Advice

My boyfriend gave me a winter coat for Christmas. Am I wrong to want something more meaningful?

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for over two years now. Leading up to Christmas, he kept telling me he was really excited about his gift for me and that it was something really special. I was hoping this was the year he would propose.

Well, my present was a nice winter coat. He said he paid attention to the fact that I am often cold and my current go-to coat is old and not good enough for the really cold Alaska winter. He’s not wrong. But a coat? I was hoping for a special gift that signified commitment to our relationship — if not an engagement ring, then at least a nice piece of jewelry or art, something thoughtful that would last.

Granted, the coat is very nice, and he spent way more than I would have spent — I tend to bargain-buy versus splurge on name brands. And I appreciate the gesture. Had we only been a year into this, it would have been a perfect gift. But at this point, I expect more. Am I wrong to be annoyed? I feel like this is a sign I need to talk to him about how serious he is about our future.

Wanda says:

We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves around the holidays, whether it’s the stress of meeting year-end professional deadlines or the complex dynamics of dealing with family gatherings, or the anxiety inherent in relationships this time of year. In terms of relationship stress, that could mean being single and wishing one wasn’t, or being in a relationship and wishing one was single, or to being in what by all appearances is a pretty great relationship, but applying a load of expectations that quite possibly set one up for failure. You’re falling into that latter category, unfortunately.

Your boyfriend got you a coat, not a diamond. Disappointing, I get it. But, bright side: You have a boyfriend! A boyfriend who took the time to think deeply about your comfort and needs! And he went out and bought you an expensive jacket! These are not bad things.

Also, there’s no sliding scale for the duration or seriousness of a relationship equating to certain categories of gifts. It’s more important that you understand whether your boyfriend is a practical or sentimental gift-giver. If he’s the former, you are likely looking ahead to helpful no-nonsense gifts like snow boots and car tires rather than romantic gestures like pricey perfumes and sparkly baubles. Here’s a partner who wants to see that you’re cozy and safe. There’s a beauty in that, if you can reconcile to that reality and stop holding him to unrealistic expectations.

Wayne says:

Yes, you are wrong to feel annoyed. Because, well, it’s Christmas not Valentine’s Day; he gave you a perfectly practical and pricey Christmas gift; and you never shared your marriage timeline with him, so how the heck was he supposed to know that a ring and a proposal were all you wanted for Christmas? The only thing he did wrong was promise you a special gift. He should know you well enough by now to appreciate that your definition of special is completely different than his.

I think he knocked it out of the park. Your old coat is busted and disgusted, drafty and frumpy. He sees his girlfriend, who he clearly cares about, constantly shivering and probably regularly complaining about her crappy coat which she refuses to replace herself. He comes through like a prince with a warm and wonderful coat to protect his princess from the conditions and help her look good/feel good doing it. Not only is it fancy, it’s admittedly better than anything you would have treated yourself to. Maybe you should have higher expectations for taking care of yourself?

But to you, this Christmas coat isn’t caring enough? A piece of art would have done the trick, though? Guess what: a big fancy painting will only keep you warm for about 10 minutes after your furnace goes out. You really should do yourself a favor and cut this bum loose so you can find someone who lives up to your ridiculous expectations without any required communication on your part.

And who gets engaged on Christmas, anyway? You know, the day for kids and families, and for being grateful? People in Hallmark movies and people like you, I guess. It’s a cliche and selfish move made by the same folks who then plan their wedding for New Year’s Eve because of course no one has anything more interesting or fun to do that night then spend all of it dressed up and hanging out with a bunch of strangers and a bad DJ celebrating you.

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