Episode 143: "What if my partner gives me gifts, but holds them against me later?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about when gift-giving becomes pressured.
This is Jessica Skultety. I’m an Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, What if my partner gives me gifts, but holds them against me later?”
This is a kind of economic abuse. A gift can be a nice gesture, whether it’s for a holiday or birthday, or just because. Some partners give gifts to show their partner that they love them, right? This is okay when there’s no expectation or pressure behind it! True gifts are freely given without expecting something in return. If your partner is using gifts to threaten, pressure, or guilt you in some way, that is a form of economic abuse and it is wrong.
Giving gifts and expecting a gift back is not okay. If someone chooses to pressure you to do other things because they gave you a gift, that is also not okay. In recent research from the national organization Futures Without Violence, 34% of teens reported that they felt pressured to pay their partner back with physical or sexual contact.
Also, 42% of teens said a partner held something they did for them, against them– like giving gifts, providing transportation, or giving money. That’s a lot of people, right? - and it doesn’t have to be this way. Also, it’s not your fault if your partner is doing this to you.
If your partner is pressuring you, making your feel bad, or threatening you, this is a warning sign that the situation can get worse. Plus, if we’re talking about romantic relationships, this is someone who’s supposed to care about you! Love isn’t pressure or guilt.
For example, maybe a partner keeps bringing up the gift. They might say something like, “Remember when I bought you that phone?” or “Wasn’t it nice when I did that?” or “Since I gave you that gift, you really should…. Insert action here.”
In these cases, it sounds like they are trying to make you feel guilty, or earn points in the relationship for doing something nice. In reality though, that’s not how healthy gift giving or healthy relationships work, and their actions can create a pressured, anxious, and possibly unsafe environment for the other person.
Remember, you never have to do anything you don’t want to do, even if you’re in a relationship. You don’t have to give a gift back, and you don’t have to pay your partner back with sexual activity or some other way. If this is happening to you, remember, it’s not your fault, and you have options.
If you feel safe to do so, thank your partner for the gift that they gave you, and tell them that you don’t want to do the thing they are suggesting. If they persist, if they keep going, you could consider talking to a trusted adult about the situation.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.