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Ask The Good Enough Guy: My Husband Is A Terrible Gift Giver!

bad gifts

Hello Will,

My husband Jeff and I have been married for 12 years with two small kids and generally have a good relationship – but there’s one thing that drives me crazy. He’s the worst gift giver!

Over the years I’ve had some of the worst gifts ever – perfume I’d never wear, tacky lingerie, books I won’t read and terrible CD’s (Susan Boyle!)

It feels like Jeff doesn’t really know what I like or am interested in. Any suggestions Will on how I can get him to buy better gifts? I don’t want to literally tell him what to buy me!


Tanya, Seattle

Hi Tanya,

Susan Boyle, huh? Yeah, sound’s like we have our work cut out for us on this one.

Cool Hand Luke said it best: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” and even though I’m sure that you and most of the GEM audience want me to blame your hubby, I’m betting he’s not really the problem. Here’s how I know.

*MAN FACT* Men want to satisfy women. We want to be good providers. That means seeing to it that our other half’s needs are met. Why? Mostly because it’s how we show love and partly because we think it makes us better than other men. Either way, the reason I know Jeff’s not the whole problem is because even after twelve years, when a lot of men would have just given up, Jeff is still trying. He’s grasping at straws, but he’s still giving gifts. Here’s what’s wrong:

1. Jeff sees you looking at your body in the mirror or hears you say that you don’t feel sexy. You didn’t explain that what that really means is that he should take you for a really nice dinner (new dress) and maybe dancing (salsa lessons), so you can put your hair up (new earrings), show off your legs (gold anklet), and feel sexy (surprise weekend at a bed and breakfast). So… what does a man think makes a woman feel sexy? Tacky lingerie, of course!

2. Jeff knows you wear perfume. You’ve never explained that you only wear the smell of wildflowers (new flower garden) because your mother (plane tickets home) used to take you to a special place in the park (camping trip) and let you pick flowers when you were a little girl (hand carved keep-sake box). So what perfume does a man buy? A bottle of what ever the department store girl sprayed in his face, what else!

I won’t go on because you’re a woman, and you don’t need these things explained to you the same way that we men do, but in the interest of understanding (and because I’m a man and it’s springtime) let’s compare it to sex.

As I said; men want to satisfy women. So, why do some men know how and others don’t? Because the ones who know were TAUGHT! And just who taught (or didn’t teach) your husband to be good in bed? YOU did. We men, as the natural bedroom scientists that we are, love to experiment (at least in the early stages).

-We tried something…waited for your reaction… it was positive…we continue to do that thing.

-We tried that other thing…you screamed “What the hell!” and mule-kicked us off of the bed…we finally got our nose to stop bleeding…we’ve never tried that thing again.

So, over the years, if we’ve gotten honest communication, we’ve learned to give you the things you like; if you’ve been faking, we’ve learned to give you the things we THINK you like.

I’m not saying a bad gift-giver is also bad in bed (twelve years and two kids… Jeff’s doing something right). And while you don’t have to write a sexual to-do list with flip charts and pie graphs… give us real feedback as to what you like and why you like it, and when we do get it right, praise us and give us a treat.

The same goes for gifts. You don’t have to drag poor Jeff to the shoe store and put the Balenciaga’s in his hands, but if you mention how sexy you feel in leather, high-heeled boots, there’s a good chance that there’s a pair in your not-so-distant future. If you tell him that, when he wears a black t-shirt, he reminds you of the Jack Reacher character in the Lee Childs books, you’ll likely get more Lee Childs books. He won’t get it right every time, but he’ll do better. When he does, shower him with oohs and ahhs. He’ll try to out-do himself the next time.

Good luck, Tanya. And when/if you read this, I’d love to hear about the BEST gift Jeff has ever gotten you, and what made it so good.

As a matter a fact,  I would appreciate a comment as to the best and worst gifts some of our readers have gotten…  in the interest of experimentation, of course!

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few, spare moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.


  1. Faun Reese

    March 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Ask him to ask a friend whose good at getting gifts or ask her girlfriends to help him buy the perfect gift

  2. Will Jones

    March 19, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Faun-Great idea! I’ve actually used that one myself. I even started to suggest it, but a couple of friends that I’d asked about it said that it was the same as (or very close to) telling him what to buy, and Tanya didn’t want to do that.

  3. Elizabeth

    March 19, 2011 at 11:20 am

    The worst gift I ever got was a sweater about 6 sizes too big. I couldn’t even wear it. He told me it was the last one left on the rack and he liked the color. And he wasn’t sure what else to get me. I think he whole shopping thing took him about 5 min.

  4. Leslie

    March 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I gave up on the whole subliminal messaging thing years ago. I now give lists of what I like, more than he needs to get me, and then he can pick from the list, or at least not stray far from it. It takes some of the surprise out of it, but at least I’m not standing in the return line. If you keep it general, like “a new digital camera” he might surprise you with something really cool, like the camera, the carry case and a tripod. Although, if he is really bad at the gift thing, you might want to start with more detail, then loosen it up after he gets the hang of it.
    But I do have to say that the best gifts I have ever gotten are those that he got all on his own. A beautiful pair of earrings when my son was born comes to mind. They were an XO pattern, with a diamond inside the O. He said that he wanted to make sure he marked this extraordinary moment with a hug and a kiss that would last forever. You just can’t hint him into something like that.

  5. dianthe

    March 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    get a big manilla envelope and put on the refrigerator – every time you come across something you like in a magazine, online, newspaper, etc. tear it out and put it in the envelope – then when it’s time to get you something, your husband will have a ton of things to choose from – the beauty is they don’t have to be huge gifts, it could be a shirt or a new book or a cd – and if you provide him with a picture, even if it’s not an exact match a good salesperson can help him choose something similar!

  6. Will Jones

    March 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    @Dianthe- That’s a good really idea! Have you tried that before?

  7. m.e. johnson

    March 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I’m kinda with Leslie; Nothing wrong with stating what you’d like but it’s better if you are asked, as in, “Tell me something you really really want.” My daught does that becaue I’m old and don’t need/want things. I usually want expensive chocolate truffles.

    On a trip to an island my son and I were shopping. While he was choosing t-shirts I was just wandering. What I didn’t know was he was watching me. When we got home he handed me a small package. it was a painting I had kept going back to look at but wouldn’t spend the $$$ it cost. Son is gone now so it is particularly dear to me.

    When I would surprise my dear husband (also now gone) with a favorite but work-intensive dish, he would leave a very nice tip under the plate. That was fun.

    For me, gifts are not mandatory. Something given to me from the heart, with love at any time is valued.

  8. Peppercorn16

    March 19, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Simply make a list of the things you like and give it to him around the hoildays,birthdays etc. That way fingrs crossed he’ll know from then on what u like or at least have an idea

  9. Marquis

    December 27, 2011 at 5:01 am

    My girl got me two bath towels and a 10 pack of regular gym socks this year. I’d rank it up there amongst the worse I’ve gotten. And i’d assume gift exchanging has the potential to expose some rifts in a relationship. It just seems natural to ask yourself “what in the hell were they thinking to get me this?”. It’s one thing to get a miss on a gift, but to come home with what is honestly a relatively bad gift…it just screams ‘I don’t give a damn if you like this gift or not’.

  10. Haley

    March 21, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I just got a congrats sock monkey and coffee mug

  11. Sage

    November 2, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    The problem with my husband is that he doesn’t know when to stop. We both like a band and have seen them 3 times – he decides the best gift for me is another concert cd. I now have 3 concert cds. I do not WANT 3 concert cds. They sing all the same songs as the 10 other cds I have of this band. I really haven’t gotten anything decent for a gift in years. At this point, I’d rather not receive anything – or just give me the $$.

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