In vino veritas?
June 26, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Am I justified in being angry/hurt?

This all happened today. I just gave my SO of 4 years a bottle of semi-expensive (few hundred dollars) wine for his birthday. I put a lot of thought into the gift. He is going to visit his son tonight without me (father/son time -understandable) because the son's wife left him. As he is getting ready to leave, he decides to take the wine to his son, "to cheer him up". I didn't say anything at the time.

All I could think initially was that the son is going to get back together with the ungrateful quasi-ex-wife and that she'll be drinkning it. And she doesn't deserve it (immature brat-enough said). Then I started to obsess on the fact that I spent the time, effort, and dollars on my SO, and he's giving it to his son, who, while a nice guy, would be perfectly happy drinking chateau cardboard.

My question: should I be as angry/hurt by this as I am feeling, or am I overreacting? (I still need to eat dinner, and I am extra crabby-sensitive when I'm hungry). Should I say or do anything about it, and if so, what would you do if you were in my position? He left about an hour ago, so I won't talk to him until later tonight.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you sure your SO isn't going to drink it tonight with his son? If he does that then I don't see a problem with it at all. If you gave it as a gift it shouldn't have been with the expectation that you would get to drink it too, as the gift is for him and not for you.

If you're sure he's giving the wine to his son as a gift, then re-gifting the gift you gave him is pretty uncool.
posted by hazyjane at 7:14 AM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I understand the disappointment, but because it was a gift, I think your SO can do what he likes with it.
posted by murrey at 7:15 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand, why you would be upset, but in the end, you need to let it go. It's a gift, so what he does with it is up to him, not you. maybe they'll drink it together?
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 7:16 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


A gift, freely given, becomes the property of the giftee. Barring extreme circumstances (which is to say, something clearly intended to be an attack on the giver), the giver has no emotional right to get upset over the use of that gift.

Your SO is doing what he wants with his bottle of wine.
posted by Etrigan at 7:18 AM on June 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


I would be upset, too. It made me feel better (and a little worse, I admit) once when my brother reminded me that once I give a gift to someone it was then theirs to do whatever they wished. I recently watched as my mother, who gave my neice a piece of jewelry for her sixteenth birthday, went on and on telling my neice never to give it away, how to make sure not to lose the ring, etc. All things that I would have felt, too. But maybe have kept in my head. You are always entitled to feel however you feel about a situation. It's completely understandable that you feel bad about the wine being given away. But it's out of your hands, so to speak.
posted by marimeko at 7:24 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's two issues here: you put a lot of thought and investment into something to give to your SO, and he doesn't seem to appreciate; and your SO's son is married to an ungrateful jerkass immature ingrate brat, whom you haaaaaate. Just the idea of her possibly drinking nice wine has got you in a rage!

Leave the son's wife out of your thoughts for now; you don't even know she's going to see that bottle or come back or anything. Later, though, you'll need to come back to that issue - if she's going to be around long-term, and if you're going to be around long-term, you're going to have to learn to be diplomatic. You don't have to like her, just to not let her get to you.

Figure out if you'd feel any differently if he shared it with his son or re-gifted it... and from there, express disappointment that that was not your intention, but not anger.

Regifting is tacky, sharing is not. Even if it was regifted, it's no longer yours to decide what to do with, and the dude just got his heart broken. And maybe the son can't tell the difference between Chateau Expensiveass and Yellowtail (I can't) in a blind taste test, but can enjoy and appreciate it anyway.

Also: did you give it to him thinking he would share it with you? Is that part of the equation?
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:31 AM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is he giving it to his son, or is he taking it to drink with his son? It's not clear from your question and it makes a big difference. If you're not sure yourself, then you need to find out.
posted by spaltavian at 7:37 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand the disappointment, but I think the key thing to remember is that he's giving it to his son, whose wife just left him. The father is simply trying to be there for his own son, who is going through a rough time. Like others have mentioned, perhaps the intention is for the two of them to drink it together.

However, if I were in your shoes, I probably would have also experienced an initial letdown. Were you hoping to drink the wine with him? (I probably would have been.) If so, maybe you should recognize the disappointment and anger you're feeling is stemming from selfish motivations (which is okay; we all have our selfish moments).

Eat something and try not to stress about this. Your SO is putting the gift to good use. :-)
posted by fignewton at 7:38 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just because you feel a certain way doesn't mean that your SO did anything "wrong." By all means, talk to him about it. Stick with how you feel and what it triggers for you; perhaps it will help you understand each other better.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:39 AM on June 26, 2010


You say your SO is a nice guy. This is proof that he's a REALLY nice guy. His son is in crisis, he's on his way to help, and grabbed the nicest thing he has to help cheer him up. Sounds like concrete evidence that he really is a very nice guy. Try to dwell on the positive here and let go of the resentment.
posted by raisingsand at 7:40 AM on June 26, 2010 [33 favorites]


Just for future reference, it is not a good idea to plan outcomes. It only leads to disappointment.
posted by netbros at 7:42 AM on June 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


the giver has no emotional right to get upset over the use of that gift.

I'm as big a proponent of 'the gift belongs to the giftee' as anyone, but I disagree with this. If someone is going to openly disrespect a gift you've given them, I think you have the emotional right to get upset over that. You don't have the legal or ethical right to demand that they not do it, but it doesn't mean you're somehow wrong to feel hurt by it.

That said, I'm not sure that's what's happening here. It would be very, very weird for him to immediately regift your expensive bottle of wine to his son -- I think he intends to drink it with his son. While that might not be what you'd hoped (perhaps you'd hoped to share it with him over a nice romantic dinner), it seems doubtful that he's just giving your gift away like that.

If he did immediately regift something you gave him, on the very same day, and told you he was going to do it. Yeah, I'd be butthurt about that, and I think you have a right to be, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:42 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I agree with those who say that regifting is not really on, whereas taking the wine to share with his son is something else.

On the one hand, once you give something to someone, it's theirs to do what they want with (certainly to drink with whomever!) However, if they then tell you right away that they're going to pass the gift along to someone else, it gives the impression that the gift was neither wanted nor appreciated. It's completely understandable that this would be upsetting for the giver.

I think in this case it's a really important difference: if he shared the wine with his son, then he used the gift in a way that he enjoyed (whether or not his son appreciates good wine is not the point; it's the experience of them sharing it that's the gift you gave). If he gave the wine to his son as a present, and told you about it the way he did, that's really rude and certainly gives the impression that your present didn't mean anything to him.
posted by ask me please at 7:45 AM on June 26, 2010


Two nice things happened here. You gave your SO a thoughtful gift. Your SO is in turn being thoughtful in using it to help his son in a difficult time.

Let it go, I can understand being a bit miffed; but in the great scale of things, this is no big deal. Have something to eat, we all get crabby when our blood sugar is low, so that may be contributing to your feelings about this.
posted by arcticseal at 7:46 AM on June 26, 2010


I also don't agree that the receiver can do whatever they want with a gift. Sure, legally it's theirs, but it's part of an important shared experience between the two people involved.

That said, I'm guessing your SO is taking the wine to drink with his son, which is another important experience that you got to take part in. I think it's a great thing for him to do with this gift. If you want to share it with him, make sure you say something like, "I got this for us to share" when you present it, or make a nice dinner as the gift and break out the wine as part of it.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:55 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect all these people who are saying "a gift given freely..." are just spouting conventional wisdom without really thinking about what they're saying.

A guy buys his wife a ring. She throws it in the garbage. He is out-of-line being upset because he "gave it freely and, since it's a gift, she can do whatever she wants with it"? I doubt many people think this way. They may say, "The OP's SO didn't throw away the bottle." But my point is that most of us think there are rules attached to gifts. The specifics of those rules vary from person to person.

Gift-giving/receiving is a piece of communication between two people. There are no rules other than the ones that exist between the two specific people, as determined by their backgrounds, their shared histories.

I suggest you do this: think about your SO's likely motivations. First, how does he generally receive gifts? Some people feel that the act-of-communication takes place at the moment of giving/receiving and then it's over. In other words, if you give them a gift and they reject it, they know they're being rude. But if they accept it and later deface it, trash it or give it to someone else, they feel that it's no big deal, because they were gracious during the actual interchange.

If your experience tells you that your SO has those values, then you two may "just" have a values clash. The good news is that means he wasn't being cruel or thoughtless. It's a misunderstanding between you and him based on different upbringings or whatever.

To others, a gift is a communication that has some lifespan to it. If they buy their friends a painting and their friends accept it, they assume their friends are going to hang that painting in their homes.

My point is that the "simple" act of giving/receiving a gift tends to be anything but simple. The best we can do is cut each other some slack, assume we all have good intentions, and try to understand how others may have values that differ from ours. And we can always talk and ask questions: "Why did you give my gift away?" The less guilt-trip we put in such questions, the more likely we'll get an honest (as opposed to defensive) answer.

Bottom line: if you and he have different gift communication styles, you should talk and straighten things out, or this issues will come up again and again.

What if I give you a cake, and you walk by a starving man. He says, "Please! Do you have anything to eat?" Wouldn't you give him the cake? And wouldn't you expect me to understand?

To some people, the gift-receiving value is "generally I keep gifts people give me, but I am sure they'll understand if I give those gifts away at times of emergency." To your SO, this may seem like a time of emergency. He may think you'll understand the fact that he's giving this bottle to his deeply-upset son. I know you feel differently about the son's situation. And I'm sure there are all kinds of issues surrounding that. But in terms of the gift-communication alone, could this be an example of, "Thanks so much for the gift. Normally I would keep it, but please understand that this situation is special"?

I suggest you try to separate thoughtlessness from cruelty. If you come down on the side of "he simply shouldn't have given away the gift," then think for a minute about why he acted badly. Was it because he wanted to hurt you? Or was it because he was upset about his son and not thinking clearly about other things? Which is more excusable?

Finally, I want to deal with this: "Am I justified in being angry/hurt?" I know you might not have meant that literally, but in case you did, I am going to treat it as such. You are ALWAYS justified in being angry or hurt. Or, to be clearer, anger and hurt have nothing to do with being justified.

You are angry and someone proves to you that you are justified in being so. Yay. You are still angry.

You are angry and someone proves to you that you are not justified in being so. Yay. You are still angry.

Feelings happen. You have them.
posted by grumblebee at 7:57 AM on June 26, 2010 [36 favorites]


Does your SO know how expensive the wine was? Maybe he thought it was 'just' a bottle of wine, how does a few hundred dollars compare to the wine you usually drink? Would he know a really expensive wine if he saw it? He may not understand of much time and money went into selecting the gift.

I think you have a right to be disappointed, just because the gift is his to do with as he wishes, doesn't mean that you can have no right to have feelings.

I assume you were hoping to share the wine with your SO also and I think there may be an element of that coming through too, particularly with regard to your SO's son's wife. Sure its sucks that your SO has chosen to share his wine with his son who wont appreciate it and potentially his wife whom you think doesn't deserve it but it's his choice, I wouldn't bring it up with him.
posted by missmagenta at 8:05 AM on June 26, 2010


If he was giving the bottle of wine to your son, how upset would you be?
posted by milarepa at 8:10 AM on June 26, 2010


This is a father/son thing, and you're probably not going to get it. No one who isn't a father of a son or a son of a father will. It's because it's a gift, and a nice thing that he values that he's bringing it. Perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that it's being put to a higher use than simple drinking?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:14 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think what's hurting your feelings is that he didn't seem to appreciate the value of your gift. You spent a lot of time and money on getting the perfect thing. Then, it seemed like he treated as some old thing lying around the house, "I need to take something to Son's house... a bottle of wine. Perfect."

I would be kind of pissed about that, too. Think of it like this, though: for lots of people receiving gifts isn't about the thing itself. It's about the thought and caring involved. He can still be very moved and appreciative that you spent so much time and effort on him getting the perfect thing, and cherish the experience of receiving the gift from you, without having to have the physical thing.

To be sure, it would have been more romantic, and generous on his part to remember that gift giving is supposed to make the giver feel good, too. The cool thing to do would have been to enjoy the wine with you, to show his appreciation of the gift and to let you be proud of pleasing him with a good gift. He couldn't just pick up another bottle of wine on the way over to the son's? But that's just me.
posted by ctmf at 8:17 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


You always have a right to your feelings, whatever they may be. They are 100% yours.

What can be helpful is to then ask yourself what those feelings tell you about yourself? eg. Did I not know my own boundaries and spend more than I'm really comfortable spending? Did I really act expecting something in return? Am I less happy with the relationship than I thought I was?

And always, what is it that would feel better? Feelings are the most powerful indicators of our true selves.
posted by subvert at 8:19 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


If someone is going to openly disrespect a gift you've given them, I think you have the emotional right to get upset over that.

If someone is going to selectively misquote a sentence I've written, do you think I have the emotional right to get upset over that?
posted by Etrigan at 8:23 AM on June 26, 2010


You are angry and someone proves to you that you are justified in being so. Yay. You are still angry.
You are angry and someone proves to you that you are not justified in being so. Yay. You are still angry.
Feelings happen. You have them.


I have always been able to the be rational, cool one that keeps arguments from escalating unhealthily because I carefully unpack negative emotions before they influence me. When someone proves that I shouldn't be angry--I stop being angry because it doesn't make sense. Anger isn't an excuse, and anger without good reason is inexcusable. It leads to abusive and passive/aggressive behaviors. If a calm person wouldn't do it, should it really be done?

OP, the only problem I could find in your post is the bit "I didn't say anything at the time." Generally, you talk things out with your SO when something hurts you. That way, you both know how the other person feels and actually understand the situation. Because you didn't open up communication, you're obsessing and letting yourself internalize a lot of negative vibes from the whole thing. It sounds like you had certain internal expectations that didn't map out to your SO, and you're having trouble reconciling his behavior. But if you want your internal expectations for his behavior to actually map out to his likely behaviors, you're going to have to talk to him about the situation and understand him.
posted by Phyltre at 8:27 AM on June 26, 2010


If someone is going to selectively misquote a sentence I've written, do you think I have the emotional right to get upset over that?

Sorry, I didn't mean to misquote you, though I can see how I sort of did. I was just aiming for quoting the smallest amount of text that was necessary. "Your SO is doing what he wants with his bottle of wine." made it appear that you did not believe your caveat applied to her so I omitted it.

I think regifting in those circumstances would rise, if not quite to the level of a personal attack, to the level of significant disrespect, even if it was thoughtless rather than deliberate. On the other hand, I'm doubtful he's actually regifting it.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:37 AM on June 26, 2010


You've given him an awesome gift!

Maybe at first, you thought the wine would be a bridge to a romantic dinner and some sexy-time later. But look at how it turned out! You've given him a way to comfort his son, who is in a traumatic situation. And you can still have a romantic dinner and sexy-time.

A gift of love that grows to helping another show love for their child else is a wonderful thing.
posted by Houstonian at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


What it sounds like to me, more than anything else, is that you put a lot of thought into a gift that you thought that your SO would really enjoy and appreciate, and then sacrificed to get it... but you were wrong about it.

It happens. Other people are different, and you can't force them to experience the emotions you want them to when they open up a present. In the absence of outright churlish behavior, like a direct attack on the gift, the best thing to do then is just admit that you were just mistaken.

My mother did this once. She's glurgily oh-my-precious-babies sentimental, and a few years ago gave me as an xmas present a framed picture of me and my sister when we were little kids. To her, the greatest present ever, because it was her precious babies, and it also meant that she was sacrificing the picture and wouldn't have it as a totem object any more. She put a lot of thought into it and spent nontrivial money getting it framed and gave up having the picture herself, but in the end she was just mistaken about what it would mean to me, because I am pretty radically unsentimental about my own childhood.

Also when people get the news that their kid is getting divorced, it's probably pretty easy to decide to go do something RIGHT NOW, and the bottle was available.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:50 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


When someone proves that I shouldn't be angry--I stop being angry because it doesn't make sense.

Awesome for you.

Anger isn't an excuse,

Right. It's a feeling.


and anger without good reason is inexcusable.


What? How can it be inexcusable? It's a feeling. It's something that you have. Inexcusable things must be ACTS. Things you do. Anger isn't something you do. Saying anger is inexcusable is like saying having a cold is inexcusable.

Do you mean ACTING on irrational anger in inexcusable?

Sorry to be so pedantic, but we need to be very careful that we don't tell people their feelings are inexcusable or wrong. You have the enviable ability to control your feelings. Many of us don't. Telling someone something they can't control is inexcusable is telling them that THEY are inexcusable.
posted by grumblebee at 11:29 AM on June 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


Does he know how expensive the bottle is? Did you say anything when he decided to take the bottle over there?

If I were in your shoes and my SO had said "hey, I know this is a gift for me, but it would really, really mean something to my kid if I shared it with him," my reaction would be "yes, absolutely, have a wonderful time."

If he scooped it up with a shrug on the way out the door because he was too lazy to stop by the liquor store, I'd be stunned and hurt.
posted by desuetude at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does your SO know how expensive the wine was? Maybe he thought it was 'just' a bottle of wine, how does a few hundred dollars compare to the wine you usually drink? Would he know a really expensive wine if he saw it? He may not understand of much time and money went into selecting the gift.

This is exactly what I was thinking. To your SO, this may just be a "nice" bottle of wine. Unless you told him that it cost a few hundred dollars (which to me is a really freaking expensive bottle that I'd reserve for a very special occasion) and that you put so much time and effort into picking it out, why should he think there's anything wrong with what he did? I understand why you're upset that this is what he's chosen to do with the bottle, but think about it from his perspective.

If I were in your position, I'd definitely say something about it because I don't like bottling in what I'm feeling, but I'd try to keep it calm. Maybe something like, "Hey, um, that wine was kind of expensive and I put a lot of thought into picking it out for you. I would've liked to share it with you. I'm sorry; I probably should've told you that when you said you were going to take it with you. I've been kind of upset about it." And try to have a calm discussion about it, since he's probably already emotional about what his son is going through.
posted by wondermouse at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a hard time understanding why a multi-hundred dollar bottle of wine is needed to cheer the son up. The obvious best move as an SO is to save it for a special occasion and share it with the giver. I don't blame you for expecting him to do that, and I don't blame you for feeling hurt that he didn't. Unless the son is a wine expert, I get the feeling that your SO treated it like 'just a bottle of booze,' which it was anything but.

So yeah, I'm with you. Politely explain your hurt to your SO.
posted by gonna get a dog at 11:49 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


You absolutely are justified being angry and hurt, and it means there are some pretty deep-seated and difficult problems in your relationship, too (as your clever title shows you are quite aware).

Basically, a major item of your SO's baggage has burst open and disgorged long-neglected dirty laundry into the life the two of you have made together.

Your SO has great guilt about his son, and cannot take responsibility for it to his son directly, but is instead offering his son a kind of sop meant to demonstrate how he values the son above you by being willing to insult you in favor of the son.

You deserve better than that and so does the son.

I have my doubts he will be able to admit this to you, or himself, or his son without the help of a sophisticated counselor.
posted by jamjam at 12:24 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your post is a bit ambiguous. The only clear things are:

1) you bought a bottle of semi-expensive wine for your SO;
2) your SO is spending time with his son;
3) the son's wife just left him;
4) your SO took the bottle with him to the son's;
5) you are upset at the SO and obsessing on the assumptions;

Assumptions:
1) he is giving the bottle to his son;
2) the son's wife has returned and will be drinking the wine;

Argument:
1) He could be sharing the wine with his son -- why does this upset you? Did you want him to drink the whole bottle himself?;

2) there is NOTHING you indicate that the son's wife is returning and drinking the wine.

What outcomes are you hoping for if you plan to talk to your SO? What is your SO to do to make you feel better about that bottle of wine?

If he shared the wine with his son, will your complaint look petty? If he brought the wine to his son and spent the rest of the time with his son not drinking, will your complaint look petty?

If the wife did not return but you complain about your SO sharing wine with his son and his wife, will this look petty? If you complain that it is alright if he shared the wine but not with the wife, if she was there, will that look petty? Basically, dictating to the SO how to use or enjoy his gift in acceptable ways to you.

I am not great with nuance, but this bottle of wine seems to be taking on a really heavy load for your relationship.
posted by jadepearl at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2010


Tell him that you know it's irrational, but you're hurt because you really wanted HIM to enjoy it. Then hug it out. Problem solved. Next time he'll think twice but it shouldn't become a big ol' fight if you acknowledge that no one's in the wrong, you're just upset.

You can be hurt without it being someone's fault, and comfort each other even without "real" justification for it. It's one of the best things about having close friends/partners--you get to be unreasonable sometimes.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:06 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some gifts are just not right for some people. Get him 2 $50 bottles next time.
posted by meepmeow at 2:45 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


All I could think initially was that the son is going to get back together with the ungrateful quasi-ex-wife and that she'll be drinkning it. And she doesn't deserve it (immature brat-enough said).

You have given the son's ex wife a little room inside your head where she now lives and is colouring and driving all your interactions with the son and, to some extent, your SO. Take her out of the equation, would you have even started down this track? She doesn't deserve that kind of power over you no matter how annoying she is. Plus he broke up with her, this is a good thing! You seem to resent the son a little too for whatever reason (maybe for having such a shitty wife?) plus I bet you feel a teeny bit left out he chose to share it with the son instead of with you.

I think you've let everything become all tangled up together into one big mess in your brain, something easier to do when you're hungry and a bit taken aback at his behaviour (I wouldn't have brought it up at the time either by the way, for some of us reacting in the moment is a good way to cause a huge fight over nothing). Try to sort at least some of this out in your brain before you talk to him otherwise a civil discussion about your gift is going to turn into a bitchfest about his family. And evict that women from your skull, she's not worth this much thought or effort!
posted by shelleycat at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait and see what happens when he gets back. It may be that in the car, on the way to see his son, he realised that what he did might have been inconsiderate of your gesture. Perhaps try to calm yourself down with this thought, for now. He may not have been thinking clearly, over the stress around his son's troubles. I often calm myself down by reminding myself that no gesture has an "end" (like your fella leaving with the wine), but is part of a continuous series of acts.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 4:50 PM on June 26, 2010


Should you be upset?

That's the wrong question. Clearly, you are upset.

I'd ask myself why I am upset. Were you giving a gift and expecting nothing in return, or were you giving a gift and expecting something in return?

Either way, don't be hard on yourself. No one is keeping score, you know.
posted by justcorbly at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2010


Tell him that you know it's irrational, but you're hurt because you really wanted HIM to enjoy it. Then hug it out. Problem solved. Next time he'll think twice but it shouldn't become a big ol' fight if you acknowledge that no one's in the wrong, you're just upset.

You can be hurt without it being someone's fault, and comfort each other even without "real" justification for it. It's one of the best things about having close friends/partners--you get to be unreasonable sometimes.


This! This!
posted by scuza at 5:53 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have never wanted an un-favorite buttom more then after reading jamjam's post, conversely I think raisingsand nails it.
posted by Jezztek at 10:30 AM on June 27, 2010


errr, button.
posted by Jezztek at 10:30 AM on June 27, 2010


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