When You’re Left Without a Gift…Again
“Santa doesn’t visit the adults in our home.”
This is my canned response when friends are gushing about “how good Santa” was to them and notice I have nothing to say.
It’s not a lie, but also not the whole truth.
No Gift Under the Tree From Him for Me
The fact is, I’m married to a great guy who is not-so-great at gifts. My last Christmas gift was a set of pajamas in 2015. It’s also the only Christmas gift I’ve received in the ten years we’ve been married.
As an adult with executive functioning deficits, my husband struggles to keep track of details. Gifts for me are a detail he can’t manage. He’s great about gifts for the kids, but then again, kids are great about telling you every five minutes what they want for Christmas. It’s hard not to keep their wants and needs front and center. He’s also a kid at heart. Shopping for and buying gifts for children brings him great joy. Gifts for me? Not so exciting.
It took a long time for me to accept this.
I used to not shop for myself and just pretend it was OK that everyone had gifts but me. Then I decided that adults didn’t need gifts, that only the kids should have stuff to open under the tree. That worked until the kids started asking questions I didn’t like answering. Not only do my friends gush about gifts from their husbands, but it turns out kids like to brag about what their dads gave their moms for Christmas, too. Unfavorable comparisons seem to lurk around every corner this time of year.
Choosing the Gift of Contentment
Christmas can be a tough time for any wife whose husband isn’t a gift giver – but being in a neurodiverse marriage (one where the husband has a neurological difference, such as ADHD or autism) adds greater complexity to the Christmas season. Most days, I appreciate the differences between my brain and my husband’s. But the holidays make that hard for me – and for wives like me.
Expectations we rein in most of the year can suddenly run amok, set loose by a picture-perfect Christmas card, a happily-ever-after Hallmark movie, and of course: the endless stream of highlight reels on social media.
Disappointment is a natural part of grieving the marriage we thought we’d have and embracing the one we do.
Here are five practical actions you can take to avoid being blindsided by unfulfilled expectations this year … or at least lessen the sting:
- Limit exposure to media that fuels feelings of “poor me.” Throw away catalogs without paging through them. Avoid movies that idealize (and even idolize) romance and end with a perfect bow on the top. Stay off social media until all the photos of all the gifts “her husband got her” have disappeared.
- Decide that just because the world defines “love” by gifts doesn’t mean you have to. Many neuroatypical men excel at acts of service. When you focus on fully receiving what your husband does give you, you’ll be less upset by what he can’t.
- Create Christmas traditions that work with your unique family dynamic. Perhaps instead of gifts under the tree, you plan a vacation or memorable family experience. Or, you can agree to trade Christmas lists this year. A specific list of gifts eases the burden of him having to guess.
- Practice gratitude. The year-round practice of listing what you’re grateful for each day compensates for the temporary lack you may feel around Christmas.
- Take matters into your own hands. There’s no rule that says you can’t be your own Santa. If it’s okay with all involved, buy and wrap your own gifts.
The hardest thing about Christmas when your husband isn’t so great at gifts is that it magnifies every way your marriage differs from others. It’s easy to get sucked into the world’s association between love and gifts. God’s definition of love, though, mentions no gift that can be found under the tree (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Wife Step: Pick one tip for choosing the gift of contentment to implement this year, and let us know how it goes!
For Further Reading:
Together, Tonya and Cheri lead programs for women who are ready to embrace the differences in their neurodiverse marriages and find true contentment and joy. To be notified when the next program begins, email Cheri@CheriGregory.com.
Cheri Gregory is a collaborator, teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. She loves helping women break free from destructive expectations through a blend of “how to” and “heart, too.” Learn more at www.CheriGregory.com
Tonya Kubo is a full-time working mom of two spirited girls living in the heart of California. She believes in celebrating differences and counts her husband, Brian, as Team Kubo’s MVP. Find out more at www.greatmoms.org.