Ask Wendy

Why Won’t He Show Me He Cares?

Friday, April 19, 2019
Hey Wendy,

I listened to an audio of yours where you said hinting doesn’t work.

I hinted to my last boyfriend so many times that I wanted flowers. I’d say things like…

"I love these flowers.”

"It would make me so happy if you bought be flowers."

"This is my favourite kind of flower."

"Even just one of these flowers would really make me happy, I don't need a whole bouquet."

After 6 months of that, I finally told him I really needed him to buy me flowers or I was going to be upset. He got upset with me because he didn't think I should be telling him to buy me flowers, and it would be better to hint.

I literally said for six months, "it would make me happy if you bought me flowers" and he didn't get that not-so-subtle hint, until I finally made a demand. Then he was upset with me for making a demand.

After the demand, he did buy me flowers, I gave him lots of praise and appreciation, even though he kept buying me flowers I didn't like, and I kept pointing out the flowers that I really wanted and liked, and reminding him that even one of those flowers is something I'd like... still, he kept buying the flowers I didn't like. Maybe because they were the cheapest. But 1 flower of the kind I liked better would have been cheaper than a bouquet of the ones I didn't like.

So, what the hell am I supposed to do in those kind of situations?

I guess the answer is dump the guy who doesn't hear "it would make me happy if...."

Margie C. – Vancouver BC, Canada

Hey Margie,

This question was a little bit tricky for me because I really love flowers. They make me happy. They’re pretty important to me, and like you, I’m particular about which kind I like. So, I solve this problem by going out and buying myself flowers every week.

But I’ve got to ask: Is this really about the flowers? Or is this about having a boyfriend who’s reluctant to do things for you that will make you happy?

It doesn’t sound like you were hinting. You started with a hint, then you literally told him what would make you happy, and then you escalated that sucker up the chain to a hardline need.

There are problems on both sides of this equation, but since you’re the one who’s asking, I’ll address your part in this. I’m doing so not to pick on you or absolve him of guilt, but to empower you in your future relationships. If he’d written me with his side of this story, I’d probably tell him to heal his relationship with the women in his past (like his mother, probably) and to knock it off with the passive-aggressive behavior and use his words by stating his own needs, reasons, and boundaries. But now let’s get back to you.

In this escalation from “I love flowers” to “I need flowers,” you have set up an expectation and a demand. In his mind, he can either submit to or push back on the demand. But here’s the thing: If he submits, it’s not a gift. And there’s no amount of praise that will make either one of you feel good about this.

When he fails to meet your expectations, you’re upset, and understandably. However, he never signed up to be accountable for providing flowers. We can ask for gifts, but we can’t demand them.

It would be a different story if, in the first six weeks of dating, you’d said, “I know this might seem like an unusual request, but I feel cared for when I receive flowers. It’s something I need to be happy in a relationship. Are you willing to do this for me semi-regularly?”

I know it sounds kinda clinical to articulate your desire for flowers like this so early on, but in doing so you’re giving him an opportunity to opt in or out of your deal-breaker. He can agree to be accountable for meeting that need, or he can say no. Or, tellingly, if he says sure initially and then doesn’t follow through, then his actions speak for themselves.

We all get to need what we need and want what we want. Our needs and desires are all valid, and having needs and wants that don’t align with someone’s desires to provide them will always be disappointing.

But I still wonder…is it about the flowers, or is it about feeling seen and loved?

I don’t need gifts from my partners. My guy, Dave, a wordsmith with high emotional intelligence, gives me words. I do need words—a lot of them! If I don’t get words of affection and admiration from my love, he’s just not going to get the best out of me in return. It sounds like if you don’t get flowers from your love, he’s not going to get the best out of you.

As you date, pick those whom you don’t have to change—who can give you what you need and are interested in paying attention to what makes you happy. There are guys out there who understand the difference between calla lilies and carnations, and who are willing to take the time to listen to which you prefer (and we’re not just talking flowers here, of course).

Good luck out there!

SPECIAL-EDITION ADDITION

Now…I read an early draft of my answer out loud to Dave. He said, “You missed. Big time.”

Here’s what he has to say about it:

Here’s why I think Wendy missed.  She said it at the beginning, but then brought it back to flowers — this isn’t about flowers.

This is about a dude who isn’t interested in what makes his partner happy. I think you, whether consciously or unconsciously, were running a bit of a science experiment here. The experiment was designed to answer a nagging question that you had, to wit: “Does this dude give one single fuck about what I tell him would make me happy?”

It seems to me that your experiment returned a result. And, sadly, the result was: “No. Zero fucks given.”

You even know what to do about it, as you said in the last sentence of your question.

Sorry, Margie, and good luck!

—Dave

 

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