Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend and I celebrated our two-year anniversary last weekend. She spent several hundred dollars on a gift for me.
I did not give her a gift because, as a new homeowner, I am somewhat strapped for cash. When I realized her disappointment, I apologized for being an idiot and promised to make it up to her when I am more financially stable.
She countered that if I could take two trips for bachelor parties this summer, I had no excuse not to set money aside for her as well.
Though I started out apologetic, now I’m angry. I also feel pressure to keep apologizing, which I’m tired of doing. What do you think? – Doghouse
Then stop apologizing, and tell her the truth: Which is …
• That you find her materialistic and demanding, with multi-hundred-dollar expectations of which you want no part?
• That you were just thinking of your own fun and failed to project what she’d want? Maybe you’ve said this already; if you have, then that’s a complete sentence (in the punitive sense). It enables you to say, if you’re pressured to apologize again, “I said I was sorry, and I meant it. It bothers me that you seem unsatisfied by that.”
• That you didn’t equate these one-time-only bachelor-party trips with buying things, because you value experiences with people over material gifts?
I should say, before I continue with my flow chart – none of these is intended as an accusation. Everyone values some people above others. It’s what you do with this that can create problems.
Back to truth candidates, including …
• That you think anniversaries are manufactured milestones? If that’s the case, then you pledge to mark them henceforth because they matter to her and she matters to you.
So – was it an oops you learned from, or is it an epiphany in progress? Your understanding yourself will help you communicate accurately, which tends to be the first step toward getting past something – be it past an ill-fitting relationship or past an episode of hard-way learning a deux.