Does a lousy gift mean he doesn't love me?

I'm not sure whether my boyfriend is clueless about gift giving or whether his recent gift to me signals that he doesn't care for me as much as I thought. We've been dating for four months, and the relationship has felt healthy and good. We've said "I love you's," had dinner with his parents and have even scheduled a trip to his grandparents' summer house next month. He has even mentioned marriage and talks of our future together.

It was my birthday recently, and he sent me a nice card with loving thoughts and took me out for a nice dinner. However, his gift upset me: He gave me a pair of salt and pepper grinders. He knows I like pepper and that my grinder broke, but a woman wants a romantic gift for her birthday. I would have been happy to have just received some flowers and the card -- I don't expect him to spend a lot of money on me. It especially hurt me when, after giving me the gift, he showed off his expensive new Ralph Lauren sweater he bought himself. I haven't said anything because I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I feel that I need to be honest. What do you think? Help! --iVillager naturegirl17

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Sherry Amatenstein

Sherry is the author of The Q&A Dating Book and Love Lessons from Bad Breakups. She has taught dating seminars, appeared as an expert... Read more

Dear naturegirl17:

While I understand your dismay at the salt and pepper grinders (at least it wasn't an oven mitt!), let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. The guy did take you for a lovely meal, (emotionally) splurged on a loving card, and made an effort to buy you something he thought you might like. While indisputably unromantic, the gift was something he remembered you needed. Granted, he did, however, demonstrate poor form by showing off his form in the expensive new sweater.

That said, he seems like a standup kind of guy, and one capable of commitment. So he's not perfect. Welcome to the club.

I wouldn't give him a verbal grinding for the grinders. Instead, display them prominently in your kitchen and commend him on his thoughtfulness. When an occasion warrants -- say, you see a movie together where the guy gives his girlfriend flowers -- sigh and say you love romantic surprises like that. Then, when the next gift-giving occasion nears (your anniversary?), drop a few hints about what you want. Since he picked up on the grinders, hopefully he'll pick up on how much you desire a more passionate present. Even if your next present is an oven mitt, remember, just because he's not a great gift giver doesn't mean he's not a great guy.

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