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Help! For the last nine months my girlfriend has been buying me books by the wrong author, fully believing that she's treating me to work by my favourite writer (who incidentally she believes is a pervert!).

Some context: on our first date I told my current girlfriend that my favourite writer is the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. We were talking about our passions and I mentioned that I'd spent a lot of time as a teenager at the local library, reading whatever I could get my hands on. Eventually, I said, I stumbled onto good old Haruki, and my life was changed forever.

It seems that just the 'Murakami' portion stuck in her brain, however. Fast forward to a couple weeks later. It was probably our 5th or 6th date. She was practically giddy when she showed up, telling me she had a surprise for me. After several minutes of playing the 'guess' game she gave me a hint: it was a book by my favourite author.

Man was I excited. It felt great knowing she'd honed in on something we'd talked about on our first date. Not only that, but I didn't actually own any of Murakami's novels in physical form, so I really was thrilled.

My face fell when she handed me the book. It was '69' by Ryu Murakami. Both writers are Japanese, but their work is totally different. She was so pleased with herself, though, that I didn't have the heart to tell her the truth: that she'd bought me a book by the wrong Murakami. Worse still, after she gave me the book, she started to make comments about how my taste in books is 'really weird' and even 'disturbing'. Turns out she read the book before giving it to me, and she hated it! She thought it was disgusting and immoral.

Somehow the conversation kept coming back to the book throughout the night, as though her impression of me had been changed by learning that my favourite author was this guy Ryu. It all culminated in her saying that she thought he was a pervert for writing so much about erections (incidentally Ryu Murakami isn't a pervert, he's just a bit edgy and my gf had up until 69 only really read Western YA and some mainstream fantasy).

Because I appreciated the gesture I decided to let it all blow over. I assumed that her interest in what books I'm into would be fleeting, and besides, I didn't even know how long we'd last together. It was early days.

Two months later we were still together, and my birthday was coming up. On the morning of, almost the exact same situation happened. Girlfriend was stoked, gave me my present, and it was a copy of Piercing by Ryu Murakami. Again, she kept making comments about how weird I was to like his stuff. And to make matters worse, we were out for lunch with my sister when it happened, and she's not a reader at all, so she had no idea what was going on or why I was essentially being outed as 'being into weird shit' at the cafe table.

Since then, my girlfriend has bought me a new Ryu Murakami novel every month without fail, and it's at the point where the lie is so big that I honestly don't know how to tell her or what to do. We've been together for nine months now!

So what I'm asking is: How can I tell my girlfriend the truth? I appreciate that her actions are rooted in generosity but she constantly tells people that I have a 'sick and twisted' taste in writers and I think some people are taking her seriously. I don't want to hurt her feelings but I also feel like she needs to know. I really like her and plan on keep seeing her for the indefinite future but this feels like something that's going to eventually catch up to us.

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    Have you read all of the books she has given you? Did you enjoy them? It may help soften the conversation if you can honestly say that you still enjoyed the gifts. – David K Jun 28 at 12:31
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    Hi visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation are subject to deletion. If you'd like to turn your thoughts into an answer instead, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Em C Jun 28 at 17:34
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    Hi nairb, I noticed your update! Since this question has already gotten a lot of attention and answers it's not a good idea to significantly change the post now (the update section nearly doubled the size!). I've rolled back to the version of the question that was answered - small updates to let us know the outcome are ok, but new questions should go in new posts. So if you'd like to learn how to talk about the type of art you enjoy (?), it'd be best to put that in a new post (keeping in mind that we can't construct arguments for you though). – Em C Jul 1 at 14:43
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    In addition to what EmC said, we always love to hear the final outcome of the approach you used. If your approach is sufficiently different from anything you've gotten in answers here, please write your own. Otherwise, a comment and accepting the 'closest' working answer might do fine! See our meta for more info. – Tinkeringbell Jul 1 at 17:05
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Judging by the answers already given, I'm apparently alone in that I find the whole thing kind of...funny?

I'm picturing putting myself in the girlfriend's shoes. My boyfriend sits me down, very seriously, to tell me he needs to talk. I obviously fear the worst. Then he tells me that for 9 months I've been buying him books by the wrong author. I've spent the last 9 months thinking my boyfriend has some weird tastes and is borderline perverted (whether or not the books would even indicate that is irrelevant, it's how I feel). Each book I bought him, I felt really weird about it. Come to find out, he was just as uncomfortable because I've been buying him the wrong books for months. He was just too uncomfortable and/or appreciative to tell me. I would probably start laughing almost immediately.

When I was in kindergarten/first grade, my parents laid down some mulch at our house. I heard them talk about how good it looked and I saw how happy it made them. For months following that, several times during the week at recess, I'd stuff my pockets with mulch from the playground to bring it home to my parents. I mean, they loved mulch so they would clearly like more. Was I hurt when I realized my parents were just throwing it away? No. I mean, I obviously didn't find it funny at the time but I wasn't offended. I was doing a nice gesture based on what I thought my family was into.

I don't know your girlfriend, but I would like to think she'd handle the situation similarly. She didn't do anything wrong and it's not her fault she misremembered or misheard you. The fact that she's been doing that for you is incredibly sweet if you ask me, regardless if it was the correct author or not. It shows she cares. As others have said, I could see why she might be a tad bit hurt, but the humor in the situation outweighs it all. Every time I'd pass those books on the shelf, I'd start laughing. I'd tell that story to anyone listening. "Remember when I thought you were some deviant with a weird taste for books?"

EDIT: As my reply apparently wasn't sufficient enough, I should clarify. Someone interpreted my comment above to be that the girlfriend is at fault which is absolutely not the case.

You should definitely tell her and you should base that conversation off of what you know about your girlfriend. If she's known to be extra sensitive, be aware that approaching the situation lightheartedly might come off flippant. Now, I'm assuming your girlfriend is a normal human being and would see the humor in the story just as I have and not freak out on you. Personally, I would come into this and make it clear that while yes, you do find it funny (assuming you do) that your girlfriend has been buying you degenerate novels based on a misunderstanding but she still cares for you anyway, you're also deeply apologetic for letting it go on so long. Hell, if I was your girlfriend I'd continue to buy you those just for the sake of the joke. I can't give you any specifics, unfortunately, as there's just too many variables.

The only real advice I can give is

  • Don't start the conversation with "We need to talk"
  • Broach it casually, preferably over a meal
  • Be lighthearted for as long as the situation permits

On that last note, if the whole conversation remains generally lighthearted and she does take the news (relatively) well, it wouldn't hurt to circle back around to it a few hours later with a much more serious "I know we talked about it already, but I'm really sorry I let that go on so long. I know it's funny and it's not that big of a deal, but I should have brought it up sooner."

As commenters below me have stated, the exact way you bring it up and the phrasing you use is much less important than actually telling her. In fact, you should never come into a conversation like this with a script. You should have points you want to make, obviously, but adjust the wording to the mood and the situation. The points I would try to make are:

  • You buying books based on my interests is something I deeply appreciate and love
  • You didn't do anything wrong
  • I should have said something earlier
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As you have already decided to tell her, be aware that it's definitely the right decision, though it should have happened earlier. Also be aware that she will be hurt to some degree.

With that said, let's go on to how to tell her:

Pick a calm situation so both of you can talk about it longer than 5 minutes. Make sure that there is enough time for both of you to fully grasp onto the issue (the issue being basically you lying to her). Tell her what you told us:

Because I appreciated the gesture I decided to let it all blow over. I assumed that her interest in what books I'm into would be fleeting

That is your reason how it all started out. Though you definitely should think about the reason you kept going with it and not breaking it to her earlier.

So basically, you sit her down, tell her what that she got the author wrong, tell her why you didn't tell her right away and definitely apologize for lying to her.

Something along these lines (just to give you an idea).

GF, I need to tell you something important. You see, I really appreciate all the books you got me, but I need to tell you, that they are not from my favorite author as you seem to have it wrong. My favorite author is XYZ. I know I messed up by not telling you earlier. That because I appreciated the gesture and I decided to let it all blow over. I assumed that your interest in what books I'm into would be fleeting. I see that I have been mistaken on that and I am sorry for it.

This way you explain your reasoning to her and tell her the right result right away. If you think that it's not enough already, you can also promise her to handle it better in the future (which you should then also adhere to).

From personal experience:

Every gift ever that was wrong, but you didn't want the other person to feel bad at that moment so you suck it up. More specifically: some relative's gift for Christmas. As I didn't want them to feel bad at Christmas, I waited until I saw them the next time which was a few months later. Told them the why I waited etc. Of course they still felt bad and kinda betrayed, but understood the reasoning. Gifts are better since then.

EDIT:

I do realize that my suggested course of action might be a bit overly cautious and actually the introduction could be a bit lighter as suggested. As @goat_fab pointed out correctly, one always expects the worst when hearing the words: "I need to tell you something important". This sentence could be omitted to set a lighter tone to the conversation overall.

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    "you seem to have it wrong" => "I think you might have misheard something from our first conversation." Also emphasize that you really appreciate the gesture and the intent/thoughts and that's what you've been focusing on with all the gifts to date. – WBT Jun 28 at 15:46
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    Not a specialist, but I'd suggest "I really appreciate all the books you got me" => "I really love how you try to get me my favorite books for me all the time". This also implies that you like what she is doing and would love for it to continue -- just with some minor adjustments, like a different author. :) – Vilx- Jun 28 at 18:42
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    @WBT: agreed, that phrasing needs improvement. Using the passive voice ("there was a mixup") avoids attributing or blaming the mistake to anyone. But instead I'd suggest "My favourite author is actually a different Murakami. I couldn't think of a way to mention it earlier because I did appreciate the thoughtfulness..." You don't need to say "there was a mixup"; that part is obvious and not what you want to focus on. – Peter Cordes Jun 28 at 18:48
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Having seen this happen with friends of mine, and having it happen myself, I can say that waiting this long is, in itself, a problem. She is probably going to be upset with you, so just prepare yourself for that.

I recommend waiting until this comes up again or find a way to work it into the conversation, and then just say something like:

It is so sweet of you to remember that I love Japanese authors. You keep saying I'm "weird" though, and I'm not sure why? I do love Murakami, but I noticed that these books are by Ryu and not Haruki. I've tried out both books you got and though I've tried to be open-minded, they are such different authors. So, I agree with you, the Ryu books are a little weird for me and I probably won't read them anymore in the future.

Then... since she has read the Ryu books - give her a copy of your favorite Haruki Murakami book and let her read it. She may, then, not only stop the comments but enjoy the read!

If I was the one who made a mistake, I would want to know. I think framing it like she was suggesting new literature instead of blatantly making a mistake might soften the blow. I know she thinks it's your favorite, but it is a more indirect way of making the point without making her feel as bad - though she likely still will so we are just getting through the conversation.

Then, the gesture of you giving her the opportunity to see you're not "into weird shit" by having her read the correct book, would probably ease her mind, too. People tend to keep bringing things up that make them uncomfortable as a way to try to make sense of them. In this case, there is nothing to make sense of, because these aren't the books you like!

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Try gifting her with the right book that did change your life. Explain that you were so touched by her gestures of book buying that you didn't have the heart to tell her that it was the wrong author. It's a weird coincidence and an understandable mixup, but that in order to know the "real" you, it's important to you that she read the right Murakami.

Citation: 20 years of marital mixups. Not all gifts are perfect. It's hit and miss even when you know each other very well. Your girlfriend is being very thoughtful and emphasizing your appreciation of her gesture will go a long way toward easing any potential embarrassment.

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    Hi SnappingShrimp! In those 20 years of mixups, have you fixed anything like OP describes by gifting 'the right thing' (So, a problem that's left unaddressed for a long time, for multiple times)? Can you elaborate a bit how more how that went, what the reaction of your significant other was? – Tinkeringbell Jun 29 at 18:56
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    Similar but not exact. When I bought the wrong style of underwear for him a few times, he eventually expressed his preference, but he did not gift me the brand of boxer briefs he preferred and I didn't try them on! I just rolled my eyes and we moved on with life. This is in direct contrast to my father, who "put up" with my mother folding his underwear the "wrong way" for a few months before correcting her. Her response was to sew together the leg holes of all of his underwear, which he discovered the next day when he got dressed for work. He apologized. I do not recommend this method. – SnappingShrimp Jun 29 at 19:50
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I'm going to try and address a different issue that I don't think the other answers have covered.

Consider the possibility that she might think you're lying about it being the wrong author, in order to cover up your taste in "weird"/"sick and twisted" books.

Judging by your question, it seems like your newfound reputation in this respect (at the very least with your sister, and lord knows who else), doesn't sit very well with you. It's likely that your discomfit has been noticed, and something like this can very well be seen as an attempt at backpedaling.

Once a lie has gone on for so long, it's hard to correct course. You need some kind of definite proof that she's been buying you the wrong author. Hopefully you have something like this, or you could be faced with a situation that's the worst of both worlds - she ends up thinking you're lying to her, AND she still has the wrong idea about who your real favorite author is.

It's hard to say what "definite proof" would be - for instance, when I accidentally ordered something rather embarrassing online, it was hard to get my mate to believe it was a mistake, even though I had a clear search/research history pointing to the thing I was actually trying to buy - I was still greeted with the old "OK, OK, whatever you say" reaction.

That being said, as for how to break the news, I would recommend an indirect approach. Rather than sitting her down and talking, I would have her discover the lie. Leave something lying around, or leave browser/history windows open, etc.

It's easier to have her reach the conclusion on her own, and then for you to come clean, than to present her with something to process and accept.

As a tongue-in-cheek example, some people flat-out refuse to believe anybody could enjoy the taste of diet soda. Usually, my (admittedly unhealthy and excessive) consumption level is enough to have them confront me with the possibility on their own. "Do you actually like the taste of that?!?"

You've lied to her for a long time. Despite intentions, this fact is incontrovertible.

I've hurt and been hurt many times - it's hard, but sometimes the only thing you can do is lay it all down and work things out. Once you've come clean, communicate and work things out - and make sure things stay clean.

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I actually hope that you've already successfully sorted out of all this by now.

My experience with this sort of thing was not very agreeable. I have a "medical condition" about which I've failed to tell a very close relative for many decades since I had the first opportunity. It's a bit complicated to delve into, but it isn't the sort of thing that I could even (dishonestly) plead ignorance about, even if I were to successfully pull off that sort of thing with that specific person. Eventually the person found out, wholly by accident.

Since my social skills are useless to a great extent, I wrote the person a letter, explaining how it all came about and the circumstances necessitating me withhelding the information. Were that person not exactly that person, things could have developed very differently than it did - my explanation having been accepted after about three days of turmoil.

I think the main factor for the "successful" outcome, was that I haven't confronted the person in person. Apart from things always going wrong whenever I attempt an explanation of this sort of thing, the person had the chance to get all the information and process it before reacting to it, or feeling the urge or obligation of responding to it. Probably the greatest advantage, for me, is that one can have your thoughts sorted out, organised and arranged in the best possible manner, and the chance to review all of it several times before having it finalised. From an "IPS" point of view, this might seem impersonal and "cold", in my case it's the best mechanism towards disaster prevention and management: an impersonal letter is still far better than an inept blunderer with a history of "social disasters".

I think "SnappingShrimp" has made a good suggestion of giving her the actual author's book as a gift, in which you could then put such a letter, if the idea suits you. Should the book be as good as you tell, it might help along the process of "recovery" and itself forthwith explain everything about the authors.

What I'd be careful of, is to treat this situation with levity. Although I agree with "goat_fab" regarding the humour in the situation, the answers have clearly pointed out the problem with the extent of the period that the "deception" has been going on - which you clearly realise, as per your question.

Quite a number of years ago, a bloke who I knew then, has been retrenched. In stead of telling his wife, he copied the idea from a book or a film or whatever, to carry on as if nothing had happened - with the idea of getting his affairs in order with other employment, meanwhile using the gratification package and their savings before telling her what has actually been going on. Their marriage only lasted the ensuing distrust from her side for the sake of seeing their children through secondary school - not altogether groundless: had his father not stepped in to salvage their pending financial ruin after he'd found out about it five months into the deception, there could have been serious trouble. Obviously your situation is far from that, but I think the distrust may not be.

Sometimes it's actually the sort of thing that one think wouldn't really matter that seriously, which causes people to split apart. For donkey's years, a bloke had his near-fanatical activist wife under the impression that he was actually voting for the same political party than she does. I don't know how she eventually found out what the situation really was, but the repercussions dissolved another marriage.

I think you should plan your strategy around this situation very carefully. Obviously not knowing either of you, she may very well take it in her stride and all of this might end on a high note, without a hiccup or further ado. However, bearing in mind that she took the trouble of finding the books, presenting them as gifts and being quite thrilled with the idea of giving them to you, while you've faked enthusiasm every time and dreaded the next instance of such a gift, may just occasion at least a little concern. The possibility of her thinking that you're pulling a stunt to "rectify" your reprehensible taste in authors, as "sp88" has pointed out, doesn't seem that far-fetched at all, either. Presenting the book as a gift, might yet serve as the "proof" of your innocence, should the scales of justice already be tipped in your favour - if you simply wanted to pull a stunt indeed, the actual author's work could have been presented far earlier. This is of course all guesswork, though.

Whatever you do, I'd suggest that not the slightest trace of anything but the truth form part of it.

protected by NVZ Jun 29 at 6:57

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