My husband refuses to buy me a Christmas present. In our first year together, he bought me hair straighteners. Then he bought me hair dryers or tongs for five years. When I asked him why, he said, “You liked them the first time and I didn’t know what else you would want.” The next year (for my 40th) he bought me a pearl necklace and I had a breakdown : He had just been released, and pearls really aren’t me. He hasn’t bought me anything since then. When I said I would really like a present this year, he mentioned “Pearlgate” and then said he would give me money to choose myself. I buy the gifts for our children and parents; he could try a little. How can I get him to see this? — Scrooge’s wife
Dear Scrooge’s wife,
A gift is a strange mystery, isn’t it? One of the few things in life that can be very important and very unimportant at the same time. They are just gifts, but they take on a kind of spiritual resonance. They seem to show how much you are valued, but SW, it’s never a good idea to let someone else decide your worth.
Listen, we sympathize. It can be depressing and upsetting to receive a bad gift from someone who is supposed to know you inside out. who should see you And if they choose not to even bother, then it can feel like something has died. After all, gifts aren’t something… foreplay?
But the special power of gifts also works the other way around. And when a gift is refused, it’s hurtful and embarrassing. Sure, the straightener cycle is pretty lame, but Christmas shopping is scary and he thought he’d landed on a theme that worked. We imagine he thought pearls were classy, classic and timeless; a symbol of his eternal worship; a giant treat; a demonstration of his love made even more powerful because the investment was made at a time when money was tight. He thought he was being reckless, and not only did you wonder if he had kept the receipt, you “had a breakdown.” You didn’t experience slight disappointment, you were “offended” (according to your longer email, which is truncated here) by his misinterpretation of you, your tastes and the wider context of your life at the time.
The result? Scared and upset, he has gone on an extended current strike. They’re “angry” (strong words all over SW – maybe try to remind yourself he’s not sexing the neighbor or gambling the house) and upset. You’re both upset. He tried and was found wanting. He needs to try harder, or at least try again, but we’re at a dead end, SW. And tantrums won’t solve anything.
Take back the power, lady. Stop bubbling and start communicating. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just one of those situations that flare up and then settle down. Give him some catalogs with the pages turned. Shop and have lunch together and laugh and have sex and remember that gifts are, at best, about communication.
Let your best friend know and suggest he call her for “ideas.” Say, “I’d like a navy blue cashmere turtleneck” and either decide you love what he chooses (because you’re both grown) or say, “That’s wonderful, but it’s such an extravagant thing – Would you mind I was just browsing the site for a bit and did you happen to keep the receipt and thank you for listening to me and spoiling me and by the way I love you.”
You seem to be telling us that he needs to make an effort, but what he may hear is, “You have to do this right.” Creepy. Maybe you need to deoxygenate both gifts and make them fun again. Otherwise, what’s the real point? If you’re not ready to have fun, then take the money and buy whatever you fancy. Nobody needs another test at the end of what you call “hellish” exam year. Don’t see it as a test. See it as a game. A game with only winners.
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https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/can-persuade-scrooge-like-husband-buy-christmas-present/ How can I persuade my Scrooge-like husband to buy me a Christmas present?