Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Disappointed by no gift on Valentine’s Day? Gave a Valentine’s Day gift and was disappointed by reaction?

DEAR NATALIE: I was really disappointed by this year’s Valentine’s Day gift from my husband. You know what he got me? Nothing. He got me nothing. Yes, we’ve been married for more than 20 years, but why should that matter? He said we “don’t need to celebrate these things at this point.” I was really upset and now he’s annoyed with me for being upset. It ruined our whole weekend. I told him he could just be “spontaneously romantic” and then he laughed. Any help in getting the romance back? I am feeling depressed about it all. -- WOOED OUT

DEAR WOOED OUT: I can’t even begin to tell you how many women I have met who have asked me about the death of romance in relationships. It comes down to feeling appreciated — the little niceties of life can go a long way. A bouquet of flowers, a box of candy, a love note, these things have endured because of how they make us feel: wanted, loved and noticed. When you remove them or their equivalent, it is easy to feel resentful or hurt.

Some people don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day for their own reasons, and that is fine. Not everyone buys into this holiday, especially after researching the actual origins of it. (Take five to Google it — it’s quite a story!) I encourage those people to find other reasons to leave love notes, bring home flowers or do the dishes. I encourage everyone in all relationships, whether romantic or platonic, to show appreciation and love for the people in your lives. Bring this up to your husband, but don’t frame it by saying what he did wrong; talk about how it made you feel to be ignored on that particular day. Tell him you need reminders that he loves you every once in a while. You would like to be wooed! There shouldn’t be an expiration date on romantic gestures. He may not turn into Casanova overnight, but maybe he just needs a push in the right direction.

DEAR NATALIE: I gave my girlfriend a really expensive necklace for Valentine’s Day and the first words out of her mouth were: “Ew, I hate rubies. Are these fake?” They certainly weren’t and I told her that. She wants to return it and get something else, but I had the piece custom-made and so it isn’t that simple. I was taken aback, as she has always admired jewelry with rubies in them, which is why I went in that direction. She hasn’t thanked me at all for the gesture. My friends are telling me that she is ungrateful and I should dump her, but I really care about her and don’t want to end things over a necklace. Any thoughts? -- OFFENDED BY JEWELRY

DEAR OFFENDED BY JEWELRY: I agree with your friends on this one — find someone who appreciates what you can provide. The fact that her first reaction was to insult you does not bode well for your relationship. You took time to think about what she would like. You went out and didn’t just purchase her an extravagant gift, you customized it. Even if she didn’t love it, the first reaction speaks volumes about her. The universe provides subtle and not-so-subtle hints about the people in our lives. It doesn’t get any clearer than this. She most likely is someone who is never satisfied and always finds faults in others.

Reconsider why you are with her. Are you always trying to please others? Do you handle criticism better than compliments? Do you like to be with people who challenge you to the point that every relationship is a struggle? Focus on yourself and your dynamic with others. My guess is that you are hard on yourself and seek out others who are going to be hard on you, too. Listen to your gut on this one. I think you wrote me this letter because deep down you know you don’t want to be treated this way. I’m giving you permission to walk away — run if you can.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week:  If you identify as an introvert, maybe large networking gatherings aren’t for you. Instead, choose smaller events, invite a few people out for lunch or coffee, and focus on the quality of connections over quantity. 

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)