I am recently married and last week was my birthday. My husband had asked me a few weeks before my birthday what I wanted. Not really needing anything in particular, I smiled and said “nothing” telling him that being married to him was all I wanted. I was trying to be sweet and was hoping he would surprise me with something. We had also just been out shopping and I commented on how much I liked a certain pair of earrings and how much I would love a particular outfit, etc. Well, little did I know he would take my answer literally and buy me absolutely NOTHING for my birthday! I am so hurt and he doesn’t understand why. I mean, if he really loves me, wouldn’t he want to buy me something, even if I say I want nothing?
A while back there was a great email that was sent around called “The Guy’s Rules.” It was written from the male perspective and had a long list of rules for women to understand about men. One of the rules read, “Subtle hints do not work. Strong hints do not work. Obvious hints do not work. Just say it!”
From what you describe, it doesn’t appear that your husband doesn’t love you or doesn’t want to make you happy, rather, it sounds like he was getting you what he thought you wanted…nothing.
Very often we mistakenly believe that if someone loves us, he should know what we want! Unless you have a crystal ball somewhere in your bedroom, that is simply not the case. Love and mind reading abilities are not synonymous.
Granted, it is not nearly as pleasurable to have to ask for something you want as it is to be surprised with it… but ultimately, it is a lot better to ask for something and receive it than not to ask and be upset when you don’t.
In Chassidic philosophy there is the property of netzach which loosely is translated as “victory.” When it comes to communication, this level is explained as that of “giving direction.” Meaning, if you want to be successful in your relationship, if you ultimately want to be victorious, there is a time and place when you must be clear and give direction in order to receive what is important to you.
I think it is vital that you communicate your feelings with your husband, but recognize that he is really not to blame. I would let him know that you had told him that you didn’t want anything for your birthday, but in truth you really did want something and just didn’t want to ask for a present. Chances are that while you thought you were being extremely obvious in pointing out those earrings and other things you would love, he likely thought you were making mere comments and by no means recognized that you were hinting that he should buy those things for you. Remember the rule, hints don’t work!
I am sure that he did not mean to hurt you and would be more than happy to buy you a gift, he just really may not have known what you wanted. It is not uncommon for men to hesitate about making purchases when they are unsure if you will like it, especially if you have a specific taste. My husband has no problem taking me shopping and having me pick out what I like, but if he goes to a store himself, he will spend hours looking at endless choices and feel completely overwhelmed. He would rather know he bought me something I really want than buy something he chooses and then risk me not liking it or feeling obligated to wear it.
You are recently married. Your husband simply needs to learn more about what you like and especially if you like to be surprised. But make it easy for him, point out things you would like and tell him, “If you ever want to surprise me with a gift, here is an excellent choice.” Hopefully, with time you may forget you pointed that out and if he does buy it you truly will be surprised.
So stop being hurt at your husband and communicate with him. Then make some time to go shopping and together, buy yourself the birthday gift you really want. Hopefully by your next birthday, he will be more clued in and have an array of “surprises” in mind, and you will have learned to never say “nothing” unless you mean it!
“Dear Rachel” is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.