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A Gift By Any Other Name

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

Before I proceed, full disclosure: I personally am not a gift person. I don't ask for or expect gifts, and I'm fine buying the things I want for myself. I'm content with cards, flowers, and the occasional chocolate, or sometimes (gasp!) nothing. That's just the way I am.

I know most women are not like that, and I generally teach the basic principles of being a Receiver when it comes to gifts

  • Receive what your husband gives you, graciously

  • Show appreciation for the gift and the thought behind it

  • Don't reject a gift - it's a rejection of your husband

  • Recognize that the gifts your husband gives you may take the form of time, help or support - and that's OK.

But while I have a specific outlook on receiving gifts in marriage, I acknowledge that for many women, gifting can be a source of tension, frustration, and conflict.

So for many, the most important question to answer may not be "what is the correct way to view gifts in marriage", but "how can we find the solution that works for us?"

I recently read an essay written by a woman who described her expectations of surprise gifts chosen by her husband - and her hurt and disappointment when he failed to come through, and instead pleaded with her to just get what she wanted.

Apparently, she was a firm believer in Husband Commandment #37: Thou shalt select the perfect gift for every birthday, anniversary, yom tov and childbirth, and surprise your wife with it.

She finally came to the point where she realized that her shalom bayis was worth more than her principles - and she started buying and wrapping gifts for herself, and giving them to her husband to 'surprise' her.

Quick! Multiple choice question. Are you:

  1. Horrified?

  2. Impressed, but you could never do it?

  3. Would do (or have done) the same thing?

  4. Don't understand what the fuss is about?

If you answered 4, drop me a line and maybe we'll have coffee together some day 😉

For the other 99% of you, I'd love to hear your answer - and why.

Holding on to your principles can have other consequences - as in a true story I read about a woman who always complained that her husband chose the wrong gifts for her. When he finally got her a wallet that was the exactly right brand, style and color, she was was happy at first, but then became furious at him. Why? Because she found out that he had asked a female relative what to get her, and didn't figure it out by himself!

Moral of the story?

Don't do that.

Some other, wiser solutions I've heard for helpless wives mis-matched with hapless husbands:

  • Share a list of all types of gifts of differing price ranges, including price and where to purchase (links work well here).

  • Go together with your husband to choose a gift. Have him call ahead with his price range, and choose 2 or 3 so he can still 'surprise' you.

  • Ask for gift receipts so that you can exchange anything you don't like

Perhaps the most insightful advice is the one I heard recently from a coach, who recommended that couples have an open discussion early in their relationship, about how they want to handle gift-giving. (Brilliant, I know. Could it work later in the marriage? Possibly, but carefully and with a lot of guidance and support).

So, what do you think? How do you handle gifts in your marriage? How did you wish you handled it? What do you wish you had known before, and what do you wish you had help with now?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

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I agree with you about the gift issue. My husband never buys me gifts, I realised early on that he does not have good taste, is not into materialism, and so the gifts were always 'wrong'. I just buy myself what I want. Much more valuable to me in his genuine appreciation for what i do for him and his readiness to help when i need it.

Of course that did not just happen on its own but was the result of learning and using good marriage skills...

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