I always tell my wife I love her and buy her gifts I can’t afford. I know she loves me. She works so hard at school, and works to pay her tuition, and still washes my clothes, cooks, and cleans. And I never ask her to. When I buy her things, I don’t expect anything in return; I just like to see her happy. I buy her roses for no reason. Recently, because her friends wear so much jewelry, and I know she wishes she had some, I bought her a second diamond ring. For our four anniversaries, I’ve given her a gold bracelet, an iPod, a laptop and, most recently, a cell phone she really wanted. In return, she gave me a card with a letter promising to go to the gym and get back in shape. (She’s not fat, but knows it means a lot to me when she’s looking good.) I loved the commitment, but this is something she owes herself, not a real gift. I’m not materialistic, but it hurt that she didn’t take the time to get me something — I don’t care what — a couple of T-shirts.
— Let Down
Corporations spend billions instructing people in how to show they care; for example, advising everybody to “Say it with flowers” — which does much more for the floral industry than “Say it by getting down on your hands and knees and scrubbing around the toilet.”
What does this woman have to do to show she loves you, put a big red bow around your neatly folded tighty-whities? Leave a gift card floating in the sparkling bowl? Here she is cooking, cleaning and doing your wash while going to school and working to pay her tuition, to boot. Yeah, clearly she’s all take, take, take. You, on the other hand, went to the mall and got her gold, diamonds and portable electronics, and picked up roses on the way home. You are sweet to always be thinking about what she might need at the jeweler. But now, you’re actually feeling bad because she’s trying to look good for you instead of looking for a shirt for you? Hey, just say the word, and she could be waddling around Target.
There are a lot of men out there who’d line right up to be taken for granted the way you are. Your mistake is expecting your wife to show she cares in the same way you do — tit for tat, iPod for iPod. If you think somebody is fundamentally cheap, that’s one thing. What you should look for is generosity of spirit. She seems to show it, and then some — even if “Diamonds Are Forever” and those dinners she cooks for you are really just in one end and out the other.
You claim you don’t expect anything in return, but it seems you do — maybe because you’re insecure, and your gifts aren’t just laptops and gold bracelets, but down payments on having her stick around. You might also consider the effect your giving has on hers. Buy a girl a diamond, and do you really think her first thought is “Wow! I can’t wait to dig through the clearance T-shirt bin and find something really special for him!”? You know your wife’s way short on time and money, and it sounds like she has a bit of a muffin-top. She can’t possibly do more for you around the house, so what better way to show you she cares than by offering to pick up a few things for you at the gym? You know, those 25-lb. iron things, 5,000 or so times.
Code and lonely
I’m a 20-year-old gay guy. Five weeks ago, my boyfriend said he wanted to be “just friends.” He said he was lost and needed to find himself again. Worse yet, he now seems to be avoiding me. Is there any way this is going to turn out well?
Five weeks seems like a long time to find oneself.
— Tossing and Turning
When a guy in the bar says he’s “got to go see a man about a dog,” and ducks to the back of the place, it isn’t because somebody’s waiting for him by the fire door holding a Great Dane. Surely, you know this, just as you probably know that boyfriends trying to become ex-boyfriends feed you lines to duck confrontation and preserve your dignity on their way out. When you have strong feelings for someone, it’s tempting to take them literally: “Oh, you’re off to find yourself?
What time should I expect you back, then?” When somebody tells you he’s leaving, consider him gone for good until the moment your doorbell rings and it’s him, and you’re the thing that’s missing from his life — not his cell phone charger and his shoebox of porn DVDs.