I friggin hate the saying “it’s the thought that counts” when it comes to gift giving because what if your thought is “I love you, but gift giving stresses me out.”  Most people will think I’m a terrible wife when I say that I didn’t get my husband a gift for our ten-year anniversary (at least not on time). I really have no good excuse. I think I put it off and put it off because I HATE forced gift giving. It’s not my love language and several times a year I feel like I have to take a test in Chinese.


There are so many other ways I show my husband that I love him, but in this area I feel like a big fat failure. I am a blogger and I often talk about my husband and our marriage. I shout it to the whole internet how much I love and appreciate him, but when it comes to gift-giving I know I suck.

I hate trying to figure out what he would want. He has hobbies and interests, but the things he would choose for himself are very specific. He loves to fish so I actually went into Gander Mountain the other day to look for fishing gear.

I looked as out of place as those taxidermy animals scattered about the store. I was praying for an employee to guide me. I had no idea which fishing poles were for fly fishing or which were the best. I knew the bait for this type of fishing look like bugs, but I had no idea which ones he already had, which bugs were in season (apparently that’s a thing), and which would work for the rivers and lakes in our area. I wanted to bolt from the store like I was the one being hunted. There was nobody to help me so I settled for a fishing guide book and a gift card.

Besides stressing me out, I sort of reject gift-giving as a measurement of love for me personally. When I was little and my parents were divorced we did the two Christmas celebrations typical of having parents in different households. One Christmas when I was eight I opened up my gift from my dad who I spent weekends and holidays with and I was heartbroken. It was a Rainbow Brite doll. Did I just give away my age?

Well, I wasn’t into Rainbow Brite and I thought that meant he didn’t love me because he didn’t know that. I hid in the basement crying until my Dad found me. He convinced me to come open more gifts and when I got Rainbow Brite’s horse that somehow made it better (kid logic). I had an ah-ha moment at a young age that gifts do NOT adequately express love. Sometimes we just don’t know what another person wants or needs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t love there.

Other times the gifts we think our loved ones really deserve are out of our financial reach. Rather than feel like a failure, I try to opt out of gift giving whenever possible.

Here’s my advice if your significant other sucks at gift giving:

  1. Cut Them Some Slack – If they just don’t speak the language of gifts, try and understand that it’s incredibly difficult to learn this particular language. It doesn’t mean they don’t care.
  2. Be Specific – If you want something in particular, don’t hint at it, spell it out. Make it perfectly clear what you would like. I appreciate that my husband will e-mail me links to two or three items he would like for Christmas. I know I’m getting him something he really wants and he gets the “surprise” of finding out which item I picked.

    I would love it if I had a list of links to “husband approved” gifts throughout the year that I could use for all occasions. If your partner struggles with gift giving try this approach to ensure you get something you really want.

    3. Figure Out Their Love Language – According to “The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment To Your Mate” by Gary Chapman there are five primary ways people both express and interpret love. They are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

    While most people experience elements of each, they often have a primary love language. So it’s important to know what language your spouse is speaking so you can speak to them in their love language, not yours. It’s possible your partner has been showing you love all along, but you’ve missed it. I’m so glad my husband and I share the primary love language of Quality Time. Why else would we drive all the way to Pennsylvania just to get one dinner alone together on our anniversary?

I love my husband with all my heart, but if I never had to figure out what to get him as a present ever again I would be grateful. I would never have to wonder if he was interpreting that gift to be a representation of my love. No physical object could possibly say all that. I’m a writer and even words don’t seem to perfectly describe it. I don’t think he loves me less because he’s not as forthcoming with words of affirmation as I am.

Love is comprised of the bigger picture. It’s all the many ways your partner expresses what you mean to them whether that’s changing the oil on your car, saying “I love you” or buying you a nice gift.

I’m always thinking of my husband. My thoughts also scream that gift giving is tricky and an inaccurate measure of my love. Thoughts are subject to change, but I’m a firm believer that love is not a thought or a feeling.

Love is the choice to see the best in someone whether you want to that day or not. I think my husband forgives me for his late anniversary present. For me it’s not the thought that counts; it’s the love that counts.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.