The other day, I saw on my Instagram feed a photo of designer products. Very expensive, very fancy, very exclusive. One of these bags costs a fortune for a person on an average salary. “He spoils me too much” read the caption. “Perfect husband,” people commented.
Now, I’m not saying that gifts are not nice. Or that we shouldn’t be happy or grateful to receive them. But, that’s exactly what they are. Nice. They’re the cherry on top of the cake. Yet, it seems we confuse them with the cake.
I was once blinded by the sparkle of shiny things; sparkling wines, expensive restaurants. Sure, everyone likes nice things. Who doesn’t want a spa day?
These things never filled the huge void of my relationship, namely the lack of care, the lack of compassion, the lack of empathy.
There’s a certain type of person, including people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or the simply entitled, that offer these things in exchange of love. “Sorry I cheated on you but here’s a nice diamond bracelet”. “Sorry I’m always busy at work, but here’s a nice pair of shoes”. What you need is loyalty. What you need is someone who’s there for you. And things will never replace that.
The recipient of the gift is expected to accept an exchange. A gift in exchange of love. Of commitment. Of physical and emotional presence. Of respect. When you receive the gift, you’re expected to appreciate the intention and ignore the real thing. “Accept his gift and move on, he’s shown remorse by buying you a gift,” my mother once said to me. This shows how normalised this behaviour is.
It is women, most often, that are expected to push their feelings aside, accept a gift, and stop complaining. In this example, my ex-partner not only did not feel any remorse, but he actually thought that he did nothing wrong and I’m overreacting. He just wanted things to go back to normal. He just wanted me to lower my expectations. He was crossing my boundaries in exchange for clothes. Which shows how dangerous this social norm we’ve created is; because it is actually financial abuse, as money is used as a means of control.
That’s where the risk lies. The real problem is not addressed, emotions are not shared, needs are not met. And the void between you becomes bigger. Enter resentment.
Another common thing with this type of person is that they want a carte blanche in exchange for buying something. If you get upset during a holiday the response will be “I brought you to the most expensive hotel and you’re still not happy”. Or you may express how you haven’t felt loved for years, “But we went on island holidays every summer,” they reply.
You should be happy, they say. This should be enough. Yet, there’s zero interest into why you’re not happy, into what’s troubling you - zero interest in compassion, in companionship, in real love.
Stuff ain’t love. It masquerades as love. Love comes at no financial cost, but big personal generosity: with kindness, with thoughtfulness, with vulnerability. It makes you feel full, even if all you have is a bed and four walls.
Self check in:
- Have you been offered a gift as an act of forgiveness?
- Have you been told by other people to accept this gift and ignore what happened?
- Have you been expected to suppress how you feel because you were bought something?