There won’t be any presents under the tree for me this year, and it’s not because Santa thinks I was naughty. My husband — the only member of our household old enough to actually get me a gift — doesn’t believe in presents. He’s fine with me shopping for the kids, as long as he doesn’t have to be too involved. But when it comes to any sort of gift exchange between Mom and Dad, he’s not interested. And sometimes, it bums me out.
This man I married (let’s call him Bob) is not usually a Grinch. I know him to be kind and generous with his time, affection, and wallet. As the breadwinner in our famlly, he’s totally on board with fun family vacations and dinners out, and he’s never once questioned the obscene credit card charges for coloring my hair, the fancy baby ballet class, or my addiction to Whole Foods. He remembers my birthday with cards and flowers — just not gifts. Which maybe shouldn’t bother me, but it does.
Because I love presents! I love unwrapping them. I love being surprised. And yes, I love getting something new (sorry not sorry). It’s not a one-way street with me, though. I adore holiday shopping for others — selecting the perfect gift, wrapping it beautifully, and watching a loved one open it with delight. When I try to do this for my husband, he mostly looks uneasy.
Part of our disconnect can be traced back to chlidhood. When Bob was growing up, his parents prioritized experiences over things, which is actually a pretty cool philosophy, but it meant that gifts were not central to their holiday rituals. Now imagine me on my 16th birthday, waking up to a scavenger hunt for 16 different gifts hidden all over the house by my crazy and amazing mother. It’s hard to go from 16 to zero! For better or worse, presents were part of how my parents said “I love you,” so I’m wired to crave them on the big event days.
You would think I could just retrain my husband, but my efforts have totally failed. I’ve done the heavy hint dropping. I’ve walked him into stores and pointed out things I like. I’ve gushed insanely whever he’s suprised me with anything — even a $1 lottery ticket — because I believe in positive reinforcement. You know, “OMG thank you! I’ve always wanted one! You’re my hero! Let’s go have sex right now.” That sort of thing. But nothing has worked to forge a gift giving habit. Sure, I could buy myself a present and put his name on it, but that seems passive aggressive. I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just want something to open.
Since I haven’t completely given up, I recently mentioned a book I’d like to read, saying it would make a great gift. For me. His wife. I figured something as relatively inexpensive and straightforward as a book might make him take the bait. Do you want to know what he said in response to my hint? He said, “Where would I get that?” About a book. I repeat, “Where would I get that?” If my man truly does not know how to procure a book, I may have bigger problems than just not getting any Christmas gifts.
Then again, they say you should follow an 80/20 rule with relationships. Meaning, nobody can be 100 percent perfect for you, but if you’re getting 80 percent of your needs met, you’re in great shape. I love my husband and my marriage, wouldn’t trade what we have for anything, so maybe I need to accept that presents are just part of that less ideal 20 percent?
I’m trying to move past my gift lust. But if you see a middle-aged woman crushing Santa’s lap at a mall near you, you’ll know why.