Posts Tagged ‘love


christmas hints

Reader M. T. writes:

As a woman, I make a study of my awesome man’s needs and get him the most appropriate thing(s) for his birthday or Christmas. He of course loves it, but he skips out on reciprocating and makes up for it with a nice dinner. In the past I’ve talked him into buying me something sexy, so he gets a benefit too, yeah – he likes it… But bottom line, I’m telling him what to get me. Those two times a year I would love to be surprised with something he took time to think about that fits me and my needs to a tee. Since he’s generous, protective, responsible and sensitive to me, should I just let this go? Or is there a way he could learn to gift to me that would boost both of our good feelings about ourselves and our relationship?

Dear M.T.:

It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship, so congrats.

One thing about wonderful relationships is that we forget that they can evolve and change, and that there is always room for improvement. Asking your significant other to try something new is not a sign that your relationship is falling apart, or that you should break up, or anything like that. In fact, introducing new aspects to an old relationship can bring back the spice, if you know what I’m saying. It’s part of intimacy — sharing and growing together.

a surprise

What could it be?? Image: Suat Eman /

I think you should talk to your man about how you’d like to be surprised. Do it gently, of course — assure him that you love the dinners and you love him and you don’t want him to change (just his Christmas process). Tell him that you would just like him to try surprising you, maybe even just this once, for Christmas or your birthday. Tell him he’s known you long enough to take a stab at what you’d like without you having to tell him, and that you’ll like whatever he gets you.

And of course, then you really do have to like whatever he gets you.

Encourage him to go on impulse when he’s out shopping for you. Tell him just to get the first thing that comes to mind and surprise you with it. If you want to be extra nice, you could drop hints the week beforehand, such as: “Wow, those rings at that store are gorgeous.” OR “You know, I still don’t own a red lace bra.” True, you’re technically telling him what you want, although it’s less direct than telling him “Go to Victoria’s Secret and get me the Very Sexy Push Up Bra in a 36C.”

Buying gifts can be a stressful experience. As I’ve said before, we buy gifts for people because we think we know them and want to show this off. He may not be confident in his gift-buying abilities, and you’re going to have to convince him that those abilities are good enough for you, regardless of how he uses them.

Furthermore, if there’s any kind of financial strain going on in his world, you should take great pains to empathize and let him know it’s the thought that counts. He may have been dodging the present-buying bullet because he doesn’t feel he could get you a present worth as much in money as he feels you’re worth in love (or something similarly corny, sorry). If he can’t get you anything more than a ring from a Cracker Jack box, you should take it with a grain of salt. (And FYI – rings from Cracker Jack boxes are extremely romantic, especially if you’ve seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.)

He may have any number of reasons for not getting you surprise presents in the past. But, just like with other relationship things (like sexual preferences), talking about it can only increase your intimacy.

Remember, he may have no clue that this is bothering you. In fact, he will probably be completely and totally surprised that you feel shortchanged by his lack of gift-giving. Make sure you’re not accusatory when you bring it up. Use “I feel” statements, not “you never” statements. This is, technically, you’re problem. If he had a problem with it, he’d be trying to change it.

And you should also keep in mind that he may never learn the skill of gift buying. He might be willing to try it once because you ask him to, but he may never be able to come up with ideas on his own. Some people just aren’t gifters.

Therein lies what is probably my best advice in this matter:

I may have mentioned this before, but there is some theory out there somewhere (told to me and a group of impressionable teenagers by a youth pastor at some point) that human beings show love in one of several ways: spending time, acts of service, physical love, talking, and/or gift-giving. So people who show love by spending time will just show up and hang out with you, or make plans to do so. People who are talkers will call you. People who do service will unload your dishwasher or rake your lawn.

On the flip side, these people will also think you love them if you do their love-show right back.

It’s a nice idea to observe your partner and figure out how he shows his love, because that is how he will understand love from you, too. It sounds to me like he’s a time-spender/service-type (hence the nice dinners). He may also be a physical type. (NB: “sex” is not the same as  “physical love” in this sense — physical affection types are the ones who give and receive hugs openly and love holding hands, etc. Most men like sex. That doesn’t mean they all interpret physical affection as love. And neither do all women.) So keep in mind that while you interpret giving gifts to him as a show that you’ve been paying attention and love him, he may not interpret it in the same way.

Suggest to him that you two can learn to show love for each other in different ways. You’re a gift-giver and therefore a gift-receiver, so it means a lot to you to get surprises. He’s a time-spender, so it means a lot to him to plan things together, and you’re willing to do more of that if need be.

If you two can both study each other’s methods of showing affection and try to craft your own skills to match your partner’s, you’ll be in good shape. Better shape, I should say, since you’re already in good shape.

Just make sure it’s not a one-sided attempt at improvement, or one or the other of you is going to get resentful at having to do all the work.


the right gift for the new her

Reader Z. N. writes:

You talked about what to get your new mother-in-law for the holidays, but what about a new girlfriend? If you’ve only been dating a few weeks or months, what’s the expected gift from new boyfriend?

Dear Z.N.:

Expectations vary from girl to girl and from relationship to relationship. I don’t know your GF, so I can’t tell you if she’d prefer a book to a pair of earrings or bath salts.

a present!

Image: Francesco Marino /

There are other factors that go into what you get a lady for Christmas or Hanukkah beyond how long you’ve been together. For instance, how serious are you two? I know you said she’s your girlfriend, so I’m assuming you two have had the exclusivity talk at least. If you’ve only been “dating”, and aren’t exclusive, a nice card and a flower or special candy or something is probably fine. If you’ve only been hooking up, I don’t even know if I’d advise giving her that much. It depends on how much further you want the relationship to go. Giving someone a gift or card at the holidays means, “I care about you and want to continue getting to know you better.” Giving something to a hook-up could give a signal that you’re interested in more, so be careful with that.

Furthermore, if you guys were friends for a long time before you started dating, you might be more serious with each other than a girl you’ve just met. You probably also know a lot more about her, and buying a present should be that much easier for you.

While I can’t say for certain what your lady friend would like or what’s totally appropriate, I do have a few tips to steer you clear of asshole boyfriend territory:

Get her something. Anything.

I could say that if you’ve only been dating for a few weeks, she probably isn’t expecting anything for the holidays. But that would be a lie. Even if a girl says she doesn’t expect you to get her something for the holidays, and even if you’ve only been dating for a day, GET HER SOMETHING FOR THE HOLIDAYS. I don’t care if it’s a single rose from the gas station down the street or a box of wine, you give her SOMETHING. Same goes for birthdays. Otherwise, you’re that asshole boyfriend who couldn’t be bothered to get creative. Trust me on this one.

Don’t get her something you want.

Apparently guys do this all the time. It’s probably something you won’t have to worry about until later on in the relationship (i.e. when you’re actually living together), but it’s something you should check yourself for anyway. My major advice here: Avoid electronic equipment unless she has specifically asked for it. A pair of nice headphones? Okay, not a bad idea, especially if she’s been complaining that her earbuds are busted. A new Wii controller because you play Wii a lot at her place? Mehhhhh that’s not very personal. Even if you play Wii together, that could be seen as veering more into “I’m a guy and I will use this” territory. The reason we give gifts is to show people that we’re thinking of them, not of ourselves. Keep that in mind.

Don’t spend too much.

If you give her diamond earrings after your first two weeks together, you’re setting the bar pretty high. Diamonds after two weeks? What happens at your first anniversary? A house? If you can find her something nice for under $50, go for it. I’d say $25 is almost steep if you’ve only been together two weeks. There are lots of inexpensive gifts out there. Don’t blow your load early — save a little something for a few months down the road. Expensive gifts are typically gifts that are supposed to last, and should be saved for relationships that have lasted and/or will last.

Show off your knowledge of her.

This is your chance to prove to her that you’ve been listening. Even after two weeks of being with her, you should know at least some of the things she likes (and dislikes). Don’t go out on a limb with something you’re not sure she’ll enjoy. Play it safe. Even if it’s just something small like a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to a place she’s said she likes, you’re sure to win if you show that you know what she likes. It’s probably too early to know her taste in jewelry, too, so unless you’re sure you know her inside and out, I’d advise you to watch out in that arena. Food or a gift certificate are probably your best bets here, too. (And no, I don’t think a gift certificate is a bad idea for a new relationship, as long as you get it for something or somewhere she really likes. Just don’t play this card after you’ve been together longer than two months.)

And my number one advice for you: Don’t stress out about it. Remember that it’s the thought that counts, and a little can go a long way.



Reader T. G. writes:

My boyfriend works late every night, beyond what he’s scheduled to work. At first, I asked him to come home on time at least once a week. He couldn’t do it. Then I asked him to at least call and let me know if he was going to stay late. He can’t do that either. So I just sit around waiting for him for two or three hours after he’s supposed to be off work, not sure when he’s coming home. I feel like he’s chosen his job over me. He feels like I’m trying too hard to run his life. What’s the best compromise in this situation, or do you think I should just leave him?

Dear T.G.:

Workaholics are hard creatures to live with unless you, too, happen to be one. They don’t see a point in coming home when they could be working, regardless of how delightful you are as a partner. In fact, many people become workaholics when their home lives go bad; for many folks, work is a viable place to be when you dread going home. While your bf may be a natural workaholic, keep in mind that by asking him to do something against his very nature you might be exacerbating things. If he sees you as trying to control his life, he may be even more reticent to come home.

However, I cannot lay blame on you at all for his inability to come home on time or call to let you know he’s going to be late. That is his own choice, and you can’t take responsibility for his own actions.

What I want to try here is to reframe the situation a little.

yes, these are bolt cutters

Image: jscreationzs /

If he were a friend of yours, and not your boyfriend, you’d think he was really being inconsiderate. You might consider not hanging out with him anymore. You wouldn’t be afraid of losing his friendship, because his friendship kinda’ sucks. But since he’s your boyfriend, you’ll put up with a lot more than you would with any other relationship.

Okay, yes, significant others are supposed to hold a special place in our lives. That’s why they’re significant. At the same time, I’ve seen far too many women in my life put up with far too much just to keep a relationship that, were it under any other name, they’d dump in an instant.

I think as women we tend to think that the highest stakes in a relationship is losing the other person. Society, hormones, whatever it is, something tells us that we have to be in a relationship, and obviously keeping a partner is the highest priority in that situation. I think we should try to think about it differently. It’s your life, and maybe the highest stake is being unhappy. If being with him makes you unhappy, leaving is a better solution than trying to stay.

In fact, literally “leaving” — just going somewhere else — can create a world of difference in a relationship. If he doesn’t come home on time, go do something else rather than waiting around for him. This could accomplish one of two things for him: scare him into realizing you’re capable of actually leaving, or give him a bit of space so he realizes you’re not going to try and control his life. But most importantly, for you, physically leaving the premises would be taking a step towards being independent enough to actually be a participant in the relationship itself. You can’t have an equal partnership if one of the partners isn’t complete. There’s no need to sit around waiting for him to come home. Do other things.

I think as women we spend a lot of time being codependent and thinking about what the other person needs, rather than what we need. Quit thinking about what he needs. Think about what you need. Get what you need. That’ll take away the smothering feeling he’s got, for starters. But you need to empower yourself. You can never know what he’s thinking. It’s impossible. If he’s not expressing what he needs, you can never know that, either. You have to know what you want and what you need, and be able to express it. If your partner is mature, he’ll do the same. If he can’t meet your wants or needs, or if you can’t meet his, well…

Okay, okay, okay, someone recently accused me of just saying “dump him” every time I write this blog. I don’t mean that. Compromise is an important part of relationships. I admit it. I confess. No two people are exactly the same, and therefore, no two people are going to be able to have a relationship without compromise. Compromise is good. There are lots of things in life that are workable. Relationships require a lot of work and compromise.

But it has to be an equal attempt at compromise from both partners. From what you’ve told me, your compromise is living with the feeling that he’s chosen his job over you (which sucks!). He has compromised… nothing. That’s not fair, and not right. You have expressed a need, and he hasn’t met it. If he is incapable of compromising in a way that meets halfway (calling you if he’s going to be late seems pretty reasonable to me), then yeah, maybe you should go.

You have to decide how far is too far for you to compromise. As I’ve said in previous posts, sometimes there are personality quirks that you can live with, and sometimes there are personality quirks you can’t stand. Maybe you can’t stand a workaholic. I know I can’t stand someone with ADD. We all have our limits! He will probably never change, and if that’s the case, you need to decide if you can live with that. But you have to know your limits before you can effectively compromise.

Only you can change your priorities, and you certainly can’t change his. If you think you can learn not to care that he’s at work all the time, by all means, go for it. Changing your mindset can be healthy. But if it really bothers you, and he’s not willing to compromise in a way that helps you out, it may not be worth it to keep trying.

So get out of the house for a while without nagging him about where he is. Try distracting yourself and doing something you enjoy, rather than worrying. Be a complete person without him, and you may find your relationship makes a lot more sense with him.


STFU during the movie. but in a nice way…

I was going to respond to a question a friend asked me over IM a few weeks ago as my first post under advice, but as I’ve already received a question from a reader via the comments in this blog, I think I’ll address it now.

Reader L.B. asks:

“How do I tell my husband that while I enjoy watching historical documentaries with him, sometimes I really wish he would just stfu so I can watch the show and we can talk about it later? In a nice way, of course.”

Dear L.B.,

He's judging you.

Shepherd Book is always right.

I’d like to start by quoting from a very important religious figure in my life:

Shepherd Book: [to Mal] If you take sexual advantage of her, you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater. (Firefly, episode 1.3 “Our Mrs. Reynolds” 2002)

We’ve all sat through a movie with someone who just wouldn’t. shut. up. It sucks. You spend the whole time grinding your teeth, wincing whenever they speak, wanting to punch them in the arm.  It’s worse when they think they’re witty, but really they’re just sucking all the enjoyment out of the film/show/poetry reading for you by interrupting. It’s especially hard when the person is your date or significant other or new friend. How do you politely ask them to keep their effing mouths shut while you try to enjoy this film?  Book’s right: these people will probably go to hell. I like to expand his meaning from “people who talk at the [live] theater” to “people who talk [incessantly, during movies] at the theater” and even “people who come into the room in the middle of the TV show and ask you what’s going on or what something means during important plot moments”. Divine retribution will be mine. Someday.

Of course, I talk during movies. Sometimes. I try to keep it to a dull roar, and only with people I really know well. But sometimes I can’t help it. Sometimes I just have to say my witty retort to whatever the character just said. Or share an inside joke with my movie partner. So why is that okay in my head?

It ends up that talking during movies can be a bonding activity. Sharing your inner thoughts is a very intimate thing to do no matter where you are, and watching TV shows or movies or historical documentaries is a rare moment when you tend to be sharing a moment of entertainment with someone at exactly the same time. This doesn’t happen in other entertainment moments – reading a book or a blog article, say. There’s no way you’re reading the article at the exact same speed as the person looking over your shoulder, unless you’re reading out loud. I think it’s perfectly natural for people to want to share their inner thoughts when watching movies or TV shows, especially with someone they like, and if you think about it, the fact that he’s talking to you during this time means that he’s telling you he likes you, in a way.

So treasure that for a moment.

Then, after you’ve considered his feelings and that this may be a way he feels he’s sharing intimacy with you, plan how you’re going to ask him to knock it the fuck off.

I’d suggest a conversation that goes like this:

“Honey, I love you. I love that we can watch historical documentaries together. I love that you have things to say about them. However, I personally prefer to keep my comments to myself during the shows and then talk about them afterward. Can we try that? It would make it much more enjoyable for me.”

If you really want to do something awesome, get him a little notebook and pen so he can jot down his funny thoughts when he gets them while you’re watching the shows together. That way, he gets an outlet for those thoughts when they come up, and he has a way to show them to you later so he doesn’t forget. Plus, giving people gifts is always a cute way to show you’re thinking of them (bonus!).

Just remember: he probably sees his chit chat as intimacy, so don’t just flat-out tell him he’s wrong and you hate it. It’s going to be hard for him to stop, too. Try to look at the funny, cute, witty things he says and enjoy those, rather than just seething for the time you can tell him to shut up. Remember: you can probably watch the documentary again later. Live moments with loved ones are not TiVo-able.

And if all else fails, you can claim Shepherd Book as your religious mentor in this case:

“Shepherd Book says not to talk during movies. And I believe him. Shhhhhh.”



sometimes when i’m so blue i think things are going to turn purple i swing over to and take a look at the puppies.

yes, i know, i can’t have a puppy. i have three bunnies and a negative bank account. nevertheless, looking at the puppies sometimes makes me feel better.

i love to play! it says in her description.

"i love to play!" it says in her description.

for instance, take “pepper” here. she’s adorable. she’s available. she’d love me. i can feel it. all i want outta’ life right now is an australian shepherd that loves me and can stand bunnies. i know, i know, that’s asking too much. but if you get ’em young enough, dogs will do anything, right? i mean, she’s not a rat terrier. she wouldn’t try to eat the bunz.

okay, and maybe beyond a puppy, i wouldn’t mind having a kitten. i’ve never had a kitten before. they come in such snuggly varieties, too. l. m. montgomery, who wrote the emily of new moon and anne of green gables series, always wrote things about how grey cats are the only real cats. i kind of like orange tabbies, too, but whatever. i just want something to curl up on my lap and purr. or insist on climbing into bed with me. my bunnies could take me or leave me, which is not what i really want to feel right now, since that’s basically what the rest of the world says to me, too.

is it too much to ask to have an animal jump up and down in excitement when i come home, without having to offer it food? could something in the universe just appreciate me because of my ability to love and the warmth emanating from my body? why can’t i just buy something that tells me i’m great, unconditionally?

i love my bunnies, don’t get me wrong. but they’re just so blase about my existence. and i’m kind of tired of getting that vibe from all angles.



i’ve got a lot of friends doing a lot of really interesting things with their lives these days, and i’m proud of them. particularly kids i went to high school and undergrad with. (and yes, you MFA kids are doing okay, i guess…) (but would one of you just publish a novel already, pls?) i’m really glad to see my talented friends blossoming. and even though i live in podunk city, i keep meeting people who are interesting and wonderful. sometimes i just bask in the glow of my wildly talented, attractive, intelligent friends and wish i could give them a similar satisfaction.

and then there are people that i don’t find talented, and beyond that, i find that they have absolutely no understanding of aesthetics or professionalism or networking or history or culture or anything else that i value. they’re insulated by people who believe they’re talented, which is nice for them, but it bugs the crap out of me. i begrudge them their success. and i’m very stingy with my willingness to participate in it.

you always hope in your life that people who are really good at things are going to succeed. we all know it’s not true — there are plenty of people working in any field you can name who are absolutely no good at it, and yet they make plenty of money.

okay, and talent’s totally subjective, too. clearly there are people in the world who think britney spears is talented. (i think maybe she’s talented at … like… publicity and choreography? but not necessarily singing.)

i’m trying to be generous and gracious, but i’m kinda’ ugly on the inside. i value my education. i value other people who value education. i like that most of my friends have lived abroad. i really love that some of them are so much smarter than me i have trouble keeping up with what they say, even if they’re just reviewing a pop culture phenomenon.

can i just not participate in the success of the people i find stupid, grating, irritating, and incapable? pleeeease?

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