My boyfriend is really rich, and I come from a simple, blue-collar background. He is constantly showering me with lavish gifts, which I appreciate, but am sort of uncomfortable receiving them. Just yesterday, he bought me expensive diamond earrings, and it wasn't even my birthday. Maybe I'm being ridiculous, but I find all this gift giving too much. Any thoughts on the matter?
Dear Uncomfortably Spoiled,
Giving a gift is a way of showing appreciation and gratitude. Receiving a gift is a way of reciprocating that appreciation, by acknowledging the thanks due and accepting it. Your feelings of discomfort surrounding the gifts that your boyfriend is giving, imply that either you are feeling a bit insecure about his sincerity, or you are feeling insecure about your role as the recipient.
It is said of the Great Sage of the Talmud, Raba, that he always began his classes and lectures with a joke. He explained that the very telling of the joke opened up his students’ senses. It established an essential connection and it set the stage for the learning that was to follow. Connection is a vital ingredient in any relationship. There are lots of ways to make a connection with someone you care about. Gift giving is definitely one of those ways.
Ultimately, gifts are symbols. At best, they are physical expressions of emotion and sentiment. A gift itself can be very significant, but the emotion that prompts its giving is the underling meaning of it. So, it may be important for you to ask yourself, or better yet, to ask your boyfriend, what was the thinking behind those diamond earrings? What was the intention behind the gift? Could it be that these earrings are an expression of devotion and a symbol of hope for a future together? Or are you sensing something else?
It also needs to be understood that being a receiver is not always easy. Because women are innately capable and talented human beings, it can be tempting to live with a deliberate sense of independence. Sort of an, “I don’t need help from anyone” martyr-like complex. It is important for a woman to know that she can take care of herself. But, the trick is understanding that receiving assistance, or acknowledgment or appreciation for the everyday things that we do, does not take away from our independence. On the contrary, it can help establish it. In other words, receiving expensive gifts from a man that can afford to give them does make you a charity-case; it makes you worthy of luxury. What accepting his gift does is confirm your status as a special and appreciated woman, with the added incentive of a potentially very special relationship.
The fact that you mention his wealth juxtaposed to your background highlights this sense of uncertainty on your part, in terms of being on the receiving end. I am curious if this distinction of your financial backgrounds is one that you both make, or if this is more of an issue for you? The bottom line is you need to figure out exactly what makes you uncomfortable about the gifts he’s given you. Simply put, is it about him or is it about you? There is no right or wrong answer here, what is important is the answer that rings most true to you.
One more thing to keep in mind… Many times, we give gifts to say the things that we feel ill equipped to say. Maybe you are the kind of woman who appreciates a less symbolic version of gift giving and a more straightforward and simple offering. Perhaps, as you two continue to build your relationship together, you can encourage him to verbalize his feelings for you. You can also let him know how much you might appreciate a card with heartfelt sentiment.
But, remember this: making a relationship work means not only connecting, but also investment. Investing in yourself, and investing in your partner. It means taking the time to help him understand what makes you tick, and visa-versa. Men are not mind readers, what may be obvious and implicit to you may not be at all to him. If you are interested in making this relationship work, then it sounds like you both have to spend some more time communicating concretely with each other.
I wish you both much success on your journey together.