I like you, but I hate the gifts..
December 29, 2012 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Is there a polite way to tell your significant other that you absolutely hate the gifts you've received from them for holiday? But wait!! I'm not being snooty for the reasons you'd think I would! More inside..

He got me three things for Christmas, but they all seem last minute and non personalized. On the other hand, all the gifts I got him-- they were based on things that he obviously was into and loved. It was the type of situation where you open the wrapping and you're like.. "You don't know me at all, do you?"

But here's the kicker! On other occasions, he's gotten me things that I obviously like. It's not he's oblivious to my likes-- he isn't. We've been together for 3 months and he's purchased me gifts before that were intune to my likes and dislikes.

But for Christmas it was like I got the left over gifts that he had for other people. I feel like there wasn't any effort put into the gifts and he just did it b/c he *had* to do it. Doing the gift exchange was his idea too! I'm not being bitchy about the monetary amount of the gifts, I could care less about that, I have a problem with how he didn't give a single bit of consideration to the things I'm interested in or like. If I knew that the gifts were going to be like this-- I would have declined even exchanging gifts in general.

Am I being petty? Do I just bite my tongue, be bitter about it and then end up holding this against him, or should I say something? If I do say something-- HOW? He's SO sensitive and I'm blunt.
posted by baconandvodka to Society & Culture (68 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
After three months you're supposed to act gracious. If it were longer you could casually mention, some time down the track, that you like slightly personalised gifts.

I think a lot of people get overwhelmed and exhausted and broke at Christmas time. I'd cut him some slack over this. That would be the classy thing to do.
posted by taff at 2:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [75 favorites]

Yup, give him a one-time pass here. If it keeps happening that's another story.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [19 favorites]

Three months? Say "Thank you!" and let it go.

Next year, you'll have time to hint and make lists and he'll have a lot more time to get to know you. You don't know that these are last-minute or badly-thought-out, so the risk of making him feel bad outweighs the reward of letting him know what you do like this time.
posted by xingcat at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

What did he get you?

Do I just bite my tongue, be bitter about it and then end up holding this against him, or should I say something?

Those are not your only two choices. You could also be gracious about it and thank him for the gifts. You'd be better off letting him know in advance what sort of gifts you'd like next year.
posted by grouse at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2012 [19 favorites]

I am afraid there is absolutely no way to politely tell someone, "Hey, that gift? That you gave me? For free? Not good enough. i expect something better."

You should be happy that the other gifts he has given you are nice, and grateful for the gifts he gave you even if they weren't that great.

Shrug this off. Maybe he had a hard time with Christmas shopping this year.
posted by BrashTech at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, the fact that it was his idea means that he really thought he'd get you things you'd like. I bet he's crushed you weren't enthusiastic.

My devoted, beautiful, near-perfect husband of FIFTEEN YEARS, for the first time ever, got me something I actually liked this year for Christmas. And only because I have a new passion and he bought things related to it. But you know what, he has tried every year, and looks at my face with such anticipation and love each time, it's hard not to smile and kiss him all over his face. Even when the gifts have been a bit shite.
posted by taff at 3:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [32 favorites]

Response by poster: He got me this, a mirror and a necklace that isn't my style at all. When I received the gifts, I thanked him graciously and showed that I was rather happy for the gifts in the first place. The thing that threw me off is that when he gets me gifts on other occasions it's based on my likes. I just was so thrown off that the stuff he got me wasn't my style at all. He actually said "I don't even know if this is your style or not" when he got me the necklace.

I was also around when he was buying gifts for his friends and family and everything that he got them was SO personalized and had a lot of thought put behind it..
posted by baconandvodka at 3:06 PM on December 29, 2012

You're focusing on what he gave you, not the sentiment. And they are not the same. The ""I don't even know if this is your style or not" " part is him anxiously hoping you'll reassure him that you love it, knowing that it's hit or miss with jewellery. If he had said, "you're going to bloody love this", and you'd hated it, you'd have been more upset.

I think he did a marvelous job.

He included something quirky, and two quite personal things. I assume you're both quite young. He's really done very well. And you need to perfect your grateful face.
posted by taff at 3:11 PM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Eh, sounds like he got overwhelmed with Christmas shopping and unfortunately he hadn't done your shopping yet. Don't worry about it, and don't let it hurt your feelings.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2012

I am afraid there is absolutely no way to politely tell someone, "Hey, that gift? That you gave me? For free? Not good enough. i expect something better."

I disagree. My partner and I have talked about how we'd like to know if we give each other sub-par gifts - we're planning to give each other gifts for the rest of our lives, and we'd like to know if something is a miss rather than a hit. So, if she gave me something that I really didn't want, I would - gently! - explain to her why I didn't want it, and give her an idea of how it could be tweaked to be something I would enjoy.

But: at three months of dating, I probably wouldn't have that conversation.

baconandvodka, it just depends on your relationship. How frank are you usually? How do you think he would react if you told him the gifts didn't work for you? Would he be defensive, or take it as an opportunity to learn more about what kinds of things you do like? (No need to answer, just things to think about).
posted by insectosaurus at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I feel like there wasn't any effort put into the gifts and he just did it b/c he *had* to do it.

Of course he *had* to do it because any gift giving on holidays/birthdays is forced no matter how you look at it. I totally get your frustration though, I think I'd be pretty upset too. Not that he's an inconsiderate gift giver, but my boyfriend and I just don't exchange gifts on holidays or birthdays. Every once in a while he or I will see something the other likes and just buy it, not because of obligation to a holiday but because we know the other will really, really like it. Those are always the best gifts.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:14 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Possibly he got you something else, panicked because it was too personal after only 3 months and so got you some last minute gifts. Maybe he got overwhelmed trying to get you the perfect gift he waited too long and just grabbed the first thing he saw, or maybe like my husband he sucks at gift buying.

Thing is I've known my husband 8 years and we have it worked out, he checks out my Amazon wish list for recent additions and works from there and I don't build my hopes up for any huge surprises. At the 3 month mark in a relationship however you smile and say thank you and if he's still sucking a Christmas or 2 down the track you make a joke about it and start pointing him in the right direction.
posted by wwax at 3:15 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

My guess, he wanted to give you something super thoughtful and he put too much pressure on himself to think of the perfect thing, couldn't come up with it, so had to scramble. This sounds like a one-off.

Definitely forgive him.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:16 PM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I was there at the shop when he bought the necklace and the mirror. He showed them to me and I had no reaction towards them. I was a bit shocked to say the least when I unwrapped the paper to see them.

And he knows exactly what I like. He does the "I saw this and I know you like x, so I thought it was cute-- so here!" I dunno. Maybe I'm being hormonal and crankypants about things. I think I'm just hurt b/c the gifts I got him I put a lot of effort and time into and his just seemed (to me) like after thoughts.
posted by baconandvodka at 3:18 PM on December 29, 2012

Am I being petty? Do I just bite my tongue, be bitter about it and then end up holding this against him, or should I say something? If I do say something-- HOW? He's SO sensitive and I'm blunt.

Forgive me for being blunt, but since you asked: you're being petty. A lot petty. Is this really the kind of thing that's going to stew inside you if you did what you should and just let it slide? Because that makes it sound like you've already got something against the guy, and that's probably worth a bit more thought than all of this.

In the interim, I'll echo the chorus and urge you to forgive him. He probably did the best he could given the circumstances, and it sounds like you guys are generally thoughtful towards the people around you. This sounds like a fluke.
posted by Chutzler at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [32 favorites]

If you want to talk to him about it, I would wait until after the holidays and after the hormonal-days. You could also just decide it to get it go this time.
posted by bleep at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buying gifts is hard. Some people are the "remember this thing he said he liked nine months ago and get it for his birthday" type and some people... well, some people just aren't. This is the way of the world. It doesn't make them thoughtless assholes who don't care about you. People of the "remember this thing" type often get their feelings hurt when everyone isn't the way they are, because they think this is the only right way to be. But it isn't the only right way to be, is the thing.
posted by slkinsey at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Only do this if you want to come across as petty, selfish and greedy.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:28 PM on December 29, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'm of the "remember things" type. I've spoken with people in the past about it, but usually in May or something. In this day and age where most people have access to a phone where you can store notes, there's really no excuse to not learn it.

Or, you could just get over it and try to maintain wishlists on Amazon and your favorite stores, like a self-wedding registry. If he asks for a list, just send him the link.
posted by nevercalm at 3:28 PM on December 29, 2012

I was there at the shop when he bought the necklace and the mirror. = wouldn't that have been a good opportunity to weigh in? He shows you the necklace, you say, eee, not really my style, I prefer something more like (whatever).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [23 favorites]

I think I'm just hurt b/c the gifts I got him I put a lot of effort and time into and his just seemed (to me) like after thoughts.

Well, you know you put a lot of effort into his gifts, but does he know that? What if he's thinking the same thing about the things you got him as you're thinking about what he got you? I'm not saying that he is, but you really can't read how much/little went into the gifts he got you or others just based upon what he ultimately picked (especially if he's known the others you mention longer than he's known you - maybe it was easier for him to get their gifts, even if it looked to you like he spent more effort on them). Don't cling too tightly to this as a reason to feel slighted; that's just going to make you both miserable.

As others above have suggested, let it go this time - and remind yourself that "effort expended" can't always be gauged by how much or little you like your gifts.
posted by DingoMutt at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Jewelry, especially, is hard to get right, and exponentially so in a 3-month relationship. He may have gotten lucky in the past, so now you're disappointed he didn't read your mind. He's probably not as into your "style" as you think he is. (I mean, heck, I've bought myself jewelry I thought I'd like, and have been wrong.)
posted by sageleaf at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

If my date of three months sat me down to tell me she was disappointed with the ill-thought-out presents I'd got her, hinting that her presents to me were thoughtful and considerate, and that she hoped for the same back... well, I'm pretty sure I would consider not sticking around long enough to see the next present-exchanging opportunity.
posted by creeky at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2012 [29 favorites]

Am I being petty?

Yup, pretty much.

Do I just bite my tongue, be bitter about it and then end up holding this against him, or should I say something?

None of the above, really. You shouldn't mention your dissatisfaction, and you shouldn't hold it against him. He was trying to be nice. In situations like this, it's a lot better to assume good intentions on behalf of the other person.

Also, if you've only been dating for three months and he's already given you "satisfactory" gifts on multiple occasions, you really shouldn't say anything. Three months isn't that long.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:35 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

"I think I'm just hurt b/c the gifts I got him I put a lot of effort and time into and his just seemed (to me) like after thoughts."

Which, okay, that's fair. But life is long and if you are with this man long term, even if he is the greatest gift-giver in the world, there are going to be misfires. You have to be okay with that fact.

And secondly, is gift-giving so important to you that it would be a deal breaker in an otherwise excellent partner? It's okay if it is, but reflect on that and try to figure it out. In my family of origin, gift-giving is a big deal and a way to show love, so it is kind-of important to me. But the truth is, it turns out, that my husband is not always so great at getting me gifts. Even after 12 years. Even sometimes when I tell him, "I want you to get me an X for our anniversary." But that is okay with me, because I know he shows affection other ways and I know that any hurt I feel about a misfired gift is about me and the emotional importance I place on gifts, not about him. So with a big miss, I am gracious, roll my eyes on the inside and feel a moment of sulkiness, and then get over it and be happy about my life. (Mostly it doesn't even bother me any more because I have adjusted my expectations.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:37 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't think you're being petty. It doesn't sound like you expected anything really expensive or impressive, or that you even needed to do the gift thing at all, just that you wanted to be on the same page and now you're not sure you are. It sounds like you're a little worried because you thought you understood how well he knew you and how he thought of you, but this incident made you wonder if actually he doesn't know you as well as he seemed to before. That's probably not the case, though. I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and see what happens.

I wouldn't say anything specifically about these presents, that would make it a bigger deal than it needs to be. But I wouldn't use/wear the gifts or pretend to love them, either. If he asks you can just say - nicely - that it's not really your style, but you know he tried and you appreciate that. If the option of a gift exchange comes up again, you can say you'd rather just do something special together to celebrate that occasion.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe you being there while he shopped made it difficult for him to shop for you.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:41 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe he feels the same way about the gifts you bought him, but he's too grateful to tell you. How would that feel, if he told you he didn't like your presents, and wished you'd put more thought into them, when you've obviously done that?

I'd give him a pass. Gifts are hard sometimes, even when you know someone well, and even when you've given them things they liked before.

Also I just bought the Alien ice cube tray after I clicked on your link, so maybe I'm a bit biased.
posted by jnaps at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Three months seems very quick to get to the gift-giving stage of a relationship to me, but no matter. The real problem here is communication: does he even know that gifts are this important to you, that you read them for proof of affection? If not, why not? So many people, especially young people, avoid having honest conversations early on in relationships because they think they have to stick to some one-size-fits-all script or it'll go up in smoke, and then they end up sitting on resentments that grow until they actually do destroy the relationship. Be open and honest about your expectations from the start, and you'll either find that both of your expectations are things you can deal with, or you can let each other find someone else with minimal hard feelings.

I don't think it's too late to fix this (although walking up to him and saying "Your gifts sucked" will probably end the relationship), but maybe you can use what you're feeling now as a reminder in the future that these situations are avoidable with some preventative care.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

And he knows exactly what I like.

I doubt it. I bet that sometimes he has picked up on some things you liked, and obviously this time not. It seems like you are assuming he deliberately either skipped the effort of putting thought into his gifts, or deliberately chose things you don't care for. I strongly doubt that, and if it does turn out to be the case, then honestly the relationship has way bigger issues than a few Christmas gifts.

Give him a pass and if things are going well come your birthday or next Christmas be sure to give more concrete suggestions earlier of what you like.
posted by meinvt at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Take a look at what you're making these gifts mean. I suspect that, rather than their actual suckiness, is what you're really suffering over. You seem to be fitting the gifts into a narrative where he doesn't spend as much time and energy selecting just the right thing, therefore he is basically less thoughtful and/or cares less. That may be true and it may not, just like you or may not be may be using the gifts as a hook to hang your new-relationship anxiety on. People are offering you other explanations. You might try asking him how he feels about gift-giving in general and with intimate partners specifically to learn more about his actual feelings and motives.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sorry, there's no polite way to tell the man you love that his gifts sucked without hurting his feelings. So don't go there.

Thoughtful gift giving takes years of practice if you didn't learn this in the bosom of your family. I came from a family of last-minute, give cash people but married into a family of creative giftgivers. It took me a while to realize that shoelaces are not anyone's idea of a stocking gift. After many years of not-so-many hits and lots of misses, I finally got the hang of creative gift giving. I would've been devastated if my husband had found a polite way to tell me my gifts stunk! We've since had a lot of laughs about this.

Help your man along at other times of the year when you're travelling or out shopping and you oo and ahh over something you love--or you buy a couple things in advance for people when you see the perfect gift for someone else.

Give your man the gift of time to develop his gift giving chops by letting him observe how the game is played.
posted by Elsie at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am female. I once received a card from a previous boyfriend that read 'To My Brother on His Birthday' - your gifts have not reached that level, so I'd say give it a pass this time and make concrete suggestions next time around.
posted by analog at 4:03 PM on December 29, 2012 [22 favorites]

I was there at the shop when he bought the necklace and the mirror. He showed them to me and I had no reaction towards them. I was a bit shocked to say the least when I unwrapped the paper to see them.

And he knows exactly what I like. He does the "I saw this and I know you like x, so I thought it was cute-- so here!" I dunno. Maybe I'm being hormonal and crankypants about things. I think I'm just hurt b/c the gifts I got him I put a lot of effort and time into and his just seemed (to me) like after thoughts.

I think you're projecting a lot onto him. Just because he's gotten you great things in the past doesn't have any bearing on how well he knows what you like. And at 3 months, I'd be surprised if he knows your likes and dislikes as much as you think he does.

Also, whether or not you like something has NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on how much effort it took to pick it out for you. If you go down that path, what you're doing is placing more value on your personal preferences than on the sentiment he has when getting things for you. Saying, "I don't like these things, so you didn't put in the requisite effort to get them" sets a very bad precedent for your communications in the future, I think.
posted by xingcat at 4:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

How important is it to you that your boyfriend (any boyfriend you would hypothetically have, not necessarily this guy) is good at giving gifts? I mean, is it dealbreaker material? Or did you just kind of wish he would have gotten you something you liked better?

If the latter, I agree with others that you should be gracious and remind yourself that gift giving is hard and some people aren't great at it.

If the former, I guess this is your deal breaker warning light going off.
posted by Sara C. at 4:05 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

It occurs to me that Christmas is rather fraught - a lot of weight placed on gifts, a lot of gifts to buy, a lot of stress. While it would have been awesome if he'd gotten you the perfect presents - and I argue that in some ways gifts early in a relationship are more important/meaningful than gifts later on when you have other forms of connection - well, I would hesitate to judge an otherwise talented gift-buyer based on the stress-fest that Christmas can be. Maybe he froze up! Maybe he unconsciously hates giving Christmas presents! Maybe he (like me) loves to give gifts at non-standard times but hates (and is crap at) "official" gifts. (My partner and I barely even exchange holiday/birthday gifts - we're much more about "here, I was at the comic book store and got you a present!" or "I got you this perfect thing I saw on eBay".)

I would suggest letting it go - it hardly sounds like a sign that he doesn't pay attention to you, doesn't like you, etc. If there are signs like that in the relationship, address them directly, not via gifts as proxy, because complaining about presents is (except under special, weird, blue-moon circumstances) crass.
posted by Frowner at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dear Ask Metafilter,

I have been going out with a great girl for a little over a year now. I generally think of myself as a thoughtful guy and try to give her things that she'll really appreciate, but last Christmas I really had trouble finding her the perfect gifts and after hours of trying ended up getting her things that weren't perfect but that I thought she might like. I could tell that she was a little disappointed with them, and it made the whole gift-exchanging a little bit of a bummer, but I thought she could tell that I had tried. Well, it turned out that she was so upset that afterward she felt she had to sit me down and tell me how disappointed she was.

I understand where she's coming from and I've resolved to do better, but now it's next December and I'm totally freaking out that I'm going to screw up again. I've been trying to find things for the last two weeks but each day we're one day closer to Christmas and I still don't have the perfect gift for her. What can I do to make sure I get her the perfect thing that won't make her disappointed in me? I'm really stressing out over this, and I'm dreading exchanging gifts this year.
Do you want your boyfriend to make a post like that in a year?
posted by dfan at 4:20 PM on December 29, 2012 [23 favorites]

On a practical level, I think your best option is to let it go and see how he gives gifts in the future. If he always gets you kind of thoughtless gifts and you really dislike it you'll have to address it one way or another, but it sounds like he's really thoughtful and might just have been overwhelmed this Christmas. I NEVER know what to get boyfriends for Christmas/birthdays when we've just started dating, it's such an awkward time, so I sympathize with him even though I love giving gifts.

I've had boyfriends in the past that were quite bad at buying gifts. It didn't mean that they didn't love me... but it did mean that they didn't feel pressured by society to always be thinking of others and how to make social situations and holidays as smooth and pleasure-producing for everyone else, as a lot of women are. Men get the pressure to find the "perfect, romantic" gift for anniversaries and whatnot, but in my experience they only deal with this pressure inconsistently, unlike women, who are I guess supposed to be always thinking about when to send a fruit basket, and what to cook for Christmas so every aunt and uncle and nephew and niece is satisfied, and the perfectly-kerned Thank You notes... or whatever. Gift giving is a complicated organizational process and social calculus, as anyone who has given a thoughtful gift probably realizes. I think a lot of women put a huge amount of social energy into orchestrating the perfect gift, and when their boyfriend doesn't have the skills or the patience for the same kind of socially graceful perfectionism, it not only hurts but makes you vaguely aware that there's a lot of internalized pressure on you to do something (perform feminine social graces) that will not be returned.

It's kind of like the sweater principle thing, where if you start knitting a sweater for your boyfriend for Christmas, the law is that he'll break up with you within the year. My personal theory about that is that women feel the pressure to be perfect and thoughtful and traditional and feminine and wifely or order to be loved and feel like they're "good" and worthy, and it's actually such a strangely dehumanizing pressure (the pressure of gender roles in general is!) that some form of alienation occurs and the relationship is dooooomed.

What I'm trying to get at is that if he just walks around in his daily life seeing things that he thinks you'll like and then buying and bringing them home to you, this is far more thoughtful than most people expect from their SO. And you buy him thoughtful gifts, and he likes them, and that's great-- but if it's more work and resentment than pleasure at any stage in your relationship you can always assess whether it's necessary and what you could do to remove that pressure. If you feel like you just "have" to always find the perfect gift, specifically for holidays, because that's what good daughters/mothers/grandmas/wives/girlfriends do, and what holds the social fabric together... men rarely feel this level of neurotic pressure over gift giving, it often disappoints, and you can always brainstorm ways to make the holidays more human for you and your loved ones.

(Idk, I'm not particularly feminine, but I for some reason adopted this pressure at some point in my life and it drove me a little crazy until I struck a healthy balance between buying thoughtful gifts and having appropriate expectations.)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:21 PM on December 29, 2012 [16 favorites]

Is there a polite way to tell your significant other that you absolutely hate the gifts you've received from them for holiday?
Well, I think there is, but there's no way to guarantee how the message is received or what the result would be. If your SO is "SO sensitive" I think a better idea is to be gracious this time, especially since days have passed since the gift giving. Next year, I'd suggest a wish list.

The fact is, he tried. That's why he said, "I don't even know if this is your style or not" - he took a risk (and sadly, failed), at which point you might have said, "actually my style is more ___, but thank you for thinking of me." Instead you decided I have a problem with how he didn't give a single bit of consideration to the things I'm interested in or like, which doesn't appear to be true. I mean, maybe he really just DGAF when he bought you these things, but since he suggested the gift giving, I doubt it.

I'm not being snooty for the reasons you'd think I would!
No, your reasons are exactly what I thought they'd be; you think that he owes you "better" gifts because [insert reasons].

It's alright and understandable to be disappointed, but I truly think you need to reframe.
posted by sm1tten at 4:21 PM on December 29, 2012

For some people it takes an incredible amount of effort to figure out what someone will like. It doesn't always show, especially at the start of a relationship when everyone is willing to work ridiculously hard all the time. But there is a large segment of the population that does care, but really doesn't do the "seeing it with someone else's eyes" thing at all efficiently. Buying "something exactly right" for your sister or mom is completely unlike buying something for your girlfriend-of-three-months.

(Plus, this is Christmas, which is orders of magnitude more stressful/risky than a birthday or random gift.)

I find providing a visual guide to be a nice, concrete way of helping someone like that figure out what to buy. Or just a wish list (I've got a few of these people in my family, including one person who doesn't realize that they don't understand what I'm thinking.)

I also find that there is absolutely no way to reject a gift politely, which is exactly what you're asking to do here. You may be able to school him on the matter of picking-out-perfect-gifts in a few months (I recommend the "I want to make sure your next gift is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, let's go on an Amazon.com wishing spree side-by-side" approach; I get better gifts when I beg people to tell me what they want.)

But don't do it soon, and don't frame it as having anything to do with this particular holiday experience.
posted by SMPA at 4:27 PM on December 29, 2012

My parents should know me...but they always get me the strangest things for Christmas...like clothes I would never imagine wearing, or things I'll never use...the list goes on. Yeah, I can be disappointed but I can't say anything. And they are my parents! I've known them all my life. But I'd never even dream of saying anything....if I want something different I'll hint at things or give them a list.

Honestly....I don't think you should say anything. I really don't think he is being malicious or has bad intentions. Some people just aren't that great at picking out perfect presents.
posted by christiehawk at 4:39 PM on December 29, 2012

I sometimes buy amazing, thoughtful, inspired gifts, or do amazing, thoughtful, inspired things for people. I know this, because people tell me this.

However, I do that when I find something amazing, or when I have a thoughtful inspiration, which I cannot -- CANNOT -- do on demand. So yes, I might give someone the perfect thing, or charm their socks off with the perfect gesture, but it almost never happens at those times (birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day) that it is supposed to. If I get lucky, I have an inspiration or amazing discovery close enough to an appropriate event that I can sit on it and give it then, but typically when such things happen, the timing is part of the moment, and so I can't wait that long.

So, is he an insensitive clod? Maybe. Or maybe this is a one-time thing because he was overwhelmed. Or maybe he was raised in a family that never gave inspired gifts on holidays, just token ones. Or maybe he's dysfunctional like me. Time will tell, and you can (halfway between Christmas and Valentine's Day) open the conversation by suggesting that you sometimes have difficulty finding the perfect gift, and asking what he does when he feels that way. It will help you learn more about him, at least.
posted by davejay at 4:42 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you make it through the next year, then round about November you can have a conversation where you say "Hey remember last Christmas when we first started going out? Dude those presents were awful ha ha ha. Now that you know me so much better, I expect happy presents."
posted by DarlingBri at 4:48 PM on December 29, 2012

If this hadn't been for Christmas, if he'd just gotten you a spontaneous present he thought you'd like, and it turned out that you didn't like it, would you be this worked up over it? If he had just shown up for a date one night and surprised you with an alien ice tray (which, seriously, awesome), would you be this hurt and upset? My guess is that you would not be, that you would say thanks and put the gift aside and not really think much about it. I think that the reason you're upset here is because it was Christmas and you had built it up in your head as THE TIME TO BUY SPECIAL GIFTS THAT SHOW WHETHER YOU'RE OMG PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER!!! You're not disappointed about the gifts; you're disappointed because you had a ton of expectations and hopes about the relationship, and in your head, the imperfection of the gifts is symbolizing some imperfection in how much he loves you or how well he knows you or how much potential the relationship has.

You've been dating this guy for three months, and he has--apparently multiple times--gotten you perfect gifts that you love, both on special occasions and just because he thought you would like them. He's a good guy. Let him off the hook for missing one. In fact, if he buys you a lot of gifts (and if, after three months, he's bought you more than one gift, that's A LOT of gifts), he's going to miss sometimes. Let it go. Enjoy your relationship.
posted by decathecting at 4:49 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Is it possible he bought you the necklace because HE liked it and wanted to see you in it? Because that's something guys do with girlfriends. Maybe he would like it to be your style?
posted by musofire at 5:07 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

If your reliationship is good in other respects, don't say anything. If it happens again, start being at least somewhat specific about what you'd like to receive. Or suggest that you two go shopping together, and you'll pick something out. I know, I really do, that it's not the same as a surprise gift he chose with you in mind. But in itself, it's not something to make an issue of. If you say your feelings were hurt: a sweet guy will feel bad, and an inattentive guy will get defensive. Neither of those reactions really helps.

If your relationship has an aspect that you're not happy with, bring that up.

I say all this as someone who'd had this experience: A week before Christmas, a boyfriend asked if I liked berets. I said that I almost never wear hats, and also that I didn't like berets for me. He gave me the beret for Christmas. I know how bad it feels -- but really, look to the future.
posted by wryly at 5:18 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being petty to feel bad, but there's no way to say how disappointed you are without it becoming more than it should be. If you grow into the kind of relationship where you can joke about how much he hates shopping and having to come up with a gift on demand, then great. If not, you can tell him you're trying to be helpful, and give him a very specific list of things that you'd be THRILLED to get. Not all of them, but any of them. And give him a list of things you really don't want. In advance. It took a while for me to influence my ex on this. We had a pretty open line of communication about it though - we had a running joke that he liked to buy me bowling balls with "homer" on it ;) But he kept on buying me stuff he thought I *should* like, and well, I kept being less than impressed. Eventually he got better about at least looking at my list ;)

I mean, I've had people ask me, later, if I "really" liked what they gave me, and I was able to diplomatically and sensitively convey that while it was gorgeous/hilarious/whatever, it wasn't really my style, and I liked it but didn't want their feelings hurt when I didn't use it, or something along those lines. But mostly... not. If I was lucky they noticed, eventually, that I never used whatever it was, and got the message, but that hardly ever happened.

You're getting told that you're wrong to feel this way and I don't agree. Even to the point of trying to convince you that no, he actually did great! And that's not right. He kinda blew it, you're disappointed, and that's not fun. But it doesn't have to be a big deal or a deal breaker. You're not in dtmfa territory. Just take some pre-emptive steps to avoid the disappointment in the future, even if it takes away a little of the surprise and magic.
posted by lemniskate at 5:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is it possible he bought you the necklace because HE liked it and wanted to see you in it? Because that's something guys do with girlfriends.

I was thinking this too, because I buy clothes for my boyfriend for holidays, and I do it because I like the clothes. They sometimes aren't things he'd choose for himself ("is this... a vest?") but he'll be like "aww you want to dress me up" or whatever and we're just silly and try to be kind about it. If he got me jewelry I didn't really like, I'd wear it on special occasions, or when we went out on a date to the theater together or something like that. If he asked if I didn't like it I'd say it was a bit outside my style but it reminds me of [holiday] and I like to wear it around him... which would be true.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:41 PM on December 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

I feel like there wasn't any effort put into the gifts and he just did it b/c he *had* to do it. Doing the gift exchange was his idea too!

It is possible he thought you'd actually like the things he got you. I think the alien ice cube tray is funny. I wouldn't necessarily want to own one, but if my boyfriend were to give that to me, I'd think that meant he thinks I have a sense of humor and have an appreciation for life's absurdities. I would try to put it to some kind of use - you know, a big alien ice cube in a punch bowl or something.

Why would you assume his gifts were thoughtless, when he actually asked you what you thought of the jewelry and you didn't complain about it? Maybe he saw it and immediately pictured you in it and thought it would look great on you, and when he showed it to you he just wanted to make sure you didn't hate it. Why not make an effort, wear it for him on a night out and see how it goes? It might not be that bad.

Also, considering this point:

I have a problem with how he didn't give a single bit of consideration to the things I'm interested in or like.

There've been points in my life where people who care about me have given me things related to stuff I'm interested in or like, and even some of those gifts have been things I really didn't want. You take what you get with a grateful "Thank you." Even if it's something you don't want, it doesn't mean they care about you any less.

Recommended reading on this topic, by David Sedaris: Understanding Owls: What does a gift say about the giver?
posted by wondermouse at 5:44 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Honestly? I feel really sorry for your boyfriend for having such a petty partner. Are you allowed to be disappointed? Sure. Your feelings are your feelings and we can't tell you how you should feel. Would it be wise/appopriate/classy/kind for you to tell your SO that he fucked up in your eyes? No, and woe betide you if you think your SO should unilaterally understand what you like after being together for just 3 months.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:03 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

My parents were married 41 years and I can't recall a Christmas where my mother did not telegraph "what was he thinking?" with presents she received from my dad. My dad meant well, but giving a 58 year old woman who has never played games and Xbox was a little weird. He tries so hard and just isn't good at the gift giving thing.

But they married just out of high school and had 41 great years together before her death. So, you can focus on the disappinting gifts but you are missing the forest for the avacado colored apliance trees.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you've only been together three months and he's already bought several thoughtful gifts, it's possible he's burned though his mental list of good things to give in future. I say that as someone who keeps great gift ideas at the back of their mind when they come up, but still doesn't have enough annually to service Christmas and birthdays for family even.
posted by comealongpole at 6:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

That is such a good point. I would be O-U-T of good gifts to give my dad for Christmas (he was already "the guy who doesn't want anything or need anything", but you have to get him something guy) because his birthday was in November.

But in your case, I do think you're nitpicking the shit out of this and choosing to take personal offense at it. Like he's insulted you by buying you gifts he found at the AM-PM at 6 p.m. on December 24. Which uh, he hasn't. He didn't guess what you wanted right. It happens. I can't get people's gifts right and guys have an even worse time of it because well, of people like you thinking stuff like this. Yes, he scored well with you in the past, yes, he scored well with other people this year, but he missed with you. It happens. Even Michael Jordan probably missed some shots.

Hell, my mom once bought me a copy of "He's Just That Not Into You" after asking me about the book and me saying I wasn't interested in it. Was I personally offended at her choice? More like annoyed, but shit, people have circumstances going on sometimes, and in her case it has just become too hard for her to pick out things for me to surprise me. She had that stuck in her brain, she forgot I didn't want it and got it anyway. Gifting causes drama. Let it go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:20 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been married for 22 years. I love my husband. He gives me crappy gifts. For some reason he just gets weird stuff. On a very few occasions I have gotten something awesome, so I figure he is trying. Not sure why most of the stuff is awful, but I still love him. FWIW, some of my gifts to him suck.
posted by fifilaru at 6:27 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I totally feel you. Off-the mark gifts can really rankle, especially in that they make you feel unseen ("see" in the Avatar-ish, "deeply understand" way). When I was a little kid, my parents got me this 'minerals of the Earth' kit; one of my friends told me that she heard through her mom that that was what I was getting and I didn't want it to be true, but it turned out to be. So I cried at my parents.

The consequence, of course, is that I selected my own holiday gifts for the rest of my childhood. Which was fine with me: I wasn't a communicative child, my parents didn't understand what I was into by dint of cultural / language barriers, etc. etc., and they were glad to be rid of the pressure, they who didn't understand why anyone would 'save up' all year and buy things at the end: why not just buy things you want as you need them?

By the other small gifts that your boyfriend has gotten you that you say /have/ been insightful and suitable, it might be that he is much better at the 'as it comes' style of gifting, and that buying with time constraints / marketing pressures messes him up. Stores conspire to this: they supply you with 'gift ideas' to the point of not being able to think of your own and these ideas are overwhelmingly generic. Also, it's a lot harder to shop for someone who's there with you!

Try to find out if the gift exchange was something he just wanted to try out, or if it's really important to him. [it could be his choice way of expressing his care for you, by the act of the gift, not the substance]. If it was just an experiment, don't suggest holiday gifts for each other next year, and keep appreciating the suitable things he spontaneously pops up with.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only appropriate response, ever, to receiving a gift, is 'thank you'. A gift is not a contract and it sounds like you believe it is.
posted by Pademelon at 6:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Some men seem to get weird pressure to give fancy jewelry to their SO, in a sort of "prove your love," "show her how precious she is to you with precious metals and stones," "diamonds are forever" way. (My bf's family is always advising him to buy me these totally unsuitable pieces of jewelry.) Your bf may share that opinion or have succumbed to it.
posted by salvia at 7:17 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

After only 3 months, I wouldn't expect anyone to know exactly what I like. In 3 months of gift-giving opportunities, frankly, he could have just gotten lucky at guessing what you liked before and flubbed it this time. And Christmas is a lot of added gift-giving pressure.

Almost 20 years into my mom and step-dad's marriage, he still returns half of the Christmas gifts she gives him. It's not that she doesn't try or doesn't know generally what he wants, but he's very particular (like she gets the Titanium Extra Cool Fishing Gear and it turned out he wanted the Titanium Extra Cool XL Fishing and Camping Gear, as made up examples).

If the dude is showing up with impulse buys from the gas station or Wal-Mart check-out line, then yeah maybe it's time for a sit-down on what's up with the crappy gifts. If he missed the mark a little, cut him some slack and find a better way to guide him towards the gifts you like (next gift-giving season, email him your Amazon wishlist...).
posted by asciident at 8:15 PM on December 29, 2012

What is your style of jewelry? Is it very delicate or very costumey? My mom loves costume jewelry with crazy turquoise. I've watched her for decades, and every time I think "this screams her", it never makes it into her rotation.

On the flip side, delicate quickly wanders into "serious relationship" signals. At three months, I'd worry about the cubic zirconian tennis bracelet in fear of that ten seconds she might think I bought her diamonds.

Jewelry is intimate. And in a relationship, it's wrought with signals that limit choices. He took a huge leap deciding to go so traditional so soon. I imagine the other two gifts were picked for their jokiness to soften the societal implications of buying your girlfriend jewelry.

It also sounds like you're with him enough to even run errands together. It's hard to search for the perfect gift when you're always there. Did you love any of the jewelry he pointed out? Were the pieces you liked much more expensive or romantic? Did you loudly hate other jewelry more, and a shrug was high praise?

You're starting with your gut lizard reaction, which is unpleasant and petty and human. You seem fixated on trying to create a narrative that absolves you from being in the wrong. Your feelings are not wrong. You don't like a gift and you're going to feel sad. You're sad because you thought you were losing him, and you care enough you don't want that to happen.

So don't dwell on it. He cares enough to get a gift. He thought he knew you well enough to pick out jewelry. He's with you so much he couldn't even buy your gift without you. And there's nothing in the last three months to show that he doesn't get you. In fact, he's so in tune with you, you couldn't believe he wouldn't know the perfect gift. That's a lot of good to dwell on.
posted by politikitty at 11:08 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My parents are happily married for over 30 years and sometimes, their gifts for each other *are* thoughtful and well meant, and still hated. For example, this year, my dad bought my bookworm-mom a Kindle - a thought that had crossed my mind, too. We were both certain she'd be all over it. Turns out "we could have known she enjoys not only reading, but also looking at her huge bookshelf, the smell of new books" and basically everything else about real books.

Maybe he just misread some of your hints - it happens.
posted by MinusCelsius at 11:11 PM on December 29, 2012

I think this problem you're having says a lot about how you give gifts, and perhaps something you should be up front about. "Gift-giving is a very meaningful thing to me." That said, yeah, you should have reacted.
posted by rhizome at 11:22 PM on December 29, 2012

He'll perhaps notice that you never wear the necklace, never use the ice cube tray, or don't have the mirror out for use. If he asks about them later, it is then you may mention you appreciated the thought, but it's not really your style (then change the topic).
posted by ergo at 1:48 AM on December 30, 2012

This time last year I had been dating my current boyfriend for less than two months. Even though we'd known each other as friends for several years before we started dating, the Christmas gifts we chose for each other sucked. We were both so paralyzed with fear about getting the wrong thing that we played it far too safe and got each other really boring gifts.

This Christmas, after a happy year of dating, we got each other a whole swag of really awesome, thoughtful gifts. (Well, I can't speak for him but I was really thrilled with the gifts he got me - many of which he'd noticed me admiring or remembered me mentioning throughout the year).

So I think you should give it time - three months is not that long at all, and the early stages of a relationship can be a really fraught time for gift-giving. You don't want to look as though you've tried to hard or spent too much money, and you want to give something personal but aren't 100% sure what that personal thing might be - it's really tough. I can see why he would have thrown his arms up and just grabbed some random things in a panic at the last minute.
posted by RubyScarlet at 4:53 AM on December 30, 2012

And he knows exactly what I like.

I could not say anything like that about anyone I knew for three months. Seriously, you guys hardly know each other, much less what you both "like." The people for whom I can see something in a store and think, "she would love this" are people I have known for years. And as everyone elsehas pointed out in this thread, sometimes that's no guarantee.
posted by deanc at 1:27 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Over three months he's already had chances to give you gifts, other than the holidays? Have you been giving him little spontaneous gifts too, or was the official gift exchange the only time?

Either way, I would consider them all together as your Christmas gifts! It sounds like he does better with spontaneity, where he knows when he sees something that you will like but doesn't know how to go *find* something that you will like. Under pressure to buy you a gift by (deadline), if nothing has jumped out at him recently, he may be more inclined to get the first OK thing he sees rather than risk having nothing.
posted by Lady Li at 2:50 PM on December 30, 2012

Does he know how much you dislike an impersonal gift? Not everyone feels the way you do about receiving gifts. He may feel that any decent gift fulfills the basic requirement. He understands that a personal gift is appreciated more, but that doesn't mean he knows that a decent-but-impersonal gift is not good enough for you. Seems like he doesn't know this, so you should tell him.
posted by conrad53 at 9:14 AM on December 31, 2012

I think people are being a little harsh here, so I wanted to chime in and say that I totally understand how you feel. I LOVE giving presents. I love finding little surprises that are just right for all the people I know, I love seeing their surprise and delight when they see what the present is, etc. I know "giving gifts" isn't technically one of the five love languages, but it is totally one of mine. In the past, that has been a problem for me, because the corollary to "I buy you amazing presents to show I am listening when you talk and I want to make you happy and I think about you when I find funny things you would like" can easily become "therefore when you give me something crappy, that means you hate me and you wish I was dead."

Obviously, that is a false equivalency, but it took me a long time (read: my entire adolescence) to stop crying in my room after Christmas mornings where no one had given me a single present that wasn't from my "these are things I explicitly want" list. They shouldn't have to look at the list, I would think. They should know me well enough!!!!!!!

This, of course, is ridiculous, but it can be hard to shut down that line of thinking. When my instinct is to perceive a gift as thoughtless (which is what stings the most-- it isn't about money or style or anything except the sudden sense that the person I love apparently knows me as well as a complete stranger, despite, in some cases, daily conversation), I have to remind myself that a lot of people hate giving gifts, or prefer to show their love and affection in other ways, or procrastinate and make panic buys, or worry that the gifts they want to give will seem too serious too fast (ahem early in dating relationship ahem), or pick out things they like in the hopes the recipient will agree, or regift to be green, or any one of a million other things.

So no, you can't tell him he failed and must do better. You need to stop assuming that the meaning you subconsciously embed in every gift you give is somehow therefore missing from the ones you get, and look for that kind of care in other forms of interaction.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2012

Coming to this late....

I was there at the shop when he bought the necklace and the mirror. He showed them to me and I had no reaction towards them. I was a bit shocked to say the least when I unwrapped the paper to see them.

Erm, the fact that you had no reaction could be understood as "okay, great, she doesn't hate them!" You said you had no reaction, but I also note that you didn't say you didn't like them. So in the absence of a clear "I don't like them" from you, it's not that surprising you got them. "No reaction at all" is actually not that clear an indicator of like or dislike.

Also, not everyone has 100% perfect gift-fu. Sometimes people that have known you for years can give you something completely bizarre - one of my very best friends sometimes gives me spot-on perfect things (this really awesome necklace once - it wouldn't have been something I'd have picked for myself, but I tried it on and was all, "hey, wait, that DOES work for me, wow!") and sometimes she gives me mind-bogglingly odd gifts (this year for my birthday, she sent me a cake slicer that has a doohickey in the handle where you press a button and it plays one of four different songs). And it's been that way for 30 years. But that is just who she is, and it is somehow even more endearing that way because I can tell how hard she's trying.

He's trying. Let it go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on April 15, 2013

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