Great Gifts for Your Husband or Wife


‘Tis the season for gift ideas. Some are clever and fun to read. Few actually help with gift-giving.
Why? Because your spouse is a unique individual, not a category, and so are you.
Let’s start with attitudes toward receiving gifts.
For some, all gifts feel like they come with strings attached. They create an obligation instead of delivering a message of love. The underlying beliefs creating this discomfort may have been planted long ago. The best gift you can give is one you don’t need any gratitude for, because your expectation of gratitude is a premeditated resentment. So don’t go overboard trying to please a spouse who has never been happy to open your gifts, unless you get a kick out of doing it regardless of how the gift is received.
For others, gifts are a waste of a precious resource, whether time or money. They receive your gift with a sense of guilt for contributing to the waste. Oddly, even extravagant gift-givers may feel this way about receiving gifts. They would rather control how money is spent on them. Give them time or money instead: a coupon for some of your time or a gift card they can spend. Or donate to a cause they support in their name.
Still others value the exchange of gifts more than the gifts themselves. Don’t raise the ante by spending a lot more than they do or investing more time in choosing something perfect for them. Instead, pay attention to the presentation: beautiful wrappings, delivery well ahead of time if they enjoy watching a pile of unopened gifts build in anticipation of the holiday or at their perfect moment if they prefer surprise.
Some, however, view gifts as their love language. Receiving gifts fills them with feelings of being loved. The more you personalize the gifts to their interests and tastes, the better. The more of your own efforts and talents you put into their gifts, the better. The more creative or elegant the wrappings, the better. Even the more you spend, the better.
Now add on your feelings about giving gifts. Does it make you feel loving and happy to give them? Fantastic! If you’re married to someone who shares this way of expressing love, get going. Put all the time you can spare into making your gifts perfect. You will both be uplifted. But if you are married to one of the other categories, remember that rejecting or minimizing what you perceive as an offer of love is not a rejection of your love. Faux delight won’t bring you closer, so don’t demand it.
If both of you find gifts unexciting, consider dropping out of the game. It’s no one’s business but your own. And if one or both of you are into gift-exchanging as a tradition, consider creating some new traditions that make it easier and more fun for both of you.
OK, ready to look for or make your gift for your spouse? Choose uplifting, confirming, supportive gifts. Take some time to list his or her best traits, favorite clothes, most loved tools, great talents, sources of pride and happiness. Add to them. Give more stuff like the stuff your mate loves or give gifts he or she can use to get even better at those traits, talents, and sources of pride and happiness. This says you value these things about your spouse and add your support to his or her journey.
Unless, of course, neither of you reads love into gifts. Then give your geek one of this year’s top gifts for geeks, your exec the latest in executive toys and accessories, your beauty the latest clothing and accessories, your home improver the latest in tools and gadgets. Or skip the gift giving altogether.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Great post Patty,
    I love giving my husband a hand made gift every year. We never had a whole lot of money at the start of our relationship and so got in the habit of making each other something whether painting a picture, drawing something, writing a love letter or song. We’d always also then give each other something physical sometimes home made food, sometimes a small piece of furniture, sometimes a little gadget.
    We’ve always carried that on and it really helps keep things fun because it’s easy to spend a lot on a gift but taking time to make something special means a lot to us. I know it’s not for everyone and probably makes us sound like sad sacks but hey, it’s worked for us and so long as we can still have a laugh that’s all that matters.
    I hope you have a great holiday season Patty.
    Speak soon

  • Sad sacks? No way, Grace! Any couple fortunate enough to have traditions that please both of them and remind them to make time for each other is a role model for the rest of us. Thanks for you kind comment.

  • Hi Patty,
    I read your post several times and reflected on the gifts I have given my wife in the past. Her reactions have been mixed to say the least, ranging from really positive to really negative. Particularly when it concerns anniversary and birthday gifts. Honestly, I am sometimes very confused about what she wants or likes and because of the occasional negative reaction I am usually a bit anxious about gift shopping.
    She sometimes tells me that I get her what I think she wants (instead of what she really wants) but if I ask her, she tells me she does not need anything. How else am I suppose to do it then? She has few hobbies, does not like surprises, but is not demanding.I sometimes wonder if she really likes getting gifts (she did not grow up in a family where they exchanged a lot of gifts) but if I don’t get her anything, I feel she will be disappointed.
    I do feel that the burden of gift giving appears to be more skewed towards men in most marriages. Every time I try to think of a nice wedding anniversary gift for my wife but she never (not even once) given me an anniversary gift. Sometimes I wonder if I am to be so grateful to be married to my wife that there is no need for a wife to do anything in return ? (although it is usually not that important to me)

  • It sounds like gifts mean love to you, Ed (as they do to me). Even though you suspect she doesn’t like gifts, you feel she will be disappointed if you don’t get her one. And she does not get you any for your anniversary, but you give her one, because they mean something to you. This is not a male/female difference. It is a love language difference. Lots of couples deal with it, and it’s frustrating.
    People who neither need gifts to feel loved nor show their love through gifts do not understand how comments like “you get me what you think I want instead of what I really want” hit a person who expresses love through gifts. They may receive gifts without reciprocating, thinking it’s a sign of respect. But you can talk about it. And you can watch that you don’t withhold other love languages when this one gets rejected or neglected.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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