DEAR KELLY: My best friend and I are going out with two guys who are best friends. It works out great most of the time, but its always hard when it’s gift times like on our birthday or Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend’s parents make him pay for everything, so he never has any money for good gifts. I try to be understanding, but it’s hard when my best friend gets an amazing gift every time because her boyfriend’s parents pay for everything, so he can spend whatever he wants.
Last year on Valentine’s Day, he bought her a heart necklace from Tiffany (it costs more than $100) and my boyfriend got me a teddy bear key chain and some peanut butter cups (my favorite). He even bought her a super cute Brighton coin purse for her half-birthday. I try to not act disappointed, but it’s hard not to.
This year they want to do a Christmas dinner together where we eat dinner at my best friend’s house, then open gifts and look at lights. But I don’t want to see what he gets her because I know it will be so much better than what I get. I don’t want to seem disappointed or hurt my boyfriend. I also think he might be uncomfortable seeing what she gets, but he said he thinks it would be fun to all hang out, do our presents, then go look at Christmas lights.
How do I suggest we do our gifts in private so no one knows why I’m suggesting it? And what do I say when she gets something fabulous and I get something like a scarf or a coffee mug? I sound bratty but sometimes it’s hard when it happens every single time, and I don’t even think she appreciates it. Advice?
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DEAR GIRLFRIEND: The short answer is that Christmas (or any holiday) isn’t about comparing our gifts to someone else’s gifts and deeming them “luckier” because they get items of higher value. It is meant to be a time to reflect on those we love, celebrating our special traditions, spend time with friends and family and being grateful for those in your life who you consider a gift. For people of faith, it’s a holy and special time that has nothing to do with presents.
The idea that there has to be over-the-top gifts to prove one’s love or show someone else their value means you have lost the true reason for the season. My advice is simple: Step back and take in all that you do have instead of basing your happiness on what you expect or hope to get from other people.
Comparing ourselves to others is a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down. And comparing gifts or things is just as dangerous. It will cause you to regret what you aren’t or what you don’t get instead of allowing you to enjoy who you are or what you receive. Comparing robs us of joy, contentment and gratitude. It can fuel mean-spirited competitiveness and destroy relationships.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is comparing external things such as cars, homes, better clothes, more Twitter followers or even gifts from others. These things do not determine someone’s value or worth or mean that they are loved more because they get something that costs more. If someone has more, it does not mean you are less.
People show affection in different ways. Your best friend’s boyfriend showers her in things that seem to have a high price tag. Some people are called “over givers” because they give too much trying to get people to love or approve of them. Not saying that’s him, but he seems to spend more than most teenagers do. It’s nice he got her a necklace from Tiffany, but a cute key chain and your favorite chocolates seems very appropriate for a young relationship, especially if he has to pay for all the extras in his life.
What does your boyfriend do during the year? Does he make you feel special? Does he compliment you when you look pretty or check in on you when you are sick? That’s the stuff that counts. Instead of comparing a Christmas gift, look at the other little “gifts” he does all year that you might overlook or take for granted. Small acts of kindness are big blessings.
Redirect your thoughts. You are focusing on the wrong thing. Why miss out on a fun night with friends because you don’t trust your reaction at present time? Eliminate the comparisons and you will be freed to enjoy it all with no fret or worry. Have dinner, look at lights, embrace this beautiful season. Don’t overbuy for him; keep it simple and personal. Or if you know it’s a stretch for him, just offer to make cards or just get an ornament or to go to out dinner and the movies together some night.
Making fun memories is way better than a material thing. Expect nothing and be grateful for anything. Be thankful for your boyfriend, regardless of how much money he spends.
Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@ sacbee.com.