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Wifey Wednesday: The Gift Giving Landmine


It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage!

Today I want to take a break from our "intimacy" run we've been on lately and talk about presents.

Christmas presents are a landmine in most homes because women fall into two categories:

1. Those who honestly, truly do not want their husband to spend a ton of money or buy a lot of stuff, because if we want it we get it ourselves;

2. Those who really, really want a nice present under the tree.


Photo by metaphysicalplatypus


Which group you're in often depends upon disposable income; if a family has enough that she tends to buy what she wants, she often doesn't want presents. If the family has been tight for money, presents are nice because it's him agreeing to spend money on something she wants.

The problem is, however, that those in group 1 have husbands who believe they're actually in group 2, and those in group 2 have husbands who believe they're actually in group 1. We can never seem to get on the same page.

I've been telling my husband for years, for instance, that I really don't want anything for Christmas. And I mean it. I have everything I need, and I don't want him spending money without us talking about it together. What I'd really like is just some time together, or to play games with the kids, or a more relaxed Christmas season. I don't want to stress trying to find something to buy him when he already has what he wants, too (and we both have hobbies that are so specific that to buy for each other is really hard).

He, on the other hand, thinks that it's all a test, so every year when we vow not to buy anything for each other, presents for me end up under the tree anyway, causing me to have to buy something for him.

I have a friend, however, who is in the opposite situation. Money has been tight, and there are a few things she would desperately like to spend money on. She's hinted to her husband what those things would be, but he doesn't get the hint. And he usually buys her something small, that she already has 15 of. She, on the other hand, keeps track of what he wants, and she saves money all year to buy him something nice, like a nice TV to replace the one they've had for twenty years.

I think she's really in the worse position, because on Christmas morning she feels hurt that he didn't put more thought into it, whereas I just feel a little perturbed when my kids whisper to me on December 22 that Daddy did, actually, get me a present and I now have to go shopping. Hurt is worse than perturbed by far.

What I don't understand is why we can't seem to get on the same page. I have explained this to my husband many times, but he still feels that it is his duty to buy me a present. My friend has told her husband after birthdays, or anniversaries, or Christmases when the present was lame that she would appreciate some thought, but it doesn't come.

So, here's my question today: what do you suggest? What should women do to create a Christmas that is more peaceful and satisfying?

Here are a few extra thoughts:

1. What does the husband want? I've been focusing on the wife's feelings, but what does he want? Maybe my friend's husband honestly is simply worried about money and wants to keep the family afloat.

2. How do you communicate things well to your husband? I have heard of one woman who asked two close friends to email her husband a month before birthday, anniversary, and Christmas to give him gift suggestions and stores to get those gifts at. She hasn't had a problem since. But I'm not sure how many husbands would appreciate it!

What are your thoughts? What do you do in your family? And is it stressful? Let me know!

Labels: , ,

21 Comments:

At 8:39 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

I really hate to be "that" person, but it's frustrating to those of us whose love language is gifts to hear you whine about the fact that your husband loves you enough to feel that he has to get you one. Don't you appreciate how awesome that is?

Some of us have cheapskate husbands that are far more worried about family finances than they are about if their wife feels loved or not. Because of course we all know that money comes over relationships (NOT!!!)

My husband didn't get me a gift for my birthday. I was very hurt. He wondered why I'd be hurt when "it's obvious we don't have the money to be buying gifts" and "if you cared about me, you'd care that we don't have the money to WASTE on gifts". So, he thinks showing me love is a WASTE of money. So then I feel even worse.

Again, why whine that your husband values you enough to buy you a gift? Maybe part of his love language is gifts, and so that is how he expresses love because that's how he likes to receive it? Just a thought. Hearing you go on and on about this subject constantly is very hurtful. Just be thankful your husband WANTS to show love to you, despite what it costs.

I don't expect expensive gifts, but I do like things that had some thought go into them. For the last two years, he's asked me to make a list of stuff I want and he shops off of the list. It's better than getting me NOTHING, but still shows he hasn't even bothered getting to know me well enough to know what kind of gift I would like or need.

We don't have the money to just spend on everything we want during the year, and I don't ask him for a lot of things that other women expect as a natural part of life. I don't go to the hair salon every eight weeks because I "need" a trim or change of hair color or new hairstyle. I don't "need" a new dress for every special outing we have. I don't expect 50 pairs of shoes, several functional pairs in the right colors are all I need or want. Yet apparently, the fact that gifting makes me feel loved makes me a "gold digger". Yep, he's actually told me that. Apparently I just want to suck all of his money out of him. Notice, because he earns it it's HIS money, not OUR money. Just because gifts make me feel loved.

Never mind that we will soon have 7 people living in a 1,200 sq ft house, with no floor coverings and the house is really old. I never complain about that. Never mind we have a really old minivan that barely runs. HE is the one that complains about that stuff, not me. But, he can yell at me and call me hurtful names because once or twice a year, I'd really like a well thought out gift as a token of love.

You don't know how good you have it. My husband doesn't think he has to speak my love language. No, if I loved him properly (in his mind) I would adjust and LEARN how to be loved in his love language so that he doesn't have to change and can understand me.

Sorry about the rant. You really do come off as whiny on this subject.

 

At 8:55 AM , Blogger Elizabeth Richmond said…

Maybe the most gracious response from a wife who doesn't want gifts but her husband buys some anyway is to sincerely thank him and tell him you love him. And then happily use the gifts, at least once or twice.

Occasionally, my husband will bring me something that I couldn't care less about, except for the fact that he took the time to stop by the store and pick something out for me. That fact alone is worth something, in my opinion. I like gifts, but about 85% of the time would rather just have the money to go shopping myself. :)

Our budget is extremely tight, and I would definitely be a little upset if he spent a lot of money on me. But as it is, since he doesn't go overboard, I know he's just trying to make me happy. :) His methods may be a little off sometimes, but that really doesn't matter. The point is that he's thinking of me and trying to show me so.

In your case, Sheila, it looks to me like your husband really wants to give you presents at Christmas. I realize you think it's a waste of time and money, but I want to encourage you to be happy that your husband is so interested in picking something out for you! :) It may not be anything you want or need, but accepting gifts graciously (and being genuinely pleased with your husband, not necessarily the gifts) will make you feel a lot better, and your husband will be happy about it, too. :)

 

At 9:02 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Elizabeth,

I see your point. I really do. My issue is more that he doesn't BELIEVE me. He honestly thinks that I'd be upset if there weren't a present. I wouldn't mind it if it were honestly that he just wanted to get me one, but he has this idea that women ALWAYS say "I don't really want anything", but they don't mean it.

And so he'll promise that we won't exchange presents, and then he'll go and buy something anyway, forcing me to go and buy something (which again, isn't that big a deal; it's just that I'd really rather just spend time with him, and I think he would, too).

It's funny, because there are a whole bunch of us who are trying to convince our husbands we really don't want anything, and they think we're all lying. It's a group of about 5 of us from church, and the husbands truly don't believe us. It's really humorous, because it's the only area in my life that my husband does this.

But he's a great guy, and I more laugh at it than get annoyed by it. I just don't know how to convince him, because I think he'd truly be happier if he didn't have to buy anything, either....

 

At 9:03 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Katy-Anne,

If your love language is gifts, that's different, though, isn't it? My issue is that my love languages are time & words of affirmation, and I would rather have the time that he spends buying the gifts just spending time with me. So I think we're both saying that we'd like our husbands to talk in our love language.

 

At 9:08 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

We have a policy of open and honest communication about everything -- including money and gifts. We have been in all kinds of places in our marriage -- dead broke and well off.

Sometimes, we agree on a "together" purchase, like new sheets and a bedspread.

Sometimes, we give eachother detailed lists.

Sometimes we buy our own gifts and wrap them up under the tree. (No joke!)

Sometimes, we agree we don't want anything...or we go out for a nice dinner, just the two of us.

Sometimes, we know we can't afford gifts, but feel needy anyway. We each take $5 and buy or make something really thoughtful -- a used book of love poems and homemade treats, bubble bath and a new magazine with the promise of a "night off" from the kids, or nice lotion with the promise of a massage.

Like everything else, we negotiate and listen to eachother. (Which means honoring what each person wants.) Just making this list makes me smile...just thinking about the incredible journey we've been on together in our lives...for better or for worse. :-)

If my husband agreed to no gifts, then went out and bought one anyway, I would question whether he was being completely honest about his own needs. Often we do for another person what we wish they would do for us.

 

At 9:17 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Llama Mama, that sounds like a wonderful relationship! And I honestly do have a wonderful hubby. I just find this whole thing rather funny.

Katy Anne, first of all, I find that your comments so often on this blog are extremely negative and rather rude. I'm debating whether just to erase them, because while I don't mind debate, I would prefer not to have personal attacks, and you frequently attack either me or other commenters, both here and on Facebook. That really does go over the line.

Secondly, I do adore my husband, and I do know how good I've got it, as you could see by reading other posts. I don't, however, want to talk about that too much because I don't think it helps those who DON'T have it great to always hear about how good I do have it. And when I talk about how good I do have it, in a different post, you tend to yell at me for that, too, saying that that proves I don't understand anything about marriage. No matter what I say, you turn it into a reason to attack.

Also, the issue in this post, which I think I made clear, was on how to communicate what you want to your husband. It wasn't to judge each other based on what we want. I gave two examples: one of someone who wanted something, and one of someone who didn't, so that everyone reading could find themselves in one of those categories. The question is how to communicate to one's spouse, not judging each other.

I know you have it rough with your husband; you've said so numerous times. And I think that we on this blog and on Facebook would like to help you. But being so negative and so rude does not help. It shows that you are just becoming bitter--towards your husband, towards everyone--and you're lashing out. That is not going to help your marriage.

So I'm going to ask you again to please not use personal attacks in your posts. This time it was against me, and I can take it. But on Facebook it was against many of my friends, and elsewhere on this blog it's often been against posters who have said something before you. There is a way to engage in debate politely and still honouring the person. I'd just ask that you keep that in mind.

I think if you were to do that, you'd find it easier in your family life, too. When you get to the point where you have to lash out all the time, your family life will not be peaceful. At all.

 

At 9:41 AM , Blogger Jess said…

Thank you for writing about this topic. I have been married for seven years now and it is always a bit of a struggle. My husband wants to bless me with gifts. And of course I want to receive these gifts graciously. I am very thankful he is such a wonderful man and a very giving husband. With gifts we set a limit since we do have a budget. This year I did write him a list of ideas. But I know he will pick exactly what I put on the list. So it is a bit sad to me. My heart thinks he should know me by now and be able to pick at least one gift that isn't on the list. This is where I struggle. I just want him to pick something that will be a surprise. It feels like being the wife and mom now, I had to give up the surprise element of Christmas. I just want a little bit of it back. I tried to bring that up gently, but it stressed him out. I think he takes the gift thing too heavily, and I told him it doesn't have to be so heavy. I don't want it to be so heavy. Gifts is definitely not my love language and it isn't his either. I don't know, it always seems to be a bit of a mess. Thanks for showing me it isn't just us!

 

At 9:48 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Jess, it definitely isn't just you! You raised an important point, though: what do women do when they honestly want a surprise, evidence that our husbands have studied us and know us well? We want something for US on Christmas. Anyone have any ideas? Unfortunately, that's the one thing we can't help our husbands with, and they may never do a very good job!

 

At 10:06 AM , Blogger shale said…

Makes me think of the Love Languages book. If a gift matters, it's because it's how that person hears love. So...if someone wants a gift, they're not feeling loved unless they get one, and if someone must give a gift, its because his/her love language is actually gifts, so for him NOT to give a gift is not to show love.

The responsibility for both parties is in learning each other's love language so love is given and received and perceived by both parties, and to be careful not to ask your spouse to stop speaking his language, but instead to also begin speaking yours. For you and your husband, Sheila, that likely means both of you give/receive gifts joyfully and both spend quality time with the family joyfully, so then you both will be receiving love in a language you understand and giving love in a foreign language that you are learning to speak better and better over the years. For your friend, I would suggest saying to her husband, "It makes me feel so loved when you _____."

And yes, I tear magazine pictures and ads out and give them to my husband. He appreciates it!

 

At 10:49 AM , Blogger shale said…

Should have read comments before I posted. Everyone said something about love languages! :) I guess the thing that strikes me is disappointed expectations. We all have expectations, whether we are consciously aware of them or not, and it hurts when they are disappointed. Perhaps that's love languages, and perhaps its just unconscious thoughts we've developed without even realizing it based on our history.

Probably analyzing the WHY we're disappointed can help point the way to fixing it. Sometimes in analyzing that we realize our expectations were silly and we stop being disappointed (it's happened to me!) and sometimes I've felt justified in my disappointment and found ways of dealing with it (like giving 2-3 specific ideas to my husband and knowing he'll do at least one of them and then surprise me with something I never thought of, which I may or may not want...) :)

 

At 12:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

He says: "What would you like for Christmas, honey?"
She then names one thing she would like (keeping a budget in mind). She then says, "What do you want, honey?" He then names one thing he would like (also keeping the budget in mind). They each buy those things, wrap them (mostly for the kids' sake of seeing parents unwrapping),and then put them under the tree. It's a win-win. This year my husband and I wanted gifts that we each knew more about then the other. I bought my own and hubby wrote down "EXACTLY" what and where to get his. It's less stressful this way and our focus can be on other traditions and the kids. Save the stress for birthdays or Valentine's Day. :o))

 

At 2:51 PM , Anonymous sim in oz said…

just wanted to add to something that anon just mentioned, and that is the example we set to our children.
neither my hubby or I are gift givers, but we feel that it is important to demonstrate gift giving to our kids (some of whom ARE gift givers).
When we give little gifts to each other, we are demonstrating our love for each TO OUR CHILDREN. It is not ALL about us at all :-)
we don't usually buy expensive things for each other (although hubby did buy me a new computer recently and called it a Christmas present!) - a new set of pot holders or a dvd - just a little something to unwrap and share with the kids at Christmas time :-)
Just thought I'd throw that other thought out!

 

At 3:23 PM , Anonymous Amanda said…

I have a couple of thoughts on this subject. First of all I do find that Christmas and any holiday time for that matter is stressful because of gifts. It is sometimes a difficult balance to find the perfect gift for your spouse/family member that is something they want, is original and stays on budget. I am very lucky and have a husband who loves to spoil me- I don't expect it at all, but it is nice to find a present that he picked out that is something I enjoy. No matter the cost of the present it is nice to know that he cares- sometimes even the least expensive present means the most because he bought it to make me smile.
Like you Sheila, sometimes I think that spending time is more important than a present, but lots of people don't feel comfortable not exchanging presents. My suggestion would be to suggest to your husband or other family members who insist on present exchanges that you would like to exchange presents that bring you together. For example- gift certificates for a romantic getaway (evening, weekend, week- whatever fits within your budget)- this requires thought to come up with and gives you time together, for teens get them tickets to a show/play/concert that you can attend together or younger children their favorite shows when they come to town live/ author readings/ ice skating shows. I have found this is also a great way to give presents to people who have everything such as my parents- who don't need more stuff- but an experience is always something nice and memorable. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Season.

 

At 3:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Sheila, if both you and your husband agree not to give gifts, why don't you stick to your end of the deal? Maybe he would understand that you're serious then. But really, it seems silly to me to buy him a gift if you both agreed not to, and he really wouldn't mind if you didn't.

My husband and I ask each other what we would like for various occasions. We don't have the money to buy whatever we want for ourselves whenever we want. So usually we give each other several options. Some are practical, some are fun. Sometimes we can come up with creative/personal/romantic gifts for each other without help because we talk to each other about our interests through out the year. Other times we go by the list. But a gift from him is always appreciated because he took the time and money to think of me.

 

At 3:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I don't find that this is a problem with just husbands. I find, as an adult, no one ever seems to know what to buy one another. At first, that used to upset me..."doesn't my family know me enough to know what I need or what I'd like?". Well, let me just say that I have been working on a simple example of how to fix that.
I keep a book of "things I'd like and/or need but can't afford or won't buy myself". This allows my husband, my family, etc. to take a look through that book and pick 1 or 2 things that they would like to buy me. Then when I receive a gift, it might be out of my book but it is still a surprise, as sometimes I forget what I write in that book. Simply cross out the things you get from the book and voila...your book is updated for the next birthday/Christmas.
Let's face it....men (or at least, most men) are too black & white thinking to spend the time to figure out what you might like. Let's make it simple for them and give them a place to look. Most husbands want to please their wives, they just aren't always good at the "emotional/sentimental" stuff.
For those of you who have husbands who don't believe when you really don't want anything....put things in your book that show you'd prefer his time (ie. time alone watching a movie, dinner for 2 at your favourite restaurant) this will help to prevent receiving things you don't want.
If all else fails...resort to buying your own gifts and putting them under the tree. No where does it say that you can't enjoy getting exactly what you want for Christmas!
:)

 

At 4:12 PM , Blogger Ellen said…

For me Christmas has always been a little tough for this very reason. I am in the group that would love a gift from my husband. This year is the first year that he has actually bought me a gift (we've been married 5.5 yrs). He usually works right up until our Christmas holidays trip and if shopping was done it would be really last minute - so usually it just doesn't happen. I have quietly swallowed my disappointment the last 5 years, not wanting to make a big deal about it. I too see his effort of buying me a gift as a token of love, I would also say that I should think he knows me well enough to pick something out for me that I would like. This year I broke down and decied to make a list for him because then maybe I would at least get something, right? Plus I made sure that they were items that he could buy online (as often he works past 'business' hours) and yes I left him web links, lol. I am very pleased and thankful to say that he got me one thing from my list and one thing that was not on my list (it was a big surprise even though I already have a pair just like it, lol). It spoke volumes to my heart that he actually took the time and thought of me! Hoping we can continue with communicating better and better and working within each others strengths and weaknesses of our love languages.

 

At 6:31 PM , Blogger Pickle said…

I grew up with a mother who had to constantly show her love through gifts. I hate it. I think as an adult I am passed the whole "I have to buy everyone a gift so they know how much I love them". The money I spend on a a gift is in no way, shape or form show the quality of love I have for someone.

This year I made candy for everyone and shipped it out with a nice card. I put some heart into it and I didn't have to run around stressed out. My husband is in Iraq for the 3rd of 4 Christmas' we have been together. I sent 2 giant boxes of cookies. I have been the only spouse in the unit to have done so. To him and the rest of the guys that was special.

It is not about the item you get, it's about the thought. So if your husband gets you something you think is totally lame, but he shows he put effort into it, then that's what you should be beaming at.

We give gifts to our son and that is about it. We don't pay notice to our birthdays or even Valentine's day. We do thoughtful things for each other all year, we don't need a season to have an excuse.

 

At 7:34 PM , Blogger Alisdair said…

I am in the camp where money is tight and I'd like a gift but it comes up short. Last year I got an exciting ROADSIDE EMERGENCY KIT and two t-shirt (nightgown things) that were too tight!!!! Big disappointment. So you can ship your unwanted gifts to me, Sheila!!! It's frustrating when people give me perfume (and my nose doesn't work and I can't smell it) or jewellery or makeup (though I never wear it)... or my ex-husband that gave exciting gifts like an electric frying pan... made me think the gift was thinking more about his own stomach/needs than about me!

I don't know the answer at all, but I am trying to suck it up and prepare for another disappointment...I'd love the spending time together things too (like Sheila and others have said) -- like going out to dinner or to a concert or whatever, but it doesn't happen very often and I miss that... especially as a blended family so it is always the four of us and not "couple time"....

And Katy-Anne, I didn't think Sheila was being "whiny" -- just throwing a question out there...

Good luck, all... 10 days and counting!!!!

Denise in Saskatchewan

 

At 8:28 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

Sheila, I like the response you gave Katy-Ann. It's annoying to read such negative posts about something that the topic isn't even really about.
I'm in the money is usually tight group. My husband is actually a gift person and I know that he would love to give and recieve gifts but there have only been 2 out of 7 Christmases where we have actually done so. I would LOVE to give him a gift this year but we just purchased him a new phone so there goes our gift budget. On other years, we each make a list o various items and set a budget (sometimes it's $50, one year it was $300) and then go shop.
I would LOVE to wrap something as a surprise for him this year. But we are not giving eachother gifts this year. I might just write him a nice card and get him a chocolate bar or something, just so he has something to unwrap. Because he does really enjoy gifts. And since he enjoys it so much he also doesn't care as much what's in it as the fact that I thought enough about him to wrap something (maybe I'll get him sesame snaps, he loves those!).
And I totally agree with whoever said that you should just not buy him a gift. Because it seems you're probably keepig the cycle going.

 

At 11:18 PM , Blogger Susie said…

oh my! It was fun reading all of these comments! :)

We have done different things every year- gifts, no gifts, etc. Occasionally I have had twinges of hurt about the no-gift years... but I simply don't dwell on it. I tell myself- this has nothing to do with how he feels about me. The no-gift years were money or busy related. Or sometimes neither of us wanted anything- really.
One year I gave him new bedside tables for our bedroom and he got me a tv for the living room!
My husband says every year to get him nothing. lol! But we all just laugh at him. He doesn't really mean it and is never upset that we get him presents.

The thing we always do is talk about the plan ahead of time. He says: 'we're not doing presents, right?' and then I say however I feel that year- ' no- we are doing presents. I'm going to get you 3 presents and I want 3 presents.' - thats my standard response. :) - I usually don't give him a list because I also tell him I like to be surprised. I'll give him categories- like sweaters, books, jewelry, etc. He groans a little, but he is actually very thoughtful and I'm pretty easy to please. :) I really don't care if it is something I'll never use.. I'm really all about just having something to open. Although it is nice when I like it.

My latest strategy has been to send my 2 teenage daughters with him to help him! This was great!! He was a little miffed that I didn't trust his taste, but he got over it. - and made a big point on Christmas morning of telling me which gifts he picked out 'all by himself.' lol!

Lastly... as to your dilemma Sheila with the gifts given when you agreed to 'no gifts'. This has happened to us too some years... and no one knew until Christmas morning. But we didn't take it as dishonesty.. it's Christmas! It's supposed to be about surprises!! At the risk of sound cheesy, it truly gives the gift giver more enjoyment to give a gift even when not getting one back. It is totally OK.

And does your husband get offended if you want to take it back and exchange it? If he is OK with that, then you can just give him a big hug and a 'oh, you shouldn't have!' and everybody's happy.

Well, this is long enough... great topic!

 

At 1:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I find that setting some guidelines for gifts is helpful (ie provide a list of items to each other, set a price limit). My family doesn't really fall into either of your categories (I do not buy everything I want nor is money extremely tight. I think the real issue is not gifts, but good communication.

Nurse Bee

 
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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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