Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

My wife knew I wanted a leather jacket, so she bought me one for my birthday. It’s nice but not the exact one I had my eye on, so I asked her for the receipt to exchange it. She got angry with me and reminded me that I had also exchanged most of her Christmas gifts over the years, as well as the watch she gave me on our last anniversary. She then pointed out that she had never returned a gift I had given her.

I can’t help it if she doesn’t buy me exactly what I want, and I think she’s making a big deal out of nothing.

What do you think?


Dear C.G. –

When people who love you buy you a gift, they generally put great care and thought into the purchase. They’re not attempting to give you a material gift; they’re attempting to give you a feeling. I have no doubt your wife had imagined seeing a big, surprised smile on your face when you opened that birthday gift and sharing that moment of happiness with you.

Your response let her down and hurt her feelings. It isn’t about the jacket. It’s about your rejection.

Women tend to be nurturers, and that nurturing quality makes us want those nearest and dearest to feel loved and cared for through and through. We’re also often sensitive about wanting our partner to appreciate our good taste. Repeatedly exchanging the gifts your wife buys you (assuming they’re the right size and in keeping with your lifestyle) has a deeper impact on her — and over time, on your marriage — than you seem to be aware of.

How would you feel if you sent your wife a dozen red roses, and she called you at the office and said, “I got the roses, but I didn’t like them, so I gave them to our next-door neighbor, and she gave me an aloe plant I like better.”

Would you feel loved and masculine or small and shut down? How motivated would you be to send her flowers again?

I hope that answers your question.


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