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I Just Got Married, And My Friend Didn't Get Me A Gift — Do I Need To Get Her One For Her Upcoming Wedding?

"Quite a few people, including my husband, don’t think I should give her [a gift], or at least give her less than I would have. Part of me wonders if she just forgot, but it seems out of character. I think she will definitely notice if we do not give a gift. What should I do."

Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.

Today, we've got two folks writing in about gifting etiquette, but with opposite problems: One's dealing with a not-so-generous wedding guest, and the other's got a way-too-generous friend. What should they do? Let's dive right in.

First up: This woman recently got married, and a close friend of hers never sent them a gift. It's been nearly six months, and the snub is starting to get to her. What's more, this wedding guest is about to get married herself, and our DM'er will be in attendance. Should she get her a gift? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

My reply...

I'm sorry to report that you should still get her a gift! It certainly doesn't have to be the nicest one you've ever given — if you have a general range in mind for what you like to spend on such occasions, you can stick to the lowest end of that range here. Your annoyance about this is human and understandable. She should have gotten you something! But remember that gifting isn't meant to be so transactional. You're not sending them that new toaster to repay some past debt, nor should you withhold it to settle a score. Give it as a genuine gesture of goodwill for the newlyweds. (And if you can't muster up that goodwill right now, fair enough — give it to them so you can bask in the glory of being the bigger person.)

I think it's very possible that your friend is still planning on getting you a gift, by the way! Maybe that's because I, like your mom, was raised with the understanding that guests have up to a year after the wedding to send something. Of course, that's not a universal rule, it's a norm that will vary based on your culture, region, community, family, etc. But it's reasonable to assume that at least some of your wedding guests may be abiding by this common code of etiquette. Who's to say your friend isn't one of them?

There are plenty of other non-malicious reasons you might not have gotten a gift from her, too. Maybe she's creating something handmade, and it's taking longer than she thought. Or maybe she did send something, and it got lost in the mail or swiped off your stoop. Or maybe her budget is really tight right now, and she's in a difficult position. Heck, maybe she totally forgot to get you a gift, and will realize her mistake with horror when she receives that toaster from you. (That should not be your motivation for sending it, of course, but I do think it's a possible outcome.) Ultimately, you may never know why you didn't get a gift from this woman, and it will be up to you to decide whether you want to view it as a malicious act or an innocent mishap. I'd assume positive intent if you can.

And sure, maybe this woman is just a rude, inconsiderate person who purposefully slighted you on your wedding day. That's definitely possible. People like that exist! But most of them are pretty miserable, so I wouldn't let yourself become one of them. Maybe you'll be a sucker for sending her that toaster when she got you nothing. But better to be a sucker, I think, than a jerk.

Next up, we've got this woman, whose husband's friend is wildly generous with gifts, giving things that cost upwards of $300 every birthday and Christmas. They're grateful, but a little uncomfortable since they can't always reciprocate such lavish presents. Should they ask the friend to stop? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

My reply...

It's likely your friend doesn't expect total reciprocity here — I'm assuming he knows he's spending a whole lot more than the average person does on gifts for friends. I wonder what's motivating him. It could be innocuous; maybe he's got lots of disposable income and enjoys spending it on his loved ones. Or it could be something a little sadder; maybe he's insecure and feels like he needs to ply his friends with fancy gifts in order to keep them around. Whatever it is, I don't blame you for being uncomfortable with it. Even if there's zero expectation of reciprocity on his part, it's awkward to open up brand-new AirPods at Christmas and then hand over a scarf. He probably doesn't realize what kind of pressure he's creating by gifting like this! I think there are two possible ways to handle it.

Option #1 is a direct approach where your husband asks his friend, gently but firmly, to spend less money on gifts. Here's a script I would use: "Bob, you've been incredibly generous with all your gifts over the years, but I honestly don't want you to spend that much on me! It's so thoughtful, but it's just not necessary. I'd rather you spend that money on yourself/your family. Why don't we scale back on the gifting moving forward? Can we agree on a general dollar limit for gifts, or find some alternative ways to celebrate that don't involve gifting?"

Option #2 is a less direct approach, where you skip the talk about money and instead go straight for the alternatives to gifting. Here's one possible script: "I feel like as I get older, I'm less interested in physical gifts and more interested in having quality time with friends — what about you? How would you feel about celebrating birthdays and holidays with fun experiences rather than presents?" And then propose some options. You could celebrate birthdays with dinner, drinks, or a movie. You could celebrate Christmas by doing some fun holiday traditions together or volunteering for a cause you both care about. Give this guy some sort of outlet for his gifting tendencies if he really wants it — he can pick up your birthday bar tab, sure — but keeping the focus on joint experiences will limit how much he spends, and make it easier for you to reciprocate his gestures in kind.

And honestly, this guy might be thrilled to have someone put a stop to the madness! Gifting can get out of control so quickly — we get locked into these back-and-forths that tend to escalate over time, and get harder to stop with each passing year. Sometimes it's useful to have someone stand up and say, "Hey, let's change this up!" It's very possible your husband's friend is gifting like this because he thinks it's expected of him now. I won't be surprised if the suggestion to stop is met with a big sigh of relief. Good luck.

That's all the advice I've got for today's DM'ers, folks. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stephenlc. And if you happened to miss my last column, read on!

Last time, we heard from this woman, who's currently the self-described "side chick" to a man in an open relationship with someone else. She sees him once or twice a week, and enjoys her time with him, but she's starting to wonder whether this is the best arrangement for her. Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:

My reply...

I think all of these questions you're asking yourself right now boil down to a singular, simpler one: What do you want? And, not to abdicate my duties as an advice columnist here, but that's a question only you can answer! I can't tell you whether you should be content with what you have with this guy right now; it depends on whether what you have is fulfilling your needs. And I can't tell you whether to pursue these kinds of dating arrangements in the future; it depends on what your long-term dating goals look like. There's no objective "right" or "wrong" with any of this stuff. There's only what's right and wrong for you.

Of course, actually knowing what we want in life is usually easier said than done, and sometimes, we cloud our own thinking around it by asking ourselves different questions instead, like "What am I supposed to want?" or "What do others want for me?" Try to avoid that! Often, the things that will actually make us happy are different than what we once expected to want, or what we were told to want growing up, or what our family and friends want for us. Heck, sometimes you can't know what you really want until it's put right in front of you. And this is where I think I can earn my paycheck as an advice columnist today: Here are four questions to ask yourself next, to figure out what you really want out of your dating life moving forward.

#1. Are you happy on your own?

You see this guy once or twice a week, and you enjoy your time with him. But what about the other five to six days a week? Are you happy then, too? If so, great! Maybe part of the appeal of this whole arrangement is that it affords you time to be alone, and/or date around. Maybe, after getting out of a long-term marriage, you're relishing the freedom to do your own thing. But if you find yourself feeling sad, or lonely, or jealous in the days when you're not with this guy — if you're just abiding by his schedule, waiting for him to be available, because you don't want to lose him — then maybe this arrangement is doing you more harm than good. Ask yourself: Is the time to yourself a feature, or a bug?

#2. What are you getting out of this?

In your DM, you express some surprise that this romance is still going strong after half a year — but can you put into words why it has? What are you gaining from this type of arrangement? Is it the aforementioned solo time? The no-strings-attached sex? The freedom to see other people? The opportunity to experience something wildly different than your past marriage? Try to put into words the reasons why you're still drawn to this so-called "side chick" role* six months later — it'll help you figure out whether it's something you should keep doing, or pump the brakes on.

*BTW, I hope you know that you don't actually need to call yourself a "side chick" here! I feel like that term usually implies cheating. Some ethically non-monogamous people might use a term like "secondary partner," or just a good old-fashioned "we're dating." But if you're using that "side chick" label because you like it, go for it.

#3. Is there anything you feel like you're missing out on right now?

You asked me whether this fling is holding you back from finding something more permanent. I think that's a good question to ask, but I'd follow it up with: "Do you want something more permanent?" This guy already has a girlfriend, so there are some limitations for how far your own romance with him can go. Those limitations aren't necessarily a bad thing, so long as you're being honest with yourself about them. Are you comfortable with the likely outcome that you'll never be this guy's primary partner? Maybe you're not looking for a full-blown relationship right now, in which case, your current setup could be ideal! On the flip side, if you do want a long-term, exclusive partner, you're obviously better off looking elsewhere.

And finally...

#4. What are you learning about yourself from all this?

You're moving out of state in a few months, and it sounds like that will bring this particular courtship to an end. So, ultimately, I think the best thing you could hope to gain from this experience would be information about yourself. What have you learned from the past six months of dating non-monogamously? And, conversely, what did you learn about yourself from being in an eleven year marriage? You've now experienced two (presumably very different!) ways of being a romantic partner. Did one work better than the other? If you could take the best of both arrangements and build your own ideal relationship structure, what would it look like? You now have some data to work with here — use it! Good luck, and have fun.

Got a problem you want solved in this column? DM me! My inbox is always open. Just read the fine print below first.


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PS: If you've got any advice for today's DM'er, sound off in the comments! I'll be reading...

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