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DEAR CAROLYN: I have been dating a guy for about five months and last weekend was my birthday. We had family over and he offered to cook a great meal and was relaxed and happy to do it. It was delicious and we had a great time.

One thing bothering me is that he did not get me a gift. He was embarrassed by the little effort he put into the card and gave it to me the next day -- tossed it to me like, "Here ya go."

I found it odd because he called my friends to talk about a birthday gift and he has talked to me about gifts for other people, but didn't follow through for me.

A simple, heartfelt card would have been just fine and it's not the gift itself but the thought to have something for me.

My gut tells me it has more to do with him and less to do with me. My friend said it's not worth it to hit it head-on, and it's easier to let it go and in the future say something like, "For birthdays I love a sweet card, so I can't wait to find a great one for XYZ person." Good plan? Just feeling let down.

-- Happy-ish Birthday

DEAR READER: He gave you a gift! He cooked a great meal for you and the family gathered to celebrate you.

That is more love-labor-intensive certainly than ordering flowers or wine or a scarf.

So I do wonder why that didn't register. Unless he cooks delicious food regularly for you and guests, in which case it wasn't a birthday gift per se ... but if a partner who regularly cooks delicious food for you and guests isn't a gift unto himself, then I'm not sure what one is.

But I digress. What matters is how you feel about it, of course, and that's why gift questions matter. They're a piece of a larger sense of feeling loved and understood, which is everything.

It's so important, in fact, that it would be misguided to complain directly (and miss the bigger point); absorb your disappointment stoically (and ignore your own needs); or drop big disingenuous hints (really -- I cringe).

The remaining option is to accept dinner as his gift, and communicate more over time about what matters to you in general.

Talk with him over time about gift-giving, talk about what you do and don't care about, talk about why these things matter. Ask how he feels about his birthday.

Even more important: Think about these things carefully, too. It's not really about another trinket, right? So, know yourself. Know why you care, when you have cared, what has made you care more or less than at other times.

Maybe, for example, you never minded that X was gift-challenged, but with Y you were sensitive about every little detail.

Think about those times, find the why, apply these lessons broadly. Remember, it's just a piece of a bigger sense of being valued.

At five months, you and this guy still barely know each other. By next birthday, assuming you're still together, he might know exactly what to get you -- and you might not need him to get it, because you're both in a more secure place.

Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email

[email protected]

Weekend on 07/04/2019

Print Headline: Boyfriend cooked a large meal but she didn't see it as a gift

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