Inside His Head: Wife wants a Valentine’s Day gift, please

Dear Inside His Head,

Valentine’s Day is coming up and I know I shouldn’t care about whether I receive something — or what it is — but I do. I would appreciate a modest gift from my husband, that’s the honest truth. How should I approach this with him? I always give him something nice, but he doesn’t always reciprocate. I’m left feeling a little under-appreciated. Your advice?


GRAY: Nothing makes me cringe more than hearing a woman talk about how the ostentatious bundle of flowers delivered to their office desk “displays how much he loves me.”

Just because a dude can read a calendar and call a florist might make some women feel appreciated, but it makes me feel ripped off.

This is the problem: forcing a guy to pony up an expression of love on demand is difficult enough already, let alone for a holiday he has no appreciation for in the first place.

valentines01If you want it to work I think you need to make it personal and mutual. Also, it needs to be different from what you might do for your anniversary, birthday, Mother’s Day (you know, all those other days we’re expected to show how much we appreciate you). Just pressuring him to buy something will land you a box of chocolates or something equally trivial.

Maybe you pitch it to him as a night in February (not necessarily Valentine’s Day) that the two of you get a babysitter and eat at that new restaurant. Maybe it’s letting the grandparents take over so you can have a 3-day weekend to decompress from the Christmas season. Maybe it’s even making it a special family event for the kids too.

Sharing something together will make the celebration about the two of you and not about the trite symbols of love bought for a few bucks at a florist or store. Because of this, he’ll be inclined to get behind idea and the day is more likely to become an event he’s willing to put some effort into.

MAVERICK: This is the time where honesty is the best policy, but timing and delivery are important if you want the best results.

If you always get him something nice, and he’s generally not inconsiderate or uncaring at other times, he clearly doesn’t realize how important this is to you, or that he’s disappointing you in the arena of gift-giving.

I realize it’s part of the fantasy of a perfect relationship many women  have — the ultimateman will be able to read their every thought and desire and will act accordingly. In reality, we’re not psychic and if an otherwise good husband is falling short in an area as simple as gift giving, he’s either a moron or much more likely, he’s unaware of your desires and the importance you place on it.

Barring the fact that your husband is an dolt, he’s simply clueless.

So, clue him in.

  • But don’t just hint or expect him to magically know what’s bothering you and what you want to change.
  • Be honest, be direct, do it well in advance of the time you want a present. Don’t ambush him, that never works.
  • Find a time when he’s not distracted or really relaxed and lay your cards on the table.
  • Tell him you’d appreciate a little more forethought in the next gift he chooses for you. Tell him it you feel a little cheated when you go out of the way to get him something nice and he brings you something from the dollar store or the quickie mart.

Do this without accusing him of being thoughtless or cheap or inattentive. Do this without whining or complaining. This is a simple fact, like the reality that it’s raining outside, he needs to buy better gifts, period.

If the situation makes you unhappy or you feel unappreciated, you have every right to speak up. Do it honestly, without a bit of hostility or finger pointing, and likely as not you’ll both be on the same page in no time.

MICHAEL: Why shouldn’t you care? There’s nothing wrong with with expecting a gift from your husband on Valentine’s Day.

What’s wrong is expecting a gift and not making it clear to him that you do. Some guys just aren’t gift givers. They may show their affection in other ways.

However, if you don’t make your feelings known, you can’t expect his behavior to change. Just lay it out there for him. It doesn’t have to be a demand, but it does need to be clearly said.

Try something like, “Hey honey, I really appreciate everything you do for me all year, but I’d really like it if you’d put some thought into Valentine’s Day each year. I know it’s corny, but it would really make me happy.”

Good luck.

Inside His Head: Stay home for Christmas or visit the in-laws?

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Dear Inside His Head,

My husband and I are fighting again about staying home or going to my in-laws for Christmas (my parents usually fly in to visit around New Year’s). I prefer to stay at home and not travel/be exhausted this year. I need advice!

GRAY: At my house we have three cats and two dogs. Their stockings hang above our fireplace along with our own. Are our pets like my daughter, who turns into a nervous, excited, hot-chocolate guzzling mess? No, they hack up hairballs like any other day. So why does Santa still fill their stockings with bones and fake mice? Fairness.

Perhaps you should look at fairness from a different perspective. If you always have to travel to the in-laws, whereas your folks come to your house then maybe you and your husband can work out a way to make it fair. Maybe if you agree to make the wintry, no-gas-station-breaks-for-a-thousand-miles trip to see his parents at Christmas then he’ll agree to take you on a sunny beach-filled trip in the Summer to make up for it. You get the drift. If you put on a smile and bite the bullet now then it’ll balance out later.

Or you can see if it’s fair to his parents. Do they have a reason not to travel and visit you for a change? Is this the only time of year they get to see their son? I could speculate forever without knowing the details, but sometimes being fair doesn’t mean doing what you want to do. Being fair can be about making the hard decision to put your desire aside and be uncomfortable because it’s the right decision.

My wife and I split our visits. She travels to see her parents and I see mine at some other time. It may not be the most ideal of situations, but we both agree it’s fair to our respective parents and fair to our daughter, who loves getting to spend time with her grandparents.

And even if they’re jumping on the counter to lap up your cup of egg nog when your back is turned (I sure hope your in-laws don’t do that), come Christmas morning the cats and dogs will still have toys to bat around and chew. It’s only fair.

generichead-1MICHAEL: I go through this each year too. It’s not nearly as big of a deal because our families are 2 hours drive time from here. It’s not that I don’t want to go, it’s just that I get tired as well. It’d be nice to wake up Christmas morning and open gifts with the kids and then just hang out all day and let them play with their stuff. Instead, we jump in the car right after opening gifts and drive.

However, I knew what I was getting to when we moved. We’re the only ones that don’t live within 15 minutes. So the question is, did you know?  If you did then it’s time to buck up and handle it. Otherwise I see three options:

1. You start alternating years. One year at home one year there.(I know, too logical)

2. They come to you occasionally instead.(only seems fair, right)

3. Send the spouse without you (and you look the jerk)

Good luck. Hope it works out for you.

MAVERICK: Well, you’re entitled to spend Christmas how you’d like. The question is can you get your husband to see reason?

From the tone of your note, it seems like you’ve spend Christmas at your in-laws before and this year you’re just not up for it.

Simply tell your husband that you’re not trying to start a fight but you’d rather stay home this year. Unless he can counter with — you’ve never gone to my folks once, or “Have you forgotten relative X has three months to live,” then he’s already on thin ice.

But you don’t want to make this a conflict. You want to make it a compromise.

In the words of Crap Game, played by Don Rickles in Kelly’s Heros. “Make a deal, maybe the guy is a Republican.”

Tell him this year you want to stay home and tell him you’ll gladly visit his folks next year. Explain you want to wake up in your own bed at Christmas for a change and you’d like the kids to experience the same thing. Tell him its important that not every Christmas tradition need be tied to his folks.

If it really is about traveling and not about the company, suggest to him that you invite his parents to come stay with you. It’s amazing how folks who gripe about you  not visiting them shut up when you suggest they return the favor now and again.

Otherwise, stick to the original deal. You get this Christmas and next year he gets his.

But don’t make it just about you, make the stay at home Christmas as appealing to him as possible.

Likely he’s having to miss some things he likes – getting babied by  his mom, sitting and watching Christmas TV with his dad. So offer to do some cool stuff he likes to do at Christmas. Start some new traditions, spend some time with him and make him realize taking a Christmas off from the larger family unit has some up sides.

In the end, if he relents, make him happy he did. Maybe he’ll lobby for more time without the extended family more often.

If you have a question for the Inside His Head husbands, send it to mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com.

Inside His Head: How can I help my angry husband?

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Dear Inside His Head,

My husband is constantly in a bad mood and I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I have tried to give him more attention and to cheer him up, but it just seems to irritate him even more. Any advice for how to help him? Should I try to dig and find out what could be bothering him or just give him space?

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: We husbands can be cranky at times. No denying that. And trying to cheer us up can turn our anger on you. Don’t take it personally, we’re just mad. And please, whatever you do don’t point out that we’re being cranky. Telling someone they’re grumpy never made any frown turn upside down.

Let him know you recognize he’s not angry at you but you want to understand what’s really fouling his mood. We’re not always keen on admitting we have problems – especially ones we’re having trouble figuring out – so the typical answer is “nothing’s wrong.” And if he doesn’t want to talk then badgering him about it can really make him blow his top.

At a point when he’s somewhat calm, ask what you can do to make him feel better.

Just trying to cheer him up dances around the issue. Let him know you’re in his corner and willing to help him help himself.

Maybe he wants some time alone. Maybe he needs a fishing trip with an old friend. Maybe he needs a punching bag to work it out of his system. Throw out some options. He might even start opening up a bit, but don’t hold your breath.

Remember that anger begets anger. If you find yourself getting angry then the two of you will be headed for an argument, not a solution. Don’t let it get under your skin, difficult as that may be. And if he should start talking don’t laugh. Seriously, sometimes the stuff that can trigger us is small potatoes. Keep a straight face and treat it as seriously as he does.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: I’m assuming this constant bad mood is atypical and that he’s generally a fella who isn’t always in a foul humor.

Before you start pestering him, stop and think and see if there’s some sort of trigger that sets him off or if there’s some issue at work, or at home that could be bothering him. Often we can be oblivious to our spouse’s stress so simply think about it for a bit and try to pinpoint what it is.

Speaking from my own experience, if I’m in an extended bad mood it’s likely a work or financial concern that making me a jerk to be around.

If that’s what you suspect after you do some thinking, see if you can get him to open up to you. Don’t spring it on him right before bed or when he’s distracted like watching TV.

If you bide your time you’ll find a good chance to ask him what’s bothering him and ask a simple open ended question like “You seem a little stressed, how’s work?” or “I notice when we talk about money it makes you angry, is there something I need to know?” This gives him an opening to talk about what could be bugging him. Don’t go right at him with questions like “Are we broke?” or “Have you screwed up at work?”

If your  husband was once an active guy suggest he get some exercise or spend some time outdoors, and then cut him the slack to actually hit the gym or go fishing without guilt. That can do wonders for a guy’s attitude.

If the bad mood continues and he starts to isolate himself from things he used to really enjoy, I’d consider talking to him about seeing his doctor. Make and appointment for him if need be and tell him he needs to talk to his doc about how he’s feeling physically and mentally. He could be suffering from depression.

Be open and be willing to listen and don’t be quick to judge. It’s what you’d expect if roles were reversed. Just remember while he does need to talk about it with you, he’ll do it in his own time and trying to rush the process will be counterproductive.

Do you have a question for the guys? Email it to us at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com. We, of course, will not publish your name.

Inside His Head: Husband is not ‘romantic’ enough for wife

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Dear Inside His Head,

I’m married to a great man who’s also a great dad, but I feel frustrated by his lack of romance. He says he’s “not very romantic” but I remember that he was when we were first dating. I don’t expect roses every week or for him to cook me a candlelight dinner, but I would appreciate a little affectionate note every now and then or a special treat occasionally. I’ve dropped hints, but he doesn’t seem to be picking up on my bread crumbs. Should I just come right out and tell him some of the gestures I would like? Would it be annoying to you if your wife did that?

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but men aren’t the best at picking up subtleties. For that matter, most of us aren’t so good at delivering them either. It’s a good bet that the “affectionate note” or “special treat” are the furthest things from his mind. It’s not that he doesn’t care, but his way of caring doesn’t involve the little touches.

Sure, things were a lot different when you were dating. When I met my wife I didn’t have a fraction of the obligations I have now. To some extent, my life used to be able to revolve around hers. Now my attention goes to my daughter…who commands a good deal of it…and to some extent I feel like I show love to my wife by being a good dad.

And it’s true with so many other things: a love letter has become emptying the dishwasher, a bunch of flowers has become taking care of all those projects in the yard. Not very romantic? No, I suppose not, but there you have it.

Victorian VioletsWould it be annoying if my wife asked me to write her little notes? Yes it would and here’s why: it would be akin to saying what I do isn’t good enough, but somehow a “little note” is. I think it would trivialize my affection rather than make it stronger. These trivial little touches would suddenly be on equal footing with the really important stuff.

Everyone likes to be treated in a special manner every now and again, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you’re blessed with what you have. I’m not saying to stop dropping the little hints, but try to appreciate what the two of you already give to each other.

Discovering he’s helped your child with all their homework so you can do things together during the weekend may not be the same as having a surprise bouquet delivered to you…it’s much better when you think about it.

john.thumbnailMAVERICK: The one problem with hinting is, if he’s paying attention it pretty much takes all the “romance” out of it, making the hint a demand he’s having to comply with to humor you.

And if he’s not paying attention, all the hints in the world won’t work.

First, when you say romance, I figure you mean a thoughtful or spontaneous display of affection. Something simple, like a love note or a more complex gesture, like dinner and a movie with him arranging child care. What we’re talking about here is pursuit – the guy making it clear he desires the object of his affection — namely you.

Lots of married women complain their husbands were really “romantic” while dating but it dried up after marriage. It’s pretty standard behavior. Typically this behavior is blamed on the guy. But if you think about it, the signals that triggered that pursuit behavior are likely missing as well. Men pursued their wives during courtship because they were both desirable and playful.

So, perhaps, if you like to be pursued and acknowledged, you might want to start the chase anew.

Do something surprising for him that he might enjoy — make him nachos while he’s watching a fight on TV or recommend you kick around that giant sporting goods warehouse store he loves on a slow Saturday afternoon. Offer a glass of iced tea after he comes in from mowing the yard and a back rub after he takes a shower. Arrange a dinner at his favorite place and surprise him afterward with a night that is worthy of a love note.

Actions like this make him feel valued, cherished, desired and are much more likely to get him to return the gesture, than nagging and guilt.

I’m not saying maintaining the energy and vigor in the relationship is all your responsibility, I’m just suggesting reminding the guy how lucky he is to have you with deeds not words. If you want to be chased, remind him how much fun it is to catch you.

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Inside His Head: Husband had ‘emotional relationship’ at work, wife still angry

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Dear Inside His Head,

My husband had what I would call an “emotional relationship” with a co-worker last year, but he has since taken a new job and we are working on our marriage. He has apologized profusely for allowing himself to get attached to this other woman, and we have been to counseling a few times, but I am still not over it. I don’t ever bring it up anymore, but I am still SO MAD. And hurt. I want to let it go, but I keep wondering if he’ll do it again or if it will be a “physical relationship” next time. Do you have any advice?

generichead-1MICHAEL: I can speak from experience on this one. First I think you should continue counseling to determine why your husband felt the need to do this. There was apparently something that he didn’t feel like he could share with you. You’ve got to find out why. You’ve got to know that you might not like the answer.

Secondly it’s ok to be mad. You feel hurt that he could do this to you and you could possibly even be wondering what you were doing wrong. In order for things to get better you’re going to have to move past it. It’s over. Deal with the underlying issue and don’t waste time in the past. It might help for you to have a few counseling sessions without your husband just to vent.

Lastly, if you work on the problem that caused this situation I doubt you’ll have to deal with it again. And if your husband loves you and gets what he needs from your relationship it’s unlikely that something like this would progress to a “physical relationship”.

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: Friedrich Nietzche said “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” Trust is difficult to repair once it’s broken. And I’m right there with you: I’d be very mad and hurt and resentful for a long time, but at some point you have to live with your husband and trust him, however difficult that may be.

My best advice to give you is to be a good wife. You may not be bringing the incident up anymore, but are you acting mad or keeping him at bay as a way of protecting yourself? If you suspect he might cheat on you then he may be even more inclined if he feels you’re withdrawing from him. After all, if he feels like you no longer care about him then what would he really be losing?

You shouldn’t feel like you need to secretly listen to phone calls or check to see if he’s really where is says he is. You two need to be completely open with each other. He needs to be aware of how you feel and he needs to provide any and all evidence to prove he’s not betraying your trust again. Neither of you can keep a marriage going without the other and it may take a long time before you get to where you once were.

At the end of the day, both of you have chosen to be with each other. Rebuilding trust isn’t something that happens overnight and be mindful of the steps you take together. Show each other that you care and love one another and the rest will fall into place.