- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2009

With only a few more shopping days left until Christmas, many husbands are breaking out in a cold sweat, trying to find just the right gift for their wife so they can avoid a stay in the doghouse. To help you men out a bit, I conducted an informal survey asking women what their husbands should not give them for Christmas. Some of the items mentioned were a vacuum cleaner, an ice crusher, tools, a low-calorie cookbook, anything that plugs in, air-conditioner vents and dish towels.

The clock is ticking and Christmas will be here before you know it. Now that you know a few of the things you should not purchase, how will you know when you spot a great gift?

I would encourage you to be a good understudy to your wife. Listen carefully to what she says. Pay attention to the things she enjoys and the way she spends her time. Does she like to cook, garden, sew, read, knit, go to the movies or ride bikes? You might even try asking her to give you a list of things she would like for Christmas. (Note: Wives, if your husband asks you to make a list of things you would like for Christmas, please do it. Don’t respond with, “If you don’t know what to buy me for Christmas, I am certainly not going to tell you.”) Men, if you pay attention and do a little investigative work, you can uncover some helpful hints that could guide your shopping.

When I asked these women what they would like their husbands to give them for Christmas, here are some of the things they said:

• Women often like to be pampered, so consider a gift certificate for a massage or a pedicure.

• It is nice to have a break from cooking every so often. How about either making plans to take the children out to dinner one evening, allowing your wife to stay at home in peace and quiet, or purchasing a gift certificate and taking her on a date to her favorite restaurant or on a romantic getaway? Talk about major brownie points!

• Does your wife have a hobby? If she enjoys cooking and trying new recipes, for example, you might buy her a gift certificate to a cooking class. You can even look into couples cooking classes.

One rule of thumb you might want to follow is, if the gift is practical, don’t buy it. It probably isn’t something that should be given as a gift.

If all else fails and you are still at a loss, it isn’t against the rules to ask her to accompany you on a shopping spree to find the perfect gift.

Remember, men and women think differently. When you choose a gift for your wife, consider how she will interpret the meaning behind your gift. What men often don’t understand is women see the creativity, effort and gift itself as a direct reflection of how much her husband loves her. Men see a gift as a gift.

When in doubt about a purchase, ask one of her friends for advice or don’t run the risk. Men need to understand there is a lot riding on gifts in general — whether you think it makes sense or not — so if you aren’t planning on taking up residence on the family room couch, take your gift-buying duties seriously.

But even if your gift misses the mark this year, let’s hope the love between the two of you will carry you through until Valentine’s Day.

Julie Baumgardner is the executive director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. She can be reached at julieb@firstthings.org.

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