Relationship Connection: My husband stopped giving me gifts for special occasions

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Question

My problem seems menial – one might say it’s “a first world problem.” My husband no longer gives me gifts.

I’m not talking about the “just because” types of gifts. It has become birthdays, Mother’s Day and even Christmas one year. This has been going on for the past three or four years. In all fairness, he will occasionally take me out to dinner for such occasions.

Prior to this he was an amazing giver. I honestly never even expect him to spend money. Some of the best gifts I received in the beginning of our marriage cost him nothing, but they were always my favorite because it showed he cared about me and spent time thinking about me.

Last year my children and I were out of town over my birthday and Mother’s Day. I thought he might have a card or some flowers waiting when I got home, but there was nothing. When I tried to express to him that it made me feel badly he turned it back on me and said, “Sorry I’m not living up to your expectations!”

I know it seems selfish of me, as it really isn’t the gifts that matter. It’s the thought. Now that it’s gone it has me wondering if he really cares for me anymore. Is there any way for me to bring it up? I’m tired of feeling like no one cares about me on special days; my children are too young to help me celebrate. Thank you for any advice you can give.

Answer

I understand why you feel silly caring about the lack of gifts. On the surface, it seems like a superficial thing to fuss about. Indeed, it would be silly if your main focus centered on getting certain types of gifts. However, you’re looking for some evidence that you mean something to your husband. As you pointed out, it truly is the thought that matters.

Because humans are pair bonders, we are wired to look to only one special person to show us that we matter. It’s true that, as adults, we need to have the ability to know we matter regardless of what anyone else says (or doesn’t say). It is an inescapable fact that we find great comfort and security in our primary attachment bond to our spouse.

When we are born, our physical and emotional security comes from the loving care we receive from our parents or caregivers. As we mature, we go from a one-sided attachment where we depend on someone to take care of our needs to a reciprocal two-way attachment where we both depend and allow someone to depend on us for security and comfort. When husbands and wives offer this type of security to one another, they form a secure bond.

When primary attachment relationship to our spouse lacks that reciprocal quality, we naturally begin to question whether we matter to the other person. In fact, because we’ve given ourselves fully to this other person, we’re quite defenseless against the reality that the other person isn’t responding.

Sure, we can work to discipline our minds to not care or ignore the reality of a one-sided relationship, but the fact remains that it simply hurts. When a stranger doesn’t reciprocate, we can move on and aren’t affected. On the other hand, when our spouse doesn’t reciprocate, we can’t just move on and act like it doesn’t bother us. It causes us to question our worth and value.

This is why it’s important for you to stay with this conversation with your husband. Yes, he became snappy and defensive with you. He obviously knows that he blew it because he’s understood the importance of giving and receiving love through thoughtful acts and gifts.

You’re not selfish for wanting to know that you matter to him. You have a right to know if you matter to your spouse. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a marriage but rather a roommate arrangement. And roommates are a dime a dozen.

Even though it hurts, you don’t need to play games with your husband to get him to respond. Bring this up to him at a time that is far removed from a traditional gift-giving occasion. Don’t start by talking about the lack of gifts. It’s not about the gifts. This is all about what you mean to him.

Let him know that you need reassurance that you matter to him. Tell him you don’t have scripted expectations of how that should look but that you simply want to know that you’re special and different from everyone else in his life. Tell him how important he is to you and that you want him to know the same.

It’s common for young parents to get so overwhelmed with the needs of children, career and other commitments that they let the marriage fall by the wayside. It’s easier to spoil your spouse when it’s only the two of you. When you add competing attachments and commitments, sometimes we get sloppy and take our spouse for granted.

Make sure you understand what helps him feel important and special to you as well. Both of you need that reassurance. You can both commit to nurture your special bond and regularly reassure one another of how important you are to each other. Stay with this conversation for as long as it takes so you can both receive the ongoing reassurance that you matter.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • ladybugavenger May 23, 2018 at 7:38 am

    “I honestly never even expect him to spend money.” And now you do.

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