Reader Husband's Gifts Suck writes,
I never really considered writing in because I am a perfect person and I have no problems whatsoever. Just kidding. I have one problem. And that is my husband sucks at birthdays.
We've been married for 10 years and we have a pretty good relationship overall. But every year we hit a stumbling block, which is my birthday. And each year the bar gets set lower and lower. Example: Last year I got a card with a computer print-out of a vacuum cleaner. The ink was still wet on the paper when he gave it me which told me that he had put only about 4 seconds of thought into my present. And the clincher is not that I got a vacuum for my birthday, but that I never actually received the vacuum. He never ordered it. That year I also got a birthday cake shaped like a ladybug that he let my daughter pick out. This kind of bothered me. Instead of going to the store and saying to himself "Hey! My wife likes chocolate mousse. I'll get her a chocolate mousse cake" he let my daughter pick what she wanted instead. It was never about me, it was about the kids.
Fast forward to this year, and I still don't have a vacuum or even a picture to represent some form organized thought. He literally dashed out of the house between weekend engagements, grabbed some balloons and an ice cream cake, which he expressly told me he was doing for the benefit of the kids, and that was it. The cake was unceremoniously cut up for dessert with company (his friends). No candles, no singing, zero effort. I'm really annoyed by this. It's not that I want lavish presents, I just want to feel like he thought about it. Even if he picked up a rock on the side of the road and gave it me and said "I'm giving you this rock because it reminded me of the time we were skipping rocks on the lake, and I really like that memory blah blah blah" I would be thrilled. His birthday is a week after mine and literally, I can't think about doing anything for him. Traditionally, I've loved doing things for people I love that make them feel special, but when it comes to him, it's been sucked right out of me. He just doesn't seem to get it. If I bring it up, he gets defensive and usually says he's been "busy." (He has been in medical training for the past 10 years). Then he'll say "sorry" but only because he thinks it's what I want to hear.
What is wrong with him? Am I being overly sensitive and needy here? How do I make him "get it"?
- You are ridiculous for wanting a nice gift.
- He doesn't care about gifts and neither should you.
- He is saving lives, parenting kids, and bringing home a paycheck so really, he is much too busy and important for this juvenile blither blather.
This means you may have to take an entirely different approach to this issue. Do not hedge your bets and give subtle hints. This does not work with concrete, proactive types. Express yourself openly and request him to complete discrete tasks to ameliorate this problem. Begin by initiating a discussion about how you feel unloved when he gives you a crappy vacuum card and forgets the vacuum. Continue with an explanation that your love language is gifts, and even make him take the five love language quiz I linked you to there. Initiate a dialogue about the importance of gifts in each of your families growing up (in his family, gifts were no big deal, I am sure), and love languages in general (my guess is that his is sex, and that you do a better job at sex than he does at birthdays).
After this conversation, which you husband will likely find kind of irritating and a time-waster, tell him in no uncerain terms that you want him to put a reminder in his calendar on his phone, recurring annually, for the week before your birthday, at which point you would like him to spend no less than one hour online ordering something that you, specifically you, would like, and then to plan dinner out for you two, without the kids along, and getting the babysitter himself. Every year.
Next, state that you would like a birthday redo within the next month, or else you will be forced to have another major sit down discussion with him about your needs not being met. Believe me, if I know men like your husband, literally the last thing he wants to do on this earth is have a SECOND sit down conversation about your needs not being met, so this may put the fear of God into him. Or maybe he'll just have an epiphany about how he's been a jerk about this for years and resolve to put your birthday (and Valentine's Day while you're at it; don't listen to that EXCUSE about "Hallmark holidays" and what have you) on the calendar as a red letter day.
Best of luck, and remember, the best threat for an avoidant spouse is the threat of having to have another heartfelt discussion about emotions. Not kidding, or not entirely. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Send Me Pictures Of Your Do Over Birthday. Make It Your 25th Again, While You're At It.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.