In Defense of Husbands and Their Valentine’s Gifts

This post was updated February 14, 2019. The comments from 2014 remain because they contain valuable thoughts from our readers.

If you’re a people watcher, you might want to check out the discount store the evening before Valentine’s Day. There’s a good chance that the local card and gift aisles will be dominated by men in the last hours before the holiday begins.

Many women will be disgusted that the guys wait till the last minute. “Doesn’t he care? Couldn’t he plan ahead? If he loved me, he’d put more thought into the gift.”

I’m not a man nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve been married to a guy for nearly 39 years and have raised six sons to adulthood. I’m not trying to justify selfishness or difficult situations. And I’m truly sorry for those who are involved in sad marital situations.

Why He May Not Be Great At Gift-Giving

But let’s face it girls, sometimes we read into a situation motivations that just aren’t there. We immediately jump to a conclusion and assume that our husband’s actions are a commentary on our entire marriage relationship, when in reality the guy just doesn’t have a clue about small affections or romantic gifts.

It’s also possible that some men have been so shamed in the past for the gifts they have tentatively given that they dread trying again, so they wait until the last minute.

Nobody likes doing something they’re not good at, especially when they have been criticized and ridiculed for their previous efforts. And especially when the response was accompanied by rolling eyes or the silent treatment.

For Women Only

Men are often at a loss for how to express their feelings. In her book For Women Only, author Shaunti Feldhaun surveyed men for honest answers about relationships with their wives. At the end of the survey she asked an open-ended question about what men wish they could tell their wives. Their overwhelming response was “I wish she could know how much I love her.”

What appears to be lack of care or consideration could actually be a profound sense of inadequacy. Men want to solve problems and fix things for their women. They don’t want to feel helpless and incompetent. And gift-giving occasions are all too likely to end painfully.

If there were something you could never get right, why would you want to try to do it again and open yourself up to the possibility of shame?

There are no blanket answers. Hurt feelings can run deep on both sides.

But women can tend to want things and people to follow their imagined scenario, and when they don’t, they feel entitled to their disappointment.

About Disappointment

Someone once said to me that disappointment is a choice. That smarted. But as the old saying goes, “The truth shall make you free but first it will make you mad.”

Has my heart fallen a little at a gift I’ve received from my husband? Of course. Last time I checked, we’re both human. But it helped me to recognize his intent and to try not to analyze his motivation with my female perspective. Most guys are pretty simple, and he wasn’t trying to be neglectful or hurtful.

He was trying.

Love and grace cover a multitude of misunderstandings. If you really wanted flowers, go buy some and enjoy their beauty without resenting where they came from. Accept less-than-fabulous gifts with eyes that see the heart. There may come a day when you look back fondly on his efforts because he is no longer there to try to please you.

And choose a Happy Valentine’s Day.

34 Comments

  1. Excellent advice. Women have been duped by Hollywood. I have been guilty of this. It’s a bad habit that needs to be broken.

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      So true–we ARE affected by ads and media!

  2. Mary Esther says:

    Well written, Charlotte. In recent years I have thought a lot on this subject. I want to have fewer “expectations” that can be disappointed but be more thankful for the time with loved ones in my life.

    I remember well the simple hand crafted gifts from our little ones and they are so precious to me. I want to accept any and all gifts as I accepted those…truly from the heart of the giver…whatever they were made of.

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Our expectations are what get us into trouble so often, aren’t they Mary Esther? Beautiful motivation to accept gifts from the heart of the giver.

  3. Thanks for putting this down on paper (or at least the internet), Charlotte. It should be in every pre-marriage class 🙂 Sometimes we have to treat the way our husbands show their love through gifts the same way our children do. It truly is the thought that counts.

    And I say this after my hubby brought me 3 beautiful roses even after I told him he didn’t need to get me flowers (we just got home from an amazing cruise so I’m a bit overwhelmed). I love that he wanted to do something with flowers for Valentines. He continues to be a keeper!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Sounds like he’s a keeper, Theresa! 🙂

  4. Excellent piece. I was one of those who had that Hollywood romance image in my mind. Cost me the guy I loved. Luckily, two years later we reconnected – and we’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in April. And today? He bought the card BEFORE the storm, while I used the snow as an excuse. As soon as he digs me out of here – I’m heading to buy him his favorite champagne. (along with the men who were snowed in yesterday too!)

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      That was probably a painful lesson–but I am so glad it was learned by heart all those years ago, Diane!

  5. Lisa Wiley says:

    I thought that I was the only one that experienced this. In the first few years of our marriage, my sweetie would attempt to buy me flowers and have them delivered, but it seemed the first 3 years were a very bad experience, (they were either late, not what was ordered, or I had to put them together myself), so, being that I love to work with flowers, (I was a floral designer for years before my present job), he now lets me pick out the flowers that I love and put them together myself. Half the price of the delivered flowers and twice as much 🙂 I was still longing for the element of surprise though, so, this morning when I woke up, I had a box of chocolates waiting for me on my night stand. I cannot complain a bit though because my sweetie always brings me coffee in bed, (how in the world can I complain about THAT?)! 🙂 Thanks for letting the “newbies” on the romance scene know what the real deal is 🙂

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Lisa, sounds like he’s REALLY trying! Look forward to many years of romance ahead!

  6. So true! A heart of gratitude rather than expectations waiting to be dashed can do wonders for a marriage!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      True that, Steph. In some ways, it’s about managing our expectations and choosing gratitude.

  7. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, once again….right on post! Thank you! One thing I try to remember is, “not what am I gonna get, but what can I give” There is a story I heard once…can’t remember the source, but it went something like this. Valentine’s Day was approaching and as in years past, the little unpopular, homey boys Mom was beginning to feel sad for her son knowing that once again, he would not be recieving any valentines from the children at school. His Mom was frustrated at her son’s excitement to make paper valentines for all the children’s valentine boxes at school. Why would he put himself through that!!! So, she painfully helped him pen each one. As she was walking to meet him after school she was relieved and delighted to see the smile and joy on his face and she thought, “finally, someone was kind enough and remembered my son this year!” But as he got closer, she didn’t notice him carrying any valentine’s. She commented on how he must have had a good day and how he looked so happy….he said, “Mom, I didn’t forget ONE!!!” He was so focused on giving that he didn’t even notice that he didn’t recieve…. W-O-W!!

    1. Anonymous says:

      This is a great article thank you. I do find it sad that accepting any gift with grace is not what it used to be. Being told what to get a person as is the accepted practice now really takes away from the true spirit of gift giving for it truly is the thought that counts.

    2. Charlotte Siems says:

      Connie, that story brought a lump to my throat. I’ll never forget a Valentine’s Day when we had been through a troubled season in our marriage. I *chose* to serve my husband breakfast in bed even though I didn’t really feel like it or want to. But it was a turning point in our marriage because “I” changed from expecting to giving. Lovely thoughts.

  8. Beautifully put! I love that bit about accepting “less than fabulous” gifts with eyes that see the heart. It really isn’t the object anyhow, it’s the love of the giver that counts. I have a friend whose husband often gave last minute or odd gifts (with good intent), and she lost him suddenly. I know that having him back again just for a day would mean more than any gift he could dream of. Sometimes it’s too easy to focus on what he will give you rather than just being together and enjoying each other. Thanks again for a wonderful post!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      You know, Anne, I think it never hurts to check our perspective and count our blessings. I bet your friend treasures every moment she had with her husband, and we would do well to remember that. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Love this, and really needed to read it today too. 😉 blessings!!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      It was good for me to write and remember, Yvonne!

  10. I’ve been married for 30 years. My husband is very difficult to buy for since his interests tend to the out of doors and mine to indoors. I ask him for a list – with links online if possible so I know exactly what he wants.

    He asked me to do the same for him – I often snap a photo with my phone if I’m out and see something I really like or want – I send it to him and he is so grateful.

    He also has good tastes in jewelry and he knows Iove hoop earrings so he often heads for that department since no one can ever have too many earrings.

    Great article.

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      This is great, Phyllis–you help each other know what would be enjoyable but still leave room for surprise!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Thanks, Kat. I’m guessing you’ve been there, done that–like me. 🙂

  11. Gayle Armstrong says:

    Yes, thank you for this timely post! One of the most precious gifts my husband has given me is one I didn’t appreciate at the time. I had let him know just what I wanted… but he gave me a necklace instead. I was so mad at the time, I had to force myself to be gracious.
    As time went on, I realized my anger was from unmet expectations. I realized that if I didn’t expect anything, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Just let be what will be. Take what you get and be glad for it (as I love to tell my children :).
    Eventually, I saved up the money for what I had wanted ( a sewing machine, which I seldom use)… and that necklace is one I love to wear very often. It has an opal in it; he said he had chosen it in remembrance of the first necklace he gave me, because it was an opal too, and I had exclaimed then how much I liked opals. So a lot of thought and feeling went into that purchase, even though I didn’t realize or appreciate it at the time. Like Anne said, “it is the love of the giver that counts.”

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Gayle, I love this! I bet that necklace has gotten even more precious over the years as you’ve loved and lived together through joy and sorrow. Blessings to you, my friend.

  12. What if you received nothing???

    1. Dear Becky,

      Please know that you are not alone. I have seldom received anything for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or Valentine’s. I have received 2 birthday presents in 22 years. 2 Christmas presents, and 1 anniversary present. So I do mean seldom. My husband does not hold one day above another. Although these days are not special to him, and he hasn’t been very good about telling me I’m special on any regular day either, let me tell you what he is. He is good me. He doesn’t yell, expect too much. He is very patient with me and the children. He works hard. Picks up after himself (but not much else in the way of housework). He is a good partner, and I trust him wholeheartedly to be good to the children and faithful to me. Perhaps another wife receives jewelry, flowers, and chocolates, but does that mean that her husband is truly devoted to her? Comparing ourselves or our husbands is an unwise and dangerous thing. Look at YOUR man, what do you HAVE in who he is? Be grateful, it will refresh your heart and be winsome to your husband. Remember for better or worse, in elation and in disappointment. You two are team. Act like one, and together you can go far and do great things.

      Rejoice always,
      Kate

    2. Charlotte Siems says:

      Becky, let’s acknowledge that this feels hurtful. You are not bad or wrong for the feeling, so feel it, but don’t let it drive the bus. You’re the driver, and the feeling can go sit down. Kate has a beautiful and wise perspective in her reply. At some point there may need to be a conversation with your husband, but not in a way that shames him. Meanwhile focus on what you love about him and how he shows his love to you, as Kate explained.

    3. You are not alone Becky. I have not received gifts for Valentine’s day or mother’s day for most of our marriage. Can I recommend taking this time to focus on a relationship with the Lord. Even when our husbands do not meet our expectations He is there loving us with His eternal love, and His gift of Jesus Christ. And He will listen to you even about this.

      What I’m doing today, while I receive nothing from my husband, taking care of my responsibilities, my children, with a smile on my face towards my husband and my children. Showing love. I’ve not always had this grace, but this year I am focusing on my Savior and His love. And for that I can walk around feeling blessed. May God bless you today.

  13. So true! Thank you! My husband has never bought me a Valentine’s gift or a Christmas gift, and very rarely has he bought me a birthday gift, but you know what – I don’t resent it in the least! All year long he works extremely hard for our family, and if I even mention a particular thing I would like to buy for myself and we can afford it, he usually insists that I get it. All year long he blesses me with his love and his care, and all year long he insists on buying me a better phone than the one he has for himself, a nicer pillow, a more expensive computer. He insists on me having the nicest chair in the home to sit on. On and on. I would be the most selfish, ungrateful person if I got angry at the lack of gifts on particular days of the year. HE is my gift! Also, I feel pretty strongly that a present should never be expected or demanded, but if given, always received with gratitude to the giver rather than
    with an analysis of the actual gift. Think about it: that person spent their own time & money on this gift, no matter how little or seemingly insignificant it might be.

  14. One of the presents my husband bought me once (one of the extremely rare birthday gifts I have received) was a $10 Pyrex glass bowl set from Costco. He was delighted with himself – he thought they would be extremely useful to me. And they are extremely useful to me – to this day! I was delighted because he had chosen something at all. Yes, if I’d seen them I could have just bought them myself, but he enjoyed giving the gift and I really enjoyed having an extra glimpse into my husband. If I had become offended, he would have been hurt and confused, and we both would have been miserable. Gift giving is supposed to be a time of gratitude, love and delight – no matter how cheap or strange the gift. Here’s to gratitude for our husbands today, no matter what kind of gift they give us or whether they give one at all!

  15. Growing up my mother was never thankful for what my father gave her, it always wasn’t right for some reason or another. I could see how hard he tried,and how discouraged it made him, so learned from that example to never make my husband feel that way, I have always received gifts graciously.

    If a friend gave you the same gift you would likely receive it with gratitude, I think we need to extend that same grace to our husbands.

    Valentine’s day was still hard for me for years, because my husband does not like it and refuses to celebrate it, or mother’s day. He thinks they are just ways to get people to buy more things. And that he doesn’t like feeling forced into it. I was never asking for much, but hated being left out. Through God’s grace, I have given my expectations of a romantic Valentine’s day up, and now just appreciate my husband’s view on it, and look instead at the times he is very sweet to me. The random gifts and love that he shows me through the year instead if expecting anything on this one day. Looking at things with the view of eternity, Valentine’s day is such a small thing.

  16. I’ve got a funny story about expectations and attempts gone sideways. When our first child was born 34 years ago I was “ hurt” when my hubby didn’t “make a big deal” of it. Our closest friend were expecting a baby in a few months and Jim comment that having a baby earns you a bouquet of flowers. Well my husband did hear that so when Ellen had a baby boy 4 months later my husband had flowers sent to her. We went to visit and I commented on the 2 lovely bouquets. She sheepishly told me the second was from my husband. I turned to him and said “what? “. He looked confused said “I was trying to get it right”. Well I had 2 more children and I never did get flowers but I did learn a great deal.
    My hubby doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body but he loves me we’ll every day. We’ve been married 39 years

  17. Denise Lewis says:

    Several years ago my husband and I had a talk about expensive cards and gifts, to us it just doesn’t make any sense. On Valentines Day, our Anniversary, Christmas we go to our local Walmart….he picks out a card he would normally have purchased for me and I pick one for him. We hand each other the cards we have chosen, we read them, wish each other a Happy Valentines Day, Anniversary or Merry Christmas and out the cards back on the shelf. We have saved money, saved paper because it won’t be just another card read and set aside and we have shared special thoughts with each other. These holidays have been made ridiculous by media and it’s like the more they say people spend, people decide they want to join the movement. I am blessed every day to have a wonderful husband, he doesn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to show me he loves me, I can feel it deep in my heart every single day and to me there is no greater gift than that.

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