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Give Gifts

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or, more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.”

                Victor Hugo

 I am not writing this because I think I am God’s gift to women.  I have just done hundreds of hours of counseling with women and I hear how they see things.  Then, I interpret them for the men out there so you can know too.

Consider this insider trading or something – but the legal kind.  By making good use of these hints, I have been able to express the love, appreciation and affection I feel for my wife and daughters in ways that are clear to their ears.

There are Four main things to remember when giving a gift to a woman.

What every gift (including dates, by the way – anything you pay for is a gift, but more on dates later) must say can be summed in the statement:  “I know my wife and I am thinking about her even when she isn’t around.”  Or to put it more succinctly, “I know my wife and I remember her.”

1.  Know your wife –This is a major key!  The more that a gift communicates intimate knowledge of her – things that only you can know – the better the gift is.

See, for men and women (but. I think women in particular) it actually is the amount of thought and preparation that counts.

In therapy, I often hear about dates and gifts that husbands thought were huge flops, but the wife was overjoyed with!  The thought and effort is what made it so good.

Once when I challenged a husband to take his wife on a special date.  So, he remembered that she had always wanted to visit a restaurant just outside of town and there was a concert he knew she would enjoy.  When he came in after the date he was crushed – they drove way out to the restaurant only to find weeds growing in the parking lot.  It had been closed for months!  Now they had to rush back to town and ended up eating fast food.  They got to the concert to discover it nearly sold out and they hadclosed to get seats not next to each other, if I remember correctly.  They ended up sitting at a coffee shop to discuss their individual experiences of the concert!

He was almost too embarrassed to tell me about it.

She came in a few days later and described the same date as one of the best events of their marriage!  She loved it and gushed about him taking her to the restaurant she had mentioned long ago – and never mentioned to me that it was closed!  Then she was so impressed that he had researched the concert and she loved it, and she loved debriefing everything after the coffee shop too!

Why was their experience so different?  Because their definition of what made a good date was completely different.

His was: did it go as planned?  Was it a date he could brag to others about it?

For her, it was:  “Does he know me well, and was he thinking about me when he planned it?”

So, how do I learn about her?

Imagine that I decided to buy some flowers for my wife.  Now, say I wasn’t sure what kind of flowers to get her, so I gathered together a bunch of my buddies for ideas.  One says “roses”  another says “daisies” and another says “carnations.”  Whose input is best?  None of them are any better than another.  However, this is one person in the world who can tell me exactly what kind of flowers my wife would prefer (and I don’t mean her best girl friend, though I will mention her later in gift giving).  Answer?

My wife.  (incidentally, this analogy works well for explaining why all religions aren’t equal either.)

Only my wife knows what kind of flowers she likes best, right?  But how uncool would it be for me to call her from the store, “Hey, honey, what kind of flowers do you like?”  If you don’t know, then you might need to do exactly that, by the way, because it is much cooler than not getting any or getting something she hates, but there is a better way.

Listen and learn.

Earn a PhD in your wife – become the world’s expert on her!  It might happen this way… you get her a rose and bring it home.  She loves it, but mentions that tulips are her favorites.

Don’t be offended (“see, I get her flowers and she still criticizes me.”)  Grow up, and take note.

Hmmm.  tulips.  Got it.  She is just helping you be great at what you are obviously trying to do – love her – so don’t be offended.  Maybe she says “Roses are my favorite – especially the yellow ones.”

Good job with roses. Next time, remember, yellow, like a Vogon Warship, or a bulldozer is yellow.christmas-gift-ideas-for-wife

Women will generally make comments about their favorites all the time.  Watching TV, commenting on other women’s things, (BIG HINT) when she shops for other people’s gifts or sees other people opening gifts!!!

Also, make it a habit to shop with them and listen.  Stop whining, and don’t sit in the middle of the mall in one of those husband benches – go with her and begin to understand what she likes best.  Here are some areas where any great husband must know her favorites:

Know her favorites, and weave them into the gifts.  Here are some examples of favorites you must know:

Colors

Animal (real and stuffed)

Candy and/or chocolate bar (avoid any large amounts of sweets if she is seriously dieting, but a tiny reminder might express that you love her just the way she is)

Board game

Flower (still more on flowers later)

Soft drink

Restaurants (and meals at those restaurants)

Movies

Books

Jewelry (favorites stones, metals, and symbols)

Magazines

Personal feature (and least favorite)

Wine

Least favorite chore

2.  Listenand don’t wait.  When she notes something that catches her eye – go back and get it asap if you think it is something that will be meaningful to her.  I am telling you that this is one of the most important skills for getting good, meaningful gifts (for anyone).  Do not wait until it is near an important date to get a gift.  If you are out and spot something that she might like, go ahead and get it.  You won’t regret it.

Give yourself plenty of time to purchase gifts – if you have done #1 – it should not be a problem.  Be sneaky about things – know her better than she even knows herself if you can get away with it.  The best is when she had mentioned something to you and then forgotten it herself!

Also, I am sure you would never forgot a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion, but if you did, having a small stash of gifts hidden in your closet that is a good gift rather than a lame gas station gift or (cringe) the old “hey, I gotta run a quick errand uhhh suddenly today…”  Put all important events on your calendar, your work calendar, your phone, and anywhere else you can put it.  Make sure your friends have them on their calendars too, and that they remind you!  Remember, we are all in it together!

3.  Know what each gift means to her – if the thought counts, then it is not the gift, but the message it sends that is valuable to her.  Do flowers say “I have screwed up again, please forgive me?”  or do they say “I was thinking of you and wanted you to know how special you are to me.”  (if it is the former, then you have taught her that meaning and you need to begin to give them to her randomly when nothing is wrong, or you lose flowers as a gift)

Know what meaning she attaches to different things and communicate the right thing.

Remember – no strings attached, or it only communicates “he wants something from me” and then you have shot yourself in the foot.

Let me reiterate this – if a gift is merely meant to put her in your debt, or to put things out of balance so that she has to work to bring things back into balance, then at some level she is going to feel that you are trying to prostitute her to something.

4.  A gift should communicate “He thinks about me when I am not around”.    This is why her favorite drink that you pick up at a gas station on the way home is worth as much as a big gift in her heart!

Even when filling the car with gas, he thinks about me.

When you are on a trip, you typically should bring something back for her that communicates well on items 1, 2, 3, and therefore will communicate #4.  I was thinking about you when I was on my trip.  See?

Often, bringing a gift for a child can encourage a wife as well, by the way.

So, listen so that you can know.  Use that knowledge to tell her you love her all of the time.

Here are some ideas that have been gathered over time!

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Ginger and me

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I was recently asked to comment on the question of how much time a husband and wife should spend together… and most often this actually takes the form of “how much time is it reasonable to for me to ask my spouse to spend with me (since I have asked and they told me what I was asking for was unreasonable).

I have a couple of comments.

First, before I say anything else, I want to communicate that one of the things that can make marriage fun is when you know you can ask for what you want.

I think a spouse should generally not be chastised for asking for what they want… I am serious when I tell my wife that I want her to feel welcome to ask for what she wants.  If my wife wants more time, more focus (can you imagine?) from me, then I want to know it!

I cannot promise that she will always get it, but sure want to know about it just in case I can!  This rule is a family rule, by the way.  The kids area also allowed to ask for what they want… but not promised to get what they want…

And I love, even when I cannot provide, to dream with my wife or child.

“I really want that toy” …  “Man, I bet it would be great to have every toy we could imagine – what else would you like if you could wish for it?” – that isn’t sarcasm, it can be just dreaming with them!

Also, different people have different Love Languages – one of which is “Quality Time” (according to Gary Chapman)… in my marriage, I would translate that for my wife into “Undivided Attention.”

The idea here is that one spouse may be satisfied with less time than the other… but why not take the opportunity to give it?  I want to be able to give what I can when I can, because The Lord knows that I will not always be able to say yes.

God is a God who loves to give good gifts… and I love to reflect Him as a good gift giver to the people I love the most.  I love to give them what they want, when I can or when I think it is right/best. Now, on to the question more directly…

**************

For years, counselors have compared marriage to a garden.  This comparison works on many levels.  I have pointed out before that one comparison is that the “natural” state of a garden (meaning the state it exists in without the intentional input of energy) is death; the “natural” state of marriage is divorce.  Without the intentional input of energy, marriage dies.

Many want to think of marriage as similar to drifting downstream together… but that would imply that the natural state of marriage is to go where it needs to, but that isn’t the case, as anyone who is married knows.

I assume most therapists would agree with me that very few marriages end with the emotional bang… most marriages that end in divorce, drift into divorce.

There is more to look at in regards to this issue here at boring marriages… and ideas of how to avoid that drift!  If the question is one of sex, it may actually be about intimacy, so I would encourage you to take a look at the conversation about how those things are linked in powerful ways.

But in response to the question asked, the first answer would have to do with what kind of garden you have?  If a garden is otherwise healthy, and in an environment that engenders health (think two people who are generally healthy and who have quite a bit in common), then less scheduled and intentional time is probably necessary.

Years ago, I think I remember hearing James Dobson say that he figured a good minimum goal would be:  15-30 minutes a day, 2 hours a week, 1 night a quarter, and one weekend a year.  I like these, and would generally agree…

By this he meant (if I am remembering it correctly) that we need direct and meaningful conversation and interaction 15-30 minutes every day in order to keep the garden in good shape.   Then, we need to plan a more extended period each week in addition to that – a date, couch time, etc. of meaningful interaction; then an overnight away about 4 times a year and a longer couple’s vacation about once a year.

Keep in mind, this is focused time!  Watching TV together, while nice at times, would not count, unless you were engaging at the time with one another (in which case, feel free to turn off the television).

Now, you can already see that a one-size-fits-all rule just won’t work, though.

So, what are some concepts that might work?  Jump on over to part II

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Go check out Part I, if you haven’t yet.

I have some friends that we are so similar as to create an odd sense of time together even when we haven’t spent much time together.  Know what I mean?  Our temperaments, perspectives, opinions, etc are so similar that even getting together a few times a year is sufficient to maintain our friendship as at least “stable.”

However, there are others who I dearly love who are so different from me in their personality (temperament plus character), understandings, and communication styles that even a couple of weeks of not getting time and the relationships begins to feel awkward.

Of course, this happens in marriage too.  Make sure you are getting enough time to nurture the garden even when (and maybe especially when) the conditions aren’t naturally super favorable!

husbands and wives together

husbands and wives together

 

Also, stage of life impacts some of this.  You cannot do everything you would like to do (check out these thoughts about loving with the limited resources we all have… so you have to be more intentional with what you have!

Finally, I would say that there is one thing about the question that bugs me a little.

As I make clear in the “limited resources” article, we have to learn to love intentionally and intelligently since we have so little margin in most of our lives… However, I still want to have a mindset of “how much time do I GET to spend with my spouse!?”

I am a little saddened when someone wants to know the minimum (Now I also know that sometimes one spouse is too irresponsible to schedule the time needed, or too much of people person to create the margin needed, or just an ornery and difficult person who wants to avoid, or even a lazy person who can’t be bothered to think outside of their own comfort… or, to be honest, even just a tired person with little left to give at the end of most days)…

So, to repeat, I am a little saddened when someone wants to know the minimum number for anything that God meant to be a gift to them.

What is the bare minimum of Mint Oreos that I have to eat?  What is the raw lowest number of dollars I have to accept?  See what I mean?

So, if your spouse is trying to figure out the minimum hours with you, ask yourself, what can I do to make that time with me more of a sweet experience?

I you find yourself wondering how little time you can get with your spouse and it still be enough – then you have become a boring spouse.  Get on the ball and become an agent of freedom, love and change in your family rather than someone who needs to be coddled.

If you both are seeking the least time required to be together (or if either of the above are true) then you need to come talk to one of our counselors – in person or by phone and get rev’ed up to make a difference in your marriage.  Who wants a boring marriage – I have never fully understood the idea that if we are going to stay together anyway, we might as well do our best to make it wonderful… not just bearable… much less unbearable.

So, here are my thoughts – focus attention toward finding out how to embrace time with your spouse and what role you can play in helping them embrace time with you… and then make the habit of devoting what time you can afford to one another!  Since life has a habit of causing a couple to drift apart and away, you had better schedule it.

Remember, like any garden, there are times of sowing a reaping when a good deal of focused attention for a good deal of time.  There are other times when less time is ok… but remember, no garden produces all the time.   Fruit and flowers are what make marriage fun, but they require the regular investment all year around.

Back to the original question… It is a good one, especially in this regard… we must be diligent and intentional about creating time for what matters most to us… in this case, our marriages.

Don’t let your marriage slowly decay into a dead and fruitless garden.  Get the help you need, if you need it, and make whatever investment is needed to be a good gardener.  For a deeper conversation on what love like this really is, I would recommend this conversation on love.

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