So I read the Dear Prudie chat on www.slate.com today. The letter I am concerned with at the moment appear (here). Below is the letter and response in its entirety, followed by Prudie’s response again, interjected with my comments.
Q. Clueless Husband: This past Wednesday was my husband and my 10th wedding anniversary. I had saved for two months (I only work part time for "my" spending money, so I don't make much) to buy him a watch and then had it engraved with a personal message. I had told him several times (because he asked) that I was purchasing a somewhat expensive gift. I made a wish list at our local jewelry store where I purchased the watch and told him that I did so. We both had brought up our anniversary over the last few weeks and what we should do; we never made any concrete plans. So when the big day arrived, my rather expensive, well-thought-out, personal gift was met with a $50 gift card to a place I like to shop (he gave me the same thing for Christmas), which he purchased two hours earlier along with the card. We have plans to go out of town this weekend to stay at a hotel and go out to dinner, but I made these plans. I guess my question is, should I tell him how hurt I am? In the past, he has said that I'm hard to buy for, but since I made a wish list, I don't feel like that would be an excuse. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I really can't get over how much his gift said "I don't care." I should add that I know he loves me, he tells me every day, and his "gift-giving" skills fluctuate, but I really expected more for such an important milestone.
A: I know what you mean because for our 10th anniversary, my husband forgot. But it didn't hurt too much, because so did I. When we remembered, we decide to celebrate with a belated anniversary dinner. We've been married 16 years, and we still haven't scheduled it.
There are gift people, then there are "Oh my God, it's our anniversary, I gotta get my wife something today!" people. You say your husband tells you he loves your daily and you seem to have no other complaints about him. He didn't forget your anniversary, he got you a perfectly fine gift. If you wanted a specific piece of jewelry, given his proclivities, you probably should have gone to the jewelry store together and chosen gifts for each other. Yes, it would be less romantic, but you wouldn't be left feeling dissed. And as thoughtful and caring as your gift was, maybe he sees it as somewhat foolish. If you have to save for two months to buy a watch, there are better ways to spend your money.
Surely there are things about you your husband wishes were different, but he shrugs them off. That's what I think you should do about your anniversary. And for the next one, don't expect him to respond to heavy hints about what you want. Take him by the hand, point to the jewelry case, and say, "That one."
And my comments:
“A: I know what you mean …”
“because for our 10th anniversary, my husband forgot.”
At this moment, I am picturing a cozy scene of two women providing empathy and emotional support over a hot, tasty espresso drink.
“But it didn't hurt too much, because so did I.”
Oh. I see. So you really don’t know what she means, because you have zero empathy for something that is a priority to her.
Hmm, what? Oh, that! That’s the sound of the aforementioned cozy sisterly-love picture shattering all over the floor. Excuse me for a minute while I get the vacuum cleaner and clean it up …
“When we remembered, we decide to celebrate with a belated anniversary dinner. We've been married 16 years, and we still haven't scheduled it.”
I really, truly, am happy for you that you both are so chill. Please don’t let my normally sarcastic tone convince you of anything other than my absolute sincerity on this item. But the mission-critical element here is that you and your husband are very matched up in this regard, while the letter-writer and her husband are not. Your personal anecdote is neither relevant nor helpful to the letter-writer.
“There are gift people, then there are "Oh my God, it's our anniversary, I gotta get my wife something today!" people. You say your husband tells you he loves your daily and you seem to have no other complaints about him.”
I do appreciate the dose of perspective here, but to be honest, the fact that the letter-writer describes her husband in these glowing terms tells me that she already has a sense of perspective.
“He didn't forget your anniversary, he got you a perfectly fine gift.”
Um, no. He didn’t. Hence the letter-writer’s letter.
“If you wanted a specific piece of jewelry, given his proclivities, you probably should have gone to the jewelry store together and chosen gifts for each other. Yes, it would be less romantic, but you wouldn't be left feeling dissed.”
… Isn’t that what she did? The woman gave her husband a wishlist. She has met him 99.99% of the way, and she wants your advice in getting him to go that last 0.01% to meet her in the (sort of) middle. Really not too much to expect.
“And as thoughtful and caring as your gift was, maybe he sees it as somewhat foolish. If you have to save for two months to buy a watch, there are better ways to spend your money.”
If that’s the way he sees it, then he is the fool. His wife painstakingly saved her money over time (rather than make an irresponsible impulse purchase, the kind we are ALL guilty of on occasion), took her time, and selected a classy, beautiful, personalized gift. In what universe is such consideration, devotion, and effort foolish?
“Surely there are things about you your husband wishes were different, but he shrugs them off.”
Maybe, maybe not. If that’s the case, then that’s his bad. It’s up to him whether or not things that are issues on his end are worth the time and effort to discuss. However, none of this is relevant to the letter-writer or her situation. She has identified an issue that she feels is worth it to her to have resolved, and she discusses it calmly, rationally, and respectfully. She deserves better from you.
“That's what I think you should do about your anniversary. And for the next one, don't expect him to respond to heavy hints about what you want. Take him by the hand, point to the jewelry case, and say, "That one." “
Again – overall, this woman is not asking for the moon. She knows her husband, and she is not expecting him to meticulously plan a surprise romantic date or getaway. She really did her best to get him to work within his capabilities and give her just a little bit of the romance that she is perfectly entitled to want. What she needs from you is not a “be like me or give up what you want” letter, she needs you to give her an idea of how to bridge this gap with her husband. Just because you have no desire for or interest in romance does not mean that another woman’s legitimate emotional need should go unfulfilled.
On the off-chance that Ms. LetterWriter sees this, here is my advice for you:
Yes, you should tell him how hurt you are. You did a fantastic job here of articulating exactly what you expected and how you communicated your expectations, what he did and how it made you feel, but also that you love him very much and recognize that overall he is a wonderful husband. You can probably copy+paste what you wrote into your conversation, but put the positive stuff first, of course. When he understands, give him an opportunity to make it up to you – at your next birthday, major or minor holiday. Maybe even pick a day and make it your own holiday. If you are on good terms with his friends and/or family, enlist their help in prodding him. If even that doesn’t work, you may need to either step it up to counseling, or perhaps (and I dread to suggest this, but as a last resort it may be just what you need) withhold something that makes him feel loved. After a short time, ask him how he feels, and remind him that’s how you feel when he appears to ignore a simple request that would make you very happy. I hope that you get what you need.
In closing, bless you. You are a saint. I am a relative newlywed compared to you, but I have a similar struggle with an otherwise wonderful husband (but I imagine that was obvious). Reading your thoughts and seeing your patience and appreciation of your husband is really very humbling, and I hope someday to both have your level of patience and not lose sight of how incredible my husband really is.
Good luck, and feel free to write.