Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My husband and I agreed to skip gifts this Christmas as instead, we’re taking a long trip to Hawaii. We agreed to put what we’d normally spend on Christmas toward experiences and expenses for this vacation. It’s the first time as a couple we’ve spent the holiday traveling, just the two of us.
So imagine my surprise the other day when he came home from work and told me to close my eyes because he had a gift for me he needed to hide. When he came back to the living room, I reminded him we weren’t doing gifts. He looked sheepish and said he couldn’t help himself, and that he’d already bought me “a few very special things.”
My husband is like the world’s best gift-giver. He somehow picks up on all my little hints and wishes and always delivers the best presents. I’m your classic gift card gal. I overthink it and can’t make a decision and end up buying him gift certificates to the same stores. He always claims this is perfect, but it leaves me feeling anxious and like I’m letting him down because his gifts are so good. Well now we’re about to leave on this trip, I’ve bought him nothing, he’s apparently bought me several things, and once again I’m having gift-buying paralysis.
I realize these are total champagne problems and I’m lucky to have such a thoughtful and generous partner. That’s precisely why it’s so stressful. I want to rise to the challenge and give him equally wonderful things. Advice?
Marriage counselor Gary Chapman introduced the concept of “The 5 Love Languages” in his book of the same name. The basic premise is we all give and receive love and affection in different ways — both in romantic relationships, and with our friends and family. You may identify strongly with one category, or see bits of yourself in others, too.
Others have since expanded the love language categories and related meanings and there are plenty of free online quizzes (not to mention countless articles) that delve deeper. It’s common on romance reality show these days that contestants’ initial conversations include the question, “What’s your love language?”
So, what’s yours? Because your husband’s is pretty clear: He loves gift-giving. This generosity, for him, is done without expectation of reciprocation, but because he enjoys showing his love for you by presenting you with tangible items that represent his understanding of and love for you. And you’re right: you’re lucky. Enjoy it, rather than figuring out how to equal and match it.
Instead, ask yourself what is your love language, and how can you use it to strengthen and sustain what seems to be a pretty great marriage as is? Sounds like you’ve put a lot of energy into planning this trip. Could your love language be spending quality time together? Or perhaps you’re about performing acts of service? By focusing more on what you bring to the table, rather than trying to express affection in the same way as your husband, you’ll definitely find more peace and joy this holiday season.
Wanda. This woman is trying to eliminate stress from her life, and you’ve got her learning new languages and taking quizzes while she’s packing for a big vacation.
Listen, you don’t have to speak a love language or match your husband’s gift-giving quality and quantity. You certainly don’t have to scramble to get him presents — you had an agreement. That’s not what this is all about anyway. He’s going to love you, and continue giving you gifts, whether you buy him another Skinny Raven or Anchorage Brewing Company gift card or not. Making you happy is what makes him happy. Stressed out you does not make him happy.
So be happy. Validate his generosity, appreciate his thoughtfulness, and go giddy over opening those perfect gifts … and then continue with your agreed-upon Christmas gift for one another: a first big vacation for just the two of you.
Wear the sweet earrings he bought you out on a nice vacation dinner date. Rock those amazing sunglasses he got you to the beach or slopes. And have a blast on the trip. Letting him know his time, energy and heart are valued, and you feel loved, is the best gift you can give him.