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BellaOnline's Marriage Editor

Great Gifts for Husbands and Wives

When it comes to gift giving, husbands and wives tell me that after spending years together, there’s little that will surprise their mates, contrary to what those romantic jewelry commercials try to make us believe. Do you really want another necklace that will put a major dent in your ability to pay for your son’s college tuition next fall or give him a sweater that will sit in the back of his closet for most of the year?

Never fear, there are still great gifts you can give your mate that will enhance your marital relationship and give him or her a sweet surprise.

The life experience gift
Believe me, as you get older, the gifts you will treasure most are those that provided memorable moments. All the token gifts get used up or stored away, but the memories of experiences last a lifetime. That’s why I think that new experiences can be some of the best gifts you can give to your mate. They don’t have to be cost prohibitive like jetting off on a trip around the world. Just trying new cuisines at quirky restaurants can provide opportunity for discovery. Take a daytrip to a local venue that you’ve never visited. Enroll in a local college class together. Plan to do something you’ve never done before. Challenge yourself to come up with new experiences large and small, near and far. Newness and discovery keeps your marriage fresh.

Just what he or she wanted
If you’re a particularly attentive mate, chances are, you’ve been listening intently for clues as to what your spouse wants year ’round. Perhaps, she’s been oohing or ahhing during a commercial or complaining about needing a certain personal or household item. Has he lingered over an item when browsing in the electronics department? My sister and her husband are great gift givers because they always pay attention. I fall short in the gift giving arena because I don’t. I chalk it up to poor taste but it’s really lack of attention.

Pay attention to your mate and give him just what he’s been wanting, however impractical. Gifts and toys should be impractical, frivolous, and luxurious. Something that the recipient wants but would not indulge himself with. That makes for a happy gift surprise.

Practical gifts
But then, most marrieds cannot resist the practical gift. After all, their financial budgets are tied to each other’s so when your mate buys an expensive, frivolous gift for you, it comes from your own bank account, too. Saving money and being frugal helps everyone. Some people decry buying practical gifts for your spouse because it’s like saying you no longer see your mate as a romantic partner, but being practical also says, “We’re in this thing called life together and we’re making a home that benefits us both.”

Practical gifts enhance the productivity of everyday family life. They are the appliances and items that you would have purchased anyway. New bedding, a water filter, the latest model of vacuum cleaner. Definitely unromantic, but it will be a gift put to good use on a daily basis. (By the way, there are limits to practical gifts. One man bought a set of cemetery plots as a gift. I wonder what he was thinking. ) And if you buy a practical gift, be sure to give a little something else that says, “I still think of you in romantic ways, too.” Even if it is the cliché gift of candy, perfume or cologne.

The Don’t Bother List
Unless you know that these types of gift are wanted, do stay away from the following:

1. Smarmy lingerie. Sweet lacy negligees are nice, but skip the crotch-less panties, please.
2. Diet books, gym memberships, and weight scales. If you want me to lose weight, buddy up with me for long walks or buy his-and-hers bikes. Nothing takes the “merry” out of Christmas than a gift that says “I hate the way you look.”
3. Neck ties. Most guys think of a neck tie as a noose. Requisite office wear. They don’t really like gifts that remind them that they are “tied” to their jobs. Unless it is a status tie.
4. Tacky, last-minute gift cards. Gift cards can be nice, but don’t buy fast food and convenience store cards unless your spouse frequents these establishments.
5. Unwanted pets. One man I knew received a gift of a pair of exotic peacocks from his wife one year. He had to spend a lot of money to house, feed, and care for them even though he never had any interest in birds or pets. Be sure a pet is wanted before you give your spouse an animal or you’re only giving him a whole lot of unwanted and added responsibility.

If you recall the story of the Gift of the Magi, it wasn’t the gift that mattered but the love that went into the gift selection. The love between the young married couple was so strong that it called for great sacrifice, and it was that loving sacrifice that made the gift so special. This year, what can you sacrifice in order to show your mate you love him or her?

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