Etiquette: Can I ask For My Gift Back?

A burning question among Gave That visitors recently has been the etiquette and ethical question concerning the request for a gift to be returned, as in How can I ask for my gift back? Taking this once again from a western standpoint here are a few important etiquette points to consider.

First, is what you gave really a gift? Here is the Merriam-Webster Definition of a Gift:

Pronunciation: \ˈgift\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old Norse, something given, talent; akin to Old English giefan to give
Date: 12th century

2 : something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.


Some Examples of More Legal Definitions:

Donative Intent: Did you intend to make a gift and have the mental capacity to do so? Was the gift delivered and accepted? Were there no strings attached? Read more on the US legal definition of a gift at US Legal Definitions and Inter Vivos Gifts by Gerry W. Beyer, Professor of Law at TX Tech .

From Gift (law) Wikipedia -Revocation

"A donor may revoke a future gift, however a gift delivered and accepted cannot be revoked."

[Read the entire Gift (law) page for very helpful insight on giving gifts]

Lastly, Standard Etiquette's View On The Matter:

It simply is not done.

Well there you have it. The answer is rather cut and dry although, as with most things in life, there can always be an exception. That exception is going to be up to you or someone acting as a guardian, but it is highly suggested legal counsel is sought and a heavy dose of soul searching is done before proceeding.

Repeatedly giving and asking for gifts to be returned throughout life can end up causing irreparable damage to ones character and trust me, such a reputation has a way of spreading and reverberating through future relationships in unimaginable ways. By this I mean detrimentally. Asking for the return of gifts after a relationship has dissolved especially boils down to an appearance of vindictiveness. Something, many professionals, say should be avoided at all costs.

Watch holistic psychotherapist Victoria Lorient-Faibish talk about The Pattern of Control Through Generosity, a possible contributing factor to the need for gifts to be returned:



Anonymous said…
This happen to me EXACTLY with my ex who bought me a $700 camera for my music video & just like the lady said it blew up cuz I wasn't "giving as much".. be aware ppl. Be aware
A friend gave me an oil painting then wanted it back after she became angry at me for picking too many limes! She was more of a friend of my husband's from work before they retired. She is extremely wealthy. She had bought the next door condo for 1.8mm to her winter home on Maui. Then had it leased immediately. The seller left it very stocked with art & kitchen items which the tenant nor our friend wanted. She said to come the next day to get the kitchen items I wanted. I had "made her like a rockstar" on her past birthday so it being very near my birthday, she asked if I would like this art piece. I was shocked saying it's too much as she read out loud to all of us the price on back of 4k. She insisted. We were helping her with furniture. She also said I could pick the lime tree as she would be away for 6 mos. We have given her tons of fruit for years. But she was shocked that I picked all the limes saying she told her neighbors they could have limes while she's away. But she did not tell me this. I offered to leave some but it was awkward. The next morning she called my husband saying "I will never let her pick my limes again!" Then when I went to get kitchen items she was very agitated making me uncomfortable then as I left said she wanted the art back, that she needed to sell it to recoup paying 100k for contents. I did not agree but just tried to leave asap. My husband had hung it when I got home! I took a pic sending her a text asking if ok to keep until she returns but she blew up horrible messages. I tried to calm the situation but I did not think it right to give the art back. She then messaged personal insults. It was shocking. We even thought maybe getting Alzheimer but when she returned in Fall she messaged my husband asking to meet for lunch since "she could no longer come to our house" We didn't even enjoy being around her snapping at her husband but I was willing to act like all was ok.

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