In any relationship, but I think it is somehow more potent and damaging in romantic ones where so much of our self is tied to the approval of the other, the least welcome expressed words are some variation on “it’s so expensive” or “but I bought you everything you ever wanted!” or “what about the cost of the plane tickets?”. Let’s understand something straight up front what finances are expended in the name of pleasing another (which is essentially about doing something that pleases you) should NEVER subsequently be mentioned as a means of control, extorting emotions or invoking some kind of guilt on the part of the recipient. My next point to this post is I HATE EXCEL SPREADSHEETS!
I am not a rich woman, in fact there are times when I am so underwater that were I not a very good swimmer I would surely drown. I have been told that my generosity goes so far as to give someone the shirt (sometimes quite literally) off my back. I do these things because I WANT TO not because of a perceived indebtedness to the person to whom I am giving or any expectations of reciprocity. If there is any ugly truth attached to my giving is the still prickling subconscious ethos of my father of ‘being one up’ and never owing anyone anything. Unfortunately it has been my experience to be subjected, or witness, to the human foible of equating expenditures with buying love or such gross cheapness that a husband spending $16 (instead of the $8 the wife demanded) on Godiva chocolates for a hostess gift being attended by four people created such an embarrassingly ugly scene as to still be vivid in my mind more than 3 years hence.
Here’s the truth – hard as it might be to embrace – generosity should never be conditional. If the cost of something is beyond your means, do not spend it to please another only to later negate it in drawing from that “filing cabinet” of wrongs which human beings keep and use when some behaviour of a friend or lover does displeases us. And by cost I don’t simply mean monetary expenditures – there is a cost to everything, if you have to evaluate the action against value then you are ‘doing’ for the wrong reason. If you have an opinion that something is expensive – keep it to yourself. The person on the other side of this conversation has just taken your words to mean they are ‘not worth it’ because your sliding scale of value deems something to have a cost too high to justify in relation to them. Only rarely the recipient is suggesting that they desire that you purchase a strand of (or even a single) rare, natural, perfect, Tahitian pearls which have been collected by diving without apparatus by a native and then hand-knotted with silk and embellished with a diamond and high carat weight clasp or ‘a season’ long rental of a private villa on Lake Como (and how many of us would even ask for such things?). If you have to keep a spreadsheet of your expenditures against any relationship (other than profit and loss statements for your business) you have larger issues than being in that relationship. A man I was once acquainted with said (something to the effect of) “with enough money any guy can have any girl” – what does this say about the morality of participants at the intersection of their (ahem) transaction?
The fullness of your being isn’t tied to the monetary value of your gift-giving; rather it is tied to the purity of intention and the tenderness of your actions, the surprise and delight factor that expressly conveys “I thought of you today” and wanted to bring you joy. There are a million tiny expressions which cost next to nothing to tell someone, without words, how highly you regard them and their presence in your life; your relationships and who you are should only truly be defined by such. While both are appropriate, there are times when bestowing a handful of daisies gathered in a meadow will have more resonance than a florist perfect arrangement of exquisiteness with a gilt embossed card. Presenting ourselves and our relationships with value has very little to do with monies expended and everything to do with innate generosity of spirit.
“Anything that just costs money is cheap.”