Need awesome gift ideas for a girlfriend who is upset with me
July 25, 2013 9:54 PM   Subscribe

I bought my girlfriend an accessory for her phone on amazon a few days ago and it came in the mail yesterday. So this morning, I say "I have a surprise for you!" to which she replies "is it my accessory?" I said in a sarcastic fashion naaaah of course not! I joke like this all the time. Now she had a particularly awful day today. And when I saw her this evening, I gave her the accessory and said surprise! Normally when I do this I get "the look" and she teases me. But she was really upset. Perhaps she thought my surprise was something that would make her feel better from her particularly awful day. Now it wasn't the immature upset, but more of a disappointed, you're not in touch with my feelings upset. So I'd like to do something really sweet for her and/or give her a real surprise. Something out of the box. Ideas?
posted by FireStyle to Human Relations (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's lovely of you to want to do something nice for her, but I just want to say -- it sounds like you already did something very nice by ordering her an accessory for her phone. Assuming she really is upset and you weren't just reading into the look she gave you, why does she expect you to be responsible for fixing her awful day? That's not fair to you, and it doesn't sound like a healthy relationship dynamic.

Anyway, to answer your question, it might be helpful to know exactly what made her day so awful. That could guide you toward a thoughtful present. Was it a very stressful day? Then book her in at a spa. Was it a bad day because someone spilled wine on her new cashmere sweater? Surprise her with a gift certificate to her favorite clothing store. Did her day suck because she was bored out of her mind by tedious, rote tasks at work? Go on Travelzoo or Groupon and look for some nearby excursion or adventure you two can do together to break up the humdrum routine. You get the picture.
posted by artemisia at 10:02 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think she's probably not upset with you specifically, but is instead subconsciously using you as something of a scapegoat for her emotions after a particularly bad day. She is (I'm assuming) a grown up. She knows better than to do that after you've already done something nice for her. Don't go overboard here now that's she's been semi-rude to you here, even if she's had a bad day.

With that in mind, I would first ask her what she wants rather than try to surprise her again. Perhaps you could say, "Hey, I know that you had a really crummy day today, and I want to make that better. What could I do for you that would help erase how lousy everything was?" And if she says she doesn't know, THEN you can say, "Okay, I would like to surprise you with something other than that accessory for your phone, unless you would prefer that I hang back a bit, in which case please say so. No? Okay. BRB!" And then you can scamper off and come up with something excellent. But ask her first.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:02 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Something out of the box.

You know, I'd just play this one really straight and send her flowers at work. They are lovely to receive, I promise - unless she hates flowers.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:09 PM on July 25, 2013 [39 favorites]

If your girl got pissed at your "sarcastic joking" when she had had a crappy day,it's a pretty good sign that she probably doesn't find it only endearing the rest of the time. Doesn't help you right now, but maybe a nice long term present would be to tone that down a bit? Friendly teasing can wear after a while, especially if it's mainly your communication style
posted by Iteki at 10:11 PM on July 25, 2013 [40 favorites]

I think flowers are lovely and a message that says, sorry you had a crappy day, rather than apologising for doing something wrong.

Or a homemade dinner is very thoughtful.
posted by Youremyworld at 10:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Here's the surprise.

Tell her that you love her. Then say that it seems like she is angry at you and you want to learn what that is, so that you can work towards not doing it again.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify, i don't think she was as upset with me, as much as it was the straw that broke the camel's back. she's amazing and we have a very healthy relationship. just super stressed today. that react was definitely out of the norm.
posted by FireStyle at 10:14 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

It could be that even though you joked with her sarcastically, she kind of believed you when she said it wasn't the accessory that was the surprise. That coupled with the bad day, may have made her disappointed slightly.

I kind of agree with These Birds of a Feather -- don't go nuts just because she's been rude. It sets bad precedent.

Anyway when I have a bad day, the following things make me smile:

- a sweet email telling me what I mean to them at work
- a text message, even with they, 'hey, I love you so smile, ok? :)' spontaneously.
- a really really thoughtful gift that indicates they were listening to me babble about my interests. (Like an iron-man figurine or some cute stationery)
- plays me a song / draws me a cute picture (something creative)
- cleans the house / cooks something lovely for me
- just general love and understanding and lots of hugs and a bit more attention than usual.

I'm assuming it's an iphone? Maybe an itunes card, or something like that would cheer her up, too.

If someone has been thoughtless, the only remedy is to be thoughtful.
posted by Dimes at 10:18 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you need to buy her a gift. It sounds like she just had a rough day.

However, I do think it would be nice if you did something sweet and totally not at all sarcastic or snarky or "made ya look" or "psych!". If it were me, I'd want a back rub and a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe someone else would want a cup of hot cocoa, or a bad reality TV marathon, or Chinese takeout, or kitten pictures. You know your girlfriend. Whatever it is she wants when she feels crappy, do that.

And for chrissakes, don't ASK her what she wants or turn it into some kind of chore or tit for tat. That'll just make her crankier. Make it a simple unsolicited gesture done only out of kindness. And nothing big or dramatic.
posted by Sara C. at 10:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [27 favorites]

Favorite treat such as cookies from her favorite bakery, gelato from her favorite gelato place or any other thing that is sweet and comforting is a great place to start!
posted by dottiechang at 10:47 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would give her a day for it to sink in that you already did something nice with the accessory, then maybe take her out to dinner tomorrow night if she's still under the weather.
posted by rhizome at 11:04 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

My vote would be for making her some tea and drawing her a hot bath. Something small but personal and pampering, rather than a thing or even an event she has to primp for.
posted by softlord at 11:32 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's so sweet of you to recognize this and want to surprise her. Without knowing you or your partner it's hard to tell what stuff that is "out of the box" would work and what might flop. Personally I love action gifts better than trinkets so something like a bottle of wine and a foot rub would be appreciated the most especially if work was rough. Good luck!
posted by HMSSM at 11:51 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not as if you misfired on established gift etiquette. The problem is that you feel that you may have inadvertently disappointed her/exacerbated a blue mood.

So, instead of bending over backward to fix a non-error, maybe just respond to the actual issue? Like "hey, you, I just got you [item] because I wanted to do a nice thing for you, and I feel like it kinda fell flat, so I'm sorry, and hang on schmoopy wubbing you, smooches, yeah?" (In your own words, of course.)
posted by desuetude at 11:57 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Put a short love note in the pocket of something she might wear tomorrow or her purse.
Make breakfast or fancy coffee in the morning before work.
Pack her a crazy yummy lunch with love notes in it.
Send her a small gift from from amazon or something to her work if that's allowed.
Get a little spa kit like a bath fizzer ball, face mask and a bath sheet.
posted by HMSSM at 12:00 AM on July 26, 2013

And while its true what everyone says, you don't have to get her something, I think it's great that you want to. Little surprises when you are having a rough day/week are great. Relationships work best when everyone is playing with each other, not against and getting a little surprise every now and then can be a fun, sweet reminder that your on the same side.
posted by HMSSM at 12:05 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Put the BBC's Pride and Prejudice DVD on the telly. Cue it up to Episode 5. Make a nice pot of tea and some cucumber sandwiches on thin white bread slices, put them on a tray in front of her. Press Play. That works for me after a tough day.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:11 AM on July 26, 2013

when I have a crappy day nothing makes me happier than my boyfriend making us pancakes for dinner. sometimes he buys flowers to put on the table too so when I get home there are flowers AND pancakes all on the same table.

if your girlfriend is not sated with flowers and pancakes then I would start seriously considering that she is a robot and/or not of this planet.
posted by kerning at 12:24 AM on July 26, 2013 [16 favorites]

I always used to love getting little unexpected notes (love letters, cards, vilely obscene and funny limericks, thoughtful little kindnesses) from the guy I was with, back in the ancient days before I became grizzly and woggled.

A sweet thought, lovingly expressed, is more important than a thing.
posted by jrochest at 12:36 AM on July 26, 2013

I said in a sarcastic fashion naaaah of course not! I joke like this all the time.

IMHO quietly deciding to not do this anymore would be sweeter and more considerate than all the flowers and jewelry in the world, but YMMV.

That said, the best gift is a trip somewhere, even just for a day. Plan it for her or with her, depending on her preference. Gives her something to look forward to, and an experience to share with you, and a happy memory.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:00 AM on July 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

I agree thta you shouldn't go overboard with this one. A small simple gesture would mean the most. Warm up jammies and a blanket in the drier for her to snuggle in. (this works better in the winter, but personally I like it all year round...) Make her a nice supper and take care of all the cleaning up afterwards. Draw her a bath, light some candles, and pour her a glass of wine. Stuff like that. GIFTS, as in items purchased, often have much less emotional value than gestures in circumstances such as this. I know in the past when I have had a properly grumpy awful day and my boyfriend bought me something to "cheer me up" it felt more like he was trying to buy a better mood girlfriend. It felt like he didn't care so much about how I was feeling or WHY I was feeling that way, but instead he was just throwing money at it to hurry along the return of his normally happy girlfriend. By comparison, when I'm having a bad day now my fiance asks me how I'm feeling and lets me talk about it for a bit BUT won't let me go on and on about it in a big "WOE IS ME!" pity party. He asks me "Are you in no-touch mode or extra affection mode?" because he knows that sometimes when I am grumpy I want to be left alone, but other times I want a lot of touching and physical affection. Sometimes he do one of my chores for the night for me.

and I agree that maybe cool it with the pysch out teasing stuff. A lot of people do that and I frankly haven't met anyone who actually finds it endearing or fun. It is sort of like when your awkward uncle does the "Got Your Nose" thing. You laugh to be polite.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:37 AM on July 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think a series of little awesome things (low value, but showing care) through a day or two would be great. My husband is the king at this. I recommend:

- Note left for her in the morning, blending silly with serious. Like "you're so great I drew you a picture of a giraffe, look it's battling all those idiots at work with a laser gun!" Extra points for use of highlighters, stickers etc. Also nice to leave notes somewhere non-obvious, so day 2, for example, leave on welcome mat so she gets to smile when coming back home from possibly crappyday.

- Small gift of something you know she's been talking about or loves for evening together. If I'm buying for my husband this is always some form of food. Last time, he got me some cuticle cream as I'd been ranting about nails or something.

- Household sorting: tidy something, clean something - you know her priorities

- Nice dinner, probably something comforting

- Offer pampering: candlelit bath, foot rub, marathon of her favourite TV or films already set up ready to go

- Flowers you KNOW she likes (there may have been a "why did you buy me funeral flowers???!! DEATH LILIES???!!" incident at tariumHQ)

- On day 2 or 3, ie when she's bit less in the stress zone, ask what you can do to help her be less stressed. When work goes super stressful in my house, we talk about trading off general household stuff to make things easier on each other. For my husband, I'll take no questions asked responsibility of laundry, tidying, providing sugary nice things. For me, he takes on organising social life and family stuff.

Key message for all of them is "I notice you are super stressed right now, I'm here to help". You don't need to apologise or make up for the phone accessory gift - it was a lovely thing to do - but you're working from her reaction that other things are afoot or she's more stressed than perhaps either of you realised before. You may well get an apology from her as she realises she's not fighting the stress monster alone, she's in an awesome team.
posted by thetarium at 4:57 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

N-thing everyone else suggesting stuff like cleaning/bath/making dinner/treats to help reduce her stress and take the sting out of a shitty day.
posted by kavasa at 6:03 AM on July 26, 2013

One of the nicest things my partner ever did for me when I was feeling grumpy was to make up a silly little personalized 'Choose-Your-Own-Adventure' story by slipping notes into the book I'd been reading (starting with the page my bookmark was in). It was so unexpected and charming, and made me feel very loved - lifted me right out of my bad day.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:16 AM on July 26, 2013

When I have a crappy day, the best anecdote my boyfriend can give me is ordering a pizza and watching a stupid movie/tv show I like and sit on my couch.

I think the best kind of gift in these situations is something kind of indulgent that she wouldn't necessarily buy for herself. My boyfriend is really good at these sort of gifts. Beyond pizza (which is AWESOME), he has also gotten me: games for my iphone/ipad that he knew I wanted but wouldn't want to spend the money on, giftcards to a spa, more RAM and a new harddrive for my computer (okay maybe not indulgent, but he knew how to fix something that was frustrating me). Oh, and once he baked me a cake that was in the shape of a cat and covered in pink icing. It is possible to continue having a bad day when someone has shown how much they love you via hilarious baked goods? Probably not.
posted by inertia at 6:21 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to nth the suggestions to cool it with the sarcasm. But for a slightly different reason than others have given.

You are saying things to her that you don't mean. And she's having to spend energy parsing which things you do mean. This sucks all the time, because it's a constant (usually subconscious) doubt. It doubly sucks at the end of a shitty day when one's emotional and rational reserves are taxed. She wants you to be a "shelter in the storm" and you are not.

Her doubt is fodder for your humor.

In the short term, and only if you plan to give up the sarcasm, order some flowers to her workplace, have a nice meal ready (if you don't cook, go with delivery you know she likes), and apologize sincerely for being inconsiderate and screwing around with the truth. Explain to her that you understand it hurts her feelings and damages her trust (however slightly) when you tell tiny seemingly inconsequential lies. Ask her to help you break the habit of snarkiness, but not in a way that makes it her job to fix you.

If you don't plan to give up the sarcasm (lots of people get all "free speech" here, which...I don't even), do her a favor and explain to her directly that you're going to keep making shitty cutting remarks and she can decide whether that's a foundation she wants to continue building on.
posted by bilabial at 6:29 AM on July 26, 2013 [27 favorites]

posted by DMelanogaster at 7:12 AM on July 26, 2013

Nthing reducing sarcasm; nthing leaving notes for her to find - sometimes just knowing someone is on your side and thinks you're cool is enough to brighten your day.

I'd caution against cleaning/cooking as your "gift" - while it is certainly nice to have a clean house and a warm meal, it implies that these are things that are normally her responsibility and you doing it is somehow a favor to her. [In an upset/frustrated mind] this can also be interpreted as "you're also not pulling your weight around here, and now I have to step in to do all the work." Yes, it's irrational, but it can happen. (raises hand sheepishly)

Let her know you love her, leave her a note to find in her bag or as soon as she gets home, listen to her about her shitty day, say you understand, without offering any solutions.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:16 AM on July 26, 2013

(I just read your post again, after posting "Flowers" to replace a response that I think revealed my misunderstanding of the situation.)

okay, you told her you had a surprise for her. She guessed it was the accessory. She guessed because, I assume, you had already told her that you ordered it -- right? (how else would she have known? or maybe you had discussed it but not told her?) Anyway, now you say you have a surprise for her, when really it's not a surprise, because it was the obvious thing you'd have gotten her. Now, the important part is that the reason she guessed out loud that it was the phone accessory was to attempt tospare herself the humiliation of thinking her boyfriend has bought her something wonderful that she wasn't expecting -- but you then *deny* that it's the accessory, thus depriving her of this shame-saving maneuver that she wishes she didn't have to do toi protect herself but, knowing that she has a sarcastic boyfriend, she *has* to do, because she can't ever trust thinking that he just might be telling the truth (that's it *not* the accessory, and that he *has* bought her something wonderful and surprising), and she resents this!

So you did a double-whammy on her. And that is why she went bezerk (to ward off her feelings of humiliation, she turned to rage.)

So, yeah, flowers.

Oh, and yes, cleaning and cooking are not enough, because you should be doing those anyway, and neither is saying "I love you," because that's not a present either; that's a given, one hopes.

A present is EXTRA.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:24 AM on July 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'll tell you the truth, when I'm cranky, most of these gifts would just make me feel worse because when someone does something nice for you, there is a sense of pressure or obligation to enjoy it, and be grateful, and stop being cranky. It's largely about filling a need for the giver, and as the reciever, that can be exhausting. When I'm cranky, I often just want to be left the hell alone for a while. I don't know if your gf is the same, but it's something to think about. (The hot bath, IMO, was the best one for this, but the other thing is that if she is cranky, and you try to give her something that she doesn't want, it's just going to annoy her. So if she doesn't feel like a bath, it might not work).

I think letting it go, or maybe asking her "is there anything I can do to help you have a better day", is probably your best option.
posted by windykites at 7:25 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I know you want to be clever, but that's more about YOU than it is about soothing HER.

Go with something nice that you know that SHE would enjoy. Flowers at work is an excellent idea because it's a public display of your affection and if you do it on Friday, she can bring them home to enjoy.

Or, a nice flower arrangement, a small box of exquisite chocolates at home are also traditional displays of affection.

I'd even voice it in a formal apology, "I'm sorry that my joke bummed you out yesterday. I should have been more considerate of your shitty day. I decided to make it up to you." Then give her a nice kiss.

I agree, you don't have to do anything spectacular, but acknowledging what it was that you did will let her know that you get it. And really, that's the biggest gift of all.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:25 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Isn't this why flowers are sold?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:35 AM on July 26, 2013

Sorry so many people here keep attacking your girlfriend and making her out to be a huge b just because she was a little disappointed after getting her hopes up that you had a surprise to make her bad day better. It's super sweet of you to want to make that up to her, regardless of whether you did anything really wrong in the first place. As someone whose mood regularly bounces around from laid back and extremely tolerant of my husband's teasing and sarcastic nature to exhausted and "just-don't-fuck-with-me-tonight-please," I can tell you that one of the things that makes me feel the best is when he shows me nothing but empathy and love even when I know I'm being a little bitchy. It always makes me pause and notice how lucky I am to have someone that understanding... Someone who gives me a hug and then offers to get me a glass of wine and do the dishes right after I've been short with him. When a girl is stressed, reminding her that her relationship with you is secure by not holding her mood against her gives her one less thing to worry about, and she'll be grateful for it. So in my opinion, you're on the right track by not looking at it the same way as the people here telling you not to reward her rudeness with a gift, as if that would encourage more of it. It won't.

As for gift ideas... One more vote for comfort food at home and/ or chores. My husband once put together a platter with several types of fancy cheeses, crackers, dates, and fresh berries, and had a chilled bottle of sparkling wine and the next season of Mad Men set up on the TV when I got home one Friday after a particularly long week... But even just cleaning the kitchen and making spaghetti while she enjoys some time to herself would be awesome. When she's stressed, the key is to try to remove four things from her day: Tricks/ teasing, tasks, clutter, and judgment.
posted by lmpatte2 at 7:41 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I've had a day where I've been overwhelmed, I usually want to come home and do nothing, none of my usual chores (dinner, dishes, laundry, whatever). I especially hate to do the chores that I hate to do, but need to be done for some reason (In my case it's vacuum/clean the floors, or iron clothes). So maybe relieve her of some everyday burden, so that she can relax.

Foofy foofy stuff like a nice bath with candles, etc, doesn't really count in my mind if I have to get out of the bath and then get on with doing my chores (or if I can't relax in the bath because I am thinking of everything I need to do when I get out and dammit I should just get out now so I can get it done...).

Good for you for being thoughtful about this, and not being pissed that she was not appreciative enough of your original surprise. I accept that as proof that you do indeed have a healthy relationship.
posted by vignettist at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2013

How about one of those tiny carvel cakes, and have "This day is over!" written on it in icing.
posted by Katine at 8:18 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sometimes, the best gift my husband can give me when I've had a crappy day is the space to be cranky and grumpy. If he tries to give me a surprise or anything more than just a hug and kiss, it feels like he's trying to jolly me out of my mood, which makes me feel obligated to cheer up or snap out of it now that he's performed the correct ritual, which ends up making me even grumpier and crankier.

Not saying that this is the best way to interact your girlfriend, but it's a possibility. You'll need to ask her .
posted by telophase at 10:20 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like your girlfriend is getting exasperated with your joking, and her snapping at you was to put you on notice that you need to dial it back and just be a nice kind partner, especially when she's having a rough time. I don't think some performanc-y "out of the box" surprise is going to be useful here.

Nice, kind things include flowers, foot rubs, taking care of dinner so there's no work for her to do (i.e. something simple, maybe with paper plates instead of getting the kitchen dirty.) And possibly letting her know that you didn't mean to be annoying and you love her and are sorry she had a crappy day.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:42 AM on July 26, 2013

Expectations are dangerous! I think what happened here is that when your girlfriend guessed it was the phone accessory and you said no, she got excited about the prospect of a surprise. If she was having a shitty day, she probably spent some time day dreaming about what the surprise could be and used it as something to look forward to after work. And then - it turns out the surprise isn't a surprise at all, it's the thing she guessed that morning and felt disappointed.

I don't think that makes your girlfriend a bitch - in fact she probably feels bad about the way she reacted. And you sound like a lovely guy - sometimes these things just happen in relationships.

For me, the most meaningful thing my boyfriend could do after something like this would be to totally acknowledge my feelings. It sounds really small but simply saying "Hey, I know you had a terrible day and I understand why you felt disappointed about the phone thing after I told you that wasn't the surprise. Your guess threw me off guard and I really wanted it to be a surprise - I wasn't trying to trick you and I'm sorry it made your bad day worse." You don't need to agree with her feelings or reaction - you just need to show her you understand. This is a total Mars/Venus thing but it is really important to me and to most girls I know, even the lowest maintenance ones.

If you want to take it one step further, give her a surprise then or the following week. Send her flowers at work (if flowers aren't her thing, something else that she would enjoy. If she has a pinterest page you could get some good ideas there - it doesn't need to be pricey, just thoughtful. Maybe just a card!) Or cook her favorite meal and have it ready when she gets home from work with candles lit and music playing. One of my absolute favorite things my boyfriend does is ask me to slow dance with him when it's just the two of us, for no particular reason at all.
posted by Bokonon11 at 4:29 PM on August 6, 2013

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