Narcissists And Gift-Giving

Somewhere in the last week of January, 2006, Mark came home from work and emptied three plastic grocery bags on the kitchen counter.  I could tell by the look on his face that he was quite proud of himself.  With shoulders back and head held high he said, “Well, I’m not going to get in trouble on Valentine’s Day this year.  I had to pick up some stuff for work, so I thought I’d get you crossed off the list.”

I said, “Wow, Valentine’s Day is three weeks away and you already got your shopping done.”  All the while I was thinking to myself, geez you might wanna wrap something, or keep it hidden for a couple weeks.

No, he needed to bask in the glow of his accomplishment.  And, he needed to get Valentine’s Day crossed off the list, so we could all get back to the important things, like making sure he was our top priority.

“Here,” he says, “your favorite chocolates.  A nice big box of ’em.  And there’s a card in there somewhere, too.  Go ahead and find it and I’ll sign it when I get a chance.”

Will took one look at the box of chocolates and said, “Hey Dad, those caramel chocolates are your favorites.   Mom likes that yucky dark chocolate stuff.”

Mark says, “No, son, your mom likes these chocolates.  Just ask her.”

When Will turned to look at me, I decided to go out on a limb and say, “Well, actually, I have never liked caramel milk chocolates.  Will is right.  I guess you forgot that I like dark chocolate.  That’s okay.  It was sweet of you to think of me.”

Then Mark curtly says, “Well, I can’t be expected to know what you like if you are always changing your mind.  Since you suddenly decided that you don’t like these chocolates, I guess I’ll have to take them back.”

There was no point in explaining that I hadn’t changed my mind.  There was no point in trying to pretend that I always loved the chocolates.  It was best to just say thank you, pick up the contents of the grocery bags, and get back to preparing dinner.

That was the first year that I decided to buy myself a Valentine’s Day present.  I’ve not done that since.  I felt the need to see what it was like to receive a gift, knowing that the person who had picked it out had actually thought about me while they were making their selection.

I picked some fine dark chocolate and, because I was the accommodator, I got some caramel chocolates for Mark, too.

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  1. I think you’ll appreciate this given you writing about gifts from an N. My MIL gives the kids ornaments every year. On the bottom of each ornament she paints Grandma and the year she gives it to them with their name. Needing attention much?

    It’s wonderful you got your own chocolates :) We all deserve to get what we actually want.

  2. Jenn,

    And with a narcissist, you can wait around forever for them to give you what you want/need, and it’s never coming.

    … even if you tell them what you want. ;)

  3. Good thing my DAD sends my favorite chocolates every year for Christmas. He never forgets….

    But this time of year, I always ruin it for myself with memories of returned or taken back gifts. (N baggage) There is none of that now, so why do I torture myself with it? Everything under the tree now is exactly what I wanted…even if it is nothing. :)

  4. Z,

    Bless your dad, and bless you, too.

    I’d tell you to quit torturing yourself, but I know how that is.

    As for me, sometimes…. the feeling sorry for myself for all those lousy holidays can be almost as sweet as my favorite dark chocolate.

    I know. I have work to do….

  5. I’m so glad to have found this website! Both for my clients and and personal and insightful…
    All the comments strike me as I can find examples of them in my own life…my Nana, my mother, my ex-husband and his mother…The awareness I found in the 3 years since my divorce has been full of good lessons.
    My ‘favorite’ memory of a ‘gift’ was during a Valentine’s Day blizzard…I worked a double shift with my husband at our pizza shop on Valentines Day…I thought it could have been fun and romantic…I gave him his card and treat bright and early that day…he sulked and remained distant most of the day…as we were pulling out of the parking lot at 11:30pm he reached down under some trash in the front passenger side of the truck and pulled up a dirty card, “Oh, here..I almost forgot..happy valentine’s..” My guts plummeted at the time, but now the story actually cracks me up!
    The lightness of being alive when you come out from under their cloud is extraordinary!

  6. Hello Elizabeth!

    Welcome to the conversation.

    I can tell you have lots to share. ;)

    One of these days, Hallmark will come out with a card that a Narcissist gives to himself on Valentine’s Day.

  7. Hallmark could come up with that card…. But, of course, we would get in trouble for being so unthoughtful and insensitive for not going out and buying the card for them to give themselves……

    Our last Christmas present conversation went like this:

    N: Do you have enough presents under the tree for yourself?

    Me: Well, I have the iPad I bought for you to give me (duh!!!!) and I took the boys shopping, gave them money and they bought presents for me.

    N: Ok, but do you have enough presents to unwrap in front of the kids?

    Me: Well, yes but if you want to go out and buy me a present……..

    N: No, I’m just making sure you have enough to unwrap because I don’t want to go out….

  8. Lisa,

    Proof – again – that they all play from the same script.

    Reminds me of a birthday years ago. He grumped around the kitchen making me coffee and breakfast. He painstakingly watched as I opened the cards that I helped the kids make for me. There were no presents to open because I hadn’t been feeling well and didn’t get around to doing my own shopping.

    At 10:30 a.m. he said, “Can we be done with your birthday now? Have we been nice enough to you yet? I’ve got stuff to do.”

  9. Jesse, that Hallmark remark made me laugh out loud in my office! haha! And reminded me of this…

    After I left, he would buy himself flowers to keep on the dining room table at all times. There was even a note to himself. LMAO!!! I am soooo not joking!

  10. Z,

    I’m sitting here shaking my head.

    However… I’m thinking of buying myself a nice bottle of wine for Valentine’s Day. But I’m skipping the card. How would I sign it? “Be My Valentine”?

  11. A nice bottle of wine will be lovely for Valentines Day! Good thinking.

    Reminds me of every year of the lecture/rant I was given for Valentine’s Day about what crap it was, the over commercialisation and how it’s not for married couples……….

    I thought it would have been easier to just give me a hug and kiss and say Happy Valentine’s Day.

    Oh and anniversaries didn’t count as he showed his ‘love’ everyday of the year…

  12. Lisa,

    The more you write, the more I wonder if we were married to the same guy.

  13. No, sign it “Yours Forever”….
    One year, just over a year before I left, I tried a card on V-day. I gave it to him at dinner, with candles lit, good food, kids were happy, and he tossed it aside unopened… And never opened it. I threw it away and never gave him another thing (including THAT!). Skirted around his birthday, anniversary was easy, and then Christmas was nada from me, the kids picked out some things (he cried! In disappointment). Done, done, done….

  14. Sounds like it! Their actions are so laughable….

    A favourite is the year he ‘forgot’ Mother’s Day…. (This was after the many years of dismissing it by announcing “You’re not my Mother!”)

    On the Tuesday after he suddenly got REALLY STRESSED……

    Why? Because he had forgotten to call his Mum…….

  15. Z,

    I like that.

    What goes through someone’s mind when they actually toss a card that is handed to them by their spouse? And how come, when they look in the mirror, they don’t see the cruelty in their behaviors? It’s the complete lack of empathy. It borders on inhuman. Borders, hell… it isn’t human at all.

  16. Lisa,

    And I suppose you were blamed for not reminding him?

  17. He had selective memory when I reminded him of it too. So, apparently, he too thought that was inhuman, but didn’t believe he would do something like that. I would really like to dissect their brains…an EEG could record synapse failures…hmmm…lol!

  18. Z,

    I’ve always wondered if there is some physiological component to all of this.

  19. Very familiar…. Selective memory and also shaky truths (outright lies) to defend their position.

    It is so beyond my thought patterns that they can truly believe that this is acceptable behaviour.

  20. Lisa,

    Yes, and still I find myself wondering how I ever fell for that.

  21. Hi Jesse,

    I am reading this and just amazed at the similar patterns among Ns. I seriously thought I was the only one in the world to receive an unsigned card from a spouse. If I had had the receipt I would have returned it to the store to save the money–not kidding.

    I also was told time and time again I liked stuff I did not like and then received the anger for not loving what I was supposed to like and appreciate the ENORMOUS effort and inconvenience it was to shop for me.

    I learned self-care being married to a N. I learned that I am worth a signed card. I am not defined by the actions or words of another.

    Here is to being cherished this Valentine’s Day–in whatever form it comes!

  22. Lynn,

    All day long I’ve been stewing on this topic.

    Here’s to being cherished… even if we do the cherishing ourselves.

    All the best, Lynn. ;)

  23. Lynn, since it was unsigned, you could have given it back to him the next year. Lol! I would have scratched out all the sentiments first though. I got a little tough in the end.
    Your second paragraph is my ex. That year I gave him nothing for Christmas, he bought me coordinating everything in kelly green and true purple. It included a purse in the same exact style as I received the previous 3 years, just in green. Never ever did he see that I wore that nor did I ever express that I wanted any of it. (both are not that flattering on me) I got that same line about how much time and effort he spent picking it out. Hmph!

    With Valentine’s Day coming up, it is hard for me to grasp WANTING to celebrate it. I have been so conditioned to ignore days like this. But, I have made it about my kids so they see how nice it is to get a little something special and thought of, even if it is a Hallmark holiday. :)

  24. Z,

    I completely agree with you about Valentine’s Day. I get a small something for the kids, and try not to voice my cynicism about Hallmark’s big day.

  25. All the time I was with the ex narcissist that is 2 years I never received anything gift wise. No birthday,Xmas, Valentine’s nothing zilch,zip, nothing. He on the other hand got gifts for all these occasions. How stupid was I? Was I so conditioned by him that nothing he done was alright by me? Had he groomed me so well to be oblivious as to what was going on with him? It took me 2 years to see the jerk for what he was. A robot programmed to keep repeating the same BS with whoever is unfortunate enough to cross his path. I am free of him now I hope, not been hoovered yet but it has only been a month since I went NC
    My heart bleeds for all of us who have had the misfortune to have one of these predators in our life. Mel x

  26. Hi Mel!

    Thanks for writing.

    Let me say how glad I am that you are free of him. Good on you!!

    Every time Valentine’s Day comes around I laugh at those memories of what life was like with a narcissist at the typical gift-giving occasions. At least I can laugh now. ;)

    My kids hate Valentine’s Day. That’s probably my fault.

    I hope your Valentine’s Day is free of all narcissists!

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