Real Intimacy: The perfect giftWritten by Lori Hollander | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gifts are intended to be a celebration of your partner’s love for you, but many women say those gifts are sometimes, ahem, just a tad disappointing (or a downright let down).
Anyone who loves a woman has certainly sweat it out at some point while trying to track down that perfect gift.
But despite these efforts, a surprising number of women say they are profoundly let down by their partners’ gift giving patterns. Gifts are part of a couple’s love language, and a disappointing gift can leave a woman wondering if her partner really knows her at all, a lonely feeling.
Consider Renee’s experience. Her husband has proudly bought her a fancy floral dress for each of the last 8 years to wear out to their anniversary dinner. The unfortunate part is that she hates floral dresses, and she feels silly wearing one.
Instead of enjoying him during their anniversary dinner, she finds herself ruminating over the fact that he misunderstands her, again.
The hidden danger is that such repeated let downs slowly discolor other aspects of the relationship.
How does such a pattern develop?
Some women say it is because their partner never (ever) listens or doesn’t care enough to figure out her preferences.
But there might be more to it.
Perhaps it is because Renee has taught her partner to keep buying her that disappointing gift.
After all, Renee’s partner is not stupid. There is a good reason why he has been buying these dresses for almost a decade. And that reason may have a little something to do with Renee.
Like many women, especially those of the very caring variety, Renee takes pride in acting with kindness, often putting others’ feelings first.
The last thing she wants is to appear an ungrateful sourpuss, especially when presented with a gift. But if she were honest with herself (and her partner), the last thing she wants at this point is another floral print dress.
When said dress arrives, she is not helping her cause by painting on a smile, exclaiming, “I love it, how nice!” and then proceeding to wear the dreaded gift. Her actions communicate that the gift was perfect.
Which we know it was not. So why does she find it hard to break this pattern, even once she recognizes her own role?
In my practice, the pattern that I often see involves a mix of wishful thinking (“Maybe the next holiday will be different if I’m nice about it this time”) combined with a belief that she “shouldn’t have to” tell her partner what she likes after many years together.
But real intimacy thrives on sharing your true self as you grow. And if you don’t share your inner feelings and longings with your partner, then intimacy will dwindle.
And a would-be blip regarding a dress might transform into eight years of disappointing gifts, a lonely let down.
Once stuck in this pattern, how can you be upfront about this delicate topic in a nice way, especially in the uncomfortable moment you receive your equivalent of Renee’s floral print dress?
1. Start by expressing appreciation of your partner’s intentions
For example, “I appreciate that you always remember to get me a gift.”
2. Stop the resentment
If you are able to enjoy the night without resentment, then wait to discuss until a neutral time later. But if your night will be ruined by mounting resentment, then address the situation immediately.
3. Own up
Be honest that the gift giving department is not feeling good for you. Point out your responsibility in allowing the problem to fester by having kept those feelings to yourself until now.
4. Share your vision of wonderful
Tell your partner in concrete terms what a fabulous gift would look like in your eyes. Be specific. For example, “I would love a gift certificate to my favorite boutique to enjoy while you watch the kids.”
Renee’s husband wished she had shared sooner, but he was relieved. Now he knows why she had been distant. Even more, he is looking forward to finding her gifts that she will actually relish.
Setting up your partner to win rather than flop when it comes to your love is, perhaps, the most meaningful gift of all.
Lori Hollander is a dual-certified couples and sex therapist at the Center for Intimacy in Ann Arbor. E-mail her at email@example.com.