Family life

How to get what you want relationship columnist Liza Finlay tells you the secret to getting your partner to buy the right present for you

By Liza Finlay
How to get what you want

There’s a lot wrapped up in a gift. That  box, whether big or small, can contain a whole lot of symbolism. Some people pack a bunch of hidden meaning—love, appreciation, desire — into gifts. Others just wish gifting had never been invented, or that there was a 911 line dedicated to birthdays and anniversaries.
There isn’t. And in fact it’s next to impossible to crack the gift-giving code. No two people are alike. Case in point: my friend Veronica once received a diamond pendant from her then-boyfriend. Diamonds are a girl's best friend right? Wrong. Not this girl. She found the expenditure extravagant and wished he’d ploughed the money into winter tires.
Nope, there’s no easy answer to this one. All we can do is laugh about it. So, with laughter in mind, I polled my girlfriends and Twitter followers for the best and worst gifts their spouses had ever given. (And so I’m not accused of penning a sexist column, let me assure you, I did survey my male friends, too, but their answers were too profane to publish.) Interestingly, I didn’t get a single “best,” only a long list of “worsts.” “There aren’t enough pages on your site to include all the crappy gifts I have received from my spouse,” emailed one friend, who went on to list about five of them (including a card depicting a romantic Quebec City trip that never, ever materialized.)
Well, that got the “reply all” flying. Throughout this estrogen-laden cyber-exchange, one of my gay gal-pals listened quietly (and maybe the teeniest bit smugly) before sagely commenting: “Maybe this is one of many areas where having a female spouse really makes a difference.” Yeah, maybe.
And maybe good gifting just boils down to good communication. So, here’s my advice:

  • Be specific. Take the guesswork out of gifting and tell your partner exactly what you want. This will require you to get over the faulty notion that receiving is less romantic when you have to lay a breadcrumb trail to the perfect present; there’s nothing less romantic than the gifts (like those in our top 10 list, below) you’ll get when you leave it to chance.
  • Mutually agree on which holidays warrant gifts. Is Passover present-worthy? Eid? What about the Winter Solstice? Concur on expectations ahead of time to avoid day-of disappointment.
  • Establish a budget. Much of the broken telephone around gifting comes from crossed wires over money. Take the financial stress out of this already complex equation by setting ceilings beforehand.

The Top 10 Worst Gifts Ever Given*

  1. A pair of granny panties. You know, big enough for you and a couple of your closest friends.
  2. A snow shovel (packaged up with a cute pair of oven mitts).
  3. A gym membership with a card reading, “I love you, but get your butt on a treadmill”.
  4. Cash—wrapped up in a printout of the family’s budget.
  5. A piece of the kids’ art.
  6. A vacuum cleaner.
  7. A pair of speakers (that plug into his stereo).
  8. A “spa” basket that included a waxing kit.
  9. A certificate for beer and wings, inscribed to “This year’s MVP” from a men’s hockey club.

And the winner is…

  1. A pair of nose-hair clippers, given by the “NHF” (nose hair fairy)

* Based on real gifts given to real women by real men.

Join relationship columnist Liza Finlay each week as she dishes on ways to keep you and your partner close through the rocky terrain that is marriage with kids.

Do you have an issue you'd like Liza to explore in a future column? Drop her a line at or leave your comment below.

This article was originally published on Dec 05, 2011

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.