Love Is Not Transactional. Or is it?

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and everyone (well, almost everyone) was talking about expectations of gifts, dinners out, breakfasts in bed, rose petals on the floor, bubbles in the hot tubs and whatnot. Almost everyone expected something as a gift of love, something that would show that he or she cares.

One of my friends requested a Pandora bracelet from her boyfriend. The guy has three jobs and barely lives from paycheck to paycheck. Instead of doing some research, for example, just checking out Red Envelope prices and getting a better and a cheaper version, he went to Pandora store and got the bracelet. His debt management skills require some deep and intense education. I guess my friend did not care about that small financial nuisance. She needed him to prove his love.

What did he do? He bought her a Pandora bracelet, putting it on a credit card of course. Ultimately they both got something to remember each other by: she got a bracelet, he got a new bill. Happy Valentine’s!

I asked Beaker a long time ago to stop giving me gifts, especially on Valentine’s. I did not want to equate our love to a simple exchange transaction. Of course, it is nice to get a gift and treasurer it. But I am a strong believer that a material thing should not represent love.

Love should not be transactional.

Gift exchange by definition means a transaction: I’ll give you something, and you will give me something in return.

A gift exchange is expected and cultivated in our culture.

I was always disappointed with the gifts I received in the past. Somehow I expected people to know me, and give me something meaningful. My expectations never lived up to the actual gifts I got.

Marshmallows in a lunch box, wrapped in old newspaper, is not a gift I will treasurer for life.

When it comes to gifts, people’s expectations are usually pretty high. People expect you, if you truly care about them, to go all out and buy expensive stuff. Most of us don’t want to offend anyone. God forbid someone will assume that you don’t care enough.

So we go out and spend money on things we cannot afford, turning our feelings into a commodity.

We are programmed by our consumerist culture to exercise gift-giving as an expression of our love.

The more expensive gift we get, the more we believe that we are loved.

I was appalled by the price of the Pandora bracelet. Apparently it can go as high as $500-$800 and up. How much love does it convert to?

Material, physical items should not be a measurement of one’s love and care. I understand that we like to hold on to physical items because we see a sentimental value in them. But lately I have noticed that I see much more sentimental value in memories and experiences that I share with my loved ones.

25 thoughts on “Love Is Not Transactional. Or is it?”

  1. I think gift giving is a lovely gesture to show love and affection — but it has to be reasonable (within your means) and I think the gift should have some sort of personal and/or sentimental value. I think too many people have started judging a gift’s value by its price tag rather than the thought behind it.

    That said, I would like a Pandora bracelet….

  2. Wow I’ll try not to judge him and her too much, but that’s ridiculous. I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, so that just adds to the ridiculousness.

  3. Eric and I don’t really do gifts. a) we usually don’t have the money b) it’s so much pressure and c) if i want something really bad, i’ll buy it myself.

    people sometimes need to let go of expectations.

  4. My wife still has the expectation of gifts, but at least they are reasonable. She’s not expecting diamonds or anything like that. I do have to make an effort (and I should) to get her something for her birthday / valentines day, just to show her that I care, or at least that’s the message. Now I care anyway, and don’t think it necessary to get something just to say so, and thus I agree completely with what you wrote. But sometime others have different views.

    1. I don’t expect people to agree with me because I do realized that some of us do like to get gifts. There is nothing wrong with it. Why not to give a gift of experience instead of a material thing. 🙂

      1. That exact idea is what I’ve been trying to do more. Though from a frugality standpoint,they are usually much more than the flowers, choco and dinner. Snowboarding trip in a few weeks was the experience. Something fun and hopefully enjoyable weather-wise.

  5. What the heck is a Pandora bracelet? Never heard of it. Guess I’ll have to visit Google.
    There was a chocolate stand in our cafeteria on Valentine day and the smallest package of truffle was $8 for 4 pieces… I IMed the Mrs. to see if she wants $8 or truffle. 🙂
    She is a big cheapo.

    1. It is a very interesting bracelet. But I would be really mad if Beaker spent $500 on it. I’d rather buy shoes and clothes and bags. 🙂

  6. If the boyfriend is spending $500-$800 on her what is she spending on him? What I hate most about V-day is that it isn’t a gift exchange- men are expected to get something for “their woman”, but women aren’t really expected to get anything for “their man”, except maybe give him sex. If he’s spending $500-$800 on a gift in order to get sex, that sounds like prostitution to me.
    Did C buy us a gift yesterday? Yes. (I say us because it was a dessert for us to share.) But what really tells me he loves me is when he doesn’t make a left turn with a car coming (that he could make) because he knows it would freak me out. Instead, he waits for a larger opening. That is love.

    1. She spends on him quite a bit during the year. I guess maybe that’s why she felt that he should spend on her at least now.
      Love has a spectrum of expressions. I just don’t think material gifts should be on of those expressions. Your example was perfect.

  7. I’m not a really big spender on “stuff”, I tend to go for experiences instead. So Mrs. Infant rarely gets physical gifts from me. This year we had a nice dinner and came home to watch a dvd (her choice). Yes we spent money, but the memories will last much longer than any physical gift I would have gotten her, especially flowers. I still love the response I got the first (and only) time I bought her flowers. She said: “I don’t like to get flowers, they die so quickly and then you just throw them out. What’s the point”.

  8. I fully agree with you. Making a really good breakfast in bed is a far more romantic gesture in my book, than buying something and getting into debt over it. Spending time with someone is the true show of love, not spending money.

  9. Gift giving need not be about the money, but the though and care behind it. The Japanese spend time on exquisite packaging. In Chinese business culture, it is customary to exchange small gifts as a measure of friendship and respect.

    1. I guess the issue I always had with gifts was that they were not thoughtful. You hope people know you but when you get something meaningless, you really start to wonder about it.

  10. Pingback: Weekend links from the cult | Cult Of Money

  11. I do agree that love shouldn’t be about what someone spends or doesn’t spend in a transaction, but I do think that there is a transaction, and that is that the other person is going to give something back in the relationship, whether it be time, being able to provide, or being able to nurture. Odds are you would not continue to love a deadbeat or a very selfish person if they remained that way for the rest of their lives.

Comments are closed.