Best gifts for your spouse?
July 8, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

What is the most thoughtful gift you have given to (or received from) your spouse or SO?

Our first anniversary is coming up and my wife considers me a "great gift-giver," but I'm not really coming up with much for ideas and the clock is ticking. Would love to hear what you have given or received that has been very thoughtful or meaningful. (Note that I'm not necessarily looking for paper-first-anniversary ideas.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Gifts that take into account what the gift-receiver loves; things she or I would enjoy, but not think to buy for ourselves.

Specifically, the bath pillow and bath tray were a big hit, because she takes baths to relax. She loved a specific necklace that was exactly to her taste. I love a specific necklace exactly to my taste.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:49 AM on July 8, 2012

The best gifts I've ever received have been experiences/adventures. Top of the list: a day-trip to a city two hours south to see the Bodies Revealed exhibition at the science museum there. He planned the whole day including lunch etc. and didn't tell me the destination.
posted by headnsouth at 7:53 AM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

My husband has really scored when he has bought me tools to make my chores easier (like long-sleeved work gloves for dealing with brambles, or proper rising containers for bread-making) or objects that encourage me to take up a new interest (but which I've been reluctant to splurge on for myself, like a frame for hooking rugs or a small loom). Every time I use these things, I think to myself that he really wants me to be happy and work smoothly.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:59 AM on July 8, 2012

A long handwritten card describing why my girlfriend loves me.
posted by grouse at 8:02 AM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

For my birthday right after our wedding, Husbunny made me a card on posterboard with a construction paper pie chart on it. He labeled each piece with what he loved about me.

Inside, the card was decorated with pictures of me, a stuffed animal, etc.

That card has moved with us for 6 homes in three states, so far.

When we moved from our first home, I got to appreciate the card all over again when in moving the bed, all the scraps from the enterprise were discovered.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:05 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband found and compiled and bound a collection of short stories I had written as a child. It had been an old mouldering manuscript saved in a pile. It was completely unexpected and very touching - that he had found and preserved something meaningful to me.

He's the king of thoughtful gifts, while I buy him black socks and underpants twice a year.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:06 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gifts that take into account what the gift-receiver loves; things she or I would enjoy, but not think to buy for ourselves.

I think this is key. For my sister-in-law, it was a gift certificate to a day spa. For me, most recently it was a pair of high-end headphones that have been reviewed favorably for the type of music I listen to when working at my computer.
posted by needled at 8:10 AM on July 8, 2012

Yes, the key is that the gift shows that you know her likes and priorities. My first birthday with my partner, he gave me several purple things because he knows I love purple, including a cat mug (he knows I love cats and coffee) and an amethyst pendant.

The somewhat-expensive-thing-she-wants-but-won't-spring-for category is always good, too. And there are always the coupons for things like a dinner out, foot massage, etc.

Has she talked about something she wants to learn or something she wants to do more of?
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:19 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since others have posted about cards:
Early in our relationship when we were still long-distance, I came to visit him and was conducted to a guest bedroom. On the pillow was a card shaped like a daisy (a reference to our mutual enjoyment of Pushing Daisies) which said, on the inside, something like "You are cordially invited to my bedroom for the entirety of your stay. -Admit One-" It was very classy, and extremely considerate--he was giving me my own space in his home, while making it clear that he desired my presence. Subtle nuance, communicated immense respect. I still have the card.

But, in terms of most thoughtful gift: For Christmas he got me a bulk package of those iron-filing handwarmer packs that you put in your gloves or in pockets, because I get so cold during the winter, and had talked them up a lot last winter. It was SO GREAT to be able to just grab a pack on cold days.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it's your first anniversary, I think part of the present should definitely include something handwritten and heartfelt about this first year together as a married couple. It's something she'll hold onto forever.
posted by lizbunny at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thinking of what she enjoys and doing something thoughtful that requires time, effort and planning and not out of the box makes my heart melt and is so endearing. Avoid the question "what can I give you or do for you?" I've enjoyed being showered with thoughtful things and gifts and not anything I had to make a decision on like where to go and what to do. A nicely written handmade card or love letter, a surprise activity planned by you, as mentioned above something she would not buy for herself but you know she wants. I didn't realize the gift of jewelry would make me so happy until I got a bracelet. I loved it when I saw it and without even knowing the price, he bought it for me. It was not terribly expensive, but the actions made me feel super special.
posted by i_wear_boots at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2012

The best present my ex ever got me was a pair of shoes that I had casually admired from afar for weeks but never purchased because they were just too goddamn expensive. We never even set foot in the store, but he noticed me noticing them every time we walked by, and knew me well enough to know exactly which ones I was looking at out of the 10 or so pairs in the window, and knew my exact size well enough not to have to sneak another pair of my shoes out of the house.

Also there was cake and he cleaned the bathroom later that afternoon. BEST BIRTHDAY EVER.
posted by elizardbits at 9:24 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I made my boyfriend a little book with 23 reasons I love him for his 23rd birthday. It went over pretty well. Maybe you could do something like a story or photo from each month of your marriage so far, all focused around reasons she's the best and you're so glad you're married to her.
posted by MadamM at 9:29 AM on July 8, 2012

*Ponders* To answer the question with an opposite example, an unthoughtful gift I received once was when an ex-boyfriend made me a non-jewelry trinket. Mind you, it was cleverly made and related to a theme I really enjoyed, but it had no other purpose than being pretty. I couldn't wear it, wouldn't carry it around of course, and it basically filled the role of "clutter." He got it in his head that it would be this amazing project but I personally found it to be a let down due to it's sit-in-a-box-in-a-drawer nature.
He later gifted me a bulky sleeping bag when I had mentioned only once that I didn't own one. Again, this was him being wrapped up in his own cleverness rather than considering that I'd have to either cart it around (what with my being in the military) or store it somewhere.

Moral of the story: does the person you're gifting like useful objects or sentimental knick-knacks? Know before you buy and be sure not to confuse their gift preference for what you'd like to receive.
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:33 AM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

For my husband's birthday last September, I rented a sailboat and invited his sister and a good friend of ours. It was a sunset sail down the Hudson River... beautiful, and everyone had a great time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The spouse brought me a large hollow chocolate devil from Austria--he hauled it all the way through four airports and all around London, being careful not to crush it. He knew I would enjoy St. Nicholas' nemesis, for both the chocolate and, well, hey! It was the Devil! Heh.

That's the key: What makes the gift The Best Gift is if it shows you know her and are thinking about her and what she would like, as well as showing you are willing to make some degree of effort for her.
posted by miss patrish at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2012

A crossword puzzle that he generated online and printed out. The clues were all stuff about each other and things we've done together.

Also, a bunch of LEGO kits.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:01 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

A surprise trip! This was just a day trip with hiking, beach, and dinner, nothing too expensive - I loved that he had thought about activities we really love doing together and had put together a whole plan. Plus, it was so fun to get surprised along the way. YMMV - I know not everyone loves surprises - but both of us have now pulled out this template a couple of times now with surprise day/weekend trips planned for the other person, and it's one of my absolute favorite gifts as both the gift-giver and receiver.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:06 PM on July 8, 2012

The best gift I have ever given was a gift I gave to my turdburglar last Christmas. We had many discussions regarding our favorite places to be and what they mean to us and why. I did some research on "his" garden; one of his happy places. Via the interwebs, I found a professional photograph that is an iconic image of said location. I matted and framed it and hung it on my wall in my living room. When he brought me my gift (a nice set of glasses and accompanying beer), I pointed at the wall and said "merry Christmas." He looked at the photo, looked at me, looked back at it and smiled. I told him to take it and whenever he has a less-than-stellar day he can look at his favorite garden and escape to his happy place. He has it hanging up in his office.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 1:10 PM on July 8, 2012

My partner and I are both big comic book geeks, and one year (fifth year together, we're having our tenth this year) I got her a spinner rack to display her comics on. She was totally surprised and we still love having it to this day. (Now it has some of my comics in it too.) That's probably the best present I've ever given. It's the kind of thing that comic geeks dream of having but seem unlikely to buy themselves. I tracked a disassembled wire one down on ebay for not too much money (shipping was the expensive part, but even with that it was under a hundred dollars).

My partner is a great gift giver as well. For example: I collected Barbies avidly as a teenager, but there was one I could never find because it was pulled off the market for being too racy (she had a nose-ring). I talked idly about how much I wanted one because I had all the others in the set! And she surprised me by tracking it down on ebay and getting me one. It's actually sitting next to the spinner rack in the living room now.
posted by Tesseractive at 1:23 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not from a SO, but when I left my home country to study abroad, my friends dug up the funniest pictures they could find of me, composed internet meme-ish quotes to fit each picture, and printed them on coasters. There's a version available on Facebook, of course. And on quickmeme.

I'm so proud of them for making this gift for me. It really is one of the best gifts I've got in my life. The total costs was maybe $10, but it really does show how much they love me and know me and understand my humor. I cracked up when I got it for the first time really bad, it took me 15 minutes to read through those six coasters :)
I go back to those coasters every week or two, I show them off, and really, they're so awesome. [My friends, that is].
posted by ye#ara at 1:49 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

An ex-girlfriend once threw me a surprise party. I was totally blown away; I mean, it's something you see in movies, but it's not something anyone had ever thought to actually do for me before. That was a really good one.

For our anniversary, my current girlfriend gave me for our a card she'd made that told the story of how we met ... in haiku. Haiku is actually her thing, not mine, but the thoughtfulness was how she took something she loved and made me a part of it. I love that card, and display it prominently in my living room.
posted by solotoro at 2:07 PM on July 8, 2012

My husband bought me a new ipad for Christmas. I'd always wanted one because I'm a voracious reader though I had some strict requirements do to poor vision, so the ipad was the only device that would work for me. It was unthinkable for me to spend so much money on myself so he bought it for me. In doing so, he spent all the money we had budgeted to buy gifts for one another and didn't care that he wouldn't get a gift.
posted by dreamingviolet at 3:09 PM on July 8, 2012

Due to poor vision.
posted by dreamingviolet at 3:11 PM on July 8, 2012

For a while my girlfriend would print each day's NYT Crossword, and maybe a few from the archives, and we would solve them together in bed before sleeping. There's a manila folder on my coffee table that has a few dozen solved puzzles and a few dozen unsolved puzzles, and we'd usually put the new ones on top and work through the stack.

So around Christmas I wrote a crossword puzzle with clues/answered related to us, using the same format and guidelines as the NYT puzzle. I photoshopped the grid and answers into the standard NYT format, changed the author to an anagram of her name, printed it out, and slipped it onto the top of the pile just before we set out to do a puzzle that night. Her response went from "oh, cool, 3 across is [our first vacation destination]" to "oh my god, another one, 16 down is [a favorite author]" to "What the fuck, did you make this?" and ultimately to "Oh, hey, why is this paper different from the paper we use at my office?"

That's what got me. The paper.

Anyway, best, nerdiest gift I've ever given. I'll never live it down, and it'll take some effort to surpass it.
posted by spanishbombs at 3:14 PM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

Perfect gifts I have received:

A Webster's unabridged dictionary.

That same dictionary, 20 years later, rebound in leather and bearing the title "Caryatid's Dictionary" in gold leaf on the cover and spine.

For my birthday, my boyfriend rented an RV, served as the designated driver, and drove me and several of our friends around all evening and into the wee hours while we partied and bar-hopped.

For my birthday, my boyfriend took me on an all-day motorcycle ride to all my favorite scenic local places, to lunch, and to dinner.

(These are four different people, by the way)

Perfect gifts I have given:

Two full days of a motorcycle rental, so my boyfriend (who did not own a bike then but loved to ride) could take me on a trip wherever he wanted to go.

A river rafting trip.

For a boyfriend who loved electronic gadgets: a TiVo, and a Flip video recorder. They were the perfect gifts but I believe he initially resented the fact that I found them and bought them for him before he was aware they even existed. Yeah, he was weird that way.

For an anniversary, I'd definitely go the "shared-experience" route of something you both enjoy. Good memories last forever and are always in good taste.
posted by caryatid at 3:33 PM on July 8, 2012

Best gifts I have received--for my 16th birthday, a friend painted me a watercolor of a camel in space. I still have it, because I was so thrilled that she would 1) take the time to do it and 2) knew me so well that she knew I would think it was funny.

Shortly after we started dating, Mr. Architeuthis went on a long trip to Asia and brought me back a necklace that I really loved. I was amazed that he already knew my taste so well.

Right after I gave birth to our child, Mr. Architeuthis brought me sushi in the hospital. He knew that was the food I had missed most while pregnant.

Best gifts I've given--Mostly outings to events that went perfectly with the giftee's interests but which they had never even heard of.

Most recently, I got Mr. A some some green coffee beans and an air popcorn popper for home roasting. It went over like gangbusters because not only does he love coffee, he's kind of a tinkerer at heart and I knew he would enjoy the process of learning how to do it as well as the final product.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 3:42 PM on July 8, 2012

My boyfriend at the time had been pulling horrendous hours at work, around the clock for weeks. I secretly talked to his supervisor (and friend) about arranging a couple of days off for him. Booked a getaway at a beautiful B&B in wine country and packed his overnight bag and hid it in the car boot. That morning arrived and in the car, I made like I was driving him to the office as usual, but then turned off in the opposite direction. When he asked, all was revealed and I still don't think I've seen anyone with a bigger smile. We're not together anymore but it was seriously one of those moments when it really was better to give than receive.
posted by Jubey at 4:10 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Whats her love language? IE, what does she need to receive to feel loved? if its gifts, well, some good suggestions :D If its physical touch, quality time or acts of service, the 'coupon for X' is sweet if a little silly. Words of encouragement is a little harder, but stuff like the collage mentioned above are good.

And if all else fails... thinkgeek :D
posted by Jacen at 5:04 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend told me that he had a surprise. I knew it involved driving somewhere, but I couldn't figure out anything more than that.

We drove north for a while and finally ended up at some aircraft hangers. (If I hadn't known him better, I would have said that this was the part of the movie where the girl realizes there's blood on the guy's shoes and she's next.) Sitting in the parking lot of one of these aircraft hangars, he handed me a present: a sweatshirt from his law school. Then we left the car and went into the aircraft hanger for The Real Surprise: a private helicopter tour of the city.

That's right. My terrified-of-heights boyfriend chartered a helicopter to fly us around the city for a half-hour. I took photo after photo after photo and couldn't stop smiling. (He also took photos of me smiling, and then went through them to find the one that captured my smile best.) I will never forget that day.

My boyfriend came up with this on his own. Taking a helicopter tour was not something I had mentioned to him earlier, not something that had ever even occurred to me. But early on, we had agreed that we would do Try New Things Together. He had never been in a helicopter, I had never been in a helicopter, so why the heck not? (Other experiences we have had in the Try New Things Together vein include a monster truck rally, a circus visit, watching Charlie Sheen implode live onstage, an improvisational concert by Bobby McFerrin, and lots of recipes and restaurants.)

Lesson learned: having a Try New Things Together philosophy makes for a fun relationship, and also opens the door to some seriously creative gift-giving.

What made the helicopter flight day EXTRA special was that my parents had, ahem, expressed their feelings for him by storming his car and yelling at him when he came to pick me up that morning. But don't worry! Happily ever after: My parents got to know him and now *love* him.
posted by hypotheticole at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found a bunch of photos of us over time and pasted them into a notebook, with some supplies from one of those fancy paper stores. It was like scrapbooking lite. But the part I'm most proud of was the last picture: I Photoshopped him into some backgrounds from our favorite video game at the time. I think he was more touched by the real photos of us, but I had a blast finding different video game backgrounds and Photoshopping him in.

One year he also went through a phase talking about this particular book from his childhood, luckily it had a very unique title so was easy to remember, and I bought it for him a few months later for Christmas.
posted by lillygog at 7:33 PM on July 8, 2012

The only memorable ones for me have been physical/sensory experiences, not objects. That is just how my mind and heart work, and she knows that.
posted by ead at 8:15 PM on July 8, 2012

I'm not good at picking the single best anything, but a few thoughts:

- for an anniversary, my partner got a couple of pictures I'd drawn scanned and printed onto t-shirts. I'm gong to wear those until they fall apart, because they were so thoughtful.

- another year, he bought me a Wacom tablet. In dark purple, which is awesome. This was not only useful for art and music, but great for using the computer despite RSI issues. It's ten years old and I still use it when I need to; whenever I pull it out, I'm reminded that he'd been quietly paying attention to what I needed and wanted.

- My partner wasn't a big one for buying me flowers, which I was a bit bemused by (gotta love mainstream socialization!) even if I didn't really mind. One day, when we'd been together for a couple of years, we were wandering through IKEA, and he found a $2 fake rose, carried it to the checkout, and presented it to me with a charming smile and the comment, "Here is a symbol of my love that won't just wither and die."

Then I remembered that early in the relationship, I'd remarked on the irony of flowers as a token of love, since they're generally dead within a week or two. This proved to me that he really listened to me, and he'd taken what I said and filed it away as a statement of preference. (It also taught me to be clear about what was actually a preference and what wasn't! There are real flowers in our home now, whenever one or the other of us wants them.)

The thing that these gifts all have in common is that he was thinking about me, what I said and did and wanted, rather than what is "supposed" to make a good gift. Each one of them, was an affirmation that I was understood by my partner, and that's what I aspire to in my gift-giving.

Not sure what the best gift I've given is. But I'm pretty proud of having tracked down a copy of the copyright-violating a 1st Edition of the D&D Deities & Demigods book for my geeky partner - he'd been delighted to learn it existed at all, so he was thrilled to have a copy.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 9:37 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anything that demonstrates you've been paying attention to her - it's when you know the other person bought that gift specifically for you - not simply because they wanted to give you x gift. You're building shared moments together - IMO, that's what gift giving is.
posted by heyjude at 11:59 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The two most thoughtful gifts I have ever received have little stories behind them:

My partner and I were visiting family on the other side of the country, and they'd taken us to an art festival. We blew our art budget early in the day on a framed photograph that we both found meaningful, and so I was a little sad when later in the day I fell completely in love with a Dr Bob painting that I couldn't justify spending the money or the precious luggage space on. This was August or September, maybe? We went home, I mostly forgot about the painting, and then the following Christmas it was sitting under the tree for me--my partner had conspired with my aunt to buy it for me and hide it until Christmas. It's still one of my most treasured pieces of art.

I showed up to an afternoon volunteer gig a couple of times with lunch and no utensils to eat it with, and a few days after I mentioned this to my partner, he surprised me with a travel titanium spork-and-chopsticks set that I could always carry with me. I'm someone who really likes to always be prepared, so it was an especially delightful gift. It makes me feel happy and loved every single time I use it, which is fairly often.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:38 AM on July 9, 2012

The best gift I have ever received I got just a couple months ago. My partner and I went to a friend's wedding out of town and even though we've been together for a while it was our first hotel stay together. In the morning while I was showering he wrote me a letter on the hotel stationary just saying that we saw our friends get married and how he wants to be with me forever. It is so simple and small and took him probably 32 seconds to do, but holy christ did it mean a lot. Even though he and I have been planning our wedding for next year, and even though I already knew it, having him write out that he wants to be with me forever was just lovely. I keep that note in my wallet, along with the hotel key card from that stay as well.

I love that letter so hard.
posted by gwenlister at 5:59 AM on July 9, 2012

Oh! Best gift I've given was recently too. My partner went for a walk with his son last fall, same as that always do, but for whatever reason his son picked up three oak leaves and said that one was him, one was my partner, and one was me. My partner found it really touching and those leaves got tucked away for safe keeping. For father's day I framed them for him. He was totally surprised but loved it and it is currently sitting on top of our stove in the living room.
posted by gwenlister at 6:10 AM on July 9, 2012

My boyfriend and I put a ton of thought into our birthday/holiday cards to each other, based on whatever we've been doing together lately. Most recently I got a Star Trek themed birthday card featuring Data (my favorite!)

My favorite one I've made for him was a valentine's day 'Mad Libs' card - folded over heavy paper with a fill-in-the-blanks story inside, heart-stickered closed, and holes xacto-knifed into the front of the card so he could fill them in and then open the card and read the story. I wrote on the front of the card something like "This is a valentine's day mad lib fantasy just for you - fill in the blanks and make sure you make it as DIRTY as possible ;)", trying to encourage him to choose kinky sex words (since you're practically required to do this with Mad Libs anyway!) Once he filled out the card and opened it, the mad lib story inside was about him going to the zoo and [verb]-ing all the animals.

One of the most thoughtful gifts I've gotten from him was a weekend trip we had been wanting to do and a dinner there, anounced with a 'greetings from X' postcard. I also love it when he gets me things I've recently lost, broken, said I'd considered buying, etc.
posted by ghostbikes at 12:58 PM on July 9, 2012

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