Why "I'm Sorry" Gifts Are Actually Really Bad For Your Relationship

Making up for a relationship oopsie with a gift -- flowers, bling, fancy dinners -- is pretty much a romantic norm in our culture.
Publish date:
December 18, 2013
Dating, abusive relationships, gift giving

A few years ago, after a huge blow-out fight with my manslice, I arrived at work to find a huge bouquet of flowers on my desk. I was so irritated by the gesture that I couldn't help but letting loose a loud “Oh F@#K YOU Jimbob*!” -- startling my cube-mate and making myself a temporary diversion from her Pinteresting.

I was annoyed at the gesture because it meant that I was expected to forgive him now. He had florally repented. But I didn't want to forgive him yet -– I was still mad.

Making up for a relationship oopsie with a gift is pretty much a romantic norm in our culture. Flowers, bling, fancy dinners, even full-blow vacations are often presented as retribution for a screw-up. In fact, this tradition is so saturated as a standard way to apologize that we now covet presents that DONT come as retribution –- the holy grail of material affection comes in the form of a “no reason” gift.

I have seen entire ad campaigns and even business models based around this idea. The street that ran adjacent from my old apartment had a 24-hour flower kiosk on it. It sat in front of a florist, and when the shop was closed, you could enter the weird ATM-looking kiosk, swipe your credit card, and emerge with flowers. These flowers were usually a day old and three times as expensive, but the florist knew that anyone who needed a wilty bouquet of roses at 2 am really, really needed those roses.

Don't get me wrong, I like presents, but the idea of using a gift as a Band-aid is actually really unhealthy when you think about it. 

First, it teaches the gifter they can easily negate their wrong-doing with a quick material fix. While it may be monetarily expensive, it's much easier than talking about f-f-f-feelings.

It also teaches the giftee that they should forgive even if nothing has actually been righted. In the above situation with the flowers at work, I felt actual pressure to forgive my boyfriend, even though I was still mad. It felt like if I didn't forgive him, he would in return get pissed at me –- he had, after all, shelled out some dollars for overpriced lilies. His gesture made me even more mad, like, “Oh, you think you can just have some flowers delivered and we're all good? In your dreams, Jimbob.”

This type of habit also erases the need for necessary communication. The maker of messes shopped their way through half of your Amazon wishlist, so clearly they're sorry, and there is no need to talk about it anymore, right? Wrong. Most likely they will repeat their mistake in the future (and make up for it with another gift) because the root of the problem was not really addressed.

Even worse, for those who are attracted to romantic turbulence, it can even create a subconscious drive for drama resulting in a perpetual cycle: get mad, get a gift, forgive, repeat.

Instead of accepting apology gifts, encourage your SigO to talk to you when they've messed up. Also, as anyone who has received an ooey gooey “no reason” gift before knows, romantic gestures are really only romantic when they aren't compensating for anything. Sweet is the person who wants to dote on you just because you're boss, not because they got wasted at a Chili's and hit on the bartender in front of you.

* I've never really dated anyone named Jimbob.

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