Tis the Season…of Disappointment?

Tis the Season…of Disappointment?

Q: Every year I’m disappointed in the gift my husband gives me for Christmas, it feels like he doesn’t put any thought into what he gets me. Some years he doesn’t get me anything and says that he could not figure out what to get me, or didn’t have time to go get the thing he was thinking of getting me. He inevitably makes me feel selfish and materialistic for being so upset about not getting anything from him. Every year I have to explain to him that I don’t care about the price; it just means a lot to me to see that he put some thought into a gift. I’m so over having this same conversation and I’m really over being disappointed each year. Should I let it go? Or continue to trying to get him to understand how I feel?

He: For my 8th birthday, I had some friends and classmates over for my birthday party. Of the ten guests, five of them unknowingly gave me the exact same birthday gift: The Village People’s second album (this was before mainstream America was in really in tune with what the Village People were all about, so I think it was more of a statement about the lack of good music being churned out in 1977 than it was about a misguided perception of my sexual orientation). I remember my mother pulling me aside to ask me if I was disappointed about receiving the duplicate gifts. My response was, “huh?” as I tossed the last album on the stack of gifts and went back to running around with my friends. I truly could not have cared less. My sensibilities about gift giving and receiving have not evolved much from that time. I am not good at gifts, and I am not alone.

Regardless of gender, some people are natural gift givers; some people are not. It seems that there are a higher number of men who bumble the gift giving, but that may be merely a function of women being more hurt and vocal about not receiving an adequate gift. Most guys simply do not place such a high emotional value on a received gift, which often translates into half-assed gift giving. On the other hand, some women have a tendency to regard the gift as an all-encompassing symbol of a man’s thoughts toward her. I think this is rarely true, and should be viewed in the context of the other ways he may show thoughtfulness. This includes: statement of his affection, his attentiveness when you are together, physical affection, the amount of time he spends with you, etc.

Does your husband show thoughtfulness in other ways?

If so, I would advise that you drop the whole matter and be thankful that this is your biggest issue.

If he doesn’t, you may have bigger fish to fry, and may need work on reestablishing an emotional connection or communication as a couple.

She: It has been a long road for me to be able to adapt to my husband’s nonchalant attitude toward gift giving. I too, have spent many a birthday and Christmas delivering to him a gift I have put so much thought into, only to be met with a “I was gonna….” (the sentence ends with an explanation of an amazing gift he was planning on getting me, but couldn’t pull it off). Through many tears and explanations about the concept ‘it’s the thought that counts…’ I have been forced to change the importance I place on gifts. Strangely, at the same time, Andy has improved at giving gifts, and when he actually follows through on getting the gift he intended, I am usually very impressed and touched. On the years that he is not able to pull it off, for any variety of excuses, I try to be accepting and not allow my disappointment to linger and ruin the day.

Andy is right that people express their love in different ways, and gift giving may not be the love language of choice for your husband (for further explanation of this concept check out The 5 Love Languages, by Gary D. Chapman). Andy and I really enjoy getting away together, and spending time together is when I feel the most loved by him. This happens to be his primary love language. I know this, and I consider quality time with him a gift. Finding your husband’s love language will help you to recognize and receive when your husband is showing you love.

If your love language happens to be gifts, and you just can not let this go, I would suggest making it very easy for him to be successful. Give him a ‘wish list’ and be specific on where to locate the things you want. This is a superficial solution and might not give you the warm and fuzzy feeling you are looking for, but it will at least work to avoid this fights and hurt feelings from continuing.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for nine years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California.  Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to info@coastalcounselinggroup.com.


Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.


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