So I'm an ingrate, right?
May 10, 2010 5:08 AM   Subscribe

How do I ask my awesome husband for gifts on special occasions? I am a little disappointed that he did not get me anything for my first Mother's Day (other than a very thoughtful and loving and personal card and flowers he added to the basket the day before when we were shopping together). I hate to sound like an ingrate, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get a little gift-wrapped something. Should I say something or should I accept this is the way he is?

Ok, so my husband is pretty much ideal in every way. He happily helps out with childcare and around the house, he is kind and he is thoughtful. I know this has nothing to do with him not caring about me--I just don't think it's his thing. I am not the best gift-giver in the world, but if I know there is something he would really like and appreciate but would not get for himself (like the iPad for our anniversary), I get it for him.

I know this sounds materialistic, but I am really not. I much prefer shopping for things for him or our son and rarely buy anything for myself. I am not looking to get anything super-expensive (I do not like or wear fancy jewelry or perfume) but something thoughtful. I guess I wished he put more time into it and gave some thought to what I might like. I drop hints as to things I would like but would not buy for myself. Heck, a comfy set of pajamas would be great!

This isn't about his frugality or being a self-centered jerk. It's not about me not being able to buy things for myself.

So my question is--do I say anything? If so, what should I say so he doesn't feel bad for past lackluster gift-giving?

For those interested, here is what happened on the past gift giving occasions:

I started feeling this way about gifts when our child was born last year. I was hoping he would get me a little gift for, I don't know, bearing his child. I was a little disappointed he didn't. When I mentioned it, he said he didn't realize he should have done so and said that he would pay for a dinner out for me and a friend at a favorite restaurant. Not what I was looking all. I never "used" that gift.

Fast forward to my birthday--he got me a pair or earrings which I love, but I could tell it was last minute and he bought them from a friend who sells a jewelry line. I got the impression that she suggested them in advance (she's a good salesperson) and that he got them out of ease. I do love them and wear them all of the time though so the gift was great.

X-mas--We had a crazy-hectic fall/hoiday season so I didn't expect much. He gave me a lot of cash for really nice things and a few small tangible things (like candy), but again, it felt like an afterthought. I told him a few months later that I really would not want cash for a gift in the future. He acknowledged that it wasn't the best gift and agreed that it would have been nicer to put more thought into my gifts.

Valentine's Day, First Anniversay and Mother's Day--flowers, a personalized (and lovely) card and dinner out.
posted by bigwoopdeedoo to Human Relations (83 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like you've got a great guy.

But you could probably tell him without hurting his feelings everything you've just said, then explain that he can chalk it up to a charming little quirk of yours, but you really love love LOVE getting gifties.

Personally, I found that this conversation with my guy worked really well right after I did the "Steak and a __" kibnda reinforced the "you like this, I like THIS" dynamic.

Just sayin'.
posted by dzaz at 5:13 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

A gift "asked for" is not a gift.
posted by HuronBob at 5:20 AM on May 10, 2010 [23 favorites]

This is funny b/c I just had this conversation with my husband yesterday (also my first Mother's Day) -- he's normally a great gift-giver who spends the month-plus before an event dropping hints about how wonderful his gift is & how much I'll love it, but I guess didn't realize that I'd appreciate a little something for Mother's Day. He felt like a heel once I mentioned it, & really, it's not a super big deal or anything -- I was just surprised. I think what transpired was:

Soooooo ... I guess you didn't get me anything for Mother's Day?

I guess I didn't think that we were doing anything. I'm sorry, we should've talked about it.

That's ok, I was just surprised since it's our first year with Baby Oh Really!

I'll get you something for Father's Day instead.

I'll get you something for Admin Assistant's Day.
posted by oh really at 5:20 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Just talk to him about it. Men can be a little dense about this stuff, but once you give him a conceptual overview of the situation, I'm sure he'll be happy to make you happy.
posted by gadha at 5:23 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are a shopper and he isn't. Appreciate him for what he does for you and your child. If you crave baubles, buy them for yourself.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:24 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Definitely tell him. If he's as good a guy as you make him out to be, he'll appreciate the hint. Believe it or not, most us want to do the right thing, but we're too clueless to strike the right tone. If need be, give him specific examples of the sorts of things you might like to receive some time. In my experience, good gifts generally result in good stuff for me in return, too, so, you know, win-win.
posted by Gilbert at 5:26 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you are a shopper and he isn't. Appreciate him for what he does for you and your child. If you crave baubles, buy them for yourself.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:24 AM on May 10 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]

That's the weird thing. I am not a shopper (I really despise shopping for myself and if I do land in a shop, I am always looking at things others might like) and don't buy things for myself because I don't really want anything in particular. But when I get something from hubby, I really enjoy it because it came from him.
posted by bigwoopdeedoo at 5:33 AM on May 10, 2010

You can't change him. My husband is a last minute kind of guy too. Not because he is not thoughtful, but because he is not a shopper and it doesn't come naturally. You love the earrings, it shouldn't matter how he acquired them.

Personally, I would let it go and be grateful for the lovely card, flowers, and dinner. It sounds like you are.

Since the earrings were a great gift, hopefully you showed your appreciation in a way that would drop a hint. Next time you get a gift like this, praise like mad, fawn over unwrapping the paper, etc. Hopefully he will get the hint that you like unwrapping and receiving tangible things.

You are not an ingrate.
posted by Fairchild at 5:33 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think that you need to be really clear and say you were disappointed and then let him know some no-fail gifts. I said to my ex husband at some point (and more recently to my boyfriend) you can never go wrong with flowers. Also with my ex I let him know a couple of stores where I knew he could never go wrong when he wanted to buy me a present. He still takes our kids to those stores when he needs to help them buy me something.
posted by momochan at 5:33 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm missing something - after all I'm only a man - but surely on Mother's Day, it is your offspring who buy the present, not your spouse/SO. He should be buying something for his mother, not you. Yes, I know that your child is too young to buy something but your spouse should only intervene when your child is old enough to understand about getting you a gift. And, BTW, we men (generally) just don't get your obsession with getting gifts on every occasion. If we remember your birthday and our anniversary at all, consider yourself lucky. Do you remember who won the Super Bowl in 1998? Of course not and that was much more important.
posted by TheRaven at 5:34 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

But when I get something from hubby, I really enjoy it because it came from him.

Emphasize this. Say you'd be thrilled with a comfy set of pajamas or some otherwise small. Tell him that these gifts would be like him getting an a new and better iPad over and over.

Show him this list of 20 Inexpensive gifts for women and comment on ones you'd really like.

Repeatedly remind him that it isn't the gift so much, but rather it makes you feel closer to him, because it's like he's thinking of you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:40 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I disagree with the overall point of those who caution that you can't change him, that you shouldn't be "craving baubles," that a gift asked for isn't a gift.

When there is something you want your husband to do, you should ask him. That's all. It isn't being ungrateful for the good sex you do have if you say "ohh baby, a little to the left!" It isn't ungrateful for all of the times when he is kind and caring if you say "hey, the other day when you said ___, it hurt my feelings. You may not have realized, so I am telling you." It isn't ungrateful for the caring he does for your (plural) child if you say "hey, lately I feel the childcare duties haven't been divided in the way we have discussed, and I am really feeling overwhelmed, think we can have a look and see what's going on?" All it is, is realizing that your partner can't read your mind. Just ask!
posted by teragram at 5:42 AM on May 10, 2010 [11 favorites]

Have a read of this. The theory is that there are 5 ways that people show love to one another. Your husband seems skewed away from being a Gift Giver.

It's quite possible, too, to like to show love in one way, and receive it in another.
posted by Solomon at 5:45 AM on May 10, 2010 [13 favorites]

TheRaven, it's been my experience that spouses often do something for one another on Mothers'/Fathers' Day, especially when the kids are too little to do anything themselves.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:46 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

As long as you expect him to read your mind, you're going to be disappointed. Just tell him what you want. Not, like, make a massive list and send him off to the store, but mention things you'd actually like well before the date.

There's nothing wrong with saying, "I'd love a box of Moonstruck Chocolates for Mother's Day." Or "A new umbrella for the patio set would be a great Mother's Day present." as you think of them.

You've told him what you don't want- now make sure in the future that you tell him what you DO want. He won't be so stressed out, and you won't be unhappy when he picks wrong.

*PS - The box of Moonstruck Chocolates I got for MD this year was my fave MD present evar.
posted by headspace at 5:49 AM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

A gift "asked for" is not a gift.

It's not a gift she's asking for.

it would have been nicer to put more thought into my gifts.

A guy should put a little effort into this to show that he cares enough to put a little effort into this. It ain't rocket science.

Talk to him about it, tell him how you feel.
posted by three blind mice at 5:51 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I, like TheRaven, always thought that it Mother's Day was solely a mom/offspring thing. It wasn't until very recently I was exposed to everyone else giving gifts to all the mothers that they knew. So, maybe your husband thinks about Mother's Day the same way? Maybe he's not used to seeing you as 'mother'?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:59 AM on May 10, 2010

My hubby used to be like this. Our first Christmas together he got me a hair dryer and a sleeping bag. The next year I asked him if he'd like a list of things that I'd like to give him an idea of what kind of thing I'm interested in. He was so relieved.

So I gave him a list. I put about 20 things on it, mostly generic and in various price ranges. I also put on the paper the kind of scents that I liked and my sizes.

The next year he got me Satin Pajamas and tickets to Phantom of the Opera. Neither were on the list, but the list gave him a better idea of what my style was and he did good by himself.

Some years he still asks for my list. He says it makes his life so much easier.

(By the way, when I expect a gift for an occasion I tell him. Usually way in advance, and sometimes I have to tell him more than once. My thirtieth birthday is coming up, I already told him I want a nice gift. I'll remind him again a few weeks before. That way he's not guessing and I'm not disappointed.)
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:07 AM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

I totally get this. It's not that you want anything shiny or expensive, it's that it's nice to get a little something that shows that he was thinking about you. You want him to put a little time and thought into it. That's not something crazy to ask for.

I also have a husband who is just awesome, but maybe not so much into special occasions. It feels a little silly to be sad about a blah birthday or a last minute Christmas, when otherwise I have a man who is so wonderful.

However, rather than beating myself up or trying so hard just to keep a lid on it, I decided that I would just talk to him about it. This person I married is supposed to be my partner and there is no reason that I can't share how I'm feeling about something. So, we talked about it on a neutral, non-special occasion day. Of course, I didn't blame him for anything, I can't expect him to be a mind reader, but I asked if we could change how we do things in the future.

And, you know what, he listened to me because he is great. I had a wonderful birthday party this last year and he made me the perfect bookshelf for Christmas. I'm soo grateful that he took the effort.

In the future, we'll be talking about Mother's Day and Father's Day expectations up front.
posted by Alison at 6:07 AM on May 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

Just echoing the "I thought Mother's Day was a mom/offspring thing" crowd here.
posted by Xany at 6:07 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a friend who was constantly disappointed at gift giving holidays. She wanted her boyfriends to get her something special, do something romantic, surprise her with something wonderful and they never lived up to her expectations. After years of hearing about her being disappointed, and trying to tactfully suggest to her that she talk to them about her expectations, and even at one point telling one of them what her expectations were, I gave up but swore to be direct with whomever I was dating.

Different families have different traditions and this gives rise to different expectations. Usually women are thought of as being more into holidays and gifting but if you come from a family that doesn't do birthdays and he comes from a family where it is a big deal, your expectations will be wildly different and not in the stereotypical direction.

Now I directly tell the person I'm dating what I want and I find out what he wants. I don't do it a week before the holiday or right after the holiday, I do it at a completely different time. Yes this is incredibly blunt and probably not terribly polite, but it means that we're both clear on expectations and when the holiday comes around, we're both getting what we'd like.

Personally, I tend to get gifts for people when I see something that they'd like and not necessarily on holidays.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:08 AM on May 10, 2010

I'm on the other side of the fence. I usually don't enjoy receiving gifts. It's always well meant and it always ends up with me having more stuff I don't use cluttering up my house. If there's something I know I want, then I really enjoy researching exactly what to buy. If I don't know I want it, usually that's because I don't want it! I know it's the thought that counts, but really it would be more thoughtful to not get me this STUFF.

In the same way, I'm terrible at buying gifts. I don't know what the other person wants. If I guess what they want I often get it wrong. If I take hints from them, I still get it wrong, unless they give me the full make and model number, and then really what is the point?

I was in a long relationship with someone who really valued thoughtful gifts, and TBH it was a constant sore point which was never resolved. In my current relationship, neither of us cares for gifts, so it works much better.

What DOES work for me, is things like cooking a meal, fixing something, helping with something. I love doing that, I love it when other people do it for me. I used to know someone who was great with clothes shopping; as a present, she used to come with me shopping when I had some vague idea like "I'd like a winter coat" and help me find one I'd like.

I'm not saying "Please write off the possibility of ever getting gifts". But understanding the other side of things may help, and if you can adjust your definition of what counts as a "gift", you may be able to reach a better compromise.
posted by emilyw at 6:08 AM on May 10, 2010 [11 favorites]

You can talk to him about it, but I would suggest that you wait at least a month or so to do so, to put some distance between Mother's Day and the talk so he doesn't feel criticized. You can tell him how it really makes you feel loved when he gives you a gift, that the price of the gift is much less important than the thought he puts into it, and make suggestions as to the kind of thing you might like.

However, there is real possibility he might not change, or at least not as much as you would like him too. It's been my experience that some people, who anecdotally at least seem to be more likely to be of the male persuasion, are really at a loss when it comes to selecting gifts. They just can't figure out what the object of their affection would like and it stresses them out to try. It's hard for those of us who love selecting and giving gifts to understand, but the men I've known who were like this simply won't change no matter what their wives or girlfriends do.

My oldest brother hardly ever used to get my sister-in-law a present for Christmas or her birthdays. Usually he would promise her he was going to do this or that reno to the house that year. Which she appreciated, but that was for their entire family, not just for her. One Christmas, after about fifteen years together and having only received three or four presents from him in all that time, my sister-in-law told him, sweetly, "This year I want you to either give me a gift from the jewelry store, or move out." He gave her earrings for her December 21st birthday and the matching necklace for Christmas. She was thrilled and showed them to everyone. (My sister and I pretended to be blinded by the glare when she showed them to us.) The next year, having gotten the idea that he was supposed to come through with gifts, he gave her.... a nearly identical pair of earrings and necklaces. The next year she told him she had sufficient of those kind of necklaces and earrings and wanted a watch. He does buy her presents now, but she usually has to tell him what she wants. A friend of mine has to tell her husband what to buy her for her birthday and Christmas, though she hates doing it and wants him to just figure it out on his own. One year she insisted she wanted to be surprised for her birthday and refused to give him any ideas, and he didn't get her anything at all.

You may need to simply accept that your husband is the way he is when it comes to giving gifts.

Another thing to keep in mind is to be really appreciative of the gift, to seem enthusiastic about it and make sure to use it. I've seen cases where the wife is super picky and critical and the husband gives up because he's tired of never being able to please her and getting his feelings hurt.
posted by orange swan at 6:15 AM on May 10, 2010

Your husband sounds a little like me; he values gifts of experience (where he gets to actually spend time showing you he loves you over dinner, or with flowers because they're romantic) and doesn't think that items really convey that same meaning.

I write a little poem in cards, am the one to mark the calendar for our anniversary, make sure the flowers are her favorite with a twist (a color of a new shirt she got that I like, etc.) and I make sure she gets to spoil herself with some candy because she doesn't do it for herself.

The way I look at it is that:

a) If it's an item, she's going to be better than I am at picking it out. Unless she's specifically asked for something (hint, hint) I am not going to try to figure out what type of silver chain is best because I don't think that way.

b) If she has the money (which she does), she can buy it herself. She's not under lock and key and is an equal financial partner and shouldn't have to wait for me to give her something nice. I encourage her to self-spoil.

So you could either ask your husband to buy you the things you like (by requesting them) or you can contextualize his gifts as his way of showing he loves you. The choice of which is up to you, but he's not going to be a mind-reader.
posted by Hiker at 6:19 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, some people just have different ideas about what makes a good gift. I buy a lot of dumb little presents for people (significant others, friends, coworkers, could be almost anyone), especially when I am traveling. I see some cheap, silly thing, and I think "this would be great for Y!" Some times Y gets it right away, sometimes Y has to wait for an event.

On the other hand, I once dated someone who believed that the best gifts were practical. One Valentine's Day I got some nice measuring cups and a fat separater. I had to accept that those were a sincere expression of affection.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:21 AM on May 10, 2010

I tried to have this conversation with my ex... oh, every gift giving occasion. If someone isn't naturally a gift giver, the best you might be able to do is, "Please buy me this." And then getting that. And then trying to have the conversation about how you'd really like to get a thoughtful gift without having to explain it. And then him saying he's not a mind reader. And then you thinking, but if he loved me, he'd put more thought into it, because it's the thought that counts. And then... So why go down that rat hole?

But really, he's a good guy. You like the thought and *surprise* of gifts more than the receiving of something. In fact, no surprise=not a gift. Tell him this.

Given the general cluelessness about the fact that guys are the representatives of their kids on Mother's Day in this thread (seriously? who do you think keeps the house from burning down when there's breakfast in bed made? Who guides macaroni jewelry making and pays for the Halmark card?), give him a pass this year.

But give him a thoughtful, surprising Father's Day gift. If he doesn't pick it up by next year, let it go and work something else out in your head: whether that's something you coordinate ("We go somewhere I want to go to on Mother's Day.") or you just buy yourself something from the kid.

And train the kid to be a thoughtful, surprise-based present getter so that 30 years from now, you won't have the same complaint ;)
posted by Gucky at 6:22 AM on May 10, 2010

For Mother's Day in particular I –and my recollections of friends, etc– fall on the "offspring's responsibility" side of the fence. Granted, if the children are quite young, the dad should help them, but the dad isn't responsible for anything himself.

Now, as far as birthdays and and xmas and so on go, I would think that he ought put more thought into things. I always need a list, myself, as I rarely know what to get (sometimes I'll have a flash of inspiration, but not usually).
posted by joeycoleman at 6:22 AM on May 10, 2010

I don't necessarily think that you should expect a gift for giving birth to his child or from him for mother's day, but what I think is neither here nor there, except to say that I could see why he would never think to get you something for those occasions. It's a reasonable thing to want in a marriage, and I think the thing to do is TRY just telling him, very clearly, that you want it. I'd do it today.

1. Honey, you are the GREATEST husband ever. You make me happy in a thousand ways.
2. But there's this one little thing that I know probably seems ridiculous and I don't quite know why, but really, really matters to me.
3. I want a gift, an actual, tangible gift, on the following occasions: mother's day, my birthday, our anniversary, valentine's day, christmas (etc.?)
4. I don't know why, but it will make me really sad if you don't give me an actual, tangible gift on those occasions. And I don't quite know why, but it'll make me really, really happy if you do, even if it doesn't cost much.
5. It's the thought that counts. (But to work, it does need to be an actual, tangible gift.)
6. Could you try?
7. I promise to humor your wishes even if they seem silly to me.
posted by n'muakolo at 6:26 AM on May 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

This sounds like it might be the product of growing up with different approaches to gift giving. Does his family make a big deal out of holidays? Are they less into formal gift giving than yours, maybe? My family is pretty gift oriented, so I see where you're coming from maybe more that some other people in this thread. It isn't about demanding things, it's about the other person taking the time and making the effort to go out of their way to find something that you would like, or caring enough to notice your hints. Everyone likes to be made a big deal of and spoiled a little by their loved ones; in this case, you and your spouse seem to value different ways of doing it. You should talk to him about it; I really agree with what teragram posted above. If you handle this small mismatch of expectations now, you'll be avoiding decades of little sadnesses at holidays.

Small sidenote: Is who won the 1998 Superbowl really more important to guys than the anniversary of the day their spouse was born or the day they got married? I hope that was a joke.
posted by MadamM at 6:26 AM on May 10, 2010

May I simply suggest you appreciate him for who he is?

Some guys are not champion gift givers but they rock at other things. Sounds like you have one of those. Of course since using the "5 Love Languages" theory, your language is "gifts", I suppose it would be kosher to explain that to him, but honestly it sounds like you have a gem of a man there as it is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:29 AM on May 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

Do you get him nice gifts on such occasions?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:33 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you can change the gift giving culture in a relationship. I'm a survivor of years with my beloved who went from giving me a pair of socks for my birthday and going out with him mates instead of taking me out for dinner etc, to making a real effort in the last few years. I had to tell him how important those days are for me and how being ignored or flippantly treated on those days has a bigger effect on me than it might have on him. I know he doesn't care about acknowledgment, specialness, princessy treatment on his special days, but I do. It doesn't make me a spoilt wife-zilla and it doesn't negate his other efforts. I happen to be one of those people who does like baubles and have stopped feeling ashamed of wanting gifts. Maybe I bring a family history to this that he now is beginning to understand better. He sees it's important to me and he makes more of an effort. [It helps that when he asks what I would like/what I would like to do on my birthday that I give him ideas. Such as: I'd like a dinner out with our friends at a nice restaurant, a home made card, a shiny bauble, a book, a new pair of shoes or a pony or whatever.]
posted by honey-barbara at 6:37 AM on May 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Wow, I was thinking of writing this same post. My husband is a great guy but terrible at giving gifts. One Xmas he gave me a toilet paper holder and a plastic tub to store the xmas ornaments. This Mother's Day he wanted to get me an iPhone, which I said no to, then sent him a list of three things that were a good idea, and cheaper than the phone. "Hooray, thanks for the list!" he said. So on Mother's Day proper I received a lovely plant, beautiful card, delicious breakfast, a two-pack of Moleskines and a book that was so far away from my interests I wondered who he thought he was buying a gift for. None of these things were on my list. I was pretty surly about this, even with the rest of the lovely stuff, as it seemed to me he just picked up a book at random, without consulting our ten-year history or the list I gave him. I feel terrible about this today, but once in awhile on those giftie holidays I wish he's either just go by the list or pay attention to what I say once in awhile. It makes me feel like an afterthought - much like you bigwoopdedoo- he couldn't be bothered to put in the effort and just grabbed whatever to fill an obligation.
posted by kittyloop at 6:49 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should read The Five Love Languages. You sound like you need Receiving Gifts, and he's probably something else, like Words of Affirmation or Physical Touch. There's nothing wrong with either of you--you just communicate in different languages, so you need to teach each other how best to express love in a way that you'll feel appreciated.

He truly doesn't understand what it is you need. OF COURSE you should talk to him about this. Otherwise he'll never know it's bothering you, and you'll just sit there stewing and becoming resentful.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:50 AM on May 10, 2010

I much prefer shopping for things for him or our son and rarely buy anything for myself.

Buy yourself stuff that you like. It'll help establish a pattern for him to copy when he sets out to buy you gifts.
Over the years, it's become easier to shop for gifts for my wife since I can look at the stuff she buys for herself and indulge her based on what I can tell she likes.
Start giving gifts to yourself. When my wife buys something nice for herself, it's an opportunity for me to be enthusiastic about her new purchase and, when I don't ask how much it cost, it adds a cooperative vibe that is sort of like we both bought it for her.
posted by Jon-o at 7:03 AM on May 10, 2010

I've been the guy here: my family always gave much smaller gifts for holidays than her family, and she was disappointed. At her first birthday, I eventually learned that my gift (a magazine subscription) wasn't really what she wanted. I wasn't exactly pleased, but it was much, much better for us that we honestly established what would make her happy and what wouldn't. Otherwise, she would have been prickly and I would have been defensive at every holiday. Not a good way to go through life.

A good partner wants to know how to make you happy. Couch it with kindness and gratitude, but definitely let him know that presents are important to you. I especially like the idea of making a list to guide him.
posted by Clambone at 7:17 AM on May 10, 2010

"But when I get something from hubby, I really enjoy it because it came from him."

Not unless it's the right thing! And then when it is the right thing (the earrings) you mentally critique him for not purchasing it in the right way, going so far as to imagine the least thoughtful scenario possible (he didn't pick out the earrings, your friend did, etc.)

I know how disappointing it can be to want something from a loved one for a special occasion, and it's the first (or only) one, and you just want him to show you he loves you so you can feel warm and fuzzy and special.

I know tangible gifts can be sentimentally useful (that's a mouthful but I hope you know what I mean). I have a few that I carry with me at all times and it's wonderful to be reminded of the people who gave them to me. They give me the warm fuzzies. But here's the thing:

If you have a secret mental picture of exactly what you want, and exactly how much time he spends getting it, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Tell him you want a tangible gift. Give him a few ideas or a category. Then, whatever he does get, enjoy it because it came from him.

By the way, I know I would have cried about not getting gifts for mother's day or for having a baby (no matter how irrational that might have been) so you're a stronger woman than I in that regard!

Good luck.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:19 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can talk to him about it, but I would suggest that you wait at least a month or so to do so

Can I suggest two months? In a month, give him a small yet thoughtful gift for Father's Day to model the desired behaviour. Then a month after that, have a conversation with him about gift giving in your relationship.

I think to some extent you're simply falling into a trap of expectations. "Push presents" are a relatively new phenomenon, so he may have genuinely not known it was a point where presents are a done thing.

Flowers, a dinner out and a personalized card are kind of considered the silver standard of anniversary, Valentine's Day, etc, gifts. (The gold standard usually involves more actual gold.) So while it may not be super-creative, those are things that are generally considered quite acceptable.

The earrings sound like pretty much a great gift, really -- finding fault with how he happened to decide upon them is likely to just confuse the issue.

So when you got into talk to him, try to make it clear that it's just that you have slightly different desires than he might be used to. He clearly does a good job of remembering those special occasions, and marking them, which you appreciate, but you happen to have particular tastes in occasion marking, and they run to things in boxes with bows on top, and you'd prefer that to flowers.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If we remember your birthday and our anniversary at all, consider yourself lucky. Do you remember who won the Super Bowl in 1998? Of course not and that was much more important.

I mean women: they are created to receive gifts, it is their purpose to be smothered with thoughtful presents.

Wow. Way to reinforce those stereotypes, people!

All those above saying, essentially, that you are selfish for wanting this or that he is not going to ever give you gifts surprise me. Have you never compromised with your partner on anything? Isn't that what relationships are all about? The give and take?

I'm married to a wonderful man who came from a family of bad gift-givers. If they gave gifts at all, that is. They frequently would forget important dates altogether.

Here's what makes them bad at these things: they just assume that everyone is like they are. If they don't want a gift, they assume no one does. If they do buy a gift, it's something they want themselves. Or, worse yet, something they think you SHOULD want or have, rather than what you really would like to receive.

I'm the type that can spend an hour picking out just the right card, researching cell phones and cell phone plans and just plain putting a lot of thought into gifts. I have sketched characters on craft paper wrapping to match the videogame gift inside for my teens, customized skins for laptops according to their interests, the whole deal. I love seeing the look on the recipient's face when they open their presents. I plan parties for them that reflect all their favorites and then try to be as unobtrusive as possible so that they can enjoy their day with their friends.

With my husband, I ask for specifics, because he's an engineer and very picky about the specs on electronics, etc. he wants. And if I get him a gift, I want him to like it. So I do not just get him a TV, but that Sharp Aquos HD one.

I have more fun giving than I do receiving, most times.

In his family, they often get together the day after Christmas to return presents they don't want. It's an accepted thing that you are going to get thoughtless presents, and no one feels bad about just taking them back and getting something else. That floors me.

Gift-giving is such a pivotal thing to me that when someone forgets me entirely on my birthday (for example) I feel it keenly. So, I could pout and sulk and be disappointed and then feel guilty about it.

But instead, I take a pro-active approach.

It took a while, but I've shown my husband that it's important to think of the other person's needs and desires and go with that when it comes to gift-giving.

So, I give him specific ideas (right up to "THAT necklace, that's on sale at THIS place until THIS day"), well ahead of time. We've even had a countdown, "Only 30 more shopping days until my birthday, honey!"

This is not because I am a selfish harpy, but because, in addition to loving receiving gifts, I love giving them. And he has come around to that, too, feeling the satisfaction of knowing he got me just what I wanted. It's a fantastic feeling.

And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I've learned that, if you are going to be in a long-term relationship (married almost 21 years now), you have to be clear on what your expectations are for marital harmony.
posted by misha at 7:37 AM on May 10, 2010

To expand on the 5 love languages idea mentioned above (you should definitely check out solomon's link): the idea is that there are 5 different ways that people express love, and that everyone has preferred forms of expressing and of receiving expressions of love. The point of this theory is twofold. First, by knowing which languages you "understand," your husband can learn to express his love in the way that makes you feel most loved. In this case that involves buying thoughtful gifts. Second, by knowing which language your husband "speaks" best, you can learn to feel loved when he does those things that might not have naturally make you feel loved. It sounds like he does a lot around the house, which might be his main "love language."

The point is not just to teach him to give you thoughtful gifts. It's also to help you not feel unloved if he doesn't do so, because he's saying, "I love you" by doing housework and watching the kids and whatnot. If you can learn to hear those I-love-you's embedded in the housework every day, you might not feel like you need the gifty version of I-love-you so much. And if he can learn that the gifty version resonates with you more than the housework, he can learn to say I-love-you with gifts too. Perhaps the way you're expressing love doesn't match the way he hears it best either, so you can each learn the opposite side as well.
posted by vytae at 7:40 AM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

He's an awesome husband in every other way. Get over it and stop looking to find fault with him. Not everyone is great at gift-giving.
posted by amro at 7:42 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's the weird thing. I am not a shopper (I really despise shopping for myself and if I do land in a shop, I am always looking at things others might like) and don't buy things for myself because I don't really want anything in particular. But when I get something from hubby, I really enjoy it because it came from him.

I'm not sure if I read it here, or elsewhere, but I recently stumbled across a comment somewhere that said that men shop for themselves, women for other people. This is obviously a cliche and a stereotype, but I recently brought it up after buying my husband flowers at the supermarket for the upteenth time.

"You're always so nice. You bought me flowers!" he said.

"Yeah. You know, I read online that men shop for themselves and women shop for others. It's funny, because even when I'm at Walmart, I always keep an eye out on stuff for you. Even if it's, like, a box of gobstoppers or something."

"When I'm shopping," he said, "I'm all business. I just want to get in there and get out. And usually I am shopping for myself, so it doesn't even cross my mind what you'd think of the stuff that I'm buying."

"I figured. Weird, innit?"

The funny thing is, I think just talking about it made him more aware of my shopping habits, and his. He's brought me a few really sweet little gifts since then. It also helped me to realize that he really doesn't shop like I do, and that it doesn't mean anything evil or mean or hurtful by it. So it would be pretty silly to feel hurt and wounded by something that's totally normal to him.

Anyway, I've found that I'm happier and more successful with this kind of stuff when I clearly communicate my desires ahead of time instead of hinting passive aggressively and then getting upset. I have to be willing to compromise a bit--sometimes the gifts are last minute--but, like your husband, mine's great in so many ways that I wouldn't trade him for the world.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:45 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

He's an awesome husband, and awesome husbands LOVE to make their wives happy, especially by doing simple things like shopping for and wrapping a little something special if they know it will make their wife smile.

So tell him it surprised you, too, but now you know that you really would love a little something to commemorate mother's day and I imagine in the future he'd be more than happy to do it.

It's not weird at all, I promise you.
posted by agentwills at 7:53 AM on May 10, 2010

You seem to have some very specific expectations for gifts. Just from your question it sounds like:

*You expect gifts to mark special occasions that are not necessarily holidays (e.g. the birth of your child)
*You expect more than a card with a personal message and flowers and dinner
*How the gift is acquired is important to you (e.g. would prefer that there's more thought involved than a salesperson friend suggested it) even if you love the gift itself.
*You don't want money to pick out the things you want; you want him to know what you want and surprise you with it
*You prefer things instead of experiences

I think it would be hard for even the best gift-giver to meet these and any other expectations you might have without explicit instructions from you. I would maybe sit down and write out some of the other things that are important in a gift for you and then talk to your husband about it. Because simply saying "I would like better gifts" isn't enough to convey the exact nature of what a gift means to you.

Also, I think that you might have to start working on accepting that your husband may be many wonderful things, but he is not a wonderful gift giver. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have the conversation with him about it and express your specific desires; it just means that you should be prepared for him to not meet your expectations 100% of the time.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 7:58 AM on May 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

Tell him, tell him, tell him. Lightly and when you're in a happy mood, but do tell him. give him ideas of the kind of thing you'd like too, great idea. He loves you, and he wants to make you happy, and this way you're helping him do it - everybody wins. Telling him not to give you cash for Christmas is a great start, and a great example there. And do your part too, find out what he likes, what kind of thing falls into "take it or leave it", etc and do stuff to make him happy too :)
posted by lemniskate at 8:06 AM on May 10, 2010

Do you remember who won the Super Bowl in 1998? Of course not and that was much more important.

I remember the 1998 Superbowl. And I remember who won, too. But that might just be because I found it to be pretty inconsequential next to my grandma dying a few hours after said game ended. But what do I know about what's important? I'm just a girl.

To the OP, I mostly only wanted flowers and a card on Mother's Day. Maybe breakfast or lunch out, but that's not necessary. Anything above a card and flowers is way beyond what I consider necessary for Mother's Day. Mostly even, a "Happy Mother's Day!" said really loudly as a baby pounces on me is what I expect. But last year, Mother's Day went by without a single acknowledgment, and I was really hurt.

This year was better. My husband made me a little clay Baby Zizzle with "Mom" on his front because Baby Zizzle often wears shirts that say things like "Property of Mom," or "Mommy's Little Monster." It was really sweet, and I really adore it, even though the foot had an accident and required surgical repair. But I didn't get it until evening time, and the day sorta passed without acknowledgment until then. So it was still very sweet, and still much better, though I would have preferred getting my gift earlier in the day to make Mother's Day a, you know, day. And with a card. I didn't get a card. And I bought myself flowers. But that was okay. It was definitely better and sweeter this year than last year.

So, yes, you should talk with him. You should still do something for Father's Day, and after talking with him, next year will likely go better. It did for me!
posted by zizzle at 8:19 AM on May 10, 2010

It sounds to me like you feel like you aren't getting enough... something. He's providing gifts, but he's not devoting himself to finding that perfect gift, you are disappointed he is not devoting more time to figuring exactly what you want, etc.

Do you feel neglected/under-appreciated with the relationship on a larger scale? Do you maybe have some self-esteem issues? Is this desire for special gifts maybe a way to reassure you about some underlying insecurity?

Personally, I'm pretty thrilled when someone gets me a card or takes me out to dinner, but I guess we all have different opinions.
posted by Menthol at 8:34 AM on May 10, 2010

Like you husband, I would never think of buying my wife a gift for mother's day. I'd buy my mom a gift, but that's about it. Once we have kids, I might help them buy her a gift.

You need to communicate with him clearly about your expectations, and what sorts of gifts you expect to receive.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:38 AM on May 10, 2010

This reminds me of that scene from that Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn movie:

Jenn: "I don't want you to do the dishes because I want you to do them. I want you to do the dishes because you want to do them."
Vince: "Why would I want to do the dishes?"

Do I hear you saying that you want more thought put into the gift? That knowing he put a lot of thought into the gift, is the gift? So while you love the actual earrings, the fact that your girlfriend picked them out means that they're not as good a gift as if he had actually shopped for them and chosen them himself.

The solutions to your problem is somewhere between laying it out plainly for him, and accepting that he is not someone who spends a lot of time gift shopping. So buy him something really nice for Father's Day, and then the next day or so, have a discussion with him about how your approaches to gift buying differ. If the discussion is open enough, and if you listen hard enough, you may both learn something.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:49 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Valentine's Day, First Anniversay and Mother's Day--flowers, a personalized (and lovely) card and dinner out.

These sound like the norm for these holidays. If it's not what you want, you need to be explicit. Perhaps he is from a background where he would not consider giving something gift-wrapped on any of these holidays -- what is it you're thinking of, jewelry perhaps? If that's the case, I'm in the same boat as your husband; flowers, cards, and dinners sound perfect for anything other than a birthday or Christmas to me.
posted by asciident at 9:14 AM on May 10, 2010

OP here:

Thanks for all of your responses...they have really helped me to clarify what I like about gifts. The thing with flowers and dinner (not the cards---I LOVE his cards) is that, while nice, they lack the thoughtfulness required of other types of gifts. I really see now that I like knowing that he made a special effort to find something that has some special significance or that I would otherwise like it a lot.

He gave me three engagement rings (he didn't know the right size) that he bought from a street vendor. He explained how they are made from two intertwined metals and how that represents our bond. They turned my fingers green, but I still wear them every day around a my neck on a chain. They are very special to me.

I think I just have to state more clearly what I expect/want. I know I mentioned to our 8 month old son (read: husband) that "I hope you get mommy something nice for mothers day" about a week ago. I was hoping hubby would catch the hint--I guess I can be a bit too subtle sometimes.
posted by bigwoopdeedoo at 9:35 AM on May 10, 2010

he did not get me anything for my first Mother's Day (other than a very thoughtful and loving and personal card and flowers he added to the basket the day before when we were shopping together)

This is the equivalent of saying, "he got me a gift for Mother's Day, but the gift didn't meet my expectations." He gave you several things for Mother's Day, including flowers, a nice dinner together, and a heartfelt expression of his love for you. I think he did great!

This isn't about the fact that he got you flowers instead of jewelry. This is about your self-esteem, and needing him to show you materially that you're special enough to deserve nice things, because you don't believe that yourself. If you did, you wouldn't moan about how you can't possibly buy yourself things, you have to wait for him to give them to you.

Honestly, you sound like a bit of a martyr. When your husband buys you presents, you passive-aggressively critique them and moan behind his back about how his gift-giving is "lackluster" and how he doesn't put in enough effort. When people suggest that you buy what you want for yourself, you say that you couldn't possibly do that, you never buy things for yourself. But then you sigh about how you never get any nice things. It's not healthy or productive to blame your husband for the fact that you don't feel like you deserve to buy the things you want for yourself.

I'd suggest that you think long and hard about why you feel that you only deserve to have the things you want when your husband buys them for you as thanks for being a great wife and mother. You might even want to talk to a therapist about it, because it sounds as though this is making you really unhappy. But this really isn't about your husband.

If, after thinking about it and working on your self-esteem and communication skills, you still decide that it would be great to get jewelry from your husband on Mother's Day, you need to communicate that to him. This isn't a case of him falling down on the job. This is a case of the two of you not talking through your expectations, which leaves you feeling like something is wrong when he doesn't guess what you want.

If this is really what you need, the two of you should sit down and write out a list of holidays that are important to you and what you'd like to do or receive for them. And it sounds as though the two of you have a great marriage, so he'll probably do exactly what you ask. But then you have to actually be happy with it, not complain that he only bought you that bauble because you picked it out for him and told him when to get it for you. But don't bring this up with him until you're sure that you can be genuinely delighted when he does exactly what the two of you agreed to in advance. Because if you don't work figuring out how to believe that he loves you enough and that you're worth it, regardless of gifts, you're never going to be happy.
posted by decathecting at 9:36 AM on May 10, 2010 [10 favorites]

Fast forward to my birthday--he got me a pair or earrings which I love, but I could tell it was last minute and he bought them from a friend who sells a jewelry line. I got the impression that she suggested them in advance (she's a good salesperson) and that he got them out of ease. I do love them and wear them all of the time though so the gift was great.

This is a pretty tough deal on your husband, no? So he got you something you like, and wear, but he didn't acquire them the right way?

I started feeling this way about gifts when our child was born last year. I was hoping he would get me a little gift for, I don't know, bearing his child.

A baby-bearing gift? What? Never heard of that.

Here's what you should do - talk to him about your desire for him to get you more gifts. That's what you need to be honest about. You want him to get you more gifts (and better gifts).

If you can be honest about it with yourself instead of pretending otherwise, I imagine you'll both be happy - he's got a clear directive that'll make you feel good.
posted by RajahKing at 9:36 AM on May 10, 2010

I don't read this as "I want more stuff." I read it as "I want more thought. I want the gesture. I want to know that he thinks of me in a romantic way when we are apart."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:45 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Give the poor guy a break. From your loving description, he sounds wonderful, but gift selecting/giving just isn't his forte.

Since it's obviously important to you, you need to take charge in this area and start keeping a wishlist. I recommend Amazon's Universal Wishlist because it let's you add items from anywhere on the internet, not just Amazon, and the gifts can be purchased online or off. When you find something you like, add it; after your list is a decent size, forward it to your husband and you'll both be happy.

Gift giving these days is just so complicated; people are busy and frazzled, yet expected to know exactly what to give on every special occasion. Giving the wrong thing could lead to disappointment and/or arguments, so I'm firmly of the belief that everyone should have some type of wishlist to distribute among friends and family members who are gift-buying challenged... or you have no one to blame but yourself when you're given something you don't particularly like.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:50 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Amazon's Universal Wishlist.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2010

I dated a guy once who told me, once we had gotten past the casual dating phase: "I am not good at gifts for special occasions. If a gift is required for something, you have to let me know. I am terrible at this, I have tried to get better, I need help."

When I received an advanced degree and called to invite him to a dinner I was having for friends to celebrate, I'll never forget the voicemail: "Hi there. I received your message, congratulations, it would be my pleasure to attend. If this is an occasion for which a gift would be required, please have [name of my best friend] call me." She called him, they purchased a gift together, it was lovely and appropriate, and and it was NOT ANY LESS OF A GIFT.

The biggest myth out there about relationships is that they come with a psychic chip where you don't ever have to ask for anything ever again, and if you do, the relationship is DOOMED! (thank you, oprah, lifetime movies, and other societal pressures). NOT TRUE.

I know plenty of men who bought their wives something special when their child was born, who are not neanderthals, many of whom have different last names than their wives. They didn't plan it or talk to someone, they just did it because they were overjoyed that their wife was healthy and the child was healthy and in a spurt of I AM SO HAPPY they went into a store and made a purchase. For one wife it was a trip to Tiffany's, for the other, he bought her a 500gb hard drive because she'd been wanting one and with all the stuff they had bought for the baby they just didn't have the money and he knew it was the thing she wanted the most.

I leave jewelry catalogs lying around the house that are marked and annotated. He doesn't always buy me what I circle but he has used them to learn what I like. It hasn't made it any less of a gift, or our relationship any less special. In fact I think it's made it more awesome because we together figured out a way to make us both happy.
posted by micawber at 10:04 AM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yikes, decathecting! I'll chalk that up as not having enough information to go on, but I have many nice things (house, car, furnishings, clothes) which I bought for myself, so I don't feel like it's a self esteem issue. But you are right that I should communicate more clearlysince I can be pretty vague sometimes so as not to come across as a harpy..

And yes to everyone who thinks I am being too hard on my amazing husband (hence the question in the title "So I'm an ingrate, right?"). I am just trying to figure out if I am nit picking and drop it or if should mention something to him since like it or not, this is how I feel. I tend to be one to bring things up but the last thing I want to do is make him feel bad.
posted by bigwoopdeedoo at 10:06 AM on May 10, 2010

...he did not get me anything for my first Mother's Day (other than...

I agree with everyone that you'll need to help him out some if gifts are that important to you, but I also wanted to call out this fragment. He did get you some things for Mother's Day (even if unfortunately they turned out not to be sufficient), and characterizing that as "he didn't get me anything (except for flowers and a card)" instead of at least "he only got me flowers and a card" isn't really fair.
posted by dfan at 10:16 AM on May 10, 2010

You're not an ingrate, there are just differences in expectations. Assuming he's open to direct discussion of this sort, take some time to tell him what you want. Personally, subtly mentioning things through Baby would annoy me, because you're saying them while I'm there, but not to me - but that's just me, not Mr. bigwoopdeedoo.

n'muakolo's suggestion says it all to me, and my wife had a similar discussion with me after our first Valentines Day together. I like buying gifts, and my wife tells me I'm a good gift-giver, but I didn't realize Valentines Day needed to be special, and now I know it does.

At some point, it may be easier to take things one step further, and provide each-other lists of things you'd like for Christmas and/or birthdays. The excitement and wonder is not there, but nor is the disappointment, which I think can be worse. Leave room in budgets for the unexpected gifts, and you'll still get (and give) surprise items, without taxing your resources.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:22 AM on May 10, 2010

He did get you some things for Mother's Day (even if unfortunately they turned out not to be sufficient), and characterizing that as "he didn't get me anything (except for flowers and a card)" instead of at least "he only got me flowers and a card" isn't really fair.

Since many many people are revisiting this particular aspect, let's look at the whole thing:

card and flowers he added to the basket the day before when we were shopping together

That strikes me less as a gift than an impulse purchase from the grocery store.

There have been many great suggestions and comments, and I agree you need to talk as a couple about this. I bet you, like me, agonize over gifts for others, thinking of the perfect item that they would love, something that would bring them joy, or make their lives easier, something that would show them that you thought long and hard about them and their feelings, because that's the sort of thing YOU do when you love someone. And when your husband smiles and throws a card in the shopping cart at the last minute, it hurts.

Please share your feelings with him! You are not an ingrate!
posted by peep at 10:48 AM on May 10, 2010

This gift thing is just a proxy for more substantial issues in your relationship. You want a concrete gesture in the form of a physical item from your husband, which to you will confirm that he loves you and that all is well. He is not "engaged" in the relationship in the same way, and has taken a pass, ignoring how you feel. This superficial impasse might represent bigger things.

I would urge you to reevaluate your desire for a gift. Why not try to connect with your husband on a more fundamental level? And ask yourself why you need a gift at all?

Note that I didn't slam you for being materialistic and shallow. I truly do believe your motives are better and bigger than that. But I wish other people would stop obsessing about "things" and focus more on experiences. Our consumer culture has gotten us into a terrible mess, and we're not any happier for it.
posted by teedee2000 at 10:49 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Does your husband indulge himself with personal purchases throughout the year, leaving you thinking, "He spent hours researching what kind of [insert item here] to buy for himself, but for me it's a quick trip to the florist and he's done." Secondarily, the amount of personal purchases might lead one to think, "He spent $x on [insert item here] and $y on [insert item here]...can't he spend $z on me?"

If that's the could certainly express your disappointment pointing out that the effort in gift giving is not what you expected...considering how much "effort" he puts in for himself.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:49 AM on May 10, 2010

I know I mentioned to our 8 month old son (read: husband) that "I hope you get mommy something nice for mothers day" about a week ago. I was hoping hubby would catch the hint--I guess I can be a bit too subtle sometimes.

Do not do this.
The baby is not a mediator for his parents' conversations. I have nothing really to add about the gift-giving on Mother's Day, but I just want to point out that talking "through" the baby seems cute at first but often becomes a really tempting yet inefficient way to communicate with the other adult present. Obviously I don't think it affects the baby (unless you're still doing it when he's grown into fully cognizant kid), but it's a passive aggressive move. If you want something, you need to have an adult conversation with him.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:50 AM on May 10, 2010 [16 favorites]

Nth the suggestion to read the Five Love Languages book, but read it with your husband.

Another way to approach Mothers' Day is with the upcoming Fathers' Day. You have a perfect 'in' to discuss such issues.

Get the aforementioned book and have a date with it. It's easy to skim and you can kind of get the gist without having to read it cover to cover. And there are worksheets and quizzes that can help you identify each of your love languages. Very practical stuff there that can head off a lot of future resentment over unmet expectations.

Another way to approach the subject is by adding a conversation about your familes of origin and their traditions about special days and gift-giving celebrations. I'll bet you dollars to donuts you each had pretty different experiences growing up in your families. Good friends of ours came from very different backgrounds in which her family made you 'queen for a day' on your birthday and in his family you just had a cake and a present. Imagine what happened their first year together when her birthday came up? Yeah.

Early on in a relationship you encounter lots of these 'firsts' which surface differences in expectations. Unmet, uncommunicated expectations lead to resentment if they are not addressed. So, yeah, be gentle about it, but don't let this go.

As a husband I signed up to be the world's number one expert on loving my wife. This means approaching my relationship with her with an attitude of appreciative inquiry, learning, creativity, and, yes, professionalism in a way. I am grateful for the times that my wife gives me free information that will make it easier for me to love her.

For instance, my wife thinks flowers are pretty, but if you don't fix the toilet she's been complaining about for a while, no bouquet will make her feel truly loved. I have friends that are kind of the opposite of us. He shows her he loves her by fixing the toilet and being generally handy and, while she appreciates his effort, she would like to hear more sweet words from him. (Actually my wife is a little jealous of her. Heh. )

You find these kinds of things out by stumbling over them or communicating about them. And if you fail to communicate, you just keep stumbling over them, resentment building all the while. Think of resentment as being like tartar on the enamel of your relationship. Don't go without flossing and brushing and make sure you go for a 'cleaning' at least twice a year.
posted by cross_impact at 12:16 PM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you were my friend and we were out shopping, and you were saying this about your husband, I would listen to you say, "I just wish he'd buy me X, Y, or Z for once ..." and then I would call or e-mail your husband and say, "Hey, Husband, Wife was just saying to me she saw these earrings she was totally in love with but would never buy for herself ... isn't Mother's Day coming up?" And then I would give him as many specifics as I had in my possession (store, style, size, even price) and offer to go with him to help him pick it out. And then I would get gushing e-mails for thanks from the Husband-type-person who would say, "She kept hinting but I couldn't figure it out and last time I tried to buy what I thought she was hinting about I was totally wrong ...." I have had this conversation twice since Christmas! One of the husbands, whom I helped at the jewelry store last week, said he has a terrible time because he likes to buy practical, useful things and he knows his wife likes to sometimes receive pretty, useless things but he just has no idea how to shop for them. My husband is similar. I love that he looks for the things I NEED -- new wipers, a working printer -- but these do feel like things I would buy myself, and I finally just straight-up told him that I loved that he paid attention to my needs, but that sometimes I also wanted pretty, useless things that I would never buy for myself, that I would cherish as being from him. Appliances are not very cherishable.

So, first, him turning to your friend was probably a GOOD impulse -- someone who knows you and who is a female-type person who understands the mysteries of your taste helped him find something you'd like. Yes, she was selling him something, but he was genuinely trying to please you.

In addition to having the straight-up conversation with him about it and listing some specific categories of gifts (jewelry, crystal vases, whatever) or some specific stores, if you have a good friend who knows your taste, you can tell him, "Joanie might be able to help you pick something out" if Joanie would indeed be willing. If I were Joanie, I'd have double-fun of getting to help pick something you'd like AND getting to scheme about it so you'd be surprised!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:23 PM on May 10, 2010

RajahKing: "A baby-bearing gift? What? Never heard of that. "

It's called a push present. I think Oprah popularized them. MOST of my baby-having friends are getting them, and some of them are VERY expensive!

teedee2000: "I truly do believe your motives are better and bigger than that. But I wish other people would stop obsessing about "things" and focus more on experiences."

Experiences are great, but I'm not wearing my grandmother's 1948 European trip; I'm wearing her wedding pearls. Certain "things" can have the durability and sentimental value to be passed forward to future generations and have meaning not just for the individuals who give the initial gift -- my grandfather to my grandmother upon their marriage -- but also for their families who come after. Every one of my grandmother's female descendants has gotten married wearing those pearls. I inherited them when my grandmother died, and I dutifully deliver them to each and every wedding so another bride can wear them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:32 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eyebrows -- I'm not attacking the concept of gifts, just our over-reliance on giving things all the time. Yes, something like wedding pearls from your grandmother are wonderful. But pressuring loved ones into dispensing endless tchotchkes, especially on manufactured holidays like Mother's Day, is not something I support.

A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully). On Mother's Day, I think it's much more appropriate to take your loved one out for a nice lunch or dinner. I mean, lots of rich guys give jewels at the drop of a hat, then run out the door for an appointment with the mistress. A blue-collar guy giving his wife a kiss on the cheek, and maybe cooking her dinner for once, is doing something far superior.
posted by teedee2000 at 12:45 PM on May 10, 2010

nthing two points:

1) Definitely read The Five Love Languages. Both of you. And discuss it.

2) In my mind, Mother's Day is for your own mother.

Now, you're in a special situation in that you're not just any random mother off the street. You're the mother of his child, and this is a new situation.

Personally, I'm big on giving gifts, but I don't care much at all about holidays or any other special day. I get someone a gift because I see something that brings them to mind or I think about something that clicks. I don't get gifts because of birthdays, Hallmark Holidays, real holidays, graduations, &c. To put it simply, I gift because I think I should, not because someone else does. That's just the way I roll.

But that doesn't really matter because I'm just some guy. Talk about it with him. It's the best way.
posted by ymendel at 1:49 PM on May 10, 2010

I want to nth n'muakolo's response. I had a very similar discussion with my SO about Valentine's Day, which is such an shoved-down-our-throats holiday that I am offended that I care whether I get chocolate and a card. And yet... I do sometimes want surprise rom-com girly gifts. My SO does not care about Valentine's Day at all, and actively dislikes the holiday a little. So I said something like "hey, this is wacky and I can't quite explain it but let's blame '80s romantic movies: I need something on Valentine's Day".

And he was fine with that. He doesn't quite get it, but I basically framed it as: here's a wacky thing I need you to do to, kthx.

And seeing him try at it, even if the gifts aren't always crazy and surprising and amazingly romantic, makes me appreciate it even more. Now, even if I get a last-minute card and some chocolate, I love it because I know it doesn't come naturally to him, and he doesn't even really like the holiday, but he's a good guy who will make an effort to give me what I want.

It makes me giggle, every year, that he forces himself to do this small but wacky thing, and does it just for me. We laugh about it together, sometimes. So I changed my thinking on the whole thing, too, and appreciate the effort much more.
posted by lillygog at 2:08 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

The author of Love Languages is a Christian, which is why I think it's weird that he didn't get the memo from St. Francis about seeking first to understand, then to be understood. The whole thing is just weird to me. If you know your husband loves you, why do you need him to express it in this one particular way? Rather than making him learn your language, why not learn to understand his?

You don't want a robot that you can program to do exactly what you want, when you want it, which means you want to respect his feelings, how they motivate him and what you mean to him. The greatest gift is the gift of himself - what does it say that you don't want that gift, you want a different gift? More than that, you want him to show love to you in the same way that you show love to others; you want him to love you in the way that you love others - which suggests that maybe an inability to express love to yourself is the issue here.

But this can't be a self-esteem issue, since you do feel that you deserve it. More likely is that you feel that if you did fully love yourself, your relationship wouldn't be strong because you wouldn't be emotionally dependent on him. In order for him to complete you, you need to make sure you stay incomplete.

Some might say that if your husband loves you, he will do things that make you happy, but I think this is mistaken. If you want him to turn the TV off after he's finished watching, then it's very simple to communicate this request, you just have to ask and tell him it's important to you. You could do the same thing with a gift: just ask for what you want, he buys it, and you're happy. Except you're not happy, because it's not about that, right? It's not just about you needing to have a gift and him not giving you what you need, you want to get inside his head and dictate what goes on in there.

Even if it would make you feel really, really good, I'm not sure you're entitled to that, so I think you should try to accept him. He's not good at giving gifts and maybe there are things you can do to change that, but why? I would try to look at all the other ways he cares for you, and try to see how those are meaningful to him. People say "Listen to what people are telling you about themselves" and I think that applies here. Why would you want to put different words in his mouth, why not appreciate the free, spontaneous, unselfconscious, idiosyncratic, surprising, idiosyncratic ways of him telling you he loves you that are unique to him and could never come from anyone else?
posted by AlsoMike at 2:30 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know you want him to magically be able to get something for you that will be something you love and can use, but it's hard to ask someone to learn to think that way. It doesn't mean he doesn't really know you or doesn't really love you if he buys you something that isn't perfect perfect perfect.

I sat down with my husband sometime in September and said "you know how our parents are always asking what we need or what we want for Christmas, and sending me ceramic kitchen cannisters with kittens on them because we have a cat and like cooking, and it's really dumb? We will fix this." So we sat down next to each other with our laptops, and the Amazon universal gift list (a plug-in that lets you put items from any website on your Amazon list) and made lists of things for the house and for ourselves. The key thing is, we annotated heavily. Some of it was simply "I like this, I would use this" And some of it was more complex - three examples of something I wanted, with notes "great color!" "great style" "right size" "I like __ but not __" "this would do but it would be great if ___"
So, at Christmas, his mom gave us a frame she'd picked out according to our pictures and desciptions, and it was very nice for what we wanted, and still had a touch of her taste and love, so it work in our house but it came from her - a nice compromise.

We have these lists running, and I have to remind myself to go check them occasionally, but it works out really well for our situation. Maybe it'll help you. For example, you could have a collection of photos that shows him your taste in jewelry, and a photo of a dress you'd like to have a 16" necklace to go with. If that's the only thing on your list, it gets a bit restrictive, but it's like having a dream list of things to fix up around the house, you never know what you'll get around to next.
posted by aimedwander at 2:34 PM on May 10, 2010

I really see now that I like knowing that he made a special effort to find something that has some special significance or that I would otherwise like it a lot.

You keep saying "I just want something," but then, when you get more specific, it seems ... more demanding: you are requiring that he get you a really great gift, several times a year. Your lack of interest in the expense doesn't make it easier: it's actually harder to get something inexpensive but special than to get something expensive and special! You can talk to him about getting you a tangible gift for every occasion, but it can't always be "something that has some special significance or that I would otherwise like it a lot." You'll just be setting yourself up for disappointment, and him to feel hurt and rebuffed, if you keep up the idea that this is in his power to deliver.

(And yeah, characterizing dinner, a card, and flowers as "nothing" is pretty much the definition of ungrateful. Better to say that he got you something, but you'd prefer a tangible gift.)
posted by palliser at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even if it would make you feel really, really good, I'm not sure you're entitled to that, so I think you should try to accept him. He's not good at giving gifts and maybe there are things you can do to change that, but why? I would try to look at all the other ways he cares for you, and try to see how those are meaningful to him. People say "Listen to what people are telling you about themselves" and I think that applies here. Why would you want to put different words in his mouth, why not appreciate the free, spontaneous, unselfconscious, idiosyncratic, surprising, idiosyncratic ways of him telling you he loves you that are unique to him and could never come from anyone else?

There is going to be an awfully bare spot underneath the tree, what with all that free, spontaneous, unselfconscious, idiosyncratic, surprising, idiosyncratic, whatever-it-is at Christmastime, birthdays, and whenever else the OP encounters a gift-appropriate occasion.

I grew up with a perpetually disappointed mom who was never happy with my dad's gifts. I worry that I will not avoid this same path with my own husband, and the only way to not fall into this cliched rut (you are not the first wife to think this, he is not the first husband to be this way) is to communicate your feelings. Not after several disappointments have occurred, but at a neutral time.
posted by pinky at 7:53 PM on May 10, 2010

the only way to not fall into this cliched rut ... is to communicate your feelings

So not true. My kind, devoted, loving father is just not a shopper or gift-buyer, and my mom ... buys herself what she wants. She'll tell me gaily, "Dad bought me the most beautiful bracelet for my birthday! And by that I mean I did!" Totally not bitter, totally not disappointed, just accepting of this ONE VERY SMALL FLAW in her husband of more than 40 years. Really, it's not true of everyone that if everything is not absolutely perfect, we're "perpetually disappointed." You can choose to be perpetually disappointed, you can choose to communicate your feelings, or you can choose to accept and move on.
posted by palliser at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I often say that the person you date is the person you marry. I'm willing to bet he wasn't really a gift giver when you were dating.

It isn't that he doesn't love you. It's just that you value being given stuff as a token of affection, and he probably doesn't value stuff that way.

"This isn't about..."
"It's not about..."

What exactly *IS* it about?

"I was hoping he would get me a little gift for, I don't know, bearing his child."

Uhm... you didn't give birth to your own child? That's a pretty loaded statement you just made.

It sounds to me like you married a great man but you don't appreciate him because you place too high a value on being given stuff. Good luck with that.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:44 PM on May 10, 2010

To answer the question at the very top of the page, I fear the answer is yes.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:45 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

In what small ways are you disappointing him, or not giving him what he wants? Be thankful for what you have, instead of looking for reasons to be disappointed.
posted by geekhorde at 9:48 PM on May 10, 2010

I don't think you're an ingrate. I keep an online wishlist for myself of things I'd like to buy some day. Occasionally when someone asks what I want for [fill-in-the-occasion], I send them the link. If they're asking what I want they are asking for guidance. They can pick out whatever they want and know it's a gift I'll like and use. I don't think asking what someone wants is a show of gift-giving weakness (like "if you ask me what I want then obviously you don't know me well enough to pick out a gift for me.") Not at all... for example I love my best friend and I know what she likes, but we just don't have the same style. It was hard to buy her a shirt for her birthday because my idea of pretty and hers are different.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:31 AM on May 11, 2010

So you're not materialistic, but you want something material? You want something thoughtful, but you already got a 'thoughtful and loving and personal' card that shows he's thinking about you and loves you? When he does get you stuff you find something to complain about? You had a child together than the thing weighing on your mind was you didn't get some baby bling? At Christmas you didn't expect much but were disappointed when you actually didn't get much?

But he's the one who needs to be more thoughtful?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:13 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Palliser, it is not true FOR YOU. That is nice that your mom preferred to buy her own gifts, but my mom didn't. I don't think negating your feelings during a marriage is healthy.
posted by pinky at 5:12 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's not true that it's the "only way" to deal with this problem. You can make the argument that it's unhealthy to "negate your feelings during a marriage," and I can answer that it's best to let certain things go if your expectations are preventing you from appreciating the many good aspects of a mate and marriage.

Also, I think in some sense, my mom would have "preferred" to get gifts from my dad. But it's not who he is, so she adjusts. Because she loves him, and it's a small thing, and not worth being "perpetually disappointed" over. I think that's very healthy, personally!
posted by palliser at 6:18 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mother's Day is for the kids to get Mommy something. If the kids are too small, well then Daddy should maybe take said kid out to the garden and pluck a daffodil or something and maybe make / buy a paper card and put the baby's hand print or something on it. Mother's Day gifts come from bigger kids. Not from Daddy. Not that it's forbidden or anything. But it sure isn't the norm or the standard.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Good books on Augmented Reality?   |   What are the best organic food places in New York? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.