She said my Christmas gift was inadequate. Take it back or get something else?

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Throwaway99999999667 asks:

I have been dating my fiancée (Sara, not her real name) for about 3 years. Overall we have a pretty strong relationship. However, when it come to me giving her gifts it has become an ongoing source of contention as she continually seems to be unsatisfied with them.

A little back story: The start of the trouble began with the first valentines day. Sara had expressed to me that she hated valentines day. I got Sara a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, and a Groupon for a pedicure for her and a friend. When I presented the gifts to her that evening she was absolutely livid.

She had 3 problems with my gift. 1. To her I should have made dinner plans and all the places to eat were booked up on valentine’s day. (I was new to the area and wasn’t aware of this.) 2. She likes food like edible arraignments rather than flowers. And she doesn’t like wine (She had not told me this) 3. She doesn’t get pedicures in the winter. (She hadn’t told me this but the groupon was good for 6 months so she could still use it in the summer regardless)

We had a big fight, I picked up a cheesecake to try to salvage the situation but ever since I have been shell-shocked when it comes to giving gifts.

Situation 2: On Sara’s birthday I tried to step up my game to see if I can solve this puzzle. I had gotten her a new high quality kitchen knife in the brand she loves, and a new memory foam pillow because she had spilled food all over the one she loved. She told me she loved the gifts and that she thought that I had put the some good thought into the gifts, however they were not what she wanted so we took them all back and she got something else. When I balance her words with the actions of her taking it back the same day I am only get more confused and frustrated.

Fast forward to this Christmas: We are under budget restrictions due to me going to school so Sara and I decided that there should be a $50 limit to the gifts. I got her a small picture frame with a picture of me and our dogs for her desk at work, a pair of warm gloves, a scarf and a winter hat.

She didn’t like the picture frame because it wasn’t the style she liked. She didn’t like the picture I chose because she said all of us (me and the dogs) had strange looks on our faces. She liked the gloves but they were the wrong size (understandable, and I got the gift receipt just in case). She liked the scarf but she said she had other ones so she didn’t know why I got her a new scarf. And she didn’t like the hat because it had a beanie on it. Her solution is that I am to take back the stuff and do a redo by buying her a pair of shoes.

I am at my wit’s end. I can’t seem to please this girl when it comes to getting gifts. She says that she wants the gifts to be thoughtful. She doesn’t like gifts that are things that she needs (which is why I elected to go with a cute hat, scarf, glove combo vs shoes). I spoken to her and expressed my frustration and the more we talk the more frustrated and confused I get. She doesn’t want cash or gift cards as they seem too impersonal however she will take everything back (or rather make me do it). I simply don’t know what the answer is here. I don’t want to end the relationship but I know this will become an even bigger source of contention if I/we can’t come to a reasonable solution


Demetrius says:

Let’s just be real here: She isn’t looking for thoughtful gifts or practical gifts. If you want to know what she’s actually looking for, read on.

First, let’s break this down situation by situation:

Situation 1: Valentine’s Day. Under her guidance and suggestion that “she hates Valentine’s Day” you got her 3 sensible gifts, 2 of which were romantic, one of which was a pampering gift. She hated all three and blamed you for this because she said she prefers an edible arrangement to flowers (maybe the FIRST TIME I’ve ever heard that), she hates wine which raises two questions a) who hates wine? and b) how would you know this until it came up?. She also hated the idea of a Groupon gift for her and her friend because “she doesn’t get pedicures in winter” which seems like such a petty thing to say. All in all I’d say that this first situation gives of the impression of someone who is picky to the point of being finicky.

Situation 2: Her Birthday. You purchased a high-quality kitchen knife from her favorite brand which I assume was good gift, assuming she cooks a lot. You also replaced her memory foam pillow that she ruined. She liked the gifts, but still returned both, and applauded your skill at picking out gifts. That is an interesting turn of events mainly because her first complaint, that you don’t give thoughtful gifts, goes directly out the window when she returned your thoughtful gifts.

Situation 3: Christmas. You’re both under a budget restriction so you get her some sensible winter gifts (scarf, gloves, hat) and a picture frame with you, her and the dogs in it. Sensible, affordable, but also a sweet gift. She comes up with a reason to dislike all of these gifts citing personal taste. She suggested returning all of the gifts and swapping them out for her gift of choice.

So, whats the common theme here? Well, it isn’t that you’re bad at picking out gifts. It seems like you put some thought into your gifts or get gifts that are sensible, despite her not enjoying nary a gift in the entirety of 2015. It’s not like you’re buying her gifts for yourself, you’re buying things you think she’ll like. The common theme here is that she wants you to buy thoughtful gifts that she can return. It’s that simple. She wants you to put some thought into gifts so that she knows you care, but she also wants to return these gifts so she can get the thing she actually wants. I’m guessing that because you can’t return a Groupon or flowers, so she got really upset by that and tried to come up with reasons why those gifts were unacceptable.

The fact that she doesn’t want cash or gift cards might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not. She wants you to put in the effort of thinking of a great gift because she wants to know you’re thinking of her, so cash is out of the question. The problem is that because she’s so picky, no matter what you get her she’ll want you to return. If it sounds bleak, trust me, it is. You really only have two options to deal with her.

First option: You tell her that  if she wants a specific gift she needs to tell you. If she doesn’t want to tell you, then tell her that if she doesn’t like a gift she needs to return it, not you. There are some instances where if someone buys you a gift, you just say “thanks” and pretend you liked it. I’m sorry but if someone spent $50 in total to buy 4 items (Picture frame, Hat, Scarf, Gloves) I’m definitely not going to send them back to return them. That’s tacky as hell. If you got her a large gift like say, a coat, and she returns it because of style preference or color, fine, but gloves that probably cost about $12.50? Yeah that’s just something you accept and either never wear or give to someone else, not send someone back to return them. It sounds like you’re giving these gifts to a spoiled child, not a 33-year-old woman. If someone gives you a gift like flowers, there are polite ways to make sure they don’t get offended but also know you’re not the biggest fan of flowers. (ex. Honey, thank you so much for the flowers, I appreciate the thought. Next Valentine’s Day, maybe you should get me an edible arrangement so we can both enjoy your V-Day gift). With the wine gift, she could have easily said “Oh honey, I’m not the biggest fan of wine, but thank you for getting this for me”. She just seems so absurdly ungrateful I’m surprised you’d still want to be affianced to her. You have to be honest and tell her that her unrealistic demands for gifts and the fact that she wants to return gifts even if they are thoughtful is frustrating you and she needs to tell you what specific gifts she wants. If she keeps going with the whole “you need to be thoughtful” counter with “then stop returning my thoughtful gifts”.

Second option: Understand that she is who she is, and buy thoughtful gifts that are easy to return. She seems dead-set on perpetuating this weird cycle of you buying  thoughtful gift and having to return them and I doubt that will change any time soon. Some people don’t see their own crappy behavior for what it is and it’s possible that no matter how often you call her out, or explain thoughtfully why it’s frustrating to you, she’ll never acknowledge her behavior or change.

SECRET THIRD BONUS OPTION: If you find that talking about this problem leads nowhere, and if the issue persists, you should consider that maybe you aren’t a good fit for her. Imagine planning your wedding and how terrible that will be when dealing with someone you can never satisfy. Imagine her reaction to the ring, or your first anniversary gift, or the 5th, or the 10th, and so on ad nauseam. Imagine buying gifts for your little hypothetical offspring and having to return them because your wife doesn’t like them. She’s 33 years old and hasn’t learned how to graciously accept a gift she doesn’t necessarily like, and I honestly doubt she will anytime soon at this rate.  I might be wrong, but I’m guessing that this attitude around accepting gifts probably extends beyond just the gifts. It’s not about the gifts as much as it’s about her maturity. The question you have to ask yourself is: When and if you confront her about this being a problem, does she listen earnestly and acknowledge how what she does can be hurtful or rude, or does she just try to spin it to be your fault. If you’re finding that she isn’t listening and is just waiting for her turn to spin her behavior so it’s your fault, you’ve got a bigger issue than just “she hates all my gifts. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but give it some thought. There are probably a lot more subtle ways to address this topic but after 3 years together, I would hope that you can talk about these issues with candor. It sounds like this has become a big source of dissatisfaction and if that’s the case, you need to address it before February 14th rolls around.

Good Luck Out There.

7 Replies to “She said my Christmas gift was inadequate. Take it back or get something else?”

  1. Ha, the gift situation regardless. Ok, yep make her take back the gift. You should get her a bad gift with a gift receipt, play stupid and don’t take it personally, as there is no pleasing her no matter the situation. BTW, great advice on the list idea!

  2. Omg how thoughtless of this fiancé. How did she become a fiancé with all this back and forth drama? I’ve never taken a gift back I think it’s rude but she’s not direct and is really ignorant I just can’t

  3. These gifts are amazing, dude puts serious thought into them! It’s so unfortunate this thoughtful guy who actually likes buying presents ended up with this woman when there are so many dudes who don’t even try when it comes to gift giving! Maybe she’s the reason why- what a horror story. Does she understand how lucky she is? Ugh. Great advice, Demetrius and a really fun post.

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