Avoid Holiday Stress: Get on the Same Gift-Giving Page

Don’t add to the stress of the holidays with gift giving dissonance. One working mom I interviewed believes there are some things you need to be on the same page on before you get married…religion, money, parenting…AND gift giving. Her first big fight with her husband was about gifting style.  It may seem superficial but it can lead to long-term resentment if you don’t get it out on the table.

Spending a few holidays with a beau will provide a good sense of the differences but sometimes it can take longer to come out.  The woman above found it was Mother’s Day that brought her frustration to head. In her husband’s version of Mother’s Day the kids give Mom a card or some homemade item and then dad takes the kids away for the day to give mom some time for herself. Her idea of Mother’s Day involved breakfast in bed, presents from him and the kids and a day spent with her family. This ended up causing big tension on the family as they couldn’t let go of their “should do’s”.


I think the biggest part of her disappointment was that she wanted recognition and thanks from him as well as the kids.It’s always tough when you don’t get what you want from a loved one because your expectations are so high. The gift should be a perfect representation of your love and how much he understands you. How many women complain about getting a gift that they don’t like…does he even know me. How could he think I would like this?

But guys can be a little clueless. If you don’t give them some direction, they won’t read your mind. If you don’t want to go the list route, some general directions can help or well placed clues. For example: Oh I love that shearling coat it looks so warm (hint: I need a shearling coat and really you will be providing for me). So and so has such good taste in jewelry (hint hint: before you buy anything for me get her advice).

You can also give your husband a brief. One woman’s husband always gave her a beautiful dress for Christmas.  One year in between jobs, she needed more practical gear. She gave her husband a brief: I need practical things that can help me be more functional. Things that can help me interview (clothes, bags, technology) or that will help me relieve stress (e.g. gym gear, massage certificate). He ended up being happy to be able to surprise within some boundaries.

Other potential gifting gaps:

1. Lists vs. Suprises.
I once dated a guy whose family made elaborate lists with photos and links to exactly what they wanted for Christmas. For me it was such a bummer. I thought it took the fun out of Christmas morning and made it seem even more commercial than it already is. I ended up realizing that after years of early lean Christmas years, the parent’s ability to give the kids exactly what they wanted was their own way to give joy. I think I could have learned to live with this as long as we still surprised each other.

2. Cash Christmases
Similarly, one boyfriend’s father gave money to everyone at Christmas. One year when he gave me money I had no idea what to do. My BF insisted he would be insulted if I gave it back or didn’t cash it.  I still struggled with it. Perhaps it was his way of expressing love and care but it just felt weird! I think I ended up cashing it and then alleviating my discomfort by spending it on my beau. But you have to explore these things as they are telling signs of family dynamics. But this

3. Extravagant vs. Spoiled
Some people are not into extreme gift giving, particularly when it comes to kids. Yes it is a way of showing love and you want nothing more than to give your child their heart’s desire.  Other’s think this is a sure fire way to spoiling a child. This is a big one. Talk it early because by your child’s 3rd Christmas it’s too late.

4. Extended Family vs. Immediate Family
Do you buy presents for your long lost cousins, your next door neighbors your Godparents? Some people think a card will do just fine. Another sure fire way to get aggression and tension.

5. Christmas Eve vs. Christmas Day
Do you open up presents on Christmas Eve or wait through the night for Santa to do his thing.  Some families open some or even all presents the night before. This again can tap into the tensions over how you should do it when it comes to your own family.

You can create your own gift giving traditions but do it upfront to avoid disappointment and getting stuck in a gift rut.

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