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Reality Check: His Gifts Are Duds

Q. For Mother's Day, my husband gave me an umbrella; for Christmas, a scarf. How can I get him to put more thought into his presents?

My hairstylist, Rebecca, was telling me the other day about the Christmas gift her husband gave her. It was a deep freezer, and to my surprise, she was genuinely excited about it. She thought it was sweet of him to realize that if she could stock up on food, it would save her some time and work. I tell you this because it's a good illustration of how a happy marriage depends on being able to assume that your spouse has the best intentions. That scarf may have been chosen carefully to bring out the flecks of gold in your eyes.

Now, if you're having some problems, the less-than-intimate gifts could mean something, and you need to hash it out or find a couples therapist to help you do that. But if your marriage is solid and you know your husband loves you, then maybe you need to accept his gift-giving limitations for what they are and assume that when he gives you something, it comes from his heart.

A little tutoring in present ideas isn't so bad either (not everyone gets the whole concept). Hand him your favorite catalogs, remind him that gift certificates are appreciated, suggest you swap homemade presents, or exchange favors of one kind or another.

My in-laws have been married 53 years, and every time they open cards from each other they act as if Mr. Hallmark himself was commissioned to write the words inside. "Oh, Edward," says my mother-in-law. "Where did you find this card?" "Well, I had to go to three stores," says my father-in-law, "but I finally found the right one." If life is what you make it, then romance is where you choose to find it, whether in a deep freezer, a greeting card, or even an umbrella.