When gifts are your love language

007Everyone’s heard of The 5 Love Languages – words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and, wait for it, receiving gifts. Yes, receiving gifts, not giving gifts mind you, is a love language. And when it’s your language (take a look at that love-don’t-cost-a-thang list once more), you sometimes feel like one of those shallow women from the Jared commercials.

When gifts are your love language, bad gifts make you feel personally disrespected. Ask my husband about my first birthday with him. He’ll tell you about how he led me on a walk through our college campus to the wishing well and sat me down on a cement bench. We talked and talked until we didn’t, and he rummaged through his sack and pulled out a homemade card. It was super cool and all but let me remind you that my primary love language is NOT words of affirmation.

But I didn’t want to be one of those ungrateful-type of girlfriends so I just made my eyes expectant, and he got the message. “Oh, and uh, I’m working on a gift for you. It’s just not ready yet.”

For weeks my mind went wild with the idea of a gift that “wasn’t ready” from my artist-type boyfriend. Every few weeks or so, I’d mention how I was really excited and hadn’t forget, and he said he hadn’t either.

That’s because there never was a gift to forget.

The whole scenario became so absurd that by the time he could have gotten me a gift to make up for it and I’d be none the wiser, he was so defeated and embarrassed that he gave up. The next year he got me a denim bucket hat he’d purchased from a New York Street vendor, and I wondered if it was already time to play the “Really, I have everything I could want” card.

When gifts are your love language, Christmas scares you. You shore yourself up from disappointments and the sneaking feeling that “They just don’t get me.” The best you can do is level your expectations and be really specific with people, and then allow yourself one hour of smack-talking with a spouse or nonjudgmental friend after the exchange. See, these are the kind of horrible thoughts people like us have.

Last week I received an advent poem in the mail from my stockbroker. Armed with a great Chicago accent and a Catholic conscience, she is a gem of a person and analyst and, apparently, a poet. The illustrated pamphlet begins,

“Dear Jesus,
Please help me to make You number one on my list
when I’m thinking of others,
when I’m buying those gifts…”

She’s lost me a little here, because I need more help when I’m not thinking of others and receiving those gifts, but then somewhere in the middle she hits me,

“Please help me to adore You,
and love You more and more,
and to give You for Your birthday
whatever You are asking for.”

This makes me pause, as I wonder if receiving gifts are one of Christ’s love languages, too. I really don’t want to give a bad gift and have Jesus say, “She doesn’t even get what I’m about.”

So this year, I’m thinking of asking Jesus what he really wants for  his birthday. And I’m going to try not to make empty promises or become self-defeating when I break them.

I’ll even try not to be offended if he gets too specific and takes all the fun out of it. But that doesn’t seem to be his style.

4 responses to “When gifts are your love language

  1. I am curious for someone whose love language is gifts what makes a good gift for them? Mine is quality time and that turns into a gift I would take from anyone. Don’t give me any gifts just spend every free moment you have with me. 🙂 Not much of a gift there. LOL.

    • It sounds like quality time is definitely your love language. A good gift for me is something that shows me the other person really gets me and has been paying attention to the things that capture my attention. That feeling of being “chosen” is important to me and thus a gift well “chosen” is affirming.

  2. I hate how this is my love language honestly. I am crying right now because its Christmas and I feel unloved right now 😦 the only gift that truly resonated with me this Christmas was a bird feeder because I wasn’t expecting to recieve one and I really wanted one. I feel horrible for feeling horrible because I feel like a spoiled brat but most of the gifts were thoughtless and it just hurts me… My mom got me some shoes that are ugly just because the brand was my name. My dad got me these impersonal gifts of food and a gift card. And I got this ugly table and I already have a million tables in my house…. then on op of that i feel guilty for wanting better because i didnt even have any money to give gifts to everyone because I got laid off so I didn’t get to show them how a gift should be given 😥 I just want o curl up and die… The present I wanted. Most ( an iPod) I didn’t get and it just hurts because music is the thing I love most :c how do you express to someone your hurt over this without sounding entitled and spoiled? This is the worst feeling :(((

    • Unmet expectations are a real bummer. I find that owning the part that my expectations (and not someone else’s bad gift) played in my hurt feelings is a good way to start the conversation. So instead of saying, “I’m hurt that you don’t get me”, I might say, “I was expecting to get an iPod because I love music so much and when I didn’t get one I felt misunderstood.” One strategy is to be clearer next time about your expectations – for instance, are gift cards fair game or not? – but you also might find that cultivating a healthy sense of expectancy rather than expectations for your relationships is more life-giving in the end.

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