Romantic Ideas and Tips


Terrible Anniversary Gift

When your Husband gives you a Terrible Anniversary Gift -- What do you do?

Floundering at Love

by Betsy Sansby, MS, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

It was my 10th wedding anniversary last week and my husband surprised me by getting me a tackle box. A tackle box! You know, like for fishing? I was so hurt. He actually thought the whole thing was funny. How do you get across to your husband that an anniversary gift should be something personal, something intimate--not a plastic box filled with rubber worms and insects? How dense could he be?

Floundering at Love

Dear Floundering,
Not long ago I worked with a woman who had a similar complaint about her husband’s gift giving practices. One year he actually gave her a gun for her birthday so she could go hunting with him—something he knew she adamantly opposed. Fortunately, the woman still loved her husband, and believed that although he was clueless about romance, he was educable. She decided to teach him how to be a better lover by making him lists of things he could do to demonstrate his love more effectively. Under the heading of “Romantic Things You Could Do” she wrote:

• Surprise me by showing up at work with a picnic lunch.
• Arrange for your parents to watch the kids for the weekend.
• Hold my hand when we walk together.
• Fill the house with candles and fresh flowers.
• Read me poetry.
• Give me a massage (with no strings attached).
• Sing to me the way you did when we first met.
• Email me little love notes (instead of dumb jokes someone sent you). .
• Give me compliments that let me know you still find me attractive.
• Create a treasure hunt with clues that lead to an adventure (a trip, dinner, a play).
• Get the kids and pets fed and the piano practiced before I get home from work.

Under the heading of “Gifts I’d Actually Like” she wrote:
• A gardenia bush.
• Handwritten love letters.
• Handmade cards with funny drawings.
• A quiet evening together--without your computer or the television on.
• Blindfold me and treat me to some sort of sensual pleasure (a massage, a bath, a stroll in the woods, a fabulous meal).
• Get us tickets to the Guthrie.
• Sign us up for a dance class.
• Take Spanish with me.
• Redo the master bathroom.
• Make me an easel so I can start painting again.
• Get up early and surprise me with treats from my favorite bakery.
• Order me those expensive chocolates we tried in Paris.

A lot of women resent it when I ask them to give their partners lists like the ones above. They argue that their partners should know them well enough to think of these things themselves. The problem is, they don’t. If they did, there wouldn’t be a problem.

The way I figure it, we’ve got two choices. We can either tell our partners how we want to be loved, or we can wait for them to figure it out themselves and then punish them when they do it wrong. The right choice is a no-brainer.

When my husband agreed to take a 6-week Salsa class with me, I didn’t fault him for not thinking of it himself. Why should he? He wasn’t interested in learning to dance— I was. So I was thrilled that in spite of the fact that he had zero interest in dancing, he was willing to throw himself into it just to please me. I think we were both surprised at how much fun we had.

My advice to you, dear Floundering, is that you make two lists like the ones above and give them to your husband. Chances are he’ll welcome the opportunity to demonstrate his love for you in ways that actually make you feel loved. Be prepared though, to get two lists from him in return. If your husband is like most of the men I work with, his lists are likely to be a lot shorter than yours, and I’m sure you can guess what’s likely to be on them!

Betsy Sansby is a licensed marriage & family therapist, and published author whose private practice is in Minnetonka, Minnesota. She is the coauthor of seven books, and the creator of ingenious communication tools for couples and families called, including: The STOP Strategy, The Art of Conversation, and The OuchKit: A First-Aid Kit for Your Relationship. She also has her own relationship advice column called, "Ask Betsy." To download free tools, submit a question to her column, or contact Betsy for an on-line consultation, go to: . Or send mail to

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