Amy Alkon ("The Advice Goddess") and I see eye to eye on this dude...but I don't think she was hard enough on him (and Amy is no softie).
Here's the letter. Discussion to follow:
I always tell my wife I love her and buy her gifts I can't afford. I know she loves me. She works so hard at school, and works to pay her tuition, and still washes my clothes, cooks, and cleans. And I never ask her to. When I buy her things, I don't expect anything in return; I just like to see her happy. I buy her roses for no reason. Recently, because her friends wear so much jewelry, and I know she wished she had some, I bought her a second diamond ring. For our four anniversaries, I've given her a gold bracelet, an iPod, a laptop, and most recently, a cell phone she really wanted. In return, she gave me a card with a letter promising to go to the gym and get back in shape. (She's not fat, but knows it means a lot to me when she's looking good.) I loved the commitment, but this is something she owes herself, not a real gift. I'm not materialistic, but it hurt that she didn't take the time to get me something...I don't care what...a couple T-shirts.
— Let Down
I made it poo-brown to express my real feelings about this guy. To summarize Amy's answer:
not everyone shows love the same way, don't take for granted the deal you've got, and the fact that you're so desperate to buy the love of your wife for pete's sake, doesn't say a whole lot about your own self-confidence, and by overcompensating inappropriately, you're probably eroding hers.
Point, point, point, point, and point. To which I would like to add, when you're married, "buy her gifts I can't afford" really means "buy her gifts WE can't afford." Even if your particular partnership functions best by keeping bank accounts separate, if one of you goes into debt, won't that affect the other's credit rating? Not to mention day-to-day standard of living? Again, even if you shop seperately, you live and eat together, right? So if your extravagant gifts are keeping you on bologna and milk crates, that negatively impacts both of your lives.
Consider this: for every $500 dollars you don't spend on ridiculous presents, she can cut back on her work hours and enjoy her life with you, right? Or you could hire a cleaning service to do a magic number on the house every few months? Or take a trip? Or pay off her "just because" Columbus Day bracelet. So many options.
Buying your wife gifts you can't afford is not an act of loving devotion. It's irresponsible to yourself, your wife, and the life you share. And it is probably this sense of making up for your irresponsibility that keeps your wife from responding in kind. People don't give letters of commitment to their significant others in lieu of gifts unless they are really concerned about over spending. If you shopped more carefully, maybe there'd be something left in the kitty for her to treat you.