Should you solve relationship problems with gifts?

If you haven’t experienced this in real life, then you’ve seen it on TV: a woman gets upset at her man, her man has no idea what he did wrong, but he apologizes to her anyways with some flowers and chocolates. Men assume that overreacting women dominating arguments is a fact of life. Women assume that men patronizingly accusing them of overreacting to very real problems is a fact of life.

This same thing recently happened between two of my friends who were dating. The man had no idea what he did wrong, and one of our other friends (also a man) told him to just say “I’m sorry” and buy her something nice. The two other women in the friend group protested and said that he should instead find out what he did that upset her and fix it. Both sides adamantly ignored each other.

So who is right in this situation? Can we ever reach an agreement if everyone in a relationship is either on one side or the other, and therefore will always be biased?

Yes, we can. Because I am a lesbian, so I am both a woman and a woman-dater. But I am not just going to pick a side and say that it is always right. In fact, I’m going to propose something that neither side has yet suggested. But first, let’s go over the two possible correct answers:

Scenario 1: The Woman is Right.

One of the possibilities is that the woman actually is right and is not overreacting. The man may not see the problem for a variety of reasons: he may have poorer social skills, he may have missed some key information about the woman’s family, he may not be familiar with a particular activity most young women are pressured to know about like raising children or cooking, he may have just forgotten something.

But no matter the reason, and whether or not he deserves to be yelled at (after all, everyone forgets things from time to time, and yelling at someone is not way to improve their social skills), the key problem here is that the man believes that the woman is overreacting.

Saying that women overreact to small things or are neurotic has been historically used to portray women as having poor judgement. It’s the same argument that in the past was used to deny women leadership roles and undermine their complaints whenever they reported men for domestic abuse. At best, it shows basic disrespect towards the woman and accuses her of being childish. At worst, it shows misogyny.

The end result of this scenario is that a present briefly makes the woman forget the problem, or an empty apology makes her think that the man will correct his behavior in the future. So, of course, the problem will pop up again in the future, and the couple will have the exact same argument. Not to mention other troubles associated with a lack of respect and trust in a relationship.

Scenario 2: The Man is Right.

The other possibility is that the man is right: the woman is just overreacting. He does not have a basic disrespect for her character and he is not misogynistic. Instead, the woman is incapable of communicating her problems like an adult, won’t admit when she’s wrong, or finds it acceptable to take her anger out on the people closest to her.

But here, the outcome is not changed. Even though the woman is now at fault, the man in our story still decided to smooth things over with an apology and a gift, ignoring the fact that he actually dating a stubborn human with the same level of emotional maturity as our current president. Once again, either the same problem or similar problems will show up in the future, just not because of the man. Instead, they pop up because the woman is the kind of person to take her anger out on her loved ones, overreact to small things, and not tell anyone around her why she is creating drama.

The Resolution is Always the Same.

No matter who is actually at fault here, there is a bad outcome from solving a relationship argument with a gift, an empty apology, and some makeup sex when one of the partners doesn’t even know what went wrong. One of the partners is emotionally immature, refuses to listen to the other partner, or won’t communicate with about something that’s upsetting them. No matter who is actually at fault, this is a toxic relationship.

In scenario #1, the reasonable solution is for the woman to get the fuck out of there, because the man does not respect the woman. In scenario #2, the reasonable solution is for the man to get the fuck out of there, because he has gotten together with an immature and unreasonable woman.

In summary: no matter who is at fault, if a couple cannot talk out their problems like mature adults, no matter how small or how petty, one of them needs to leave. They should break up, or seek counseling, or have a really long heart-to-heart. But no matter which side is right, someone in the relationship will continue to cause trouble in the future, and the couple will be miserable.

If you are on the receiving end of someone trying to buy your affections with gifts instead of listening to you, or if you are on the receiving end of hyper-criticism from a stubborn, unreasonable partner, then talk it out with them or leave. You deserve better. You can’t just say, “Everything is perfect about them, except for the fact that they don’t respect or listen to me. Surely all of their good parts outweigh that one little flaw?” Disrespect and emotional immaturity are very big flaws. We no longer live in a society where you have to put up with an ungrateful partner just because you’re being pressured to be in a relationship. You have to believe that a better person is out there. Don’t compromise when picking out your best friend for life. If they don’t want to listen now, then the chances are that they never will.

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