DEAR AMY: How do I stop a bad relationship cycle? My relationships start out great, but then slowly fall apart. These men just stop caring about my feelings. I'm ignored during the holidays, my birthday isn't mentioned and anniversaries are forgotten.
I have let them know these events are important to me, but when these days come around, I have gifts for them but receive nothing in return.
It's not just gifts, it's other things. For instance, I always go to their place. My last guy only came to my house once and that was because the electricity went out at his place.
This same guy bought chocolates for his sister for no reason, but when I mentioned that he had not acknowledged my birthday his response was, "Are you really that needy?"
I told him I wasn't being "needy" but that a small token to show he actually cared would be nice. I realize I'm not a child, but I still want to be treated well.
We broke up after this. What's wrong with me? Am I overly sensitive, or am I a "jerk magnet"? I have always believed you should treat others the way you would like to be treated, so where did I go wrong?
— Not Needy
DEAR NOT NEEDY: You are a jerk magnet. The questions you need to ask yourself are: Why your particular form of magnetism draws jerks toward you, why on earth you settle for this and how you can change it.
I suspect these jerks reveal themselves to you in many small ways before they act out so badly that you are forced to let them break up with you. Rather than pout and blame them, you should make a list of everything you typically do when you start a relationship: i.e. call or text him without reciprocation, baby him, give him gifts, tell him how to treat you. Review this list and then — this is the tough part — do every single thing differently.
I often hear from men who tell me that women don't like "nice guys." You are proving them right.
DEAR AMY: Several years ago a friendship my husband and I had with another couple ended. The wife of the couple continues to send us (and our adult daughters) cards for every holiday and occasion. We have not reciprocated and yet the cards continue to come, and are now sometimes accompanied by gifts, too.
In the beginning we thought she would run out of steam. In hindsight, we probably should have asked her to stop right away. We don't have friends in common, and we don't live in the same town.
We have not seen this couple or talked to them in years, but now we end up writing cordial, neutral thank yous for the gifts and cards. I don't feel indebted, and I don't feel guilty, but there is a "stalker"-ish quality to this, especially when she lists our recent activities in her communications.
What should we do?
— It's Over
DEAR OVER: It's a little surprising that this contact creates so much discomfort. However, you have no interest whatsoever in reviving or responding to this friendship, and so in your final note of acknowledgment you can say, "Deirdre, you have been in touch frequently over the years but it would be easiest on us if you didn't continue to contact us. Your thoughtfulness puts us on the spot because we feel our relationship has run its course."
DEAR AMY: Why the harsh response to "A Refined Palate"? I have suffered through dinners of raw chicken, raw pineapple upside-down cake, raw apple strudel and various burnt dishes from similar good friends.
I say eat a little ahead of time and offer to bring something. Let them know that you enjoy salads. Just eat the salad without the homemade dressing to "save calories."
You can't avoid the invitations but you can enjoy the company and a little wine.
— Friends are Priceless
DEAR PRICELESS: Mr. "Refined" wrote that even the dog refused scraps of this friend's cooking. I thought this was such an unkind and "unrefined" comment that I, in turn, judged him harshly. Many readers agreed with you.
Send questions via e-mail to email@example.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.