Dear Wanda and Wayne,
I've been with my BF for over two years. Our relationship is super happy but a little unconventional for people who've been dating as long as we have. We're monogamous and hang out all the time but don't live together, have no plans as of yet to move in together (we both live in roommate situations) and have never discussed marriage.
I'd marry him in a heartbeat, but right now I'm pretty happy just living in the present. Here's the sticking point: His birthday is coming up and I have found the perfect gift. Problem is, it costs roughly a month of rent (or a third of my month's income).
Is it a good idea to buy a big-ticket present for someone when your relationship is great but there's nothing even close to an assurance of a future together? I mean, living in the moment is fine and all, but what if he dumps me next week and 10 years from now I'm all, "... and I bought that jerk a car!" (Or whatever; the gift isn't a car, it's cooler than a car.)
Am I being crass? Or sensible?
Wayne says: The perfect gift? You know how hard it is to find the perfect gift? Pretty much impossible, that's how difficult. I can hardly find the right Mother's Day card when I shop the day after Mother's Day, and here you've found that one amazing gift that will make all previous gifts forgotten. Pull out the platinum card, find the biggest bow in the store and give your man that present right now.
And when you give it to him, also give yourself a nice little gift by throwing away all hang-ups attached to your decision to give it to him: Am I going a little too far here? Will I regret this financially and emotionally? Why the heck didn't I sign up for that store credit card to get an additional five percent off the purchase? Who cares! This is a happy time -- you're about to blow his mind! Don't drag any negative energy or doubt into this.
Hey, life is crazy. And sure, one day, maybe you two might not be together. But as of this moment, your relationship is awesome and you're fortunate enough to have found a perfect way to tell him how much you know, love and care about him (and have the means to make it happen). Just do it. And when that perma-grin hits his face, enjoy every second of that, too. You're the best girlfriend ever.
Wanda says: In every relationship, there are milestones. Meeting the friends. Meeting the parents. Moving in together. Perhaps a marriage proposal. But these days, old conventions and expectations around timing and the natural order of things are less cemented. Move in before meeting the parents? Sure! Have a baby before marrying? Happens all the time. Or, in your case, enjoy a committed monogamous relationship without bowing to the pressure to hurry toward cohabitation? Sounds good to me. The beauty of dating, falling in love and committing in the here and now is that we can write our own rules and follow our own timetables.
Just because you haven't checked off all the boxes on the "signs this relationship is serious" checklist doesn't mean your union isn't the real deal. It sounds like you have a very modern and mutually agreeable arrangement. "Super happy" and monogamous for two-plus years sounds legit, and worth celebrating. Just because you aren't living together or married doesn't mean you aren't really serious about each other, and a thoughtful gift is symbolic of that.
I get that there's some hesitation. What if you max the Visa and then he bails? That's a risk we take when we invest in any relationship -- whether we are investing in gifts of our own time, or of our own emotions. There's no money-back-guarantee when it comes to love. But there can be a beautiful return on investment when you find the right partner and are willing to give so selflessly and openly. Happy shopping!
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.