bought three crappy machines, and then crowed about how smart she was (implying, of course, that my mother's gift to her was stupid). It really caused a rift over Christmas.

TLDR - gifts aren't practical, and aren't meant to be. Even if it makes dollars and sense, just don't return gifts unless it's from some crazy old aunt who will never be the wiser.

Sass

@Emby Aw, I want to hug your mom and kick your sister in the shins. And then start a countdown until one of the crappy machines breaks.

VolcanoMouse

@jule_b_sorry I have absolutely nothing to add re: the gift discussion, but that story about the cheap Walmart sewing machine made me SPECIFICALLY FURIOUS. I had to voice my SEAMSTRESS RAGE.

piekin

@jule_b_sorry Why aren't gifts meant to be practical? You just said in a different comment thread that your bf gave you a non-practical version of something you wanted and it was annoying (and rightly so!). Your sister sounds like she's particularly obnoxious/tactless about returning things, but I don't understand the position that gifts aren't ultimately FOR the needs/wants/tastes of the recipient. The poor person/anti-capitalist in me is getting pretty rankled thinking about all the impractical, unwanted gifts sitting around in closets for decorum's sake.

jule_b_sorry

@piekin Sorry! I guess I wasn't clear. The point of the boots story was yeah, I don't even LIKE the boots, but I understand they're a nice gift he picked out with (theoretically) good intentions. I didn't want him to think the gesture isn't appreciated, even if the specific gift isn't specifically the exact thing I'd buy for myself. It's still A Nice Thing To Have. So, that was an extreme story of a particularly bad gift that I still tried to show my appreciation for, even though I didn't really like it.

People and families are different! Some families, and/or people, may not mind if you exchange the thing. But often, I feel the gifter is giving something they've personally put some of themselves in to give to you. Like my mom and the sewing machine - it was hurtful to her when my sister returned the gift, b/c my mom had a specific thing she was trying to do with the gift (gift something that would last forever). If she had intended for my sister to just get whatever she wanted, she would have just given her cash. And my sister acted 100% as if the gift WAS cash, but particularly inconvenient cash...which was sort of rude to the gifter b/c it negates any of the gifter's intent and makes it fully about the giftee.

I'm still not sure if that makes sense. I have Many Complicated Feelings About Gifts.

jule_b_sorry

@VolcanoMouse Yes! My mom is a lifelong, avid, hobbyist seamstress. She knew what she was doing....which def made the "ugh you're so stupid don't you know sewing machines can be bought for CHEAPER, MO-OM" thing even worse!

par_parenthese

@jule_b_sorry WHOA. I know this is not an advice-solicit-y comment, but seriously maybe quit buying her presents forever? That's a lot of throwing good money after bad, not to mention throwing good emotional energy after bad.

If I were your mother I think that for all foreseeable Christmases she would get a hundred bucks and a note in her stocking saying that since she has no appreciation or use for the gifts others buy her, she could shop the after-Christmas sales and save everyone the holiday sad attacks.

piekin

@jule_b_sorry You don't have to apologize! I just feel that there's been an insinuation by the keep-the-gift camp that it's petty/selfish/unimportant for this LW to ask for what she REALLY wants (and we're not talking a different color of cookware, or a different style of boot - we're talking about a fug, super-expensive item that this lady hates while simultaneously NEEDING OTHER THINGS), which is antithetical to my personal feminist agenda, hence my ire (which should not have been targeted at you, sorry!)

Anyway, I think we can all agree that your sister was a total juicebox and deserves nothing but hideous sweaters for the rest of her gift-receiving life.

OhMarie

Oh LW1 your letter spoke to me so hard I had to skip to the bottom! This is not dumb. There is a very hokey, Oprah-y book about the Five Love Languages that I found extremely powerful. It's about how people express and perceive love in different ways (touch, compliments, gifts, acts of service, quality time--I may have these off a little bit). When two people in a relationship express and perceive love in different ways it can be a really big deal. Sounds like you are a touch person and he is an acts of service person.

That's fine, if you can each compromise and kind of meet in the middle, but if he is not able/willing to do that, I think it is TOTALLY understandable for this to be a dealbreaker. I am a huge toucher myself, love hugging and kissing and even just being in physical contact on the couch, and what you describe would absolutely be a dealbreaker for me.

Passion Fruit

@OhMarie

Yes, this would be a dealbreaker for me, too. (Also, one seemingly obvious thing I learned is that some things that are deal breakers for me are not deal breakers for my partners. So while I require a hefty dose of cuddling and physical affection, and the lack of it puts me on edge, this has not been true for some of my former partners. Unfortunately, it did make us break up, so. You know. If it's important to you, it's important to the relationship!)

desjardins

@OhMarie Yes! Talk to him about it. Is there a love language you both share, like a secondary one? The important thing doesn't necessarily seem to be finding someone who has the same love language, but learning to speak the one your mate speaks. If he could learn to speak "touch" and you could learn to speak "service" or whatever he needs to feel loved and accepted, then maybe this could still work. But if he's not open to it, that's probably a dealbreaker.

weebleswobble

@OhMarie

I think I was just reading about something similar. Here is a little video I watched last week that explains the five love languages: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

queenofbithynia

@OhMarie this is such twaddle though. (the book, not your comment!) that is like saying that some people speak with verbs, others with nouns, some rare ones with adverbs. but actually all fully verbal and fluent adults need to be able to use most all of the common parts of speech with some degree of skill if they are going to be able to talk to other people.

so, I think that dividing human affection and kindness into tiny fractions and ridiculously dissected slivers and feeling really good about only getting the hang of one-fifth of the full human complement of emotional expression is a terrible thing. I don't excuse myself from saying kind things to a friend because I remembered to buy her a birthday present and (and!) spent some nice quiet time with her already. doing all those things does not make me a trilinguist of the heart. fuck.

OhMarie

@queenofbithynia I think of it (and I think the book focuses on) from the recipient's perspective rather than the giver's. It's not about saying, oh I do X and therefore I don't have to do Y. It's about knowing what is important to your SO or friend or whoever and putting your efforts in accordingly. If you want to do something extra nice and loving for a specific person, knowing what will work best for that person is extremely useful. No need to put all of your effort into compliments if they couldn't care less.

So, in this situation, I'm not saying AT ALL that this dude is into acts of service and therefore he is off the hook. I'm saying that this might be the root of the problem, and this might be a useful framework for understanding for why this is important to her and what he needs to do to not be dumped.

par_parenthese

@queenofbithynia I saw your other comments and I know that you're Not A Fan of the love languages concept and that's fine, but just my two cents as a person who has been helped by it. If I take a personality test and discover that I'm such-and-such type, I can use that information in a couple of ways: I can use it to become more self-aware, to try to work on my weaknesses and play up my strengths, to learn to work WITH my proclivities and not against them, to generally be a better manager of my own life and self. OR I can use that information to build walls around myself, make excuses for my shitty behavior ("It's not my fault INTPs don't get along well with people like you."), demand that others accommodate me because it's "just the way I am," and generally use my personality like a bludgeon to force the world into my preferences.

The love languages idea is exactly like that, just a mini personality inventory about one aspect of your personality. So in the same way, you can say, "Hm, I apparently feel most loved under X and Y circumstance; I need to make sure I'm not misinterpreting others' actions, that I'm working hard to get outside my own preferences when I show affection to others, and that I try to speak all of the languages to my friends/family/romantic partner," which is exactly what the book is talking about. Or you can say, "SPEAK MY LOVE LANGUAGE OR GTFO." Which I... do not think is a helpful response to new information about oneself.

I will say I've seen people use love languages (as well as Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, etc.) in the latter unhelpful way and it is dumb and a huge turnoff.

SarahP

LW1, as a very touchy lady married to a not-so-touchy guy, I know where you're coming from! You say you've talked about the issue a bunch of times, but I think you have to have a bigger talk than just how you guys feel differently about displaying affection. I don't think your boyfriend realizes how his actions can be taken--grimacing when someone you love shows you affection is a jerk move! But I'm sure he doesn't mean to be a jerk about it, and I think you should clue him in on this. Take a few examples of "I feel ___ when you ___" ("I feel like you're rejecting me when you grimace whenever I try to kiss you" or "I feel lonely when we watch a movie and you won't let me put my arms around you") and present them to him. If he's used to brushing off physical affection in general, he may not realize how often this is happening in his relationship. Maybe work together to find ways you can get more concrete examples of affection without him going to far out of his comfort zone. (Handholding while you watch a movie, always giving kisses hello/goodbye, something like that.)

blueblazes

@SarahP "If he's used to brushing off physical affection in general, he may not realize how often this is happening in his relationship." Very astute. I had a boyfriend like this for a time, and at first I just sort of let these things go. But toward the end, I started keeping score (like a food diary, but for physical affection). And what it told me about our relationship was that I all of the physical stuff was on his terms. We could kiss, but only if he initiated it. We could hold hands, but again, only if he initiated. And then I began to see a pattern of this outward physical affection happening only when we were in private or in a place where people he knew weren't likely to be.

Deal = Broken.

Passion Fruit

He's flirting, and flirting is the art of signaling sexual interest while maintaining plausible deniability. Watch out, a Truth Bomb!

(This flirting-failure learned something. THX, AMD!)

Alli525

@Passion Fruit IKR? I've never heard it put so succinctly!

iknowright

re: LW1: I wonder if he used to be physically affectionate, and now isn't, or just never really was? Because if it's the latter, I'd say you need to decide if this matters to you, because he's not going to change. But if it's the former -- he used to love cuddling/kissing and now "tolerates" it -- yeah, that's a big issue. And when you try to kiss him and he grimaces/turns away, well, that's setting up a really bad dynamic. Not only is it hurting you, it's teaching you that if you try to be loving, you'll be rejected. By the man you love. That is bad and not a thing that can be easily fixed with just one conversation. It becomes ingrained after awhile, in both of you, this habit. (Unfortunately, I also think if it's at the point of someone acting grossed out by being gentle and sweet physically, while they may still love you, they are probably not in love with you anymore. This is, of course, not SCIENCE, but personal experience.)

Also, the way you phrase it -- breaking up with SOMEONE, not breaking up with HIM -- makes it feel like you might be a bit removed from the relationship too? Breaking up is terrifying, but maybe breaking up with him will be freeing?

[For some reason this situation reminds me of parts of Take this Waltz, which is a great little movie that anyone with Netflix can watch RIGHT NOW GO GO GO WATCH IT NOW.]

SarahP

@iknowright This is a great response.

Litebrite Idea

@iknowright Great perspective. I think of myself as a non-touchy feely person. I remember dating a guy who was, and thinking, "yuck," and kinda pulling away a lot (but good sex!), figuring I'm just not touchy-feely. Maybe a year after we broke up, I Fell In Love with someone else. And I wanted to be in his arms and kissed and all that and do so in return soooo much. In my last relationship, I started as "Yay love and affection!" But as our differences in everything mounted and our very different styles of sex, loving, affection became really clear, I ended as "affection seems like just work now" and I grew more distant.

So I think your idea of reactions to affection as a relationship barometer is definitely one explanation worth reflecting on.

iknowright

@Litebrite Idea Yeah, I love affection in a relationship, but when I found myself saying to my last partner, "I'm just not a touchy-feely person," I knew we were over. And I felt like a horrible jerk and had so much guilt, but it just...wasn't happening. I feel bad for both LW1 and her bf, but it certainly could be handled better by him (confronting problems is tough, but it's worse to break someone's spirit by not). Glad you found someone to be cuddly with!

iknowright

@SarahP Thanks, I appreciated your response(s) upthread as well!

fabel

LW1, why are you acting like this is only a "semi" dealbreaker? why is your tone one that assumes we'll think you're being petty? I mean, not to make you feel worse, but this is a PROBLEM. A real problem!

Sex does not equal intimacy, so the fact that you're having sex a few times a week scarcely even needs mention. Your live-in partner is ~grimacing~ when you go to kiss him & I assume he---what?---doesn't ever stroke your back, or hold your hand, or wrap you up in his arms from behind as you're peering into the refrigerator? I know everyone is gonna jump into the comments with the whole 5 LOVE LANGUAGES thing, but come on. Even if someone isn't a touchy-feely type, these are easy habits to claim for the sake of your lover.

And it's not even like, "Well, he doesn't hold my hand, but he effusively verbalizes his love!" LW, the list of "loving" things he does is limited to actions an affable stranger would take. So yes, you are right to feel upset! And with all this said, the only way I can end is...dump him, no matter how terrifying it'll be.

Passion Fruit

@fabel "LW, the list of "loving" things he does is limited to actions an affable stranger would take."

Yes! I was like, that's not that unique or giving... I believe I would do that for a nice coworker. Sorry, LW. But the good news is that your longing for something more is not wrong! It is correct! Let it lead the way!

iceberg

@fabel the list of "loving" things he does is limited to actions an affable stranger would take #truthbomb

Joey

@fabel Yes again, well said. I actually cannot WAIT until my husband is home, I am going to hug and kiss the heck out of him!

Lily Rowan

@fabel Ha ha ha! I totally just linked to the 5 Love Languages, and I still think this guy is no good for the LW!

Lisa Frank

@fabel If the best someone can say about their boyfriend is that he's not actually abusive, that's not good enough.

Sarah Rain

@fabel "Even if someone isn't a touchy-feely type, these are easy habits to claim for the sake of your lover." I disagree. For many people, they are very difficult, verging-on-painful habits. The letter-writer has a right to have a relationship that provides her with the things that are important to her, including touch. But a number of comments have implied that the boyfriend is an ass for not automatically giving it. Maybe he is an ass; I don't know the guy. However, it's also possible that his tolerance for touch is really low, and that's part of who he is. Implying that he's a terrible person for failing to cuddle is much like implying someone is a terrible person for having sex less often than their partner would like. It's a legitimate dealbreaker, sure. But it doesn't mean that he's awful or their relationship is broken all-around. Could just be that he needs his space, and he may not be able to change that any more easily than she could change her need for touch.

blue_canary

@fabel "Even if someone isn't a touchy-feely type, these are easy habits to claim for the sake of your lover."

Yeah, I really disagree with this. If you come from a non-touching culture and you aren't naturally physically affectionate, it can be really hard to "see" opportunities for physical contact. And aside from culture and habit, people can have other reasons for not being "touchy-feely". Personally, I hate being touched without being asked--even if I'm emotionally intimate with a person, if they suddenly hug or kiss me without warning (verbal or physical) I will flinch or jump away. If you want to give me a panic attack, just hug me from behind. Even if it's like, my mom.

I do think it's possible for people with different affection styles to be in a good relationship, but it takes a lot of clear communication and compromise from both parties. I have no idea what LW1's BFs deal is, but she clearly needs to talk to him about it.

ETA: @Sarah Rain -- haha, comment jinx. Good point about touch tolerance--I know that's a deal for a lot of autism spectrum folks.

fabel

Oh, & I disagree with the conveniently losing the present thing for the second letter. All I know is that my boyfriend would be more upset that I was careless with his gift than if I simply didn't like it.

Joey

@fabel Agree.

This is my new username

@fabel Whoo-boy, as a person who has lost/destroyed 2 of the last 3 Christmas gifts from my fiance I am glad that is not how he reacts. I lost a diamond earring, knocked a beet bottle into the vase he bought me and broke it. (this is why I can't have nice things). For the record I loved both, life just happens.

Valley Girl

@This is my new username On reading I thought you were saying one of the lovely gifts your fiance got you was a "beet bottle". I don't know what that would be but now I want to try pickled beets.

This is my new username

@Valley Girl Hahaha. That should say beer bottle! Though pickled beets are pretty tasty when made well.

Joey

LW1 I am sorry you are going through these painful doubts, so scary, but good for you for reaching out and thinking this through. You'll know what to do, you'll know what is right. Try not to worry about looking back with regret if you do leave this man, stick with the here and now. Getting the Love You Want, I think that's the title by Harville Hendrix can be a really helpful book for couples. Why is your boyfriend like this? Does he want to change? Imago therapy can get to the heart of these kinds of conflicts rather than the strategic solutions that focus on the behaviour but not the deep dark place it originated. What was this man's infancy like, what is his relationship with his parents like, especially when he was a baby and young child? Even if you do end up ending the relationship, I have hope that you and he can get some answers and leave with a clear sense of who you both are and what you need. Affection and kisses and hugs are so important to me, so I understand. I would feel very sad if someone pulled away when I gave him a kiss. It would really hurt.

karenb

@Joey i second that book - there are some cheesy role-playing bits, but it is useful in understanding that people communicate differently, and sometimes you have to work on providing what your partner needs, and letting them know what you need.

Joey

@karenb Yes some total cheese embedded within the book and far too married straight couple approach, but IMO still worth checking out.

themegnapkin

LW1 - Carolyn hax recommends not moving in together until you're sure you're ready to commit, because inertia leads people to stay together when they're not compatible, just because breaking up seems too daunting and difficult.* It sounds like that's where you are right now?

* Not slamming co-habiters - I definitely have seen people move in together early and it working out completely, but I also have friends who moved in together and then stayed together past the point of reasonableness because of money/convenience/inertia.

fondue with cheddar

@themegnapkin THIS IS TRUE. Please don't ask me how many times I've made this mistake.

MilesofMountains

@themegnapkin YES. I have definitely done that, which is why my boyfriend and I have been dating almost 2 years but still haven't moved in, which confuses out friends

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@MilesofMountains
2 years actually sounds like not enough time to me? I guess you guys are different, up there in Canada!

Maladydee

@themegnapkin yes, I've made this mistake twice now, and NEVER AGAIN. I don't care if I live alone until the day I die, I am never moving in with someone again unless we are getting married and first need to make sure cohabiting wouldn't make us want to kill each other.

whateverlolawants

@MilesofMountains Yes. When I moved out of my parents' house, people asked me if I was moving in with my boyfriend of a year. What? No! I want to live on my own for a while, possibly a long time. Boyfriend is great, but we do well living apart for now.

fondue with cheddar

@Maladydee I've made this mistake FOUR times.
Age 21: Moved out of my parents' house and got an apartment with S., my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, in an act of rebellion. 6 months later we broke up.
Age 26: W. spent most of his time at my place anyway, so he moved in because it made more sense financially. I married this one 3 years later, and we divorced 4 years after that.
Age 35: T. lived 1 1/2 hours away, so he spent weekdays at home where he went to school and weekends with me. He spent summers and holiday breaks with me, too. When he graduated it just made sense that he should move in with me. Turns out we needed the weekday break from each other. Broke up a year later.
Age 37: D. was temporarily living at his sister's house, but his kids didn't want to visit him there so he got a place of his own. He couldn't afford it by himself so I moved in, four months into our relationship. Still going—the 4th time's the charm!

parallel-lines

Dudes and gifts. MAN. I have never dated a dude who got it right. One of my coworkers got two pairs of Loubitons and a Hermes handbag and I'm like, you know what--fuck you. On behalf of all the women smiling and pretending they like what they got, fuck you a whole bunch. Like, one of those things alone would have been amazing.

My husband did not do well in the gift department this year and I took the honesty path and he handled it just fine. We're taking the offending sweater back so I can get a sweater I liked. I framed it by saying I have SUPER PICKY TASTE in sweaters and I loved that he made the effort, but for the money I'd rather get something we could both be happy about. I think handling it honestly was a way better approach than how I handled the expensive lingerie he bought me that I hated--he asks me why I never wear it and I feel bad/don't have any excuses.

iceberg

@parallel-lines A+ gift giving advice. My husband is the hardest to buy gifts for (if it's not astronomically out of our budget, he already bought it for himself); I've basically given up and decided that giving him permission to buy all the crazy shit he buys during the rest of the year means I don't have to get him something extravagant for his birthday.

EDITED TO ADD: Yes, fuck you, coworker! that made me laugh so hard because I'd be exactly the same as you.

jule_b_sorry

@parallel-lines Lol I got a pair of Louboutin boots (see story in other comment above) and I really don't like them. Yes, I know that makes me a brat, but I'd much rather have something more practical that I can wear everyday -like, it feels weird to have very very fancy shoes I can never wear and then have like only one pair for daily office wear, when the Loubs could buy me oodles of cute mid-priced office-heels. So, even guys that gift Loubs aren't always perfect, lol!

iceberg

@jule_b_sorry Heh my husband lobbied so hard for me to get a pair of boots like what you describe. I tried them on and was like, NOPE, can't walk.

jule_b_sorry

@iceberg Lol yeh, I think it was more about him than me (like almost 100% of all lingerie gifts). We compromise and I wear them about once a year. He is also aware that if I wear the boots, I am not walking more than from a) the apartment to a car b)a car to a table c) from the table back to a car, for the entire night. Because yeah, you can't walk in those damn things.

Joey

LW3 Please unfriend this former professor. He is acting in a way that should be shut down; he should not get away with this kind of stuff. It is icky so remove yourself from the ick by not just hiding him but unfriending. And then wash your eyeballs from having seen all the ickiness. Respect: lost. Mentoring: he lost that honor.

christonacracker

I am basically a baby sloth that is at all times clinging to my boyfriend's back/stomach/legs/free appendages. If we are watching a movie on the couch I most resemble a form of blanket. IF we are in the car I am constantly interfering with stick shifting because I am finding ways to shorten the distance between bucket seats. I have no idea how he stands it, to be honest.

christonacracker

@christonacracker Point being, LW1, that if you need this kind of contact, you will be the saddest baby sloth ever if he can't provide.

SarahP

@christonacracker Baby sloth! I'm going to start using that (when talking about myself because I totally am one too)!

christonacracker

@SarahP http://cuteoverload.com/2011/06/07/parting-is-such-slow-sorrow/

polka dots vs stripes

@christonacracker Ditto. And I annoy the heck out of my boyfriend, because he's nowhere near as touchy as I am, but he knows it's important to me, so he puts up with it and even sometimes cuddles back! And when I'm REALLY getting in his way, he tells me, and I back off.

LW1: There are larger issues in your relationship than just touching/not touching. It might be as simple as the 5 Love Languages or it might be more, but you need to have A Talk.

Jane Err

@christonacracker My boyfriend and I refer to my actions as "baby koala-ing", so yes. Yes.

Megoon

@christonacracker Totally. For a long time I dated a guy who didn't like to hold hands in public or be draped over one another on the couch. The next guy I dated did like those things, and it was like bells of reason clanging within me! (For real. I still remember the moment he took my hand on the bus and ensuing epiphany). The first guy wasn't a bad guy, but the touching thing was a big need he just couldn't meet.

SarahP

@christonacracker YUP, that's me!

Valley Girl

@christonacracker "Stick shifts and safety belts/bucket seats have all got to go/When I'm riding in my car/It makes my baby feel so far. I need you here with me, not way over in a bucket seat!"

christonacracker

@Valley Girl the demise of bench seats (and red 70's velour bench seats in particular, hello buick cutlass supreme!) is a Great American Tragedy.

packedsuitcase

@Jane Err OMG, yes. You people speak my language. I think I described my incessant need for kisses and my boyfriend's reaction to that as being surprised he doesn't swat at my like a mosquito that's buzzing around your head when you try to fall asleep. I like phrasing it as baby sloth/koala-ing MUCH better.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@christonacracker All I can think of after reading your post is "Wonder Twin Powers - Activate! Form of: a blanket! A sloth!"

Megasus

I would be fine with a BF who just isn't touchy but shows in love in what might be considered more practical ways, but grimacing when you try to kiss him? NOPENOPENOPE!

Isn't there a way for LW2 to return the item of clothing AND pretend that she lost it? Also who gives anyone clothes w/o a gift receipt anymore? ALWAYS GET A GIFT RECEIPT.

rayray

Weird repetition by LW1 of the 'whining' trope we saw in the most recent Ask A Queer Chick...

It echoes with something I've found out about myself recently, which is an astounding ability to internalise and assimilate my partner's views/ideas about behaviour and adopt them instead of my own.

I don't actually think it's 'whining' to complain about a lack of physical affection in a relationship, and I suspect the LW doesn't either - the use of 'whining' somehow is no more hers than the girl who said she was 'whining' about her bf forcing her to do things she was uncomfortable with sexually.

I'm currently working on trying to remember what I, as a person (as a single person before I got into my relationship) think is acceptable behaviour, and acting that way, and accepting the fact that sometimes I will disagree with my partner.

I think it's all too easy to get into a mindset where you keep shaming yourself for behaviour that you as a person don't actually think is inappropriate.

Just my two cents.

iceberg

@rayray wow this is deep and uncomfortably truthy. good for you!

wee_ramekin

@rayray Holy moly, girl! Back from obscurity, and droppin' the Truth Bombs!

PS - We missed you!

rayray

@wee_ramekin I missed you too! I got a new job and it was super busy, but things are slow right now and I'm reconnecting with the aul' 'Pin.

I've been commenting in some other places on the internet, and I gotta say it's good to be home :)

Litebrite Idea

@rayray Thank-you for this! Timely, as I can totally relate. Also an ambiguous male friend recently suggested that I was whining, when I was simply explaining the tasks that were keeping me tired and busy that week. Now I know people who whine and I've definitely had periods of my life where I whined. My factual explanation did not even have a hint of complaining.

Do some people think whining means "saying anything remotely negative or expressing something different than I want you to?"

annejumps@twitter

@rayray Thank you for pointing that out. Easy to slip into that mindset and not realize it.

anachronistique

@Litebrite Idea Yes. Yes, they do. This can mess with your head.

Cawendaw

@rayray Yes, this. I think especially in situations where addressing the problem is inherently scary (like, say, breaking up) it's very tempting to diminish and belittle your own emotions, and once you start it's a hard habit to break. Suddenly, you don't have any real problems to address! Just some inconvenient feelings you need to ignore!
It's one of the things I try to be really careful about when I'm acting as someone's problem-counseling-friend (there's probably a more elegant way to say that but I can't think of what it is). I don't want to provoke someone into panic over a minor problem, but I also don't want to be party to someone dismissing a major problem as a minor one.

Miss Maszkerádi

Am I the only one who just wishes to only ever get Barnes and Noble or nice clothing store gift cards for every gift ever? Admittedly I've only had to deal with gifts from relatives, not boyfriends (true story: the one and only gift I have ever received from a significant other was a New Age self-help book), but I have to do the awkward returning dance twice a damn year when my aunts all chip in to buy me something frumpy in size extra-huge. Just...money to spend on books, please, thank you world for your attention.

Megoon

@Countess Maritza You are not alone. Why I don't get Sephora gift cards exclusively from everyone is a mystery to me.

hallelujah

This Dude did not at all employ "women are like this, men are like that," & for that I love him. Thanks, A Dude!

smack

I am not a touch person. I don't really like to be cuddled or smooched too much, I think Frenching is gross and I'm happily married to a cuddle monster of a man. I don't think he's THRILLED by the fact that I don't like him to let me or that I'm not into being touched anywhere but like my upper arms (everyplace else is so sensitive! It's like nails on a chalkboard!) but we have instituted Cuddle Sundays where I am obligated to cuddle and pet him and (I quote) "think about how much I love him." It seems only fair since he needs it and I don't. I'm sure it sounds weird or negotiated or sterile but it works for us. So before maybe pulling the DTMFA, you might want to, I don't know, TALK to him? Explain what you need and how you feel like you're not getting it? Come up with a compromise?

Ugh. Cuddling. It's so stifling. Doesn't mean I don't love my husband, and I kiss him and touch him but I much prefer telling him how much I love him (I do! Love him! He's the best!). But then, a super cuddler would be a deal breaker for me.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@smack "Cuddle Sundays where I am obligated to cuddle and pet him and (I quote) 'think about how much I love him.'"
This had me literally laughing out loud in my office. You're a gem.

SarahP

@smack I love your response! Those of us who are into cuddling and touching all the time sometimes have trouble imagining how you can feel affection without displaying it, and it's so enlightening to hear the other perspective! (My husband is a lot like you, and it sounds like I'm a lot like your husband. We're both evidence of the fact that mixed-toucher couples can work!)

par_parenthese

@smack I loved this.

BUT. ANECDOTE: BroPar was not a huggy affectionate type when he and S-I-LPar first got together, but he knew it was mega important to his ALL THE HUGS gf. So he worked on it when she mentioned how much it meant to her. He didn't say he understood but keep on grimacing and turning his head away when she tried to kiss him after FOUR YEARS. So for LW1 I'm inching toward DTMFA not because I think he's a dick for not being a toucher, but because she badly needs something he is unable or unwilling to provide.

mabellegueule

Ok the answer to this question doesn't really matter because I have made peace with the likelihood of being single forever, BUT... does physical affection really die out in long-term relationships? That makes me so sad!

fondue with cheddar

@mabellegueule It often does, but it doesn't have to.

iceberg

@mabellegueule wellll i've been with Mr. Iceberg for about 12 years and we still hug and kiss and stuff.

Megoon

@mabellegueule My husband and I are on year seven - it isn't the same OH MY GOD I MUST BE PHYSICALLY CONNECTED TO YOU AT ALL TIMES situation as it was for the first two, but we still hug/kiss/embrace/lay on each other while watching tv all the time.

TheBelleWitch

@mabellegueule Not in my experience. I was surprised to see this written out as a given.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@mabellegueule I've been with my lady for six years and we're still pretty affectionate. I plan on being that way for a long time.

SarahP

@mabellegueule That bothered me a little, too! I've "only" been with my husband for 5 years, but I'm pretty sure I'm still going to be a touchy-feely person who demands cuddles when I'm 70... and my husband is going to give them to me, dang it!

gobblegirl

@mabellegueule I think the can't-remove-shoes-no-time-must-bone-immediately stuff reduces in frequency as you get used to each other and the hormones chill a bit, but the casual affection - that shouldn't go away. That would be sad to me.

Lily Rowan

Yeah, my parents have been married for 45 years, and they still hug and hold hands a lot. (I have no idea what they were like early in their relationship, obviously.)

par_parenthese

@mabellegueule More anecdotes: my folks still hold hands and kiss and hug and stuff 30+ years into their relationship. Thank God I don't know what their sex life is like, but they're still pretty affectionate.

This is my new username

@mabellegueule In my experience no. Although we have only been together for 3 year (living together for a year and a half). We are still both cuddle monsters. If we are watching TV, the only time we are not touching is because we are eating, otherwise it is a cuddle pile.

wharrgarbl

@TheBelleWitch Me, too. I mean, it's taken as a given that the frequency of sex acts will probably drop off once you move out of the honeymoon phase/have kids/get older/whatever, but just plain old physical intimacy? When did that become A Thing? Cuddling, spooning, holding hands, kissing, hugging...these aren't exactly things that require a lot of energy or (necessarily) privacy, if you're okay with physical contact in the first place.

LeafySeaDragon

@mabellegueule been in a relationship for 14 years - still affectionate. i'd be really sad if i didn't get to hold hands.

fondue with cheddar

I can't hear, "Here's the situation," without thinking, "my parents went away on a week's vacation..."

gidgetjones

LW1: My ex-boyfriend used to withhold kissing when he was upset with me. Why no, he didn't opt to talk about whatever was eating him up like a normal human person. It was crushing, especially when I couldn't coax an explanation out of him. So the thought of your boyfriend pulling away and grimacing made me quite sad. You deserve better.

fondue with cheddar

@gidgetjones It made me sad to read it because of personal experience, too. My ex husband used to withhold affection. I was depressed and I still tried because I was so desperate for affection. I felt like that newborn monkey clinging to the wire mommy. (It turns out he was having a long-term affair but didn't have the balls to end our marriage.)

Argelfraster

@gidgetjones I used to do this, because I thought it was normal behavior. My now-husband changed everything by saying, "I feel like you're pulling away from me, and I want to be together with you discussing this." Being conscious of how much my withdrawing behavior hurt him changed me -- and allowed me to embrace my inner-Cuddle Monster too!

raised amongst catalogs

@fondue with cheddar Just thinking of the monkey and the wire mommy makes my eyes fill with tears.

fondue with cheddar

@raised amongst catalogs I know! It might actually be the saddest thing ever. It's the kind of image that burns into your brain and never leaves. :(

raised amongst catalogs

@fondue with cheddar I was a child who genuinely feared hurting the feelings of inanimate objects (stuffed animals, articles of clothing) so you can imagine what that little guy does to me.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar @raised amongst catalogs
Stop it, you gals. This is getting really sad. I can't handle it on a Tuesday. WIRE MOMS! Ugh.

iceberg

@fondue with cheddar wire mommy! *sob* must... not... google...

gidgetjones

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose @fondue with cheddar @raised amongst catalogs
Why did I look up the wire mommy?

raised amongst catalogs

@gidgetjones Oh NO. Well, welcome to Sadness Club, anyway.

packedsuitcase

@gidgetjones Seriously. Heart is breaking and I have to wait 25 more sleeps for snuggles. This is terrible.

chevyvan

@fondue with cheddar I went thru a multi-year period in my 20s when I had almost no physical contact with men (or women, for that matter) and the baby monkey with the wire mother was EXACTLY the image that most captured how that felt.

fondue with cheddar

@everyone I'm so sorry for bringing up wire mommy monkey and making you all sad! HERE ARE SOME BABY PANDAS PLAYING ON A SLIDE

Caitlin Podiak

@raised amongst catalogs So I have this teddy bear that I've had since I was a baby, and another teddy bear that my boyfriend bought me at an inn we stayed at just because it was so soft and nice and I clearly really wanted it, and I kept them both on the bottom shelf of my bedside table until at one point my boyfriend was like, it weirds me out to live in a studio apartment decorated with stuffed animals because I feel like I'm in a teenage girl's bedroom or something. So I moved them into my closet and now I always see them drooping over, all dusty, in the shadows, and it seems like they are looking at me with hurt, neglected, resentful expressions and I feel sincere sadness and guilt about it.

raised amongst catalogs

@Caitlin Podiak This makes sense to me, as a grown woman who makes sure the spoons/knives/forks in the dishwasher's silverware caddy are all assigned buddies.

Caitlin Podiak

@raised amongst catalogs Ah, I love that!

fondue with cheddar

@Caitlin Podiak I KNOW THE FEELING. I had this giant (like, grown man-sized) stuffed panther. It was a knockoff Pink Panther won by my dad at a carnival. I named him Bob the Big Black Panther. I "carried" it proudly around the carnival that day, and I actually took it to bed with me. I kept it well into adulthood, though it was relegated to the closet, which always made me sad to see, especially because he was so tall that his arms and legs were curled from being shoved into spaces that were too small for it. After 30 years I finally decided to get rid of it, but I couldn't bear the thought of seeing Bob the Big Black Panther in the dumpster, so I made someone else do it. :'(

raised amongst catalogs

@fondue with cheddar Oh...my god. You managed to provide me with an image as sad as the wire mommy.

fondue with cheddar

@raised amongst catalogs OH NO I need to stop making everyone sad. I'M SO SORRY MAYBE THIS WILL HELP.

raised amongst catalogs

@fondue with cheddar That definitely worked. Look at his little tufts!

raised amongst catalogs

@fondue with cheddar Also, did you ever watch "Dr. Katz" on Comedy Central? In one episode, Dr. Katz throws out his adult son's favorite childhood toy, a stuffed bull named Bully. His son, Ben, is later found sitting in the dumpster holding Bully in sorrow and disbelief.

fondue with cheddar

@raised amongst catalogs And the huge eyes and ears and Muppet-like mouth. :)

I watched Dr. Katz a few times and liked it, but I was hardly ever home when it was on. That sounds so sad!

Miss Maszkerádi

Also: I'm not usually one to bellow about how teh patriarchy socializes all women into brainwashed servility, but after reading a few of these recent advice columns I just have to ask, ladies of the world, what on earth makes you think that you're "lucky" to be barely tolerated (he GRIMACES!!!) by a man, and why do you think that taking out the trash when asked and picking you up from getting stranded in a rainstorm are grand and rare declarations of true love?

Lisa Frank

@Countess Maritza Replying because giving this comment only one thumbs up isn't enough. 10 thumbs up!

raised amongst catalogs

@Countess Maritza In my case? Honestly? I trace it back to a difficult relationship with my dad. He showed his love by providing for us when I was young and continues to show his love by fixing my car. Never hugs, never words of affirmation (which, by the way, are like CRACK to me). Never quality time and never holding up his end of a conversation, unless that conversation is about auto repair/vehicle maintenance. When I was in my early twenties, a boyfriend cheated on me twice and I was humiliated, devastated and deeply, deeply ashamed. At a family gathering, my dad joked in front of a roomful of people that I "can't keep a man." I still can't think about that without sobbing. So here I am, in my mid-thirties and still struggling with feelings of shame/failure when relationships don't work out. I know it's not logical to be ashamed and to tolerate a less-than-perfect situation, but I'm working on it.

Also, the shame thing is totally made worse by the fact that LITERALLY all of my friends are married/partnered "successfully" -- meaning long-term and looking pretty happy. Obviously I know you never know what's going on in a relationship for real, but...it does add to my "there is something really wrong with me" thoughts.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@raised amongst catalogs Just so you know, I think you're a delightful commenter and you always give me a lot to think about. This is an affirmation for your crack addiction. And the truth. You're great.

raised amongst catalogs

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 infinity

Just, thank you. So much for that.

annejumps@twitter

@raised amongst catalogs I have those thoughts too. The "don't be in a relationship where you're just tolerated" advice is solid, but on the other hand, after a while it's like, "So, single forever, then, I guess...?"

fondue with cheddar

@raised amongst catalogs All my friends thought my ex and I were the perfect couple but we were a hot mess. Everyone (including my brother and I) thought my parents were the perfect couple, but they got divorced, too. Some people put on a show for everyone else's sake because they don't want others to see how bad it is (I've been there), while in other cases the struggles are things you don't see merely because you're not on the inside. Everyone's relationships are flawed because everyone in a relationship is flawed. "Successful" couples are just as screwed up as everyone else!

@annejumps@twitter Not necessarily! I've got some personality traits that are pretty difficult to live with and I thought I would continue to be single or in bad relationships forever. Then I met someone who not only tolerates but accepts and in come cases even admires those aspects of me. So don't lose hope! If I can do it, anyone can!

Nicole Cliffe

"Grimaces."

Shut it down.

Citizen Cunt

LW1: I'm sort of in the same situation, but backwards: he's more affectionate than I am. It's just been so hard. There's no easy answer. I've really had to work on being more affectionate, like remembering to be more hand-holdy and huggy and whatnot, but it makes him feel bad that I have to try to remember these things. If he can work on it that's one thing but you need to find out for yourself if it really is a deal breaker because you can't count on things to change really. It's some shit, it really is.

par_parenthese

@Citizen Cunt Well, except that it seems from your description that you're trying to work it out? Whereas I did not get that, "He's trying really hard! Honest!" vibe from the LW.

blueblazes

@Citizen Cunt Me too. Sometimes I pull away from kisses automatically and it really hurts him. In my brain it is "give me a moment to adjust my breathing so this kiss doesn't smother me." To him it is "She obviously hates me because she isn't spontaneous."

Old Greggette

LW1: Perhaps you and your boyfriend would benefit from each reading the Five Languages of Love. Admittedly, it is a bit cheesy, but after I read your letter, I was automatically thinking, "Obviously, her language is physical touch and his is acts of service".

adorable-eggplant

@Old Greggette Except is taking out the trash really an act of service?

As a self-confessed messy person, I give myself a big old pat on the back every time I do, but my motivation is not so much "I wuv my partner" but more "I am trying to be a functional co-habitant and do the bare minimum to not be a thoughtless a-hole."

On the other hand, when I do dishes that aren't mine, I feel this does deserve a gold star and is obviously a sign of my undying devotion.

tl;dr Don't acts of service have to be above-and-beyond minimal roommate behavior before they count?

evil melis

"DARLING. ANGEL. POPPET. No - no, don't touch me, Jesus, haha, okay, phew. MY LOVE. I pledge to honor thee as my wife all the days that I live. Put your hand back. Don't touch that. I pledge to efficiently and respectfully assist in the performance of all major household chores. As a lover. I will require my own bed and I will take a vow of celibacy from this day forth, but goddammit if I won't empty the dishwasher every afternoon, because I care for you, deeply and profoundly. Goodbye forever, never look upon me again."

LeafySeaDragon

@evil melis i'd die of happiness if someone ever called me poppet. DED. bam.

spineapple tap

LW#1 here!

Thank you so much for all of the feedback, I was touched. You're right, the term grimace did make it sound like a terrible situation (I was at a mental low that day about it), and I'm grateful for the support in both directions. It's reassuring to hear from people who are in relationships where the affection dynamic is uneven who have figured out a way to be happy with it, and also reassuring to hear that I could theoretically meet somebody else with the decency to pick me up in the rain but also to kiss me hello.

Writing the letter was cathartic and allowed me to stop thinking about it, and the interim has been better. He's made an effort to spoon a couple of times since then, and after four years, I will of course put thought into it before making any drastic changes.

I hope I don't sound like a moron who cohabited too casually! I've known all along that I don't plan to get married, but a roommate situation seemed reasonable after being together for 2.5 years.

I guess it's always hard to gauge what's normal in relationships. I used to pride myself on spending plenty of time apart from my boyfriend - it makes us happier to see each other! We have our own hobbies! - but perhaps it's a sign that we're pretty detached.

I assumed I would be single again by now (it's always been an entertaining cycle of beaus and single up until now); so several years with one person is new territory.

iceberg

@spineapple tap oh girl best of luck. i do think you definitely need to talk about what each of you needs, I hope you can do it without eeither of you feeling awful or ashamed.

adorable-eggplant

@spineapple tap I think what makes it so hard to gauge 'normal' is that every relationship (in my experience) has been so completely different.

I have a lot of sympathy on the touch thing, because I used to date a guy who would withdraw, especially when stressed, whereas when I'm stressed I need extra touch. It was teeeeeerrrrrrible.

You might try something like partner yoga or scheduling regular massages (both of which worked really well for me during that time of scarcity) but in the end, it just wasn't what I wanted in a relationship.

anachronistique

@spineapple tap You definitely, definitely don't sound like a moron, and don't put yourself down for it!

roadtrips

@spineapple tap No, you're not a moron! I fall into the camp of co-habited too early, stayed in a relationship too long, and then ended up homeless for about five months when I finally ended things, which was messy and awful. I am very gunshy about moving in with people as a result. However, I think that as long as you check in with yourself frequently and make sure you're not staying in a bad situation just because it would be hard to move, then living together can be great! It sounds like your boyfriend isn't a jerk or withholding affection as a form of abuse, just that he's not a great communicator and that you guys haven't figured out a way to compromise yet. Keep talking, and hopefully you'll come to a solution that works for you both. Also, edited to say: there is no "normal" in relationships; there's only feeling loved and respected or not feeling that way (or, you know, gray area). If you can talk about this, if your boyfriend listens to you and respects your needs, feelings, and position, then that's healthy. If you feel shut down, or ignored, or guilty for voicing your needs, that's no good.

Diana

@spineapple tap

Honey, I was in your relationship and I ended it in October. It was exactly as hard as you think it will be, but it was all for the better. In the time since, I've hung out with dudes who expressed more physical affection and kind gestures in a casual hangout session than my ex did in our 3 years of dating. I was exactly you, especially the pride about having separate lives which was really covering up the fact that our lives were completely incompatible with one another. I know I should say something like "you'll know what's best" but I am not going to mince words. I was in that relationship. It was just good enough for me to delay breaking up beyond a reasonable point. Ironically enough, the day he actually did express his love through a kind act - in this case, bringing home my favorite snack unprompted - was the day I broke up with him. Every time you enter a relationship, there are opportunity costs: when you date a blond guy, you give up the possibility of dating a swarthy Italian guy, etc. Sometimes these are acceptable, sometimes these are not. I realized, finally, that the idea of facing a lifetime without unprompted kisses, without a hand on the small of my back, without fingers running through my hair, was unbearable. Even the thought of such a life makes me want to cry now, months later. Now that I'm single, nobody is doing any of those things for me - but at least there is now the possibility that I will meet somebody who will. Stop settling for this person. Please let yourself be free to the possibility of meeting somebody better.

Maryaed

@Diana I totally agree.

These aren't the questions a person in a happy relationship should be asking.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@spineapple tap This might be totally off base, but any chance your dude could be on the autism spectrum? Because if so, that could explain a LOT of this.

spineapple tap

@Diana I'm sorry for being such a slow replier! I had to take a break from immersing myself in it, it's draining. Thank you for your comment. It's hard to accept, but very encouraging to hear from someone in a similar situation. Of course a large part of me fears that you might be right.

You and @roadtrips are giving me a couple of potential paths: I could focus on appreciating the small gestures that my boyfriend makes to show love (though I've been trying to do so for years, honestly - almost nightly, I come up with some small thing to thank him for, since any relationship self help book will say that cultivating gratitude is healthy), and give him credit for being well-intended; or I could start afresh, with the understanding that any new relationship would present different but ideally less lonely hurdles.

I do accept that my boyfriend loves me (this takes a while to register with someone who isn't expressive), but to some degree I pity him because he is inept at communicating emotions and gets frustrated when I try to talk about these things.

In any case, thank you so much for taking the time to weigh in - you've given me a lot to think about. It is so sweet to have strangers offering their brains and experiences to help me.

@werewolfbarmitzvah - I don't BELIEVE he's on the autism spectrum, but I'll try to read up on it a little bit. Thanks for the suggestion!

LeafySeaDragon

@adorable-eggplant was he a cancer?

pinniped

I just want to say that the advice columns on this site always hit scarily close to home for me. Long-distance relationships, boyfriends in family photos, uncomfortable sex pressure, gifts not to your taste - I even have a best friend who dates a no-affection dude. Keep it up, Hairpin!! (I e-mailed someone the last Queer Chick column as it was really helpful in expressing my feelings about a relationship issue. So thanks!)

AmandathePanda

So, LW1, I have the same problem! But, I have been living with it, because I love my boyfriend, and want to marry him, and despite the fact that I REALLY miss making out, I have started to work out some of the reasons that kissing is less important for him. He was recently, finally, diagnosed with some high-functioning autism-spectrum disorder, which was not much of a surprise. He struggles with my need to have frequent physical affection, and sometimes he can't handle the "grosser" aspects of intimacy. It's ok! He loves me! He's getting better at meeting my needs, and I am trying to get better at not freaking out. He's getting better at understanding how hard it can be for me to not get the physicality I need sometimes, and I'm getting better at seeing when he just can't do it. Not that this is your case - because generally, yeah, I would say that it IS a bad sign - but I seem to have a case when it isn't.

LeafySeaDragon

@AmandathePanda is your bf me? LOL but seriously. talking and communicating is awesome. people brains work differently. i'm so lucky to have a partner who understands that my brain has it's quirks. ('there is a wide range of normal' is my mantra and i thank the universe for sending me the doctor who brought that phrase into my life along with my not quite adhd/not quite autistic child)

Blushingflwr

Anyone who thinks that long-term couples can't be physically affectionate hasn't met my parents. They've been married over 40 years and still kiss every time they get in an elevator. Different people have different ways of expressing love and affection, and that's fine, but sometimes you have to seek out someone who speaks your language. Even when it's scary.

As for gifts - one additional caveat about lying about loving a gift is that it confirms the gift-givers beliefs about what you will/won't like. And if this is someone who you expect to spend several gift-giving occasions with, do you really want to encourage them to spend money on things that you don't actually like? Is that fair to them (thinking that they understand you and your taste) or to you? That may sound shallow, but my money and my space are both at too high a premium to let myself be burdened down with more stuff I keep out of a feeling of obligation to the person who gave it to me.

Danzig!

@Blushingflwr One of my high school acquaintances had parents who were in their late 50's and still in love to the point where they held hands all the time and clearly enjoyed one another's company. We all thought it was gross.

irma la douce

"I try to kiss him on occasion, but he generally grimaces and turns away."
What! That's not a boyfriend, that's a vibrator that takes out the garbage!

irma la douce

@irma la douce which actually would be pretty great

Plexia

OK, I am way late to the party... but LW2: Um... Just return it, then say you lost it? Or washed it wrong? Or 'I'm sure it's here somewhere...' I have done that a bunch of times before and it's never gone wrong.

annev6

@Plexia I feel like any time someone includes a receipt with a gift it is a way of tacitly explaining "It's okay for you to return this." I'm assuming he did this, since she apparently knows how much the item costs and has the option of returning it. Sometimes people just like to get something other than a gift card. I know my boyfriend is not a fan of giving gift cards just on principle. If she returns it and in her new purchases gets him something small, too, or is just really, really nice and appreciative to him about it and has a bunch of sex and makeouts with him, it will probably be ok.

annev6

"I don't think this dude's wife would be thrilled if she found out he was Facebook chatting 21-year-olds while under the influence past the midnight hour."
LW3 - the fact that you even had this thought makes you a hero among the LW's it seems we normally get and also 21-year-olds in general. KEEP ON KEEPIN ON WITH YOUR EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT SELF!

Anabella

LW1: i JUST finished reading an article about exactly this topic. i wanted to share it, i hope it offers another helpful perspective!
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/opinion/sunday/new-love-a-short-shelf-life.html?_r=0

LeafySeaDragon

i HATE kissing. i love my guy, but i HATE kissing. it was a huge source of stress for us because in the relationship -i was the turn head grimacing person. we talked and problem solved! he can kiss/lick my neck to his hearts content or if he really really needs to kiss my mouth (ugh, mouths) he can. there is no frenching, ever. yes, i have issues. maybe the lw has bad breath! maybe her bf has mouth issues! who knows! people are different.

*we also have a cuddle window when we go to bed. when we go to bed there can be cuddling. but when it is time to SLEEP i get my space.

carolita

LW1: get out of this now, not later. This is not good. No ambiguity here. A guy who can't kiss you? Leave. It took me forever to realize that when it comes to love, it isn't "the thought that counts." It's ever little thing one does or doesn't do that counts. I don't care what my man is thinking, as long as he's doing right by me.
LW2: don't worry, if he's that clueless, you'll probably be breaking up in a year or so, you can get rid of the offending garment when you break up. Otherwise, suck it up. Men get so upset when you don't like their presents. It's not worth the fallout. Such babies! Plus, he's not responsible for your work wardrobe budget. Let it go.
LW3: There comes a time when one has to say, "Hey, with all due respect, I'm going to do you a favor and tell you that you need to please stop drunk (or otherwise) messaging me, because it's not appropriate for a nice married man like you, which I'm sure you know when you're not drunk."

senior1

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senior1

There are things here that I did not think before. Thanks to cool such a position that is very well written, we will talks lot of friends about it. Cheers.
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Umair Afzal@facebook

again unless we are getting married and first need to make sure cohabiting wouldn't make us want to kill each other.
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than temporarily hurt feelings? I dunno...it's a bad precedent to set, if someone gets you gifts that you don't like and you're not honest, what about the next time they do it thinking they've hit a home run
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Umair Afzal@facebook

Although we have only been together for 3 year (living together for a year and a half). We are still both cuddle monsters. If we are watching TV, the only time we are not touching is because we are eating, otherwise it is a cuddle pile.
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Umair Afzal@facebook

house, people asked me if I was moving in with my boyfriend of a year. What? No! I want to live on my own for a while, possibly a long time. Boyfriend is great, but we do well living apart for now.
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It's about knowing what is important to your SO or friend or whoever and putting your efforts in accordingly. If you want to do something extra nice and loving for a specific person, knowing what will work best for that person is extremely useful
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Umair Afzal@facebook

I gave someone was just wasting space in their closet, but I'm more practical than sentimental. I'd get more happiness from seeing them in the new thing that I helped them get (assuming the situation was handled in a non-dick way).
But I guess I'm the exception!
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Umair Afzal@facebook

but his kids didn't want to visit him there so he got a place of his own. He couldn't afford it by himself so I moved in, four months into our relationship. Still going—the 4th time's the charm!
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Umair Afzal@facebook

He couldn't afford it by himself so I moved in, four months into our relationship. Still going—the 4th time's the charm!
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Umair Afzal@facebook

too thin and shiny, and made of something that felt like it was scraping my knuckles bare when I pulled them up.
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I would have preferred to be showered with praise at all times, but he was reliable, funny, affectionate, and always wanted to spend time with me. It balanced out. When someone grimaces when you kiss them, balance is impossible.
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I think I got three non-naked compliments in our entire relationship, but that's just the way he was. I would have preferred to be showered with praise at all times, but he was reliable, funny, affectionate, and always wanted to spend time with me.
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Just adding my voice here to say that even though my partner & I are crazysnugglersallthetime, we don't see eye-to-eye on the importance of, say, love letters, or cooking dinner as an act of love, but thinking about it in this way has really helped me.
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If she returns it and in her new purchases gets him something small, too, or is just really, really nice and appreciative to him about it and has a bunch of sex and makeouts with him, it will probably be ok.
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bilo rani

I'm assuming he did this, since she apparently knows how much the item costs and has the option of returning it. Sometimes people just like to get something other than a gift card. I know my boyfriend is not a fan of giving gift cards just on principle
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