My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years. I recently started trying to come up with a gift idea for him for our anniversary this year. I asked if he needed any sports equipment, since he plays on multiple intramural teams. He said he could really use new soccer cleats, and so I happily agreed to get them for him. Then he tells me that the ones he wants cost $200. I told him that I had intended on spending a good amount, and he replied that he wasn't. He did the same thing on Christmas, and every year on my birthday, he complains that he "has to buy me a gift."
I know money is tight right now, but his delivery really hurts my feelings. I don't have extra money laying around, but it makes me happy to spend what I do have on the ones I love. I don't want to seem like the girlfriend who needs her boyfriend to buy her things, but it would be nice if when he did, he didn't complain about it. What should I do? Is this just the way he is?
— Gift Trouble Gwynn
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Dear Gift Trouble Gwynn,
I hate to say it, but it's very possible that this is just the way your boyfriend is. He may not value gifts the same way you do or he may just be a very thrifty guy. Though I can understand that he doesn't want to spend a lot of money, I do think it's disappointing that he couldn't handle buying you a birthday gift without complaining about it. Rather than try to change your boyfriend's attitude towards spending money on presents, which may be a lost cause, focus on changing the act of gift giving in your relationship.
Obviously you haven't had much luck with your previous conversations, so I'd try a different route this time. Instead of telling him that you don't like how he complains, express to him that the act of gift giving is important to you and you need it to be important to him too. I also suggest picking a budget that you both feel comfortable with for each gift exchanging occasion. You might also want to offer him gift ideas that won't cost a dime. Maybe you'd love a one-hour massage or you'd like to take a long hike together. Seeing your boyfriend make the effort to do something nice might be even better than knowing he spent a lot of money!