Understanding the Man Brain and the Gift Buying Process

by | Communication, Firefighter Marriage

Gift giving.

It can be the pinnacle of knowing how much your spouse really knows and understands you and how much you are listening to each other.  It’s also the most tangible tip you will ever receive on understanding your spouse’s love language.   (Don’t know about love languages?  Read this book.)  And an advanced exercise in communication in marriages.

My husband and I have a long history of funny stories about gift giving.

Well, funny now and not so funny at the time.   I am definitely a practical person wanting something useful, not something that will collect dust.  But on the inside I’m craving to be swept off my feet by that gift I would “never buy for myself” but totally hits the spot in my heart that melts me in his arms.  But I’m not a girly girl and I’m not into jewelry or designer brands like Coach purses.  Yeah.  That’s easy for a man to figure out!

I don’t want to have to tell him what I want.  I want to be surprised. But I don’t want him to waste money.  I’m pretty much a difficult girl to buy for.

My husband on the other hand is a heart giver.  He’ll blow the budget and go over the top to show his love.  If he’s buying it, it’s going to be the best, the biggest, the most highly recommended because why would I spend anything less on my bride?    (Can you see why I fell in love with that man?)

I’ll leave the tales of $100 gilded framed Hallmark still life prints during a season when I was only working part time and our house was completely torn apart for remodeling for another post.  (It was returned but not as politely and non-confrontationally as I would have liked.)  But I do want to share a recent story, namely Christmas yesterday.  Ah yes.  Tender and fresh memories.

One gift I opened was this yellow NorthFace fleece from my husband.


You know why I LOVE this gift?

1. I would never buy it myself but love the lavishness of such a high quality product

2. I didn’t tell him I wanted one.  He just saw it and thought of me.

You know what almost rolled off of my tongue when I opened it?

1. Have you EVER seen me wear yellow?  (Even my young daughter was thinking this thought.  Who wears yellow?)

2. Why do you ALWAYS buy me a size too big?  Do you really think I’m that big?

But I bit my tongue and focused on the “He wanted me to have a NorthFace fleece” moment at hand.  Which I sincerely LOVE that he wants that for me.

And guess what?  Even I felt better for not sharing the complaint and focusing on the joy.  We can leave the “return it for a different size and color” discussion for later.  And yes, later in the day, we had just the right moment and he shared with me what his “man brain” was thinking.

“I just picked this up yesterday and there weren’t a lot of color choices left.”    Ok score.  He thought he was done shopping for me but just had to add something else.

“The women’s cuts looked quite narrow and I like to feel loose and comfortable in my big fleeces so I got you a men’s small.”  Score 2.  He was thinking about what might be best for me. He was just applying man thinking.  And I’ll overlook the fact that I could have implied his statement about the women’s cuts to mean I’m a little too thick to wear them.  i.e. He implied I was fat.  Which is totally did NOT but how many of your brains would have gone there?  Be honest!

Thank goodness I bit my tongue and controlled the negative committee in my brain and focused on all the good things.  Because there was not one ounce of ill will or intentions in his heart.  How can I expect him to really know what colors are fashionable or how I want something to fit?   In fact, I’d prefer he didn’t spend lots of time focused on those thoughts.  And since I’m not a girly-girl and don’t spend a lot of time talking about it, there’s no way I can say he wasn’t listening.



Now apply this in other gift giving scenarios.

He only got me this $20 ugly sweater. I’m hurt.

Perhaps he is overly concerned about your family finances?  Maybe he fell in love with the color or softness?

He won’t get me anything unless I tell him specifically what to buy.

Is this a bad pattern you’ve fallen into that needs to be broken and relearned?   Have this conversation and make some changes.

He won’t buy me anything because he says I always buy for myself what I want.

We have to leave them opportunities ladies.  You have to give him some openings to show his love and let go of our controlling nature so he can demonstrate his love through gift giving as well.

Or perhaps, gift giving is not his love language and he hates shopping.  Then you better go back to those love languages and focus in on the moments he is truly demonstrating his love to you.  Perhaps it’s through caring words or acts of service.  Shoveling the walk, taking out the garbage every week.   Not everyone is a gift giver and there are lots of childhood patterns that set us up to be one way or the other.

Here’s your take away….

Always, ALWAYS, always, focus on the intentions of the heart and the positive results.  Always.

You can sort out later where the detailed misunderstandings took place and you can always return it.  (Unless it’s personalized.  Then I highly suggest you drop some serious helpful hints.)

They can’t read our minds ladies but we can’t script everything for them.  What you want is for him to “just know” and that’s not fair.   Fall in love with his heart and his intentions.  Not some made up expectation in your brain.

I hope your gift giving experience is always full of gratitude and good intent.


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On a mission to be and inspire us all to be better humans, to strengthen fire families & marriages, to nurture and encourage fire wives, do "good business" in all areas of my life and of course, love on my 4 kids.

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  1. Jennifer

    My husband bought me a new wedding set. And it was a Cladaugh ring. He knows I am proud of my Irish heritage. I was completely surprised.

  2. Ceadre Jenkins

    I needed this…my husband decided tuis year he didnt need any ideas of what to get me he had it all plannned out on his own….bless his heart…he bought me a $25 pasta strainer bc I always burn my hands trying to drain my noodles and a $25 candle from yankee candle bc im ALWAYS burning candles….well ida been happy with a cheep strainer it didnt have to be a name brand but to him it ment he was getting me the beat one he could buy. Same with the candle…he could have bought me several cheeper ones for the same price but he was so thrilled he bought me a for real yankee candle

  3. Stacy

    I find that early on in relationships it is easier and less stressful on both parties if you do give him a list. I know it’s not the popular practice, but takes the pressure off the buyer and more on the focus of choosing the how to give, not the what to give. Men aren’t mind readers and especially if your a picky girl, this ensures you get a gift you want! And I totally agree, you have to remember that men’s brains work very differently than women’s do!


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