I have been dating a person for a little over 2 months now, and he asked me out on Valentine's day. I was not expecting anything spectacular, but what he really did disappoint me a lot. First of all, he did not get me any roses or chocolate; instead he gave me a tiny cactus with my name spelled wrong (this really pissed me off). Secondly, he did not make reservations for the restaurant, so we sat in the outside seating area because the restaurant was fully booked. I was very disappointed at how little effort he made for Valentine's day.

I'm starting to think maybe we are not a good match for each other. He seems like he does not want to try hard to impress me, but I like guys who would go the extra mile to make me happy, especially on special occasions like Valentine's day.

Questions: How to tactfully let this person know that he disappointed me and I expect better?

  • 16
    Are you comparing your gifts? What had you got him for valentines day? – Lio Elbammalf Feb 17 '18 at 9:15
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    Outside of him not trying to impress you, do you like him? – DaveG Jul 29 '18 at 22:37
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    Could you add a location tag to your question? This will be very dependent on culture. Knowing your age range would help as well. From an adult, NE American perspective the first thing I noticed was that you made no mention of the effort you put in to make it special for him, so I would need to know how your relative efforts compared before I could give a meaningful answer, given that equality in relationships is generally expected and desired in my experience. – Nicholas Jul 31 '18 at 17:06

The misspelling of your name is indeed annoying, and may indicate a lack of attention on his part. I would point that out and ask him to do a better job next time.

Not making a reservation on Valentine's may simply stem from not having too much experience with exactly how busy/booked restaurants typically get on that day of the year, and is probably an honest mistake.

I would like to dissect your expectations a little bit, however. You're very keen on the fact that he didn't get you roses or chocolates.

You guys barely know each other (2 months is not a long time-frame in a relationship). Roses are seriously marked up this time of year (in south Ontario a $13 bouquet goes for almost $50 on Valentine's). Perhaps this young man simply doesn't have the finances to spoil you the way you see done in movies. That's the way it often is in the real world.

He still got you a gift though, and tried to take you out to dinner, which is a financial sacrifice on his part, and very thoughtful. Sure, the execution left something to be desired, but who's to say that this time next year he wouldn't try to do a lot better?

Your inclination to part ways with him simply because he isn't spoiling you says more about your personality than his, really. One might even inquire if you got him so much as a cactus in return for a dinner out on the town.

Now, I don't want to be judgmental, but I am suggesting that not showering you in gifts after only 2 months of dating is not quite the slap in the face you're making it out to be, and that there are perhaps other, better, indicators of whether you should continue to date him or not.

Something that I came to realize as I matured is that it's not necessarily the gestures on special events (such as on Valentine's / your birthday) that matter most in life, but the little day to day things.

Does he make you laugh? Carry your backpack for you? Open the door? Does he demonstrate caring and understanding on a day to day basis in a million little ways? (These gestures will differ from person to person, and culture to culture)

A jerk who gives you a fancy gift on Valentine's is not worth putting up with if he treats you like garbage the rest of the year. Whereas a guy who treats you nicely, and makes your day better 364 days of the year can be forgiven for not making a restaurant reservation on day 365.

  • He is nice to me when we meet, but he does not text me much or ask me out very frequently, we only meet 1-2 times a week – InDala Feb 16 '18 at 19:53
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    @indala - there exist different expectations for relationships at different stages in a person's life. I'm not sure how old you are, although you come across as quite young, and am assuming that you're in your teenage years. Do you guys go to the same school, for example? Maybe he has to do homework, has expectations and chores imposed by his parents, etc. Or maybe he simply doesn't realize that you want more attention. The way to solve this is to speak to him. Tell him that you'd like to spend more time together, and get to know him better. Communication solves most problems -although not all – AndreiROM Feb 16 '18 at 19:55

Amusingly, the same stuff nearly happened to me the first and only time I went with my GF to a restaurant on valentine's day: traffic jams were a lot worse than usual, the restaurant had overbooked so we would have had to wait for at least an hour under pouring rain while listening to angry couples yelling at each other and breaking up, etc, anyway the usual v-day night stuff, my friend who owns a restaurant says it's always like that.

So, she said something like "I'm so sorry I insisted all week for this!" (best possible answer LOL), we decided to "screw that, we'll come back next week" and had some Chinese take out instead, followed by a night of celebrating love... it's valentine's day after all!

How people handle problems and mistakes (theirs, and the mistakes of others) tells a lot about their character. In the above anecdote I was very happy about her reaction.

So, in chronological order, let's start with the cactus. When you received a cactus with your name misspelled, you could have chosen to...

  • Ignore the problem completely

You decide the cactus is cute, shrug it off, everything's fine, it's unusual and creative, why not, kumbaya, etc.

  • Solve or remove the problem

A cactus is quite an unusual gift on valentine's day, so it would not have been out of place to ask why a cactus. Maybe he had an actual reason, like it lasts much longer than roses, or it makes really nice flowers once a year, or it's environmentally friendly, who knows. Or maybe it was the only thing left in the flower store because flowers were sold out, which wouldn't be surprising on valentine's day. Or maybe he thinks you're prickly, but if he does, that's useful information that you'd also want to know...

Likewise for the misspelled name. Maybe the store clerk wrote it and he didn't check. Or maybe he just doesn't know how to spell it, which I agree would be bad.

  • Pretend to ignore it, yet assume the worst and hold a grudge
  • Create more problems and pile them up on top of the original one

Well, that sounds more like it, since you say you "got pissed". But what I find more interesting is what you don't say: whether you asked why you got a cactus, why the name was misspelled, and what he answered if you did ask. In fact, you don't write any information about him... And people here would need to know more about him in order to answer this question: "How to tactfully let this person know that he disappointed me and I expect better?"

For example, when you were told you would have to wait because he didn't have a reservation, what did he say?

In fact, you talk about him a bit like you would talk about an appliance or other commodity... So, we don't know anything about his current mood. For example, all these scenarios are possible...

  • He already knows you were disappointed, and will make an apology later, in this case all you have to do is accept it with a smile. Maybe he's on a similar internet forum, posting his own take on this and asking how to fix things!...
  • Or, after observing your problem-solving skills, maybe he won't be answering your calls anymore.
  • Or he doesn't care.
  • Or he's completely clueless and did not realize you were disappointed. I find this one a bit hard to believe, but who knows.

Anyway. To answer your question. This will be generic since I have no information about him. I'd suggest starting with the easiest. Forget about the rest of the incident for now and ask why you got a cactus.

Apologize for getting pissed, laugh about it, then find out why he picked that unusual gift choice. If you agree with his reasons, this removes your reasons for being angry about the cactus, which should put you both in a much better mood. Likewise, even if you disagree with his reasons, at least listen to them. If you want him to do better in the future, you have to tell him how, ie, talk.

At this point it is safe to talk about the restaurant fiasco, and conclude that eating out on valentine's day is the Worst Idea Ever due to obvious logistics reasons, maybe next year you will have a cozy evening at home and he will cook that special recipe from his granma which totally rocks.

Basically, view it as "let's see what went wrong so next time will be better" instead of assigning blame.


How to tactfully let this person know that he disappointed me and I expect better?

Sounds like you're still in the phase where you figure out if you two are "right" for each other, if you fit together. So ask questions to find out what he's like and if you can meet each others needs. Like:

Hm, cactus, interesting choice but quite non-traditional. Why did you pick a cactus?

Answers might include "It was the only thing left in the shop when I belatedly thought about buying you something" or "It makes the most amazing and beautiful flower and I thought you should have something different and beautiful" or "My buddies found it really funny when I told them I would give you a cactus" or "It has the lowest carbon-footprint of all the flowers on offer and the environment matters to me." or "Um... err... um... err... [topic change]"

Each answer tells you something about his ideas about your relationship, himself, or you. Figure out how you feel about the answer and let him know.

Examples: "Valentine's Day is really really important to me so I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed that you thought of it only so late." or "Let me make this clear right now: I do not want to be the butt of your friends' jokes. Knock it off." or "I never thought of it that way." or "Wow!"

You can continue with

Did you mean anything by spelling my name like that?


Was it hard to find a restaurant for Valentine's day?

And if you're trying to find out if he can satisfy your needs, think about what those really are. Does the expectation for certain gifts on Valentine's Day simply follow societal expectations drummed into our brains by flower shops and chocolate manufacturers? Or is gift giving part of your "love language" and something you need to a certain extent to make you feel appreciated and loved? What would be a dealbreaker for you (something he does or doesn't do that would make you break off the relationship)? What gifts did you give him? Is it more the price or the amount of thought that went into the gift that matters?

And especially if you expect to get more gifts than you give: be aware that traditionally the counter-expectation often was/is one of sexual gratification. To be clear, I'm not a big fan of that "traditional" model (of sex against gifts) - but tastes vary. Just carefully consider what you "pay" for what you get. If you consider your youth/beauty/body a tradeable commodity for which you want to extract maximum value beware that others can pick up on this and treat you like... a commodity.


Lead by example. Next time you ask him out for a special occasion, organize things really well, get him a gift that he will, by 99% probability, be really pleased with, and have a great time together.

As your relationship continues to develop (if it continues), you may find that you're better at planning fun activities. You may also find that you're better at choosing thoughtful gifts. But if he turns out to be kind of clueless in these areas, by nature, then you'll feel touched when he makes an effort -- even if it doesn't turn out very well.

And if it's a special, special occasion, where it really matters to you that things go smoothly, then make sure you do the planning.

My thought process: my spouse is one of these clueless people when it comes to planning fun activities and choosing gifts. However, my spouse has other redeeming qualities and I've learned not to take it personally.

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