Dear Annie: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. Everything is going well between us, and he's a sweet and thoughtful guy in general. But he didn't get me a present or card for Christmas, and it's been bothering me the past few weeks, though I've tried to just move on. It's not something I'm eager to bring up. I feel pretty whiny even admitting in this letter that it bothers me. I got him a few gifts and took him out to his favorite restaurant. I know that you shouldn't expect a gift in return when you give something, but it just stung a little that he didn't put thought into getting me something -- anything at all. I would have been happy with a card or a special home-cooked meal or some other small gesture. Last year, he got me a nice present, so I just assumed we'd be exchanging presents this year. Am I being ridiculous? Should I just get over it, or should I tell him? -- Snubbed in the South
Dear Snubbed: You're not being ridiculous. But before you get self-righteous, consider that while gifts can be loving gestures, loving gestures can be gifts, too. Perhaps material presents aren't important to your boyfriend and he didn't realize they'd be important to you. Let him know your feelings on the matter -- but before you do, make a list of all the other ways he shows his love. Read it immediately before your talk so you go into it with an attitude of gratitude and can easily share with him a few things he's done that have made you feel cherished. This keeps the focus on love, not blame.
I'd also suggest you and your boyfriend read ''The 5 Love Languages,'' by Gary Chapman, to avoid this type of miscommunication in the future.
Dear Annie: You have been so helpful to print letters commenting on what not to say to someone who has lost a loved one or had a miscarriage, etc. May I comment on what not to say to someone who has been a victim of a home burglary?
Recently, we returned home from a funeral a few miles away to find that our home had been burglarized. Our children and grandchildren were with us. First, please do not start any sentence with "you were so lucky." "You were so lucky no one was home." (But we probably would not have been victims if we had been home.) "You were so lucky to have family with you when you got home." (Really? Lucky my little grandchildren had to see this mess and I had to fake being brave?) "You were so lucky. Remember that things are just things." (Well, they were my things, and they are gone forever.)
After a week, I actually was ready to say, "We were so lucky." So I would suggest you wait until the victim says those words himself or herself. Then you can add your "lucky" comments. I did appreciate when someone said, "I'm so sorry this happened. Can I help?" -- Sadder but Wiser
Dear Sadder but Wiser: It's human nature to want to "fix" everyone's problems (everyone's but our own, that is). When someone shares bad news, we have a hard time simply sitting with it. We want to offer solutions or at least sunny perspectives. I understand the impulse, but it does more harm than good, as evidenced in your letter. Simply listening and acknowledging a person's hardship is almost always the best way to help. We shouldn't deny anyone space to simply be upset after a traumatic incident. And yes, having your home burglarized qualifies as a traumatic event. I'm sure you felt incredibly violated. Glad to hear you're doing OK now. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.