If you had a chance to conquer your biggest fear, but on someone else's terms, would you take it? Here we have the story of a boyfriend buying a skydiving adventure for his girlfriend, who has a crippling fear of heights and doesn't want to go. The gift was supposed to be a surprise, and OP, the girlfriend, doesn't want to go. What should she do?
Below is nayahs's predicament, and Reddit's advice on how to handle it.
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
Okay, I really need help here.
My birthday is in two days and my boyfriend of six months, Alex*, has been talking about his surprise present for a while. He's really excited and can't wait to give it to me. He knows I love animals, so I thought he'd take me to the zoo or something like that. I'm not a big birthday person, so I just wanted something small and thoughtful.
Today my best friend Sara*, who is also friends with Alex, let it slip that she thinks his present is a really bad idea. I asked her why, since I didn't know what it was, and she asked tentatively if I was afraid of heights.
I have a phobia of heights. I have ever since I was a child. When I am in open spaces with fear of falling I have anxiety attacks and cry. When I tried cliff jumping (off an objectively small cliff) I cried and had to be carried back down. I can't even climb trees. I've been like this since I was a child. Alex knows this, but I haven't talked about it to him in very much depth, just in passing, and he thinks it's sort of cute and that he wants to help me get over it. I don't think he realizes how bad my fear is.
I don't know what to do. I know he's spent lots of money, especially as a student, on getting this present. I think it be an amazing present for someone else other than me. The thought of it is making me sweat. Please help.
TL;DR: My boyfriend has decided to surprise me with my worst fear.
*Not their real names.
EDIT: Holy sh*t, thank you guys for all your advice. My birthday is tomorrow. I will be posting an update.
There are better ways to conquer fear.Giphy
Yikes, OP. Ok first I would see if you could get Sara to convey to him just how crippling your fear is. If he isn't going to listen to her... Idk, it really sucks but you might have to tell him you know. Phrase like you know he doesn't get how truly afraid you are and that it's sweet that he wants to help you get past it, but this is not the way to go about it. See if he can get his money back, otherwise suggest he takes one of his friends who can cover half the cost so it's not as bad for him. I'm really sorry OP, I hope this gets figured out! And happy birthday!
This probably wasn't the best gift idea - tell him.Giphy
If my husband surprised me with skydiving my response would be "Hey, take someone else and have fun!" I sure as hell wouldn't go.
I'm not even afraid of heights, as in, I'll climb a mountain or look off a cliff or look off the edge of a tall building, but I sure as hell don't want to be plummeting to the ground from an airplane.
I don't know why he knew you were afraid of heights and his idea of helping you get over it AND his idea of an appropriate GIFT to you is skydiving. He could have helped you get over it in a different way by say taking you to the grand canyon to look over the cliffs or something but he also didn't have to make it out like it's a present to you if he KNOWS it's something you wouldn't like.
This post reminds me of the woman who planned a surprise birthday party for her boyfriend who had extreme social anxiety. Like oh hey surprise, I got you something I knew you would hate.
Stupid and inconsiderate.
Even though the relationship is new - you don't have to go.Giphy
Tell him the truth... and don't go. Don't be ashamed of or apologize for your phobia. If you had a crippling peanut allergy no one would expect you to go to the peanut-butter factory tour. As someone with a fear of heights, you certainly have a free pass to not go frickin' skydiving when climbing up a tree alone makes you break down. Your boyfriend should have known that there was a good chance someone wouldn't randomly be willing to go skydiving, phobia or not.
If he wants to give you help getting over your phobia, it should be with a trained therapist. Jumping out of the plane could give you PTSD or something don't do it.
Give him a chance to either invite someone else or get his money back.Giphy
The amount of money one spent on an unwelcome gift doesn't mean that the recipient has to accept it. Your BF may have bought a $50000 live rhinoceros on a leash, and tried to give that to you as a pet. Would you have to accept because he paid so much for this thoughtful present? Especially that you told him that you like animals, so it makes it your fault somehow, lol.
Talk to him, that you know what the present is and can't accept. Don't wait till the last moment, give him a chance to ask a friend to skydive instead.
Skydiving is probably not the best way to conquer your fear.Giphy
This is like helping you overcome a fear of dogs by covering you in gravy and locking you in a closet with a pack of half-starved wolves.
One person offered a script.Giphy
Here's a script: "Honey, thank you so much for the wonderful thought, but I can't accept the gift. I have an actual phobia of heights - not a mild fear, not a discomfort thing. Phobia. Going on this excursion would ruin my birthday and possibly our relationship - I'd be so embarrassed to have a panic attack right then after you'd gone to all this trouble! So let's you and me do something else instead and you can take [insert his best friend's name] skydiving instead."
Let him know his idea is not going to help you overcome your fear.
I'm like you, very afraid of heights. Sky diving is on my "never going to try that list." If that changes, great, but I wouldn't bend on that for someone else.
Your bf knows of your fear and still got you these tickets on some misguided notion that he's helping you. He obviously doesn't know how to help someone get over a phobia. Not to mention that you never asked him to help you with this. He's just forcing this on you.
If I were you I'd say "thanks for the tickets but I'm not going. Invite someone else or sell the ticket, but I will not be using it." I personally wouldn't feel bad about saying that and would be very disappointed in him for giving such a selfish, thoughtless gift. He could have bought you something you would enjoy and have a good time with and instead he literally bought you your greatest fear. Thanks bf :/
It seems like the gift is more for the boyfriend.Giphy
Boyfriend is about to learn a very expensive lesson about giving gifts that are more about HIM than about the person they're intended for. It seems he's got this whole plan of "curing" you of your fear and being a big fucking hero. Notice how you magically not being scared of heights afterward is actually the second-most significant thing in his fantasy?
His gift is selfish and stupid. The amount of money isn't the issue, and if he DARES try to guilt trip you with that, go fucking nuclear. It is neither his right or responsibility to "fix" you, and he doesn't have the power to do it even if you wanted to let him. The only person who can mitigate your fears and anxieties is you.
I would get ahead of this and tell him you found out, so you don't have to go through the embarrassing ritual of gift presentation. Personally, I'd be pissed and offended at his selfishness and presumption. I have phobias of my own and I've had to work really hard at times in my life to enforce boundaries around them - not to preserve them, but to keep the responsibility for managing them on myself... and to avoid gaining a father-figure who thinks I'm some broken dolly who needs sorting out.
Be careful telling people a surprise present is okay.Giphy
Lesson learnt OP, right? If you don't say what you want people might surprise you with your worst fear.
His reaction to declining the gift will be a sign.Giphy
I wouldn't condemn the BF just yet. I think his reaction to her refusing to do it will be more telling. He just may not understand phobias nor the extent of her phobia.
And if he truly cares, he'll make it up to you.Giphy
OP, this isn't a fair response.
You spoke to him about it in passing, he has no idea how bad your phobia is and I really truly believe he does want to help you get over it.
Is getting over it out of the question? Imagine you were able to go and just conquer that fear? You would be unstoppable. Is it something you would reconsider?
If not, wait until he gives you the gift. Be appreciative but also really tell him about your phobia (if it is out of the question) and tell him to go with one of his friends instead.
He'll make it up to you, I promise.
This is a reasonable assessment.Giphy
I would argue the real TL;DR here is "My boyfriend got himself a present for my birthday."
Part of the issue is that the relationship is new.Giphy
Most people give gifts that they'd love to receive themselves. It's an unconscious sort of blind spot: they think, "I'd really love this, so they will too!"
It takes a while of being together before these little things get sorted out. I wouldn't be able to skydive either, so that's hardly an unusual reaction. I think most people would be at least a little terrified of participating in most of the extreme sports.
I would talk to your man ASAP and tell him you know what his surprise gift is and you aren't on board, so that if he can get his money back or plan to go with his brother or best friend or something, he still has time to change plans.
Then I would very gently and kindly make a list for him of things that ARE on your bucket list that you'd really enjoy if he surprised you with it on a special day. It could be anything from "make me breakfast in bed" to "a day at the spa" to "coupons redeemable for specific chores I can use at any time" to "gift card to my favorite store". Just list any and everything that you'd really actually like. That way he can pick something and it'll still be a surprise but it won't be something terrifying.
Hopefully he can get a refund.Giphy
Tell him straight up. Just say that Sara told you about it because she knew how scared you are of heights and wanted to help avoid this problem. She really should have just told your BF, though. Why didn't she tell him how bad your phobia is? If she did and your BF ignored her then this is all on him.
Tell him sooner rather than later in case there are time limits related to getting refunds.
In the grand scheme of things though, it's not that big of a deal.Giphy
Well if you are both otherwise reasonable, it shouldn't be a huge deal. Be honest. Tell him the truth. Then tell him you'd be 110% fine if he took his best friend instead if he can't get his money back or really wants to go himself.
That's a risky gift and if he gets upset, I'd run away from the relationship entirely. my gut tells me the gift is more for him than for you though...