To Return or Not-to-Return Gifts After a Break-Up

This is inspired by a question I saw earlier about whether or not a gift should be returned after a breakup from @iman1998 :

Would You Return an Extremely Expensive Gift Your Partner Gave You After a Break Up

I have had my ear bent from a few guy friends who felt very bitter that something wasn’t returned, and I have also been in the position of giving away gifts or items and never seeing them again.

What reminded me most was years ago, I was dating a new guy and listened to him unload about his last girlfriend owing him almost €30,000. I couldn’t believe someone would have walked off with this much money so I asked him how this happened and why not take her to court for so much money being loaned out. It turned out, all he did was the math of over four years of dating to come up with a figure. This included an estimate of how much he would have spent on her on a daily basis during this time, if not an average but also included gas money to get to her and go home before they lived together. He actually believed she should be paying him back that money.

Where exactly do we draw the line on “dating money”?

I expect people to disagree with me on this, but as far as I’m concerned, dating and relationships are a risk. If you don’t get involved, of course you will save yourself time and money invested in to someone. If you break up and start with the, “I want the camera I got you for Christmas back,” routine, then it seems the end of the relationship is more about whether or not someone ‘got the best’ of someone rather than really ending the relationship for its core reason.

Those who decide to give a gift should be doing so because you have no preconceived notion that this gift should come back to you. That’s part of the charm of giving a gift. You made or purchased something from the heart and are giving it away. Root word: give.

Even if it’s a piece of jewelry that has some value to it if it is returned, the point at the time was that you decided that this person was going to accept the gift and you weren’t going to have it back. If you decide giving something expensive was something you could afford never to see again because it would be in their possession, then that is the choice you make when you give it away.

This isn’t to say that the person who holds on to the gift can’t do what’s perceived as “right” and give a gift back, notably expensive jewellery. But in the end, that is their decision to make.

At the time you end a relationship, it’s best to cut your losses and leave. Don’t be a curmudgeon of the past and dwell on the fact you’re out X amount of thousands of dollars or euros because you gave them “stuff”. If you truly cannot part with something such as a family heirloom, don’t give it away – simple.

As far as “dating money” and feeling owed in life because cash was spent on a relationship, it's time to get over it. Money is spent on a daily basis for things you both need or want whether it’s gift-giving or life-living when you share time together. Know the difference. Protect yourself, but also don’t put regrets on the things you gave away or gave up for a life lesson that might have been painful to learn.

To Return or Not-to-Return Gifts After a Break-Up


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Most Helpful Guy

  • I fully believe a gift should not be returned if there is a break up.

    One girlfriend I gave her a ring for her birthday. Not an engagement ring or "promise" ring. It was just a ruby, her birthstone. Surrounded by diamonds.

    She asked me if I wanted it back if we broke up. I told her no. She can keep it. Maybe it could be a memory of better times.

    We did break up about a year later.

    About 20 years later I bumped into her in a shopping mall... she was wearing the ring. I was going to ask her about it but didn't. I was curious if she continued wearing it after the break. Or if she took it off for a while.

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    • I know someone who did the same thing. She wore a ring her ex gave her because she said you don't just erase memories, plus she thought it was a nice ring. She even said it was her favourite ring. There should at least be some comfort knowing that when a gift is given like jewelry that some people can still hold the experience in high regard, enough to value the things that were given to them too as a reminder.

Most Helpful Girl

  • Yeah, I don't get people with that mindset either. It's a GIFT, you're not supposed to get it back, even if things go sour and your relationship falls apart. That's what gifts are. You permanently give something away, whether that's money, a service or an actual physical item. Just because things didn't turn out as planned, it doesn't mean the person you were with should pay you back, or that they somehow otherwise owe you for everything you've done to them. I'm sure they bought you things too, and did nice gestures, so it's supposed to be somewhat evened out. And even if it isn't entirely even, so what? You still can't expect someone to return a gift or pay back money you gave/spent on them, that's PERMANENT. You're not supposed to GIVE stuff away and then expect to get them back at some point, that would be a loan. And not a giveaway. Not a present, a gift or a treat. A loan.

    The only things I think should be given back are engagement rings and such if the marriage is off (i. e. if they break up before getting married).

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What Guys Said 9

  • I agree with the point of this myTake. When you give a gift in a relationship, would you say, "I'm giving this to you now but, if we break up, I expect it to be returned"? If so, it is not really a gift; it is a short tem deposit in an investment fund. What you are really saying is, "I am giving you this gift and I expect to receive something in return; if you don't give me what I expect, then you will not have earned the gift." That is just one step removed from "I took you out to an expensive dinner so you are obligated to have sex with me."

    All of this suggests a problem with the "accounting" approach to relationships. Too many people ask themselves, "Am I giving more than I am getting in return? If so, what should I do about it?" That kind of thinking is really inconsistent with everything that I believe about the nature of true love. In a good relationship, you should be asking yourself these two questions: "Am I consistently being asked to give an extraordinary amount to this relationship?" and "Am I getting my needs met in this relationship?"

    As long as you insist on getting the gifts returned, you have not truly given anything of yourself. You must continue searching because you still have not discovered how to truly love someone.

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    • I remember your accounting Take and thought it was great. That is exactly why all this whining about who pays for what and when is so senseless when you're in a position of still wanting to "Water the Plants" (one of my Takes). At the time of giving a gift, usually people aren't thinking like that. They enjoy the closeness and love seeing the person so happy. We all have heard the dreaded engagement ring news stories, so I just hope people learn from them and if they can't handle it, don't give gifts like that. Otherwise, as far as I'm concerned it's called Dating Money, and no one gets back their precious time, so why also now all the gas money, movie rentals, groceries, AND gifts should be even compared to that. No. You put in to the relationship what was worth the time, and that's it.

  • I agree as well. A gift is something you give without expecting anything in return. If you give someone something and expect something in return, that's fine, but that's not a gift.

    Plus, buying expensive gifts in a relationship is unnecessary. People won't stay with you because you buy them stuff. Studies have been done with baby chimps, and baby chimps will choose to go hungry rather than go without the physical intimacy of cuddling with their mother. Love is the most basic human need and without that no one ever stays in a relationship.

    Buying someone a gift can be a way to show love but it has to be meaningful, just throwing cash and expensive gifts like cars and jewelry at someone won't make them love you or want to be with you for very long. Once the excitement wears off in a couple weeks or months, whether they stay with you will depend entirely on the quality of the love and intimacy and attraction in the relationship, not how much money you spend.

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  • The only thing that should ever be given back after a break up is if the woman backs out of an engagement, she ought to return the ring. But birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, random "I love you" gifts... Those should never be expected back.

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  • The only type of things I would expect back are engagement rings, wedding rings, and anything that belonged to your parents, grandparents or other family beforehand. Just because the heirlooms are not replaceable

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  • When I got my first love, she and I were crazy about each other! We kept sending each other gifts around the gift giving holidays and during the time of our birthdays. Around the time of Valentine's Day of 2014, she broke up with me after she received my gift. I still have all her gifts she sent me because it would just be a waste of money sending it back and I don't want to hurt her feelings.

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  • I wouldn't want anything to be returned. I'd rather she threw them out

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  • Hell I hope she don't ask for thesd jockstraps back cos I love em and ain't giving back shit!

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  • I agree and disagree here. I wouldn't add up all my common day to day expenses spent with a girlfriend and expect that money back. However, if I bought her anything of significant value like jewelry, etc... depending on the break-up, I would expect it back.

    If it was a mutual or honest break-up... I would probably let the girl I was dating keep the gifts I gave her. If a girl cheats on me or has been playing me, then yes I want any gifts of significant value back. Do they have to give them back? Probably legally no. Should they give them back? Yes, especially if asked. But day to day expenses? No that's unreasonable.

    Thing is the man is usually the one buying gifts in the relationship. Men don't expect gifts other than your time, some attention, and maybe sexual favors. Many women expect material gifts when they shouldn't. Men give gifts cause they appreciate a womans love and to show her she matters. In some breakups, people still care about each other afterwards even if they never talk. But others where the girl cheats, then the reason for giving the gift in the first place is taken away.

    There was one instance I was dating this girl who was playing me the whole time. I bought her an expensive piece of jewelry for her birthday. I shouldn't have done it. Well she broke up with me and come to find out she had been cheating on me a lot. I asked for it back and she said no. She said she didint want it. And I'm like then why won't you give it back, I bought that. She's like because I'm gonna sell it and get a lot of money from it. It infuriated me that she did that. Its one thing to just keep something. But to get rid of it anyhow and profit off of something I bought her made me say wow that's messed up.

    I know I was nieve and stupid. But, its sad in our modern society that we blame the nieve person much more who is trying to play fair over the people that are dishonest and are downright assholes. I'm not as nieve now. But you can't just justify that it's alright to keep expensive gifts a guy gave you just because he's a stupid and nieve guy for buying it for you. That just ain't right. Your the person in the wrong. But, like I said if it's a mutual breakup or at least an honest one sided breakup and your sorry about, only then it maybe unreasonable for a guy to ask for gifts back. But if you cheated on a guy or screwed him over then you should give it back. You didint play fair. Just speaking hypothetically.

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  • yes, if both of them sending gifts each other then no need to give back but if guy only give the gifts then yes.
    and what about giving the ring back after the divorce.

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What Girls Said 8

  • Honestly, it's over exaggerated to give back things such as a teddy bear from valentines day, a sweater, etc. Who even keeps track of how much is spent on a person? In my opinion, gifts are so you can give, not give and receive back. If it had some sentimental value to it, such as your great grandmother necklace or an engagement ring, then in that case it's alright to ask for it back. When my ex and I were together, we gave a lot of gifts and even homemade gifts to each other and still have them because we put a lot of love and work into those gifts for the other to love and cherish, also little memory gifts from the fair or a date, like he won me a few stuffed animals and bought each other clothes. the only thing I gave him back was his clothes that I kept, lol like his hoodies. I thought they were cute and I borrowed them but right after we broke up I gave them back... Actually gave them to my best friend to give to him because we didn't want to see each other and he told her to keep some. I don't know why that was.

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    • I did something similar to this: donating to a shelter. One ex had bought me some clothes and I just couldn't bring myself to wearing them again, so since they were no good to him, and I didn't want them, I donated them to a women's shelter where they could at least be put to good use.

  • I wholeheartedly agree. What those people fail to realize is that it really isn't even about the money. They are bitter and need something to latch onto. They feel resentment towards the other person for the break up and want to basically be able to say, "ha ha". Even if that's through trying to get gifts back. All that does is creates drama and chaos. It's in a person's best interest to just cut your losses and move on.

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  • Very balanced take, as always.

    I'm going through something similar at the moment. For our anniversary last year, my ex made me a jewelry set out of his family heirloom silver. Despite him not asking for it back, I have decided to return it because it's part of his family's history. My mother and friends think I'm crazy, but I feel way too guilty to be able to keep it.

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    • Thank you :) I would too (give back an item like that). If it's no real use to you no need to keep it.

    • I mean I love it and it's beautiful but I can't keep it. Despite being an atheist, the Catholic guilt is strong.

  • I dont return gifts (or ask for anything I gave them either)
    If it's an engagement ring thats a different story. It's not even like I want to keep the gift for memories or anything like that. I just think when the relationship ends, it ends. Im not gona contact them and ask them to come pick up their gifts.

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    • Before I met my husband, no ex of mine ever gave me an engagement ring. If I had been given one, I wouldn't want it, and would give it back. If anything happens in my marriage, I wouldn't part with my wedding ring though. It's officially mine and our relationship went beyond an engagement, which was the agreement to get married.

      One ex gave me a small diamond journey pendant/necklace which I kept and I am in the process of getting rid of along with some other unwanted gold and gems for cash or credit at a jeweler I deal with. I have no desire to wear it ever. He did demand that I return it when we broke up but I refused. For starters, I knew what he had spent and what it was worth now, and since he was long distance it would be worth the postage/courier or insurance to put on it to get back to him. I also know how much money *I* had spent on him during our relationship, many things I won't get back even if I asked.

    • *wouldn't be worth, I meant to say.

  • A gift is a gift - once it has been given, it belong to the person who received it, end of story...

    Now, I do think it is common courtesy to return an engagement ring IF the person to whom the ring was given either cheated or made the decision to call off the wedding. That is the only circumstance in which I believe the right thing to do is to return the "gift".

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  • I know a guy who broke up with his girlfriend and he wanted his ring back. It was a like a promise ring but the thing is he didn't ask for it back until a year after the break up and didn't seem to care about the ring all that time until he found out that while they were together, she cheated on him. He kept going on and on about the ring and I was surprised when he told me that they met up for him to get the ring back. What if she did not have had it after a year he could not be mad at her but she kept it and gave it back to him when he asked for it so I guess it worked out. I still thought it was petty though.

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    • Yeah, that's petty. He was just finding a way to get to her after learning of her cheating to make her upset. The ring was his only excuse to do it.

  • Nice take, you inspired me a lot God bless you

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  • The ex of my friend wanted the shoes back he gave her when she was wearing them...

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